Week 37: Endings
by Sharon Tjaden-Glass
Last year, I began the year on an ending.
I woke up empty. Finally.
On New Year’s Eve, I had a D & C to put an end to the miscarriage that my body wouldn’t let go. We picked up my painkillers on the way home, along with a piece of apple pie from Whole Foods. (Sometimes, food really does make you feel better.)
That night, we watched Interstellar through Amazon Prime.
I thought about the moments in my life when I would want to reach back through time and space and tell myself to do something differently.
The truth is, I don’t have many regrets in my life.
But the regrets that I do have are moments when I couldn’t accept that a part of my life was ending and another was beginning. Even when the change was good change. Staying in a relationship that I knew was ending. Staying in jobs that not only sapped my joy but also my dignity.
Given the choice between embracing the unknown and holding on to the familiar, my heart wants to cling to the familiar.
But there is goodness in letting go and allowing the emptiness to move in.
It’s the emptiness that allows us to imagine a different future.
Beginnings cannot begin until the endings end.
So after closing the door on last year’s miscarriage, I gave myself some time to feel empty again. To regenerate and heal.
I got pregnant again.
Now, I’ll be giving birth this January.
The symmetry almost makes me laugh. Perfect bookends on a very strange year. It’s one of those odd parallels that seems too coincidental to be true, but there it is nevertheless.
As this pregnancy enters its final weeks, I’m thinking more and more about the art of letting go and letting it be.
To be clear, I don’t define “letting go” as forgetting the past. That is impossible. Even dangerous to our emotional well-being. When we divorce our present selves from the past, we lose part of our identities. Finding peace in yourself, I believe, requires that you make peace with every version of yourself, past and present.
If you’ve watched any of HBO’s new show, Westworld, you’ve seen how the writers of this show explore the relationship between memory and consciousness. To be human is to construct a present self that is informed by the experiences and decisions of our past selves. It’s this constant creating and recreating of our present identities that makes us human. In the absence of the ability to access memory, we lose our humanity. We become beings that move on pre-programmed “loops” of motivations and behaviors.
In that sense, a healthy respect for accepting endings in our lives helps us become the best versions of ourselves.
In a few weeks, I’ll be closing the door on this version of myself. Mother of one daughter in a family of three. The days of being concerned about only one child’s health and development will be over.
I’ll have to accept that I cannot just fit this new child into the current patterns, behaviors, and structure of this family of three.
Everything will shift.
Everything must shift.
Accepting that shift is how I can keep all the heartaches in perspective.
Heartache? some of you may be asking.
Yes. Because I’ll need to accept that this is the last time I’ll give birth. The last time I’ll look down on that perfectly, unwrinkled face, just minutes old. The last time I’ll rub my hands over that soft, velvety newborn skin.
It takes courage and grace to accept that these moments are so fleeting. If I think about it too much, I feel paralyzed by the grief of watching all these moments pass and pass and pass, knowing that my child is changing, changing, changing.
It is all so brief. So very brief.
But everything shifts.
Everything must shift.
Before this pregnancy, January never felt like a month for giving birth.
The trees are bare. The grass is frosty. The birds don’t sing. The wind stings and bites your face. It’s the peak of the cold and flu season.
Nothing makes me think of the promise of new life.
But the word January comes from the Roman god, Janus, a two-faced god who could look back on the past while looking forward. His presence symbolized beginnings and endings and transitions. He was the god of gates and doors. People worshipped him in times of harvest, in marriages…
And in births.
In these final weeks of pregnancy, that is what I will try to do.
To look on the past even as I move forward.
Into this new identity.
Mother of two.