"There's a bit of magic in everything, and some loss to even things out." -Lou Reed

Friday, November 6, 2009

For Better or Worse?

I have been told before by a very talented therapist that I have terribly negative “self talk”. By this, she meant the things we say to ourselves—that tiny little voice we hear when asking ourselves what to do or what is right. Mine has always been negative, not on purpose and not as much as it used to be. But it is sometimes humbling to know that even my own little voice doubts me.

I worry about the choices I have made in my life. What if I hadn’t loved him, moved there, taken that job? What if I had done something wiser, safer, or riskier? What if I had actually believed in myself all these years—what could I have done then?

I know I haven’t lived up to my potential. I don’t know a lot of people that would say they feel they have. I understand that part of that doubt is being Type A, and just being human.
But the biggest issue I wonder about often is children. I am 40, not at all where I thought I would be in my life now. On my own, still wondering what the end result is supposed to look like.
There are days when I am with my friend’s children, or even when they talk about their kids, and I breathe a sigh of relief that I don’t have that responsibility, that burden. Even along with the joy I see, it is a level of accountability that awes me.

However, it is easy to say that from this side of things. How will I feel 20 years down the line? Will I feel a huge loss, a huge emptiness?

From the time I can remember playing with dolls as a little girl, I wanted to be a mom. All through high school and college, I saw myself as a lot of things, hoped things for myself, but being married and having kids seemed a given. I had no idea how much nothing is a given then. How could I? I see kids that are high school and college age, and they seem so much younger than I felt then. And I look at them and think of what I thought then, what I believed were facts and expectations, and I now know that in all their eagerness, their beauty, their yearning—they can’t know. It is too much to know the pain that life can hand you, the disappointment. But it is also too much to know the beauty and the realization of a dream. All are grand in measure, at opposite ends of the spectrum. And however you imagine both with a young heart, the reality is still a shock.

What terrifies me is that, at this moment, I am not ready to be a parent. I am barely keeping myself afloat. But at 40, how the hell am I still here—at this point? Why haven’t I gotten it together? I know I have been given gifts in this life, things about me I wouldn’t change…but it all seems so thrown together—scarcely keeping a shape, held together with remnants of tape and fraying thread.

Most of the time, I tell myself I am really ok with the idea of not being a mom. And the certainty I felt about it so long ago definitely began to fade, not just because of reasoning, but as I saw that I wasn’t going to meet the right person in time. Today, even as I write this doubting all of it, I am ok with that not happening for me. I worry more about the future than I do right now.

But one aching, powerful reality does comfort me. Even in times of great longing to know the joys and bittersweet moments of being a parent, I have felt protective of a child that doesn’t even exist. I know that a child is “of” his or her parents. And to be “of” me is a concern. I believe I am a fairly good person (most days), and halfway intelligent (most days), but the pain I take to heart, and the depth to which I feel things is more than I would wish upon anyone coming new into the world. Even though this child’s upbringing would not be the same as mine was, I am a carrier of that upbringing. I know all patterns don’t have to repeat themselves, but the emotional scars I carry would translate somehow.

So even as I worry or rationalize, fret or envision, the larger feeling is protectiveness. Not wanting to spread the doubting small voice any further. Letting it fade, whisper and end with me.

Artwork by Selma Albasini- "Sometimes I Feel Like a Childless Mother". To view more of her beautful work, click here.


Diggestive November 6, 2009 at 4:44 AM  

I too have real doubts and concerns about what I have done or mainly what I have nt or should have done.

This was really destructive for me. My bff told me to start living in the present. To list what I am grateful for, to list what I want to do with my life, what is important to me.

It was then easier to focus on those things. The concerns are still there but I happier because i am doing what makes me happy.

Good luck

Phoenix November 6, 2009 at 5:43 AM  

Reading your post, I started to wonder how I am doing with my life.. I'm still a decade away from 40... but I very much mirror your thoughts on many things... the thing I really do believe is that if we always do the thing that seems right to us, we would have done something fruitful for our lives. We might not have achieved all professional and personal goals we would have liked to achieve, but overall.. things wouldn't end up so bad..

pri November 6, 2009 at 6:04 AM  

hi iam fan of you to read your blog regularly...i like this...(I breathe a sigh of relief that I don’t have that responsibility, that burden. Even along with the joy I see, it is a level of accountability that awes me.) iam also 40 plus and not married -ramana

nikgee November 6, 2009 at 6:22 AM  

I'll be back. I'm caught here with not enough time think through what I;m to write in your comment box, rushing a response I would not feel right. So if you can accept my apology for cutting this short. I will be back.............nikgee

Anonymous,  November 6, 2009 at 7:08 AM  

I can tell you that many many of us carry around the little negative voice, those nagging doubts, the what-ifs... I know without question that if I had had faith in myself as a young person, I would have been a happier mid-lifer. However, here we are today, and lucky that we still exist..I have decided to focus on what's here before me today and cherish that I have that opportunity..one that so many have lost along the way. I am also that marital picture you might envy occasionally... 20 years, two wonderful children, a decent man. Still the doubts. And definitely heartache.

Great post, you have a gift!

~ Dawn Sparks ~ November 6, 2009 at 8:47 AM  

I am one of those that lurk around your blog but rarely comments. But when reading this post I felt I had to.

I too found myself at 40, a broken marriage, no children...and unsure of my own security and happiness. In other words, "I feel your pain"!

Things can change so fast. Enjoy being 40, it can be liberating! My grandma always said that "life can completely change in one second", and she was so right.

Your blog is wonderful...never stop! If you only knew what reading your words can do for those who follow and read it!


Daphne November 6, 2009 at 8:49 AM  

Kim, your honesty and openness is the first step. I think the part that jumped out at me was when you said "I worry more about the future than I do right now." From what I have read and learned over the past few months, you don't have much control over what happens in the future, which is why it is really important to make the most of the present. Make each day something you enjoy. Trust that things will work out for you, that you will figure out these things as you enjoy your present moment. The time you spend worrying about the future will be wasted.

The other part that jumped out at me is the strong sense of responsibility you have about whether to have children or not. So many people don't think about whether they really want children or are ready to have that kind of responsibility. I really admire your sense of yourself and your self-knowledge about whether you are ready to be a parent. Kudos to you for being honest with yourself.

Best of luck moving forward in your journey. If I can do anything to help, please let me know.

Newly and Forever, Tamantha November 6, 2009 at 10:24 AM  

This really resonated with me...I'm 33, not even NEAR a relationship..I have wondered alot about motherhood...the responsibility, whether I would have the selflessness to raise a child, whether my own scars would make me repeat my family's issues in the lives of my "children"...like you, some days I am so glad I can walk away and not have to deal with parenthood..and other days, I wonder about a legacy..having a family of my own and being alone..I'm glad I'm not the only one who wonders these things and admits them out loud. Somehow it seems brave and honest when you do it, sad and pathetic when I do...It's true that I also believed that marraige and children would be a given someday...now, I'm not so sure.. Thanks for your post...

Eva Gallant November 6, 2009 at 10:26 AM  

Such a meaningful post. We all have self-doubts. I am 65 and a grandmother and still have bouts of doubt. You just cant allow yourself to focus on those doubts.

Anonymous,  November 6, 2009 at 10:39 AM  

I resonate with a lot of what you wrote - 40, not married, no children AND wanting them - wondering about past choices. I'm learning to let go of my past choices and focus on my future by leaning on my Faith. Peace to you...

Anonymous,  November 6, 2009 at 11:49 AM  

But it is sometimes humbling to know that even my own little voice doubts me. ---your words are like a mirror into my soul, I swear I read them and think my God how does she know me, how can she be in my head.....I am truly grateful to you for always being so brave to share your true heart with us, me....I wish I knew how to encourage you...but alas I fear I suffer with the same self doubt, what an ugly ghost it is.

Angella Lister November 6, 2009 at 12:16 PM  

I would say to this very moving post that yes, you feel everything so intensely, but your awareness is what would translate, your willingness to allow a child to feel whatever it is they feel. i don't mean to undermine your comfort, but i do truly believe that you, whose sensibility offers the rest of us such recognition and strange peace, would know how to help a child be completely okay with herself or himself.

and i would say, too, there are many ways to be a mother. if you choose not to have a child biologically, do not be surprised if you draw a child to you anyway, one who arrived via another womb, but whose very soul seeks yours.

i am sorry to be so presumptuous. there is no right way to feel about these things; it is so intensely personal. but I do feel that telling yourself you would not be a fine and loving and generous mother is more of that negative self talk. i send love.

Tami SouthStreetShabby.blogspot.com November 7, 2009 at 12:40 AM  

I find that rethinking my past decisions and wondering 'what-if' is counter-productive. I have learned (I am older than you and have had more time to 'learn') that I am where I am supposed to be, right now, at this moment in time.
Every experience and decision I have made, has brought me to this point and although it wasn't easy, I am greatful for having taken the journey.
My marriage was difficult (I couldn't have children) and full of ups and downs, but if it weren't for those 'downs', I couldn't appreciate the 'ups'.
I have a full life (without children) and cherish other aspects in my life, however I find myself always looking for a way to leave proof that I was here, for future generations.
Tami E.

nikgee November 7, 2009 at 6:48 AM  

From beginning to end our life on planet Earth shroud in mystery. The path we walk is dimly lite.The road before us not straight and narrow, but up and down,curved and straight, bumpy and smooth, wide as well as narrow. There are many, many tributaries to chose from, but only one way home.

I am not saying choices don't matter, they do. Some choices some take us through wonderful adventures as others lets just say not as much fun Some may chose to race straight through. I for one have to stop and smell the flowers. There is no set pattern here, no time table. It's unfortunate we live in a society that tries to limit our choices through strict mores. That's another whole story.

I know I need to wrap this up. I hope I haven't gone over board here. It is not my intent. I can feel peoples hurt and I am compelled to do what I can to ease that pain. Anyway.

With all that said. In conclusion there is but one way in to this life and one way out. What is in between is what makes it interesting. So you need not worry so you are right where you should be....nikgee

Sadhana Ramchander November 8, 2009 at 9:24 AM  

Hi..I am from India, and I like your honest writing.

