by Ró Stack
The weeks go like this: accepting, horny, hopeful, sad. I’m four different people trying to establish one perspective on a major life event – on the creation of life itself.
At a certain point, it became untenable for me to continue sitting around tables witnessing the emphatic discussion of make-believe stories and characters that the world already knew. It seemed the definition of adulthood: convincing oneself of the importance of a prescribed yet fabricated truth, and assuming a role for oneself within it.
Of course, it’s easy to throw things in the air and walk away. Much more difficult to stay the course by assuming a position. I decided to do the difficult thing because I was afraid people would say ‘she can’t handle it’ (even when I didn’t believe in the ‘it’).
I persevered with the difficult thing because it didn’t seem difficult for other people which I took to mean that I had to grow up. For all my pissing and moaning, I wanted to be like everyone else. I invested in the seriousness of tedious things. I worked late. I used words like ‘assets’ and ‘content.’ I developed a veneer of maturity.
Each week now, I prepare for the next: pads, lube, happy thoughts, lots of food. I alter my narrative to protect and support myself depending on the week. The therapist warns me about being on the fence, about the dangers of not fully committing to one idea of the future: to make a baby or not to make a baby. Then he reminds me several times how little time I have left, biologically speaking. Eventually I say ‘OK, I get it.’
Each week I wait for the universe to tell me how it will be. I map out a different destiny based on the biology offered up by my underwear. I do the bidding of my hormones and discharge the required version of myself to placate my internal ticking time bomb.
Someone once tried to convince me that ‘resilience’ was a capitalist term, brought back in vogue during the recession to make people feel that surviving austerity was a personal achievement. I think about it every time I see an advert for a sports drink championing ‘perseverance.’ We must fling ourselves into adversity if we are to be any kind of person at all, so we insist on tiny heroic journeys within our tiny lives: marathons, promotions, sourdough.
Someone else tried to convince me that my pattern of walking away from things that weren’t going to change, was actually a sign of intelligence, a way of protecting oneself. Unable to invest in the truth of this – after all, there are no sports drinks called ‘repudiation’ – I spiralled into an internal argument about the ambiguous nature of truth itself.
Which was quite unhelpful.
The difficult business of sitting around tables pretending to be a responsible working adult ground me into doctors’ offices and uninvited naps. Into prescriptions and referrals, herbal supplements and sleepless nights. I circled back on hard pencils and blue-skied the optics. I became stunted: a stale blunt version of my former self. I should never have believed the dying woman who said I was destined for a career, as though her proximity to the end endowed her with omniscience.
In a hotel bar some years ago, a woman made a statement about fate that I forget, except that it was disparaging of the concept. In the moment I was struck by the realisation that though I had long abandoned the idea of fate, I was still living my life as though it was inevitable – the way you might fear the devil, while telling yourself you don’t believe in him.
I chip away at the foundations of the faith I was raised in with a chisel of logic and progressive thought, but when I hit upon an undefinable sense of spirituality, things get murky. And then of course there’s the multiverse: apparent proof of predetermined fate, in the black and white of chalk and slate.
I believe the big stuff is decided but we have freewill over the small steps, over how we get there a friend says. We all want to have our cake and eat it. We all want to be half-free, half-held.
Luckily for me, the last table I sat around to witness the autopsy of make-believe lives was one that lacked the universal quality of previous projects. By then I had surrendered to the outcome of things – my body left me no choice. My own pretending was killing me – the veneer smothering a real thing underneath.
When I escaped from the tables of the grown-up world, I got rid of my phone and scheduled an Out of Office for two months. I spent a lot of time on the couch. I read books and highlighted words and wrote down lists of things I valued in an attempt to hitch my worth to something other than work.
I felt so free, I feared getting caught.
I think about nature, cycles, ancestry.
I visualise roots going from my feet to the earth’s core.
I stare at a tree every morning.
A friend Whatsapps photos with descriptions of Angel cards which I scribble onto a wall calendar.
My mother lights candles in churches and leaves a trail of tiny holy medals around my house.
Another friend sends links to articles about fertility and medication she has taken with great success.
Around the table of make-believe stories, intelligent people still discuss intention and motivation. They still invest in backstory and history, in socio-economics and politics, in possibility and creativity. There will always be that one day where it seems something so special is happening, it could change the universe.
Week to week I wait to see what my body will decree. I try to second guess its mystery. My skin is breaking out – not good. Or my moods are prolonged – different from before, from the last fleeting pregnancy. I line up the lists of all the things I can only do as a childless woman. I paper my tiny world with them and crawl inside.
The last week subsides with the relief of knowing, bleeds into acceptance eventually.
And we begin again,
until we don’t.