New Life: Birth and Rebirth

Last Sunday, I wasn’t having a particularly great afternoon. The morning had started off pretty well, in all fairness. The weather was beautiful, a blissful, balmy 28 degrees, more tropical than typical UK weather. I’d gone to yoga for a particularly sweaty session and very much enjoyed it. The afternoon took a turn for the worst, however, when I learnt I’d been rejected for a job I’d been pretty confident I’d at least be elegible to be interviewed for. As usual when I feel inadequate, my thoughts inexplicably and uselessly turned to regulating my food intake and exercise levels. I felt uncomfortable – it was Father’s Day and we’d had a buffet lunch. I suddenly felt weak, out of control and greedy. I felt that I’d over indulged and old, restrictive thoughts started to swim menacingly, shark-like around the peripheries of my mental space. Altough I’d been lounging in the garden with my family, basking in the (rare) sunshine, I’m ashamed to say that I gave in to compensatory behaviours and sneaked off to excericse. My mother followed me and rumbled me in my attempts. I was embarrassed and annoyed with myself – as much as I feel I really have managed to forge a much healthier relationship with food on the whole, some aspects of my mentality surrounding my consumption and my body remain strange. Her calling me out on the ridiculousness of surreptitiously isolating myself in order to ‘burn off’ lunch when I should be enjoying relaxing family time made me realise how selfish I was being. It also made me realise how far I still have to go to feel ‘normal’ again in regards to my thoughts and behaviours. I let my insecurities get the better of me, yet again. 

So I was feeling pretty subdued, on the whole. Tired. Tired of battling with myself day in, day out. Tired of job hunting. Tired of being afraid. 

Things certainly got a hell of a lot brighter when my cousin casually informed me via text that she’d given birth, three weeks early, to her second child. A baby boy. She invited us to go and visit them in the maternity ward of the local hospital. We jumped in the car, eager and excited to do just that. 

I saw him and thought immediately: he’s perfect. He has a dent in his ear at the moment (forceps – ouch). Perfect. He has a slight scratch. Still perfect. He’s healthy. Beautiful. I watched his chest rise and fall, watched his hands curl into into little fists. I traced the oval shape of his tiny fingernails. Perfect. So alive. Babies are the opposite of tired. They are so awake, so raw. They are painfully, stunningly, beautifully fresh. New. I sometimes wonder if that’s why they wail so piercingly. Why wouldn’t they? Everything is a first – every sight, every sound, a sensory overload. Baby L was patient as he was passed around like a beloved, tiny, precious parcel from one adoring, cooing relative to another. I held him in my arms and as he blinked those blue eyes open, peering into mine, the afternoon’s feeling of being irreversibly tired just melted away. He was placid and strikingly peaceful while we held him. He was so content, and holding him, a bundle of purity pernsonified and encased in a teeny babygrow, I felt content too. I looked at my cousin, who’d been so brave in what was, by all accounts, a pretty horrendous birthing experience. I watched her smile down at her first son, and got a reality check on what’s actually important in life. Love. Family. 

Sunday was a day of gains, on the whole. I may have lost a job prospect. Lost some peace of mind, some perceived ‘progress.’ So what? Life is not linear. It has ups and down, and the day’s gains outweighed the losses. I gained a new member of my family. I looked down at him and saw the world through raw, fresh eyes. I gained perspective. I looked at him and felt love: I gained extra room in my heart, as corny as that sounds. A new person to love. 

Last weekend we welcomed 7lbs of joy into our family and into the world. I hope baby L soaks up life. I hope he looks around at the simpering faces cooing down at him (I imagine we look simultaneously idiotic and fairly menacing), and that he is able to sense how much he is loved. I’ve only met him once, in the three days he has so far experienced. He has already made my life better. He has already made me appreciate life more. He has already made me less tired. 

Life is precious. New life is the even more so. Here’s to living like the oversized babies that we all are – curious, soaking up new senses, surroundings, and experiences. Here’s to loving without limits. Here’s to family. Here’s to realising what the important things really are, and taking comfort in the fact that every day is a second chance; an opportunity to be born again. 

