I’ve tried to write about four different posts today. Because I don’t have the heart for any of them, they dragged. I dragged. The posts were boring and I was bored. Why all of this slow-poking around? Because I’ve been avoiding bringing to this page what is true for me today. And I because I know all too well that resisting what wants to be written can short-circuit the entire writing machinery, I will resist no longer. Instead, I will practice what I preach. And tell you the story that is insisting on being told.
A year ago today, in the bathroom of my chiropractor’s office, a little blue plus sign quietly confirmed what my body had been trumpeting: I was pregnant with my second child. From her very first cell division, this child was a huge presence in me. I felt occupied by not just a new life, but by LIFE itself. I was hardwired for the ideal of “family of four” and felt so grateful to be moving toward this lifelong desire, even at this “advanced maternal age.” I was euphoric and exhausted––a hormonal cocktail I knew all too well.
Exactly six weeks later, the child occupying me completed its journey and departed. It was a long and agonizing departure that took three plus months––exactly how long it took my husband to find a new home and relocate there. By mid-September, both exits were complete. And with them, two of my most primary dreams evaporated.
Grieving dreams is complicated business. Often, they’ve spent a lifetime taking hold. And we have all kinds of projections about how each of our Happily Ever Afters might play out that have little bearing on reality––and often even have a meager capacity to actually create happiness. When Prince Charming turns out to be as uncomfortable a fit as a glass slipper and the castle reveals itself to be a fortress, we are left to sort out what remains in the rubble of a fantasy taken to its logical conclusion.
Every one of us has a fantasy-meets-reality story––or more likely, dozens of such stories––about our writing lives. I hear these almost daily from friends, colleagues, students and blog community members. We all have ideas of how it might feel to accomplish a certain goal, and we idealize getting there as a kind of arrival. A conclusion. When we get there, we expect euphoria, perhaps and are surprised to find ourselves feeling something else. Or, we simply discover there is no end, no arriving in the writing life. Only the next mountain to climb. The next book or story or poem or article to write. Or, we don’t get there. Which leads to further agonizing and imagining about the promised land of “there and when?” that lurks mysteriously behind the veil of “here and now.”
What I have found to be true in every case––in my personal life and my writing life––is that the death of the dream creates the space for what is actually intended to come through: what is, in the end, a better fit than we ever could have imagined. And often, it is so wildly off the mark from what we imagined, that it can take a long time to settle in with the strange bedfellows––or writingfellows––reality presents us with. Will this be a comfortable recalibration? Probably not. Will it be a worthwhile one? I’d bet all the chai tea lattes in the world on it.
A year after my miscarriage took with it my marriage, I am having unprecedented discoveries about who I am, what I expect from my life, and how I intend to live, write and love. In this intimate, new configuration of a family of two, I am as happy as I thought being a family of four could make me. In fact, I’d venture to say that I’m even happier. And I’m overcome with gratitude that the man I loved took the leap with me into marriage when we believed that was our destiny, and the leap out of marriage when it was clear our story as partners was complete. When the dream let go of us, we respectfully let it go. This, I have found, is where grace waits for us.
If you find yourself in a clash of what you’d imagined your writing life to be and what is actually becoming possible, all is not lost. Or, more accurately, what needs to be lost has become lost to make the space for what will soon be found. I’d suggest that you honor the dream that isn’t taking shape (at least right now) in the way that you intended by grieving it completely. And then, get ready to be shaken open into a new paradigm of Happily Ever After. It may not happen tomorrow, or the day or the week after. But it’s out there, waiting for your dreams to be dashed, in order for something more true, more wildly possible, to be revealed.