Wednesday 30 December 2020

Last of the 2020 musings (12/21 to 12/31)

I don't think I have any one thing to say to sum up 2020. But since I have some time to myself for the last two weeks, I'll use the metaphor of a tapestry and see what occurs to me between Solstice and New Year’s Eve.

Loose threads from the past that were woven into something:

The last of the anxiety about fertility (or lack of it, whatever) is essentially gone. Our family of four is exactly what it should be in my mind, and I am grateful things wrapped up as neatly as they have. One reason I'm pretty sure of this: My new co-teacher (we started working together in September) is currently trying to conceive! And she is now a patient of the same fertility clinic we went to!  Whatever issues she and her partner face (it's not very clear at the moment) they seem less serious than what Mr. Turtle and I dealt with. (Who really knows though.) How do I feel about this? Well I feel happy to be in a position where I can be supportive and understanding of her, to some degree. And that's about it. I'm neither anxious nor envious. Maybe that will shift a bit at some point, but I doubt it will significantly. I gave her my copy of Navigating the Land of IF, with a brief explanation of what in it I found helpful. I hope things work out for her. But I'm also enjoying the fact I'm in the mother/crone phase of life and don't have to worry about that stuff anymore.

Perhaps more disturbingly, our new classroom (we moved partway through the year to a big shared space instead of two classrooms) is right across from the washroom where I had my traumatic early pregnancy bleeding with AJ.  At first I avoided it. Then I admitted to my colleagues I had an unpleasant association with that washroom, listened to their sympathy, and started using it like it was any other washroom. I'm not particularly affected by going in there. But even if I do feel a bit weird about it, I'm going to keep using it until the weirdness goes away.  The reading and discussion I've undertaken in the past years has convinced me that avoidance is the wrong way to deal with fear and other negative feelings.

Overall, I feel about babies and pregnancy much the same way I feel about other (mostly happy) things in the past. There’s an ache of nostalgia for times passed away, but mostly I’m too involved and interested in current challenges and pleasures to get pulled deeply into it. And I can’t say I feel jealous of people for whom having babies is still an option. I mean....good for them, but also good for me for not having that particular complication.

Threads pulled loose, threatening tangles or holes:

Covid-19 and attempts to contain it obviously made this year very, very weird. My life was not an exception to that. At the same time I wouldn't say my foundations have been shaken too seriously. I mostly feel strong.  Again I believe that this year showed the fruit of all the work I have been doing over the last 5 years to learn who I am and become more adaptable, intuitive, and centred. It's not finished by any means, and there are days when I feel defeated and foolish. But I feel much less lost overall than I did in the last 5 years or even last year.  I'm relating to people at lot more confidently. So, not many holes or tangles or loose threads, really.

Something I did mean to do this year but never did in person was explore one or more church communities. Mostly that was due to Covid and resulting shutdowns, although even prior to that I truly had no idea how to fit another commitment into our busy lives. But I have had a conviction, from about a year ago, that it is something I should do. Mr Turtle and I talked about it and agreed, which was exciting, but then  things got muddled. Still, it’s very much on my mind and I’m engaging with those desires and ideas by reading and listening to podcasts and conversations.

Surprising pictures in the tapestry:

Professionally, I learned more this past year than I have in recent memory. A lot of what I learned was technical and related to online learning. But even before those shifts I gained a lot of confidence in thinking and adapting on the run.  I didn't always enjoy it and during the last school year in particular I wished so badly that I knew some short cuts and ways to make life easier! But I definitely did work some creative muscle and once I got my wits together and my anxiety even slightly tamed, I felt like a whole new person. 

Speaking of anxiety, of course it has been a theme of this blog for a while, and I tend to consider myself an anxious person.  But I learned something rather important about myself this year: Danger, challenge and risk taking do not activate my anxiety.  Of course I can feel fear, but not the horrible paralyzing terror that makes me doubt every decision, every bit of information, every step forward and slows time to an agonizing death crawl that nevertheless seems to move faster than I can think.  No, what seems more likely to make me anxious is trying to be normal. 

