The weight of continuity – Birthday message 2015
When I look back on the year that has gone by, it seems a time that has been marked by death. Edna (taken by cancer in her 70s), Ian (who I’ve known since I started working more than a decade ago – suicide), so many famous actors and writers who had a profound influence on my life, development and thoughts – Terry Pratchett, Maya Angelou, Robin Williams… My most profound loss – Micah. Had my father still been alive he would have been 70 in May. New relationships blossomed and died. Friendships I thought would last forever, dimmed.
They say that when you dream of death, it is a sign of change, the end of an era. And perhaps that is the most profound change my 33rd year has brought me: the sense or weight of legacy and continuity presses on me as never before. I have always followed my heart and my gut in making career and life choices. It has never been with anything resembling determined direction. Mostly it has been an adventure, some parts less pleasant than others, but an adventure nonetheless. Yes, I have a clear sense of the kind of existence and freedom I want, but my “plan” to get there evolves and changes as events occur and/or new opportunities present themselves. This has never bothered me before, but at times now I have wondered whether I missed something in approaching life this way.
While a deep part of me has been haunted by longing for love and companionship for many years, the desire to give something and be something to the next generation has never pressed so hard upon me as it does now. The desire for family closeness, being part of the education, formation and bonding with the young, to build memories, bonds of purpose, meaning and love has never been felt to keenly. Like a blade slicing open my heart every day to bleed afresh. Like a thief creeping up on you, it has unbalanced me tremendously and caused me at times to act out in ways contrary to my character and causing more harm to my hopes and goals and those I wish to draw close. I have ended up pushing away and causing sorrow and uncertainty where I wanted to foster love. I have been the architect of my own pain (as we all are, always, but I own and acknowledge it this time). In this also I have learned valuable lessons and hope that in the next phase I will do better, that the harm I have done might be erased and that there might be a 2nd chance for a true heart to build upon a truth she saw in a moment but could not share because it would seem a singular madness to anyone else.
Most years at least there are heights to balance out the failures, but this past year the weight of continuity drew me away from myself and I seem to have just blundered through most of it like a puppet caught in my own string. I am left with the feeling that the failures and new scars collected far outweigh the good I did. And still there is the enduring hope that there will be someone who will love my scars as much as my beauty and the intricate inner windings of my much broken, but ever loving heart.
About a month ago I watched the newest Night at the Museum movie and I felt like I finally understood something that has been incomprehensible to me for a decade – the urge to have children. For most people it is the most tangible way to leave a legacy. Whether we do it well or poorly, whatever hand fate deals us in the genetics and character and the souls that ultimately inhabit the bodies we bear, that is a physical manifestation of continuity – someone who will one day talk and think of us after our passing, the way I now think of my dad, despite his flaws and the many mistakes he made in his life – testimonies to a life lived and remembered. Of late, I have many times wondered whether I have come to this realisation too late, whether there is still such a purpose in my future. What would I have to sacrifice for that kind of life? Is it possible to have a loving relationship with someone who respects and admires and understands me and is worthy of that same respect and admiration AND have a fulfilling family life? How would I ever be happy if I settled for anything less? For less ambition, less mindfulness, less passion? Would I become another Robin Williams, an inspiration to many and happy on the surface, but destroyed on the inside? It made me so incredibly sad, the tribute at the end to him: “The magic never dies…” and it is true of him and the legacy of his work, his family, even the awareness he created about depression as he left this life behind, but so many people leave no legacy except their children and if they raised them thoughtlessly, whatever magic might have been would truly die with them.
There is no logical answer to say that it is not possible, except that perhaps on life’s path I have not been ready until now. I have so much love to give and surely a reluctant and circumspect parent is better than the permanently pregnant breeding machines who are more after something outside themselves to validate their existence than the knowledge that they nurture a life and being that could change the world… be a butterly flapping its wings in the rainforest… There is no reason why there can’t be great passion with someone who is your great friend and companion, partner in crime and lover – an existence filled with love, compassion, faithfulness, being treasured in every way and giving the same in return. Maybe all it takes is a small change, seemingly random events, the open heart of another. If great shifts can happen in my being and mind with no outside pressure or ulterior motive, then surely my mate could carry that in him too. Perhaps all it takes is a small nudge from somewhere unexpected, so that he can walk humbly beside me, to become a prince ready to rule at my side.
Everywhere I notice the biting little reminders: watching a fire artist at the Winter Wonderland. On his shirt just one word “Cancun”, a reminder of a dream, a wish for an adventure holiday, making love to someone who loves me deeply in a beautiful place away from everything we know, lost in each other on every level. The smile of a child that night when you hug her and she echoes your “I love you”. It makes my breath catch in my throat and involuntary tears spring to life in my eyes. What would I give to read bedtime stories and my favourite books with such a one, for that kind of homeliness and peace?
This is the weight of continuity. Knowing what you have to give. Denied. Uncertain. I know that this too shall pass and that I shall embrace my broken heart that breaks afresh every day to draw these lessons into my soul. Follow my heart until the path presents itself that will get us there, humbled by 33 years of not having ever wanted this until now that particular sleeping wolf has been awakened. As much as we think we know about our world, the people around us and ourselves, still there is so much to learn at every turn that it only reinforces our ignorance. Maybe that really is the beginning of wisdom. Acknowledging our flaws and limitations and seeing everything we are clearly and uncompromisingly, even when it’s not pretty.
I will leave you today with the words of Chief Dan George, who echoes the sentiment in my heart even in the midst of this time of humbling uncertainty: “May the stars carry your sadness away. May the flowers fill your heart with beauty. May hope forever wipe away your tears, and above all, may silence make you strong.”