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Dear Future Children

:: THE LOVