My old life…the one before kids. It’s long gone. Past denial, past anger (years), past depression (more years), even past acceptance (relief at last). For a long time it haunted me – my phantom life of being an independent person – a person without dependents.
I had my first child just before I turned 30, so I had plenty of carefree years: college, working, traveling, eating out, sleeping in. And though pregnancy (sort of like being taken over by an alien) was not the most comfortable time in my life, I could still get along as usual. But childbirth…I was so focused on getting the baby out that I not see that simultaneously my old life was being amputated – irretrievably severed.
In half-awake moments my mind still feels it hovering nearby, sort of like a parallel universe. The life where I don’t wear frayed jeans and ancient tee shirts every day. The life where I get a paycheck. The life where I have meaningful conversations with adults, eat hot food when it’s hot and cold food when it’s cold. The life where I have uninterrupted sleep and can remember what day of the week it is.
And then something will jar me into full consciousness – a small body climbing into bed, a foot in my rib, the sound of “mah-mee” from across the dark house. And I am so grateful for my warm little alarm clocks, even though I can’t set the time they go off (or the volume, or the frequency). I am content having traded tyrants at work who can be escaped at the end of the day to tyrants at home who cannot. Yes, the tyrants at home need to be fed, teeth brushed, fed, diapers changed, fed, dressed, fed, driven here and there, fed, bathed, fed, put to bed. But they are tyrants I created out of my own body, tyrants that grow and become less tyrannical (or later, differently tyrannical). They keep things interesting, keep me laughing, keep me honest, force me to be a better person – even though I would often rather NOT – because I can see that it makes them better people.
Funny how long I mourned my old life. Mourned the loss of independence. Mourned being able to take a shower or go to the bathroom without company. Felt angry about having to do so much unending, unappreciated work for everyone else and never having a second to myself. Felt frustrated that I had always thought I could have it all, a great career and a large family together. Wasted years on that.
I had a lot to learn, and I resisted. Resisted with all my stubbornness until finally, I was tired. I capitulated, surrendered, bowed down to the universe. Learned to let go of my anger. Learned I could only live the life I had been given, not my phantom life or any utopian vision in my head. Learned that I had spent my life under the utterly false impression that I was in control. Learned that the only things I could control were in my head – my own reactions to and perceptions of my life, not the course of life itself. Realized that in always wishing for “someday” I was missing out on the gifts of today. Learned patience.
I still feel it out there, my phantom life. But I’ve let go of it emotionally; it’s just an artifact. And letting it go has allowed me to embrace what is real.