Waldeinsamkeit

When I was pregnant the first time around, I became an avid reader. Pregnancy books, websites, pamphlets, whatever I could lay my hands on, I was desperate to be as informed as I could possibly be about my pregnancy and the baby growing inside me.

Did you know that at 7 weeks the baby still has a tail?
And eyelids?
And at 16 weeks the baby has toenails?

I knew everything.

Of course, nothing prepared me for what happened after the pregnancy, because I, like many other women, was so focussed on the growing of the baby, I never really considered that that was a drop in the ocean of time compared to actually raising the child, coping with the sleepless nights, the first took-the-nappy-off-and-shat-the-bed event, the backchat when they hit school age and start to imitate their peers. Pregnancy was a breeze compared to being a mother.

But even then, nothing compares to losing your child (and when I say losing, not in the sense of them dying, I don’t even want to go there). There is nothing in the books about that. They don’t have a book you can buy called “What to expect when you’re dealing with your 8 year old moving to the other side of the world”. Even a search on Google returns irrelevant results. Sites about international custody disputes. Written in legalese informing people how to go about retaining their child. About the Hague convention. No one writes about being on the other side of the world, about the struggle, or about how you could possibly cope with the distance being put between you and the child that was once 7 weeks inside you and still had a tail and had only just started to develop eyelids.

And the shame.

People know I am going on leave from work, so they ask me where I am going. So I tell them I am going to Florida. “How exciting!” they exclaim. “You lucky thing!”. And sometimes I smile and nod and sometimes on the bad days they see my face fall and I tell them, and sometimes they understand and have sympathy for the sitation and most times there is thinly veiled disgust at the parent who would let their child move 13,016 km away from them (give or take a few km), because they couldn’t imagine one scenario where that was right.

There isn’t a book that explains how you can make people understand.

And then there is the 2.5 year old who has no concept of this whole thing. He doesn’t know that his big brother is leaving. At least I don’t think so. He doesn’t talk, so I can’t tell if he has an inkling or not. All he will know is that the kid who was cuddled up with him watching The Lorax is gone, and that his bedroom is emptied of all the familiar things, and that dada is less stressed than he was, and that mama cries a lot.

How do you help him understand that this was for the best, it was a decision made at the time and maybe it was the wrong one and maybe it was the right one and we don’t know but it just IS what it is and we can’t change anything now so why are we even talking about this again just LET IT GO OKAY??

You know those beautiful words you come across in other languages? The ones which express things and concepts that the English language just doesn’t have a word for?

Gökotta. Swedish for waking up early in the morning with the sole purpose of hearing the first birds sing.

Kummerspeck. German for excess weight gained from emotional overeating. Literally, grief bacon.

Waldeinsamkeit. German for the feeling of being alone in the woods.

If I can’t find a book, then a word will do. I’m searching for a word for this. A beautiful word that is untranslatable, but holds the meaning of this feeling of love and loss, resignation and fear, shame and grief, guilt and emptiness.

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I recently realised that I am going to die.

I know that seems stupid, but it’s true. Death has, for a long time, been something that happens to other people. My frame of reference is slim, I can count on one hand the number of people who I have been (remotely) close to who have died. My poppa was the first to go, when I was about 11 or 12. I didn’t like him so much, and though I got the concept that he was dead, it was a blip. A couple of school friends died in my teens, both in car accidents, but again, I guess it didn’t really phase me. A friend was murdered when I was in my late teens, which devastated me but it was just like I wasn’t going to see her again. My uncle died when I was in my early 20s. I felt sad, I still do, he was a nice guy.  But still, my frame of reference is that DEATH HAPPENS TO OTHER PEOPLE. I’ve never died, personally.

But I clicked. After getting this rather crippling anxiety during the night about everything but especially about getting older, and wondering where the time went, and realising that I am god damned 32 years old and holy FUCK that is probably 1/3 of my life if not more gone, and probably a lot more if you look at the average lifespan in this country, and what am I doing? I am going to die. One day, I am going to die. And that moment is bearing down on me like a freight train and it could be tomorrow.

It sounds stupid.

I’ve always been an atheist, or at least an agnostic. I’ve never believed in God, only that there is *something* but I don’t quite know what. I don’t believe in heaven or hell, and though I believe in energy (we are all stardust), I can’t get my head around reincarnation. But I need to find meaning, or at least something to assure myself that this soul I have is going somewhere and not just gone. Though in my heart I know it will be.

I have read a few things as I try to make sense of this all, and some of the things that have stuck with me are that “you didn’t miss being alive for the millions of years before you were born, you won’t miss being alive for the millions of years after you die”. And the analogy that it’s like we are made of lego. You build a house with lego, it exists, then you break it down, the pieces are still there but the house is gone.

It happens to everyone else. And it’s going to happen to me.

