Earlier this evening, not long after my wife had left to spend the afternoon and evening/overnight with her elderly mother – a thing she does often, though she stays over less often these days now her mother needs more regular care – I had a moment.
A moment that was about this time of year, and this time in my life and this time in our generation. A sad moment, a lonely moment.
My father died when I was 25, my mother when I was 40. I have not had parents for some time (I’m 55 in two months). The time elapsed means close to nothing on the occasions when grief hits. As it does.
I have never had children. We wanted to, we tried, I had chemo at 36 and that screwed my fertility, my wife was pregnant with our babyfather while I was having radiotherapy, she miscarried and never got pregnant again, despite many variations on trying. I had five embryos created before chemo made me infertile. Each one of them died. In me. The last time I tried to be pregnant and an embryo died was years ago (the week my mother died), and it still feels so real and sometimes even raw. (Do I say ‘miscarriage’ or not? Some women do, right from the start, especially those of us who know from the moment it – living – is in us. Some wait until there is a heartbeat, a scan, I just know I felt pregnant – waiting – for the whole of the three and four years from when they were made, pre-chemo, frozen, until each one ‘failed’. In me.)
So, “Christmas is about family” is ouch as well as lovely. I KNOW that ‘family’ is more than blood relatives, the relatives I make for myself, of my own flesh. Of course I do, I’m queer. I have known that for so long.
And … I grew up here. In this world. Where it IS all about little kids and a grandad-type man with a grey beard. Where it is about young and old. I have none either side of me, no before, no after. Where it is about birth family – I have LOADS of that around me. Only two days ago my 29th great was born. I am the youngest of 7 siblings with 15 nieces and nephews and a huge extended family that I love and am so lucky to be loved by.
I didn’t have the life I dreamed for me. My cancers got in the way. As did being gay, at a time of very few lesbian mothers (plenty who’d had kids in straight relationships, v few who’d had them together).
I have a partner, lucky me. Really. The chance of us finding each other, of staying together .. so lucky.
I am alive. (We ALL are lucky for this, life/death is SO arbitrary, you not-cancer, no-disease people do know that, right?)
I had time to have a moment – and this is the first time in YEARS I’ve had time off over Christmas/New Year, so OBV the moment came!
And still I had a moment. I felt alone and I felt the sad creeping in from around the edges – the dark sad that is often held at bay by noise and people (and especially children-people!) and work – and … I let it come in. I – who hates crying, who struggles with darkness, who fears it will never let me go, who is so fearful of the sad – I let it in.
I fucking hate crying. It hurts my face. I had a cry. And afterwards I felt a bit better. (A bit. It never is lots. I don’t know who anyone who really believes in a ‘good cry’, but anyway ….) I cuddled our cat – who is 18 and a half and she really doesn’t care that much, (though she is gorgeous!). I cuddled the neighbours’ cat who LOVES affection and is a bloke cat so all cuddles are GOOD CUDDLES. And then I felt better and made me a Christmas cocktail.
So … it turns out that the people (therapist, friends, yoga teacher, etc) who say that feeling a hard thing isn’t awful, that feeling a hard thing sometimes sort of somehow (not guaranteed!) shifts the thing EVEN IF ONLY A LITTLE … might be right.
And I’m writing this to say, if you’re feeling a thing, a hard thing, even if only a little, yay you. Me too. We can do this. We can do the sad within the cheery, the hard within the gorgeous, the sad within the joy. It IS all joined up.
I’m raising my glass to you, brave journey-people. It doesn’t have to be all cheery, at all, ever. It can be happy and sad. That’s ok. That’s human.