I am Grateful for…

“Poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”  Dead Poet’s Society (1989)

Sometimes the world can seem dark. Sometimes there’s a reason that everything is suddenly looking more grey-scale Kansas than glorious, technicolor Oz. But sometimes, perhaps even more frighteningly, there isn’t. Nothing is wrong. And yet nothing feels right. This fear is often vague, and sparked by everything and nothing at the same time. Sometimes I’m so consumed by irrational fears and worries that it feels as though there’s a ten-ton weight sitting on my chest. I feel like I’m suffocating, drowning in a spiral of ‘what-ifs’. It’s hard not to blame ourselves and feel somehow deficient when these sort of emotions plague us, particularly when on the exterior, we are under no actual threat. When I feel this weight settling on my chest on dark days, one thing I’ve found to be helpful is making a mental checklist of some of the things that I am most grateful for. This is a brief list of things that, to me, make the world a beautiful place, and make me happy to be alive.

  • My family. Every single one of them. Especially my incredible parents. I am grateful every day for their health and their happiness.
  • Birdsong. Flowers. Blossom on the trees in Spring. The feel of sunshine on my back. The smell of freshly cut grass in the summer. The first taste of salt in the clean air at the seaside. Rich colours of fallen leaves and warm fires in Autumn. The freshness of the air and the dusting of snow on cars in the Winter. Hearing my own footfall in the peace of the forest.
  • My friends. Listening to someone talk about something they’re passionate about and noticing the light grow in their eyes. Being the one to put that light there. Having someone else incite that glow of excitement in me. Finding common ground and shared interests in unexpected places. The feel of a happy blush spreading across my cheeks when someone pays me an unexpected compliment.
  • Art. Music. Books that stop time because they weave you into a spell of magic and are capable of transporting you to a whole other world. Being introduced to art, music and books that others love, even if it’s not my thing.
  • Laughter. Any laughter, all laughter, as long as it’s sincere and kind. Tinkling, delicate giggles. Belly gusting roars. Ugly laughs, shouty laughs. Babies laughter. Suppressed snorts of laughter in inappropriate situations. Hearing my parents laugh at something from another room.
  • Feeling beautiful. Smiling and truly meaning it. Making someone else feel beautiful. Making someone else smile.
  • Travelling to a new place and seeing something that takes my breath away. Finding beauty in the wonders of the world. Finding beauty in the fields near my home. The fact that my father can see a house I find irredeemably ugly and he can make me look for what makes it unique. Listening to my mother tell me what kind of bird is in the garden.
  • The fact that my body and brain are capable of noticing and enjoying these things. I can see. I can smell. I can hear. I can walk. These are all blessings that largely grow unnoticed everyday. Every so often, I make a conscious effort to acknowledge them.

 

 

So yes, sometimes the world can look dark. Bad things happen. Sometimes we are afraid. But the world is also filled with light. This post probably sounds trite and cliched. I don’t care, much. I think it’s so important to remember how blessed we are. I know that I am often guilty of being blindsided, of being dismissive of the tiny facets of life that prove to be what makes it worth living. I am trying to reduce the amount of times I complain that ‘I have nothing going for me.’  Life can sometimes feel like one chore and effort and disappointment after another. Yet, as I type this, babies around the globe are being born. Flowers are blooming. Someone is laughing and meaning it, people are falling in love. One person is looking at another and realising that they’re a little less alone than they thought they were. As hard as it can be to see sometimes, every day is a blessing and a miracle. There is good in every moment. So, hard as it is, I’m going to try not to get so hung up on issues that seem terrifying at the time, but in the long run will fade into insignificance. I am learning that I am not going to be happy every second of everyday. To expect to be so is unreasonable and unattainable and will only lead to further feelings of dissatisfaction. You and I will be happy and we will be sad. Sometimes we will feel nothing, sometimes we will feel as though we have so many emotions that our body can’t possibly contain them all. All of this is okay.

I am going to try so hard to quash my irrational sense of dread when it rears its ugly head, to leave my comfort zone, and to push myself to live a life I’m proud of. I want to live a life not ruled by fear, but rather one filled with gratitude, love and the knowledge that dawn arrives even after the darkest of nights.