And all of a sudden I don’t want to be doing this shit any more. I’m simultaneously crippled with depression over the reality that I am mortal, and determined that I can’t be depressed any more. All of those quotes that seemed trite all of a sudden seem meaningful and hit me in the heart “there is no day like the present”, “life is short”, “you’ll only regret the chances you didn’t take”. All of that shit means something now. Why am I in a job that I hate that makes me feel completely unfulfilled? Why am I sitting here instead of travelling the world? Why are we arguing over another kid? Why would I create another life that is only going to die? Why would I cripple myself with another child and sit around for years waiting for a chance to actually live? What’s the point anyway? Why bother trying to achieve anything? We don’t get out alive, right?

 

“There are three deaths. The first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time.”

Aside

Mothers Day rolls around once again. I don’t mention it, I don’t drop hints about what I want, I don’t hope for a day off, or a sleep in, or a gift, or a card from my kids with their names hurriedly scrawled inside. I don’t mention it. I pretend it’s not happening.

Mothers Day is for good mothers. It’s for mothers who would travel to the ends of the earth for their kids. It’s for the mothers with their delicate daughters and cheeky sons who sip fluffies in Cuba Street cafes. It’s for women who take their kids to soccer, and knit them clothes, and care if they eat a balanced diet. It’s for mothers who have conversations with their kids about the world.

Mothers Day isn’t intended for mothers like me. Today, I yelled at my 8 year old six times. Each time I tried to tell him something I had to repeat myself three times, because he doesn’t listen. So I stopped bothering to talk to him. Today, I yelled at my 2 year old four times. Each time I tried to talk to him, he didn’t hear me, because he can’t hear me. So I stopped bothering to talk to him.

The 2 year old melted down in Moore Wilsons over nothing and I took him outside and forced him into a corner and he screamed and hit me in the face hard enough to bruise and I couldn’t even restrain him and instead I just blocked him from running into traffic as he screamed and hit me and the tears rolled down my face and I sobbed and tried not to throw him off the building as women walked past with their delicate daughers and cheeky sons and gave me a look of pity and disdain.

And the 8 year old, he moves to the other side of the world in a few months because it’s better for him to be there instead of here.

Mothers Day isn’t for mothers like me. I don’t want to be treated like I deserve it, because I don’t. I’m not the woman that Hallmark sentiments were written for.

Aside

Is there a name for the sensation that you could fall off the earth and everything would keep moving? No one would blink, the world would turn, the gap would be silently filled and it would be as if you never existed?

Is there a name for the sense that you are a shell, empty of contents, a void, that you have no substance or worth?

Is there a name for the feeling of watching the world as if it is a movie, not being a participant in its movements, just a silent observer distanced from everything going on?

Is there a name for the loneliness? The sense that you are disconnected from anything that means anything, that you are invisible to everyone and you might whisper or scream but it’s all the same because your words mean nothing, because you have no worth to them?

Is there a word that describes the feelings bubbling up like bile in your throat and threatening to overflow but there is no where for them to go, no one to hear them or care, so you hold the foul taste of the unspoken fearful words in your mouth until they subside and you press them back down into your gut where they sit and fester and rot you from the inside out?

Is there a name for the moment of aching realisation that you don’t belong or matter, that you’re destined to always be a square block in a world of round holes. That all that you do is shallow and solitary?

Is there any point? Is this what it feels like to quit existing?

“I have this strange feeling that I’m not myself anymore. It’s hard to put into words, but I guess it’s like I was fast asleep, and someone came, disassembled me, and hurriedly put me back together again. That sort of feeling.”

― Haruki Murakami, Sputnik Sweetheart

Aside

I guess it’s not uncommon to look at those around you and compare yourself to them, to their successes and triumphs. Not uncommon to wish that you had your neighbours greener grass and that you were keeping up with the Joneses to the level you wished you could. But I wonder if our parents and grandparents had it ever as bad as we do, in the age of Facebook and Instagram you have a window into the lives of almost anyone – checking out that greener grass isn’t just an option, it’s almost the default when your morning coffee is taken while browsing your newsfeed (Sue got that new car she’s been saving for, Sam and Jess have just moved to Australia to follow their dreams of living the beach lifestyle they have always dreamed of, Maggie just had her third baby and he’s sleeping through the night at 4 weeks, Mike got the job), your morning tea you check Instagram (Kate is in Fiji taking selfies on the beach, Sarah and her husband are celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary with dinner and a show, Ben just got a puppy).

People don’t Facebook their failures. Or perhaps more accurately, some people Facebook every failure, but most people put on their best face for social media. You don’t see that they argue with their husband almost every night (and he’s having an affair, the third this year) and they are on the brink of divorce, you don’t see the financial hardships and the week to week struggles, that guy hasn’t revealed his cancer diagnosis to anyone but his closest friends and family.

So Facebook feels so isolating. Being so hyperconnected and intrinsicly entwined with the lives of 400 people but yet so alone. I don’t feel like I have anything in common with the bright faces and happy lives any more. I don’t have those things, and I’m guilty of putting on my best face too with only the shiny moments when the children are playing nicely together and the cake is perfect and I’m wearing makeup and I’m falling apart inside but you can’t see that in the photo and I certainly don’t make a song and dance about it, because it doesn’t belong in the shiny make believe world of perfection and adequacy.