In response to this post, a friend once told me that life gives 100% to every person (most of the time). This 100% is a combination of various things that human beings desire. For example, this friend did not marry (he is 50+), does not have children...but he has had an oportunity to work in an international organization and a chance to travel the world. He meets interesting people, has fascinating experiences, and has developed his skills and uses them well. Somewhere it adds up to 100%.

In contrast, I (I am 40+) had a great career opportunity, but had to choose to work from home because I have two children, and had to 'give up' the temptation to pursue them because I believed that a child needs time and attention. I regret that I have not travelled as much as I would have liked to. But I enjoy being a mother and all that comes with it. Again, I think it has added up to 100%.

If you look at it, this happens in most people's lives. One cannot have everything. I feel that if one can be a good human being and make a difference to the people around you, your life has a lot of meaning.

Joe November 8, 2009 at 9:15 PM  

As usual, your deeply felt and beautifully expressed writing has drawn to you the thoughts, feelings, and good wishes of many, many readers. Many more will read this post, and simply not find the words to respond.

I am one of those who waited a long time to marry. I was 36. We wanted to have children, found we could not, and decided to adopt. We have been married 21 years and have raised 2 children - a boy, adopted at 8, now 22, and a girl, adopted at 7, about to turn 20. You are absolutely right about the responsibility, and that never ends. But for us, that is also yet another reason for us to continue to put our best energy into our relationship.

40 is just a number, and advice is usually a mistake to give. I can only share what has worked for me: Do what matters to you, stay open and optimistic, and strive to be the best person you can be. I'm convinced that is the best that any of us can do.


Nelda McEwen November 9, 2009 at 4:42 PM  

This is uncanny. I just finished making a thought check list. Fact is that we chose our own thoughts.

Thoughts going through your mind at any given time? Apply these questions.
1. Are these thoughts compassionate? Towards myself? Towards others?
2. Are these thoughts helping me to feel hopeful?
3. Are these thoughts causing me to feel happy or peaceful?
4. Are these thoughts causing me to feel productive?
5. Are these thoughts causing me to feel purposeful?
6. Are these thoughts enhancing my joy of being part of creation?
7. Are these thoughts helping me have fun?
8. Are these thoughts entertaining more thoughts that are creative and expansive?
-Just food for thought

RMB November 10, 2009 at 9:53 AM  

Thank you for an interesting post.

My perspective is a little different. I have always been driven to take on responsibility more quickly than I should have. I think part of it has been the product of being a child of an alcoholic. But I have managed at the age of 31 to be married twice (first one lasted three months), now married to a great woman - but occasionally making the same relational mistakes. I have three incredible children, ranging in age from 9 - 2. I have an excellent job. By outward measures, I have done well for my age.

But the nagging voice is sometimes still there. And I have often thought that perhaps I feel things more deeply than others. But I would encourage you to consider that deep emotive capacity and pain are not only liabilities - and should not deny us the many great experiences which exist outside ourselves. All too often those of us with significant trauma in our backgrounds get lost in our heads.

A fear of parenting, or what neurosis might be passed to our children, is only a symptom of a greater personal malaise. The symptom can translate itself into any facet of life. But on parenting, any parent will tell you that there will be many occasions to wonder if you are doing right by your children. Raising kids is an experience unlike any other. Not for everyone - but it requires a self sacrificial love which is really difficult to explain and life changing.

Most importantly, I try not to live in fear. And I try to live in the moment. By constantly refining oneself and striving to order your mind, the fear which cripples so many of us, can be pushed comfortably away. Be it at the age of 20, 30, 40, 50 ... .

Cheri Pryor November 11, 2009 at 3:55 AM  

I think at some point we have to stop beating ourselves up over the choices we have made. For me, as you know, I constantly second-guessed myself over my parenting skills. What if? How about this? What about that? It is what it is and living in the moment while learning from the outcome of all our decisions is by far the best way to live life.

I've no regrets. Just life lessons to help me deal with each tomorrow.

Commchick November 12, 2009 at 4:04 AM  

I think doubting ourselves is natural for alot of people. I waited until my mid 30's to get married, the marriage didn't even last 10 years. Due to female problems and surgeries, I am unable to have children. For awhile I wondered why, but I have come to realize that God knows what is best for me and has someone special waiting for me. It has taken time, and sometimes I still question Him, but He is patiently leading me along. I just recently found your blog and am catching up, but I enjoy reading, you write beautifully. God bless and keep you.

sunflower revolution November 12, 2009 at 4:36 PM  

great post. you might surprise yourself and that doubting voice by being an amazing mom someday. there is always adoption :)http://www.carolinespromise.org. And no matter what - children, no children - life is full of choices and decisions that leave us all a little misty eyed, wondering... what if? some days i look back, some days i look forward and some days i am smart enough to just enjoy being... now. thank you for sharing your heart. your depth of understanding transcends age. you get it, and you pass it on. i applaud you! doubt no more! you are gifted and appreciated... write on!

prashant December 25, 2009 at 12:08 PM  

The concerns are still there but I happier because i am doing what makes me happy.

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