This Is Not The Life I Dreamed Of
A year ago, on New Year’s Eve, I was pregnant with our first son Alfie.
My wife and I carried out our annual First Footing ritual. I stood in the hallway while Sam left the house, declaring she was taking the year 2018 with her. I watched her saunter down the garden path and disappear round the corner. Peering through the frosted glass of our front door, I giggled to myself as I saw her return, striding towards me representing the year 2019.
She knocked on the door.
“What do you bring us?” I called through the glass. Unlocking the door and opening it with mock suspicion, I inspected what was in her hands.
“Food,” she began, referring to the vegan chocolate bars she was holding. “Fuel,” she continued, a box of matches representing that gift. “Financial abundance,” she said, revealing a wad of notes – all the cash we kept in the house – indicating that we’d have wealth in the year ahead.
And this is where the ritual would typically end, except this time Sam showed me an additional gift: a red woollen hat embroidered with the words Jingle All The Way. (Jingle was our womb-name for our son.)
“Family,” she finished quietly, with a shy grin.
“You can come in then,” I smiled back, pulling her and her laden arms in for a kiss. “This time next year, you’ll need to do this with a chubby 6-month old in your arms!” I told her with so much happiness, my bump pushing against her, the three of us already united as a family.
Last night, we did the First Footing ritual again, but there was no chubby baby in our arms. This wasn’t the plan, came the thoughts. It wasn’t meant to be like this. I want THAT life – the one I dreamed of with such joyful innocence last year.
Where can you relate?
Where is life clashing painfully with images of how you expected it to be today?
I’m thinking of people in my life. One is living with an incurable cancer that she had no clue about last NYE. One came home to find that his long-term girlfriend, who he thought he’d marry and have a family with, had packed up all her stuff and moved out of their joint home, leaving only a short letter of explanation behind.
When life clashes with the images of how we expected life to be, it’s natural to perceive that reality is what’s out of place. Reality is off-plan. Reality is wrong. Reality is to blame. It’s so entirely reasonable to see it this way, but it’s also entirely painful, so here’s an alternative that helps me to challenge my thoughts:
What if the images were out of place?
In my situation, the images of Alfie at six months were fabricated. Made up, constructed movies created by my mind. My mind was innocent; it was doing what any pregnant woman probably would have done, but still the fact is: my mind made them up. Those images weren’t real. Much as I’d have loved him to, 6-month-old Alfie never lived in reality.
What if life isn’t out of alignment? What if the images were?
Last NYE, the images played for me a future that wasn’t, in reality, going to happen. And this distinction matters because when when I believe that reality is off-plan, I suffer. The clash between life and the images happens and I mourn, I grieve. I shout and rail and cry against life. I find no peace; I barely even want to be alive.
And all this suffering prevents me from seeing reality as it is. Crucially, it covers my eyes from seeing my son as he actually is: a sweet peaceful soul that I had the privilege to meet and who lives on in so many ways. It stops me from remembering what actually happened: the power of his birth, the outpouring of community love and support. The new friends I’ve made; the deeper bond with my wife. The new sense of myself and my capabilities.
When the clash between life and the made-up images happens, what do you miss?
What can you not see, because those images are covering your vision?
This is such a powerful shift in perspective – this move from seeing life as out of alignment, to seeing the fabricated imagery as out of alignment.
Because here’s the bottom line: I can argue with life unendingly (trust me, I’ve tried) and nothing actually changes about life. Arguing with reality is the most futile use of my energy. Reality always wins, no matter how many images I throw despairingly at it. So I’ve come to see that it serves me far better to interrogate the images, to ask whether they were real or fabricated. If the images can drop, even just for a moment, I’m free to see and appreciate reality as it is today.