Pain and Love: A Beautiful Collision
The week after mum died was obviously horrific. It was emotionally cutting to depths I had never imagined. Being the oldest child and a woman, and given my stepdad was showing little signs of taking the emotional reigns, I felt compelled to take on the role of nurturer. This meant making the tea, preparing the snacks for guests, answering the phone, calling all mum’s friends and clients to tell them that she had died, even while still grappling with the reality myself. There were times when I was good at this and times when I dismally failed. There are two stand-out moments. One was standing in front of about 400 people at mum’s funeral with my brother and losing my feet. Little did anyone know that he had caught me and I was resting on him for a good couple of minutes before regaining my composure and continuing to read the speech I had written the night before. The words were coming out of my mouth but I was nowhere to be found. The second moment of not so awesome nurturing of those around me was when I decided to take us to a movie to just zone out for a couple of hours and have a break from all the crying and the mourning and the unrelenting pain. I had been given free tickets from work prior to this nightmare and I figured we should go and escape reality – for an hour and a half. Wow. What a disaster. The movie was about a family and in a nutshell the mum dies. Of all the movies in all the cinemas this was the one I took us off to see. I don’t think I’ll ever quite get over the fact that I led them there to sit confined, during the hardest time of our lives to watch pretty much a rerun of the preceding month. In full colour, big screen surround sound torture.
As tragic as the movie was and my dislike of Diane Keaton aside, I have always taken something else from that day. Once the pain subsided and the ‘I cant believe that actually happened’ comments ceased, I was left with another kind of sadness that has affected me in differing ways over the past 7 years. The estrangement of my dad and his family from me was a reality that I had battled for the past 5 years. The details are stranger than fiction and still have me more than somewhat baffled but the essence of the pain was missing the larger family unit. I loved the family dynamics in the movie – the many siblings and the ups and downs. Mum had always held that warm place for my brother and I – home was wherever she was and although it was only the three of us, it was loving and funny and loud and up and down and we each had our characters to play. Our movie was a beautiful one. But when she died there was needless to say a hole that I thought would never be filled. In recent years memories of the movie had me questioning my decision for only one child. Craig and I were desperately trying to make sense of our emotions and wants coupled with the reality of our ages and health situations. I had wanted a child so desperately and we were mostly set to have two, but 3 years of illness pushed the time factor that little bit too far and IVF means a second baby is a conscious decision stolen from the hands of serendipity. Faith’s birth was perfect, my baby was amazing, healthy, beautiful, peaceful and happy. My step children were thrilled and enveloped her with love, it was perfect. It IS perfect.
Back in my television watching days I would find the occasion to watch Deal or No Deal. Why, is still beyond me. I have yet to watch a show more frustrating and stupid in my life – I would find myself actually leaving the room for fear of watching and feeling so uncomfortable for the idiots making ridiculous arm gestures betting on family holidays and taking chances with money and thus opportunities they will most likely never see again in their lives. “Well we came with nothing!’ they would say. Yes you moron, so why not leave with the 10,000 and have a magical family holiday – the holiday “you have always wanted” instead of risking it and leaving once again with nothing. Contestant after contestant would come on and say they “only wanted $xxxx” and they would be happy. Yet repeatedly they would be faced with what I can only call greed and BAM they would lose the lot. Upon reaching their initial goal they squirm “just one more… NO DEAL!!”
I remind myself of this all the time – ‘Be the smart woman on the show who got what she wanted and leaves happy. Be the woman who says what she wants, gets it, and is satisfied.’ This may seem like a strange antidote yet it’s what I keep coming back to when I think of my situation. As I said, it IS perfect. I often hear myself saying “yes but I would love Faith to have a sibling her own age, they will play together, she will be a big sister, she will have a best friend forever….” Before I had Faith I begged ‘god’. I want a child, I need a child, please I will be happy and satisfied I just want a child. And so daily I remind myself – take the DEAL.