Trying to be normal is still worth it. I don't regret any of the ways I've pushed myself to have the life I have now, which is so much better than anything I dared picture in my youth. Still, I'm thinking I might actually be better suited to challenge and crisis than I am to "business as usual." It's an interesting thought. When the going gets weird, the weird get going.

The family tapestry:

AJ: Six years old, beautiful, creative, expressive. Still wants to be an artist (mostly), or maybe a "dance performer." I continue to point out to her (probably obnoxiously) that "you can always have another job too, you know." I was raised to be practical; it sticks. She has made strides in learning to read since starting Grade 1 (meaning she got motivated to try.) Also really likes math. She claims not to be competitive but she totally is.  AJ is very much into dragons, gems and crystals (How to Train Your Dragon movies, also some Hobbit which I read to her periodically.) She is learning tap dance and piano this year.

Dani: closer to three than two now, so I tend to think of her as three. Looking like a little girl, not so much a toddler or baby anymore. Still my baby though. Well they both are. She talks a lot recently, and loves to dance and sing and count. Cute things she currently does:

  • Dani and AJ both love The Croods and Dani learned to do the perfect imitation of Belt’s “Dun dun DUN!” which is too funny.
  • She has started saying “This is my HOME!” about our house, with great happiness, as if it only just occurred to her (maybe it did). It’s very sweet and it makes me want to give three cheers of agreement every time she says it.
  • Dani always talks about “my dance class” though unfortunately she has never been to one. I took AJ to mommy/toddler classes but such things are not available right now. I am not sure if Dani really wants a dance class or she thinks life is one big dance class.
AJ and Dani are close though they squabble a fair bit too as I imagine most siblings do.  Still little enough that family is the centre of their world, which is a wonderful privilege and opportunity for us. AJ also continues to do fabulously in school, and I’m so grateful for her teachers and community there.

Mr Turtle is very close to being a full registered psychologist, after years (beginning in 2013) of getting a masters and all the other steps including exams and supervision. We love our long conversations when we can fit them in, though the pandemic has somewhat limited our ability to get away together. 

My mom has struggled a lot with isolation the last few months in particular. We see her regularly and I’ve increasingly tried to accept and embrace my changing role in supporting her. I did initially struggle with being put into more of a caregiver role as it feels like losing a parent in a way.....the relationship if not the person, if that makes sense. There are emotions like frustration and resentment as well as love and worry and concern and empathy. I have my dad’s “let’s find a solution” mentality I think. It’s not easy for me to deal with people/situations where there is no solution. I’m not very good at the (feminine) thing where you “hold space.”

 But I’ve tried to embrace my strengths, admit to the frustrations and take responsibility for them, and do what needs to be done to take care of the future, meaning not avoiding or denying the challenges. My mom continues to live on her own but has been getting more professional help and my brothers and I have gotten more skilled at assisting her and at working together. Always I try to remember that no matter how difficult a situation is, there are ways to make it worse. So I try to always focus on what 1) won’t make things worse and 2) may make things better, in that order.  Actually, that’s been a pretty good approach for most everything that has happened this year.

That probably sums up most of the learning and challenges of 2020. It’s been a good year, or if it hasn’t been “good” by some subjective standard I at least feel good about how we handled what came at us. And that’s the most meaningful kind of “good” in my mind. Also, at this point in life I cannot pretend to myself that I am immortal. That illusion started to slip quite a few years ago and it’s pretty much gone now.  And so I do not want to wish away any remaining years of my life, nor even months, days, weeks or minutes. They are all too precious.  I would not trade the present for any imagined future. This is life, here, now. I can’t always choose my circumstances, but I can choose how I respond to them. And in that moment of decision, I have found my freedom and my courage.

Happy new year!