Even before our historical soujourn in Paris (did I mention that we saw a pirogue that plied the Seine 3,000 years before the Romans turned up?!), I had been giving a great deal of thought as to what it means to live a full life. How is a full life defined? Who says what is full? Who judges?
For a while now, my definition of a full life required that I have children – preferably my own biological children. I’ve been clinging to this notion that my one purpose in life is to have children, not because I want them (which I do), but because I’m a woman and therefore it is my purpose. Very Biblical, I know.
I didn’t use to think this way. It has only really taken root as our slog through the mire of infertility has gotten longer and harder. In other words, with every passing month, disappointment or loss, it just gets entrenched even further because it is the most fundamental biological function that I haven’t been able to fulfill which I must fulfill to prove that I was a woman. Pretty screwed up, eh?
The first clue that this is what is nicely called ‘fuzzy logic’ is that I don’t ascribe it to anyone else. I think other women are a success in their lives if they are happy – no matter what happens to their uterus. My second clue is that I didn’t start thinking this way until my first miscarriage, which threw very cold water on my euphoria at finally being able to do that one thing that I was supposed to be able to do. And, more recently, the perspective that I gained in Paris showed me first hand that very few other people truly care whether I give birth to a child and I will probably be more well known if I have an interesting life than if I propogate the species.
Each of these points is slowly chipping away at the wall of expectations that I have built for myself (again nobody else!) but the foundations are still there. Foundations last a long time. We saw the foundations for the medieval Louvre that dated back to the 12th century (personally, I found this way more interesting than the Mona Lisa) and the foundations for the Bastille. Foundations that were laid before my ancestors even got on a boat, and in at least one case, before there even was a New World. Foundations are dug deep and meant to last. They get buried and forgotten.
I need to excavate my foundation, bring into the light, study it and then dismantle it because it is only making me suffer. So far, though, despite all of my rational thought on the subject, I can’t shake this idea.
So, I’ve turned to a radical new place for affirmation that my idea is frankly bull: obituaries. I have always adored reading obituaries. They are truly a person’s life resume. They are the record of who you were, what you did and where you went to the rest of the world. Of course your family knows what you did and has special stories about you, but isn’t everyone most interested in getting their story out to as many people as possible? For most people, that doesn’t happen until they are dead.
What has struck me in recent years reading obituaries is that more often than not, the discussion of the person’s life only mentions their children at the very end, usually in the list of survivors. The narrative of their life focuses on them, what they accomplished (other than having children) and what they enjoyed. In short, the focus is on the person’s interests, history and accomplishments, but not necessarily that they had children. For most people, you wouldn’t think that they had children at all!
You probably wouldn’t believe how helpful I have found this, morbid as it may seem, because it provides a great lesson: in the end, it doesn’t really matter. When they write my obituary, they will discuss how I met my husband on-line back when it still was not very well known (back in my day, there were no pictures!), I had many interests ranging from history to interior design, I played the flute and the piano and loved classical music, I painted in watercolors and oils, I was passionate about animals and the environment (yes, I am a tree hugger), I took pride in my work and my relationships with those I worked with, I enjoyed traveling and reading.
All of these things are true and absolutely none of them have to do with the fact that (so far) the largest my belly ever got was after an orgy of barbeque. In the end, it doesn’t really matter what happens, as long as I can look back and claim (genuinely) that I was happy. And, right now, despite everything, I can say that.
left image: ::: Billie / PartsnPieces :::; right image: caribb