Recently, Jax wrote about her mojo being AWOL. We’ve had some similarities in our life over the last few years, Jax and I – a significant loss(es) each, a long period of trying to be pregnant, juggling work and home educating. And I certainly know what she means about mojo upping and leaving (I hope you’ll forgive me for using you as a jump point here Jax ). The truly miserable events of 2006 left me with not very much of anything about me left to the point where one of our mutual friends told me, in the spirit of brutal helpfulness that I “was a pretty great home educator before 2006 but have completely fallen apart since”.
I can hold my hands up to that. I did fall apart and there wasn’t a single bit of me left to put me back into one piece and get me moving again. Grief, guilt, four children and a whopping business that needed 4 people and only had me was just too much for me, that and the desperate deep longing I had to have another child. The strain on me, then our marriage, was just so intolerable as to be untrue. Sometimes I can hardly believe we made it.
And then Freddie. That last chance, that lucky pregnancy, that healing moment that was to be a happy ending. I thought I was fixed. I held on through that pregnancy to the hope that I’d be right, that one last child to finish off the family would heal enough hurts to make me okay again. Find the bits of me that went missing. Put me back together. Make a future. And they all lived happily ever after.
Except we didn’t, not all of us. Freddie died and everything that was supposed to happen was laid out bare, a mockery of the dreams I had and a broken open wound instead of a beautifully healed scar to enhance me, but not disfigure me.
In all those 11 days, the only thing that truly broke Max was the thought of me going back to that dark place. Before Freddie was even dead, Max warned me that if I was going to hate myself and blame myself and grief and obsess and hurt myself all over again, we had no hope, that he could not do it again. I was angry in some ways – but warned. At least he was honest. We had learned something while we battered out a new marriage anyway. Communication.
When we came home, I mourned that future I had thought I had, but I knew that even though we would try to have another child, I couldn’t make the future about that. I knew I had to step outside the lethargy and grief of the previous 4 years, rise above the anger and the loss. I had to make the present something positive, even on the days when the water levels of grief washed so high I was balancing on tip toes with my mouth and nose barely above the ripples.
If Freddie ended up being about divorce or bitterness, depression or emptiness, it would be a huge dis-service to him. I’ve got to assume he is my last. I’ve got to assume he was the baby that was going to make my future something new and shiny and all about the every day. He has to be the child that makes me turn my head to really living and enjoying the days. It isn’t fair to have to do it without him, but that IS what I have to do. I have to accept that I’m possibly going to wince at people being grumpy about sleepless nights and breastfeeding and x,y or z baby related things – somehow I have to do it with grace.
I have to find the things that make me merry. Make me Merry.
I make lists. I wrote lists at the beginning of the year. Unusually, I didn’t put them here, because it felt that those lists, uncompleted, might make me feel a failure and do the very opposite of what I need them to. So I made them pick and mix lists – things to manage to do with the kids, for the business, for myself – each month. And whenever I feel a bit low, I pick a thing and do it – shut the computer, or change rooms and take something creative with me.
I’ve kept up a relentless knitting speed. Squares mostly, a square for every week between having Freddie and when I decide to stop trying to have another baby. That blanket, when I finish it, will be a path between one place and another.
I’ve been reading, pushing boundaries of what I’m comfortable with instead of hiding inside my comfort shelves.
I’ve been learning more about the new world my business lives in, forcing myself to go back to work and knowing the girls have things to do while I am there, because I have put them in place.
I’m taking a hard look at our HE, spotting what works and what doesn’t and trying to mend bits of it. And admitting that I no longer have the capacity to do it all; accepting help, working more in groups, setting reminders for the things I forget like some old lady might need.
I’ve made myself make some new friends, ones who will forgive me being maudlin occasionally, but not too often.
I’ve set myself a task of adding creativity to our sites on a monthly basis – because it makes me be creative and gives a sense of purpose to that.
I’ve made myself write here, more broadly when I can, to try and develop that as a skill because I’d love to write something meaningful one day and it shocks me how hard it is to craft words that please me the way they used to.
I’ve started to craft again – and I’m trying to overcome my issues with no longer being as good as I’d like to be with that. I love making models but I get cross that I’m not brilliant. I’ve set myself a goal of making our home more personal this year and for the personal touches to be things the girls and I have made. Accepting my own mediocrity is a challenge
I’ve been trying to teach myself when to stop. When to go to bed. When not to get out the memory box and harm my recovery with it. When not to eat chocolate or drink wine. When to stop asking myself why, why, why? When not to go looking at Google and beg for people to explain what might have happened.
I’ve been making myself admit my limitations and keep within parameters I can cope with. I find I can achieve more positive things, ones that keep me smiling, if I don’t ricochet between emotional ups and downs.
I’ve been trying to make sure the girls and I are mostly together, in the same room, mostly busy, mostly active, so we don’t mope or get to the ends of days knowing nothing was really achieved. It is good to finish a day with some lines of knitting, a drawing, a day worth blogging or something well made in the bag. These days, when I go to bed, I find that I cannot help but think “one day closer to being dead” – I like to have done something worthwhile with that day, even if only a tiny thing.
We’ve been planning family days, weeks away, things to look forward to that exist beyond how long it is till ‘it has been a year’.
I don’t think I could have done this year as the person I was 5 years ago. I don’t think I could have done it without that warning from Max. I’ve made getting up in the morning a habit and you would not believe how hard that is when you wake up every day and your first thought is that one of your children is dead. Getting up is the biggest achievement of the day. And I do it, every day. Every day.
I’ve found tiny, tangible goals, whether they are a plan to go on a nature walk or read a certain book, or knit a square and tried to turn myself into someone who finishes what she starts. I’ve been trying to make enjoying life a habit, even in the face of tragedy. Even when I’m so overwhelmed, again, that this is really real, that I can hardly think.
I’ve tried to learn a little control, to not rush, not speed ahead. I’m trying to learn to eek out what I have and live in the moment. It’s hard; with ttc in the picture, it’s bloody hard.
I keep hoping I can marshal myself through this waiting period, make living life well a habit so that when inevitably I have to settle at ‘not quite 5 children’, it will be a life I am used to, one I quite like. I think I have only got this far because so far the sadness has not been anything much beyond sadness. And Max has been so amazing. But I do think I have been quite amazing too. I’ve achieved more things I’m pleased with in this year of grief, than I have in many previous years.
Maybe it took watching death to make me grab hold of my life. Maybe it took seeing the real loss to the world that a little life that never properly starts is, before I could see that I could do better. I’m only fit for tiny things these days, I won’t be making grand changes or dramatic life plans, but I like myself better than I used to. And that has to be good. I’ve settled for not making much of a mark, but I’m confident that I’m on a path that one day I’ll look back at with acceptance, if not awe.