Travelling Light

SarahKatKim & I are to hosting Reverb throughout 2016 as a way to share writing prompts and providing a space for writers via our Facebook group. In December of each year, we host a prompt-a-day to provide structure and a way to close out the year.

Travel // Where did you go this year?  What was your favourite?  Where do you plan to or want to go next year?

It wasn’t The Cake that put us over the edge.

The melodrama of How We Got Here played out over many hotel rooms and many arguments over the course of the Spring, Summer, and early Fall; many long waits at Passport Control on both sides of the Atlantic.

There is no One Way things play out the way that they do.  But this is what I know:

When I was a little girl, my father would only let us bring along what we could carry. My father – famous for his Life Lessons – would tell me that someday, I’d be on my own and I’d be travelling Do you want to bring more than you can handle – Meredith Ann, you have to carry it yourself – never bring more than you can lift.

The lesson stuck.

As an adult, I am (in)famous for travelling across timezones, climates and continents with only a carryon suitcase. Notably, I once went from a nine day holiday in India, to five more days of business in London and Amsterdam, and only brought a cabin bag and a backpack – slipping a packable shoulder bag inside the carryon for the business portion of the trip. My colleagues didn’t know whether to be impressed by or suspicious of me.

But this is relevant to the problems in my marriage, I promise, which is the subject I am still discussing – which is to say, the subject of Having Children or Not – albeit in a tangential way.

I’m not going to lie: Anyone who has ever met me, ever, could tell you that while I love kids, and I’m a nurturing person, I’m probably not motherhood material. When I was a little girl, I never really had barbies or dolls – maybe She-Ra action figures, and a few Cabbage Patch kids that I played school, and realty office, and corporation with. For a long time, even into my early twenties, I never thought I’d get married, and it certainly never crossed my mind to even consider having kids.

When you’re a kid and you say things like, I don’t think I’m ever going to be a parent, people assure you that you’ll grow out of it; that it’s a phase, that you have no idea what you’re talking about. At the time I was saying it, I didn’t know what monsters were lurking in my genes. But even as a young woman, I knew that I always wanted to be alone in my own head. When you have a child, as I understand it, even if you are physically separated from your kid, you are never alone from the thinking and the worry and the concern. I was never sure I wanted someone else in my head all the time.

I was at lunch the other day with a friend/colleague who was asking me about the kids thing and I said, without going into detail of the drama of the past six, nine months; without saying anything about grim waiting rooms or not being able to commit to uncertain years of injections, and those horrendous kinds of ultrasounds where they put a condom on the wand then stick it inside of your body like its not the most violating thing in the world, and endless genetic testing and all of that bullshit: No kids right now. I just wanted to be alone in my own head for a while longer.

She agreed, saying I’ve never met a man who understands that.

We nodded at each other, and ate our sushi, and talked about Lighter Things, and that was that.

And it’s funny, because the lightest I ever feel is when I am playing with my nieces and nephews or my fairy goddaughter, Lady H, with whom I spend an inordinate amount of time; or when I am holding the perfect form of one of my friends’ new babies. I speak fluent infant; one friend used to call me the Baby Whisperer for my uncanny ability to get her kid to sleep. My friend JRA often remarks how popular I am with the under-10 set.

But I also know this: Last summer, things just got too heavy. I couldn’t stand the prospect of needles anymore after I’d finally gotten permission to chuck the sharps container that had been on my counter for a decade from the endless injections of Rheumatoid Arthritis meds where the disclaimers on TV tell you they’re not certain of the mechanism by which it works. I couldn’t fathom sitting in those segregated fertility clinic waiting rooms for the next three months, or three years, hoping for something to work out, and pinning the future of my marriage on Just That Thing.

I knew, in my heart of hearts, that I am the kind of girl who is always going to be able to live lightly; who packs a carryon suitcase. I love children; but I didn’t love the prospect of the unknown more than I loved what I had, and I hated that my spouse was hovering over me, shouting in my ear that it was now or never. Because it wasn’t; it isn’t. In the end, I couldn’t do it – I simply wasn’t prepared to carry more than I could lift.

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