Nola

Motherhood, for me, was a calling that revealed itself in early adulthood. Prior to that, I was somewhat ambivalent to the idea, primarily because I doubted my ability to be a good mother. That didn’t stop me from constructing a very specific fantasy of living on a smallholding in Grizedale in the Lake District, with my two sons Jacoby and Delano (father pending), but I was very distinctly disconnected from any concept of what it would mean to be a mother.

When I was twenty-three, however, my perspective jumped quite suddenly when I had a strange dream. It was all blackness, and out of the blackness stepped an old man. He handed me a baby girl, told me her name was Nola, and said “remember, she’s not yours.” And then I woke up. It felt important, and I found myself reflecting on its meaning for a long time after it ended; on what it is to be a parent and raise a child; on what preconceptions I had been carrying with me in my life thus far; on what would happen if (or maybe when) Nola was made manifest; on how parenthood now seemed inevitable for me.

A few weeks later, I fell pregnant. I wasn’t using birth control but I was tracking my cycle and should have been a good week away from ovulating. There was a moment during sex that I suddenly knew, but I told myself I was crazy until a little pink line corroborated my story. It was Nola. The world was magical.

The first flush of joy, however, gave way to a sort of desperate depression after not too long. I wasn’t ready to give a child what they deserved. My partner wasn’t ready to give a child what they deserved. At about eight weeks, I felt my connection to Nola waning, completely outside of my control. I felt her slipping away. I blamed the depression I couldn’t snap myself out of, and the fact that my relationship had declined to the point we were sleeping in separate bedrooms. But I couldn’t shake the sad suspicion that it was over. At twelve weeks it was confirmed I had miscarried, although my body refused to give up on being pregnant.

I had failed. I had failed her. I wasn’t good enough to be a parent.

One day, though, I would be good enough. One day, I would be ready to give a child what they deserved. I had to be. And this was, for whatever reason, part of the journey to get there.

I won’t comment on whether that was a healthy meaning to take from the experience; it was simply the one I took.

Three years later, my body, my mind, my soul were insisting it was time to have a child. To the extent that, a few times, despite the fact I hadn’t had sex in probably a year, I wouldn’t have been surprised if I’d peed on a stick and it told me I was pregnant.

Then I met someone. Someone who liked the moon that my cycle had now synced up with. Things got a little bit reckless from there.

Throttle

I’ve been living in a double bind for quite an extended period of time and I’m only just admitting it to myself.

Whilst languishing in denial, I’ve tried all kinds of mental and emotional gymnastics to work myself around the trap, but I think I’m going to have to concede that I can’t move forward without true and actual resolution.

When I think about the toll this has taken on my life in the past few years, I wince, because it hasn’t been spiky and dramatic, but it has been chronic and profound.

I have denied myself clarity, peace, joy, desire, love, decision; All Good Things. Not entirely, which is how I got away with it for so long. And probably not even as much as many people deny themselves those things without ever even knowing any different. But I did know different. I have known so much more of All Good Things than I have allowed myself to experience these past few years. And I’ve been disappointed, honestly, that I haven’t been able to access them in their full vibrant ferocity. I’ve missed them in my life. But I hadn’t really considered that I was throttling the supply. Or rather, I had considered it, and I judged myself innocent. Isn’t that always the way.

Nearly seven years ago now (the anniversary is approaching), I fell in love with – what – the image of a man? And then, when faced with the facts that, firstly, I had indeed fallen in love, and secondly, pursuing a romantic relationship wasn’t an option, I made the decision to just let myself, in all my crazy fucking glory, and in complete absence of reason, love that image as hard as I fucking wanted to anyway. And, boy, did I love hard. And, boy, was it excruciating. And, boy, was it enlightening.

Through that Love, I found God. And I don’t mean I found belief, or faith, or understanding, I mean I felt God. And not a God that’s going to be confined by any petty ideations. A God much vaster than anything I could conceive of. A Reality much richer than I’d ever thought possible. A Universe more minutely beautiful than anything running through my dreams. It was everything I’d ever wanted and more.

For a while I didn’t know my love was wrong. By which I mean I still lived in the paradigm where the point of being in love was to get something, and I still believed it was possible to get that thing. To be with the man I was in love with. And so I reached emotional heights unlike anything I’d known before, not only with full permission from myself, but with encouragement, because I took it as confirmation that this meant it was ‘real’.

Eventually, that illusion cracked wide open to make way for something more expansive. I shed a lot of pain, a lot of patterns, a lot of lies, a lot of limits. Everyday living was a psychedelic experience. I gave up clinging to the notion of a traditionally romantic outcome and instead explored the nebulous boundaries of this free-flowing Whole New World.

For a while that was good. And then it was fine.

But he never went away. I kept doing the work, healing the broken parts, giving up the attachments, integrating the lessons; all on the assumption that one day I’d reach the natural conclusion of this revelation and be permitted to go onto the next stage of my journey, without him. Because he was never there, anyway, right? He didn’t want to be a part of this. So why the fuck is he?

At some point, it didn’t seem fine anymore. I started to deny myself, because, even though it never felt wrong, it surely couldn’t be right.