Ahhhhgh but the movie – The big family, the mixed characters and the chaotic dinners. I had to create this, I had to make this happen because mum was gone and there was no other way to fill the big family void. Didn’t I? Don’t I owe this to Faith? I worried that in 20 years I would regret my decision to dispose of my 8 frozen potential characters. I pictured us sitting around the dinner table, classical music playing, the three of us quietly eating and politely smiling at each other. Nonetheless, Craig and I decided to leave it to fate, despite our ages and health complications. If a (nother) miracle happened so be it. If not we would always be grateful for our precious miracle and live the comparatively easy one-child life making it as full as possible for her and doing our best to spice up dinner-time with just the 3 of us. I let it go.
And then the strangest thing happened. The most astounding and inexplicable sequence of events took place. Dominos began to fall around me and as I stood there watching this story unfold I found myself in the most frenzied and extraordinary place. Standing in my dad’s kitchen, making dinner, stepping over and around my 2 year old as she zooms through on her bike – she is being chased by my sisters, who love her and make funny noises at her whilst laughing and joking with my step son. My dad and Craig are outside having a beer and making jokes. My brother and his wife walk in and I greet them with a “quick put the rice on!” as I reach across the island bench and give my brother a kiss. There is water on the floor- food bubbling away, yelling across the kitchen as I arrange tables to be set and ovens to be checked. My dad suggests Chinese as this is too “bloody chaotic” and I stop and say to him, “No dad. This is perfect – this is a family dinner and its perfect.” Across the table I admire my beautiful sisters who I have longed to know and my heart skips as I see myself in them. They are part of me! I look a little like Kristy and when I see myself in her I melt. Both fiery, we get into a discussion and for a moment I fear the consequences as a result of a tumultuous past but I breathe….and trust that this is a different time – that we have to do this to be family –real family can disagree and still feel safe that tomorrow it’s all forgotten. Tassie’s sweetness and strength surprises me and I silently wish for the years we missed as I pass the salad over. Faith spills a drink and 5 sets of hands reach in to help while I sigh and smile and hope that she doesn’t fall off the chair as she climbs over to sit with Tate. My dad is gentle, caring and open with Faith. He is not impatient or intolerant. He loves his children. He smiles at me and calls me ‘Tiffs’ like he used to so many years ago and it’s all I can do to contain my tears. This is real. After 5 years I am back here, in the house and everyone is older, different, new to me and yet somehow so familiar.
The circumstances for how I came to be in this perfect movie are sad and tragic. Mothers are lost. Dreams are shattered and visions on how things should be are forever changed. But so much is gained. The pain is real, the losses are deep and lasting. The movie may not be what we thought we were going to see but at the end of each day we must look at what we have and be grateful for the wealth in our lives. Me, right here right now, I am rich. I won the 200,000 dollar suitcase and I want nothing more than to share it equally with my family – the characters who lovingly surround me now as I play the role of mother, wife, big sister and oldest daughter. I want them to feel enormous joy and love and happiness and to swim in the lightness they are surrounded with. I want to take all the pain away from them and from me and to just bathe in the metaphoric money. If I have learnt anything in the past 7 years it is that nothing is permanent. Anything is possible and love exists in the most improbable places, just waiting for permission to gush and besiege those who allow it; those who willingly subscribe to happiness and possibility; those who have the courage to let it all go and trust in life. I have learnt that pain and joy exist simultaneously and that that is the fabric of life and love and of who we are. I would do anything to take their pain away, to hold them tightly each day and try and ease the suffering. But would I be robbing them? Would I be shielding the wound of the light?
However selfish it feels my world seems complete now. My fear for Faith is no longer – she is surrounded with love and life. I step back from my self and watch the terrible movie from 7 years ago again in my mind, replacing all the characters with us and the story lines with ours. It is beautiful my movie, this sequel I am in right now, and while not yet fully written, it is filled with tragic heartbreak, suffering, loss and tears. With laughter, love, life and mayhem. It is filled with multifaceted characters with complexities and depth. And this kind of movie, well I think it’s totally bankable, and I’d line up to watch it over and over and over again like a delicious cult film as I fall in love with each character the more I watch.
As for Deal or No Deal. Is that show still even on? Who cares. Love doesn’t come in a box. Our happiness is right now if we choose it to be. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose, sometimes we risk I guess and sometimes we shouldn’t. But to be happy right here and right now with exactly what we have. That is what makes us rich.