I stopped checking it because I wanted to stop comparing myself and all of the things I don’t have with the things that others do. I stopped looking at the happy photos because they just left me feeling sad and lonely. I stopped because I have a lot, but I feel like it means nothing. I stopped because I need to learn to love what I have instead of chasing something I never will.

Aside

I always thought I had plenty of time. Time to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, time to grow, time to become the person I wanted to be. I was fairly optimistic for the future, as you can be when you’re in your teens or your early 20s and the world is at your fingertips, the only limitations the ones you create for yourself. I always thought I would sort it out and get over the things that held me back, that I would (with adulthood) flourish into something better than I was.

Turns out that’s all pretty much bullshit.

I’m 32, and I hate what I have become. My life revolves around two things. Work, and family.

I leave home each weekday to go to a job that no longer does anything for me, and no longer brings me any satisfaction. 40 hours a week spent staring at a screen, sending email after email to people who don’t give a shit what I have to say. Trying to do a good job but being limited by the bureaucracy of this place. Coming in now, only because the job applications I send disappear into the ether and this work has ground me down so much I no longer feel like I have anything to offer anyone… like a bad relationship, I don’t want to be here, but I’m afraid no one else will want me. So I do my 40 hours a week. And I leave work and I cry, and lie awake in bed into the early hours stifling the anxiety that I am a failure.

I get home from that job and the guilt immediately sets in. My husband is miserable, he has been miserable for the last 2 years, feeling like having a child was a mistake but stuck dealing with the consequences of a misguided decision to breed, because what he thought it would be does not reflect what it is. He is stressed, the burden is on him he feels. He is lonely, he tells me every day, he pines for my company. He wants physical intimacy so badly but my body aches from the stress and the ulcers and the tiredness and when the children are in bed I just want to sit and switch off. He spends each day in a loop, doing the same thing over and over again. He has isolated himself from everyone and relies on me to be his everything and to bring him up. So I do everything I can to help, but it’s never enough for him.  My hours outside of work are trying to keep him (and my children) somewhat happy. I do the housework. I manage all the finances so he doesn’t have to worry about how to stretch the money from one week to the next. I take the children out so that he can play video games for a few hours and chain smoke.

There is nothing else, this is my life. Trying to please the unpleasable during the week, trying to please the unpleasable during the weekend.

And I always thought that by 32 I would have figured out how to make friends with people, but it turns out I really don’t know how to. Making conversations is still so fucking awkward and feels so forced and unnatural. Even though I desperately want to be a part of something, I feel like my time to figure all that out has passed and there is no longer any point. I see people moving in their social groups, doing things they love together, and I’m resigned that that will never be me, I’ll never be that person that is a part of that. It doesn’t come naturally. And even if it did, where would I find the time? Any time I take to myself is suffered through with crippling guilt so I don’t bother. I don’t deserve that time, not when my husband is so unhappy and feels so trapped. It only makes him more unhappy. So I don’t bother.  It all seems a waste of time to try to change the way things are.

Is this all there is? Is this how the rest of my life is going to play out? What a fucking joke.

Aside

Sometimes the weight of the world just comes crashing down, draping itself across my shoulders like a wet blanket and it’s awfully hard to remove – once it’s there it’s there as long as it needs to be there it seems. When all of the straws line up and form an army to break the camels back, they are hard to ignore.

And once again I feel I have failed at this thing, this life thing.

I work in a job that I neither love nor hate. I work it because it pays six figures and allows us to live well, pay our debts, feed our kids without both having to work. I work it because it gives me security. I can do it, most of the time. But sometimes I am in meetings and I’m nodding along like an idiot and I wonder if they can all see through my charade and know that I don’t belong. I want to leave but I’m too afraid that if I do no one else will want me. It’s like being in a relationship where there isn’t any abuse, there is nothing obviously wrong, but it’s not love, and you’ve been ground down to believing that no one else could be any better.

My husband hasn’t felt an intimate touch in weeks. Sometimes I feel my libido coming back and I want to grab him, and then it passes. And he is so disappointed in me, so unhappy with this thing I have become. And he says he’s not going to bother me any more and that hurts even more. Knowing he’s given up on me.

And he is miserable because he has an empty husk of a wife and he says to her face that he has missed the best years of her life and it makes him sad.

And the children, I don’t even know if they are happy, I have nothing to compare them to.  The older one is becoming harder, he can’t follow simple instructions and it leaves us frustrated, and me and my husband fight and argue and say awful mean things to each other.

And I’m trying to get fit, and healthy, and lose weight, and I am running and starving myself and I am so fucking tired but I am trying because I WANT to be a better person.

And I have realised that my friends can be counted on a couple of fingers, because I have neglected maintaining friendships through this shitty experience of having a second child, and even holding conversations with people now is so god damned hard, and most of them just can’t be bothered hearing about it when all they want to talk about is their first world problems.

And none of it is fucking good enough. I turn 32 next month and I’m slowly losing the ability to give a fuck about the rest of my life because I don’t know how to turn around these failures, and I have no love left for myself… I’m just stagnant and waiting for the weight of the world to pass so that I can at least pretend to exist and live again.

 

Aside

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