And this is the crux of the matter. I am trying to live in my integrity. I’m trying to live a life true to myself. But he is literally the benchmark for my integrity. He is my ‘full-body yes’. If I need to think about what certainty feels like for me, I have to think of him, because nothing feels more certain than that. Everything I know about how I want to live tells me to follow that feeling; to trust that intuition that he is All Good Things. Not to chase an outcome; just to be true. But at the same time, following it feels so fucking intrusive. He didn’t want to be a part of this. How dare I make him?

And, what’s more, if the truest thing isn’t true, how can I trust Truth anyway?

No wonder I’ve been stuck on this one.

Troubleshooting

Where does your joy take you?

Like most of us, I imagine, I’ve spent a lot of my life learning from pain. At times, from exquisite, searing, unbearable pain. I was rewarded for that, it felt like, with the reprieve of spending the last few years exploring and uncovering things that actually feel good to me instead.

But, see, as we discovered yesterday, I’ve been keeping a secret. That secret being that I still believe the thing I’m not supposed to believe.

And the better things feel, the closer I get to that thing I believe that I’m not supposed to believe. Because that thing literally unlocked ecstasy for me. That thing is the source of All Good Things for me. But it’s not supposed to be.

My joy takes me somewhere I’m not supposed to go. Just like my certainty takes me somewhere I’m not supposed to go. So I simply do not let myself go all the way there.

For the past few years, I’ve been free of almost all the pain tied up in my joy, and I’ve even had ecstasy just a well-placed thought away. There should have been nothing stopping me. And yet I’ve refrained. I’ve declined bliss. I’ve passed on exaltation. Not completely, by any stretch of the imagination. But I’ve been, how you say, edging. I never go all the way. I stop short.

Do you think that’s why, for the past three years, if I get sufficiently sexually aroused, I sneeze? Because I’ve been trying to figure that shit out for ages.

The reason

I’m kinda antsy about people coming into my house. Like I have this nice idea of myself some time in the future just welcoming all of these friends new and old into my beautiful, inviting, spacious home and generously sharing my bounty with them all in whichever way is appropriate. But, truth is, right now, if almost any of them turned up at my door today they’d be greeted with a deer-in-highlights expression and a shaky oh, er, do you want to come in?

Why? Because my house is a reflection of myself and that self is barely bridled chaos. And I spend most of my leisure time at my desk in my bedroom, so unless I have a specific reason to go look at it, I don’t even notice how dishevelled my living room is. Don’t get me started on the kitchen that I pathologically refuse to engage with. I live in fear of having to invite someone into it and suddenly being faced with untold pandemonium.

I’d liken it to getting caught with my pants down, but – fun fact – I recently learned I’m nowhere near as embarrassed by that as someone coming into my unprepared home.

So, why can’t I just be comfortable with the fact that I’m a mess and my house is a mess? Well, I’ve figured out at least one pretty compelling reason. The other day my mother visited and when she came into the partially tidied living room she said dramatically “woah, it’s pretty tidy in here, you feeling alright?”, which is completely standard fare – she is guaranteed to either dismay that I haven’t tidied enough or feign concern for my health if I have. It’s very witty. But then it was like, for the first time in her life, she heard what she was saying and said “do I sound like grandma?”, and I said “no, you just sound like you.”

And it was then we both realised she’s the reason I don’t like having people in my house.

I’m exaggerating. But, yeah, kind of.

Blanket inhibition

I attended a writers’ talk this evening and, while I was listening, a few questions bubbled up that I wanted to ask. But the time for questions didn’t come until the end. By which point I’d forgotten all but one, and I was second-guessing whether it was relevant, whether it was a question that would contribute to the discussion, whether it mattered, whether it was selfish…let alone how to word it. So I didn’t ask it.

I had made the decision on my way there that I would ask a question because it was a show of support to the writers giving the talk. But I rationalised not asking the question because I thought no one would be interested in the answer except me, or maybe the writers wouldn’t want to answer it because it was a bit sticky.

The thing is, this sounds like anxiety. And in past similar situations, it’s felt very much like anxiety. But I’m beginning to believe it’s fabricated anxiety. The underlying problem, if I excavate my psyche, was that too much time had passed for me to be connected to the question anymore. At the point in the talk where I got curious, I had to stop myself interjecting or raising my hand to ask it there and then, and I was disappointed and frustrated that I couldn’t, but this is such a common occurrence for me that I didn’t even notice it until I came to write this post. By the time I was able to ask questions, it didn’t feel important anymore. But I knew that I’d decided that it was important, at least enough to ask, so I was rifling through the sock drawers of my mind trying to find a justification compelling enough to sway me. And I found plenty of justifications, but they were all for different things.

For a long time I had assigned my timidity when it came to asking questions to the bracket of social anxiety or shyness. I’m realising more and more how much it seems to be a feature of my unofficial ADHD. For many years I’ve had to repress my natural inclinations in order to conform to society’s expectations. But while I got very good at blanket inhibiting the ‘wrong’ response, I’ve never gotten all that good at the ‘right’ one. I often understand what it is, but I almost just as often still fail to execute it. This created a sad vacuum of inaction in my life that I’ve harboured a great deal of shame for, and while I’ve been working to deconstruct both the vacuum and the shame cage around it for over two years now, I still don’t fully understand its mechanisms.

If only I could have accepted I was different, instead of convincing myself I was worse.

If only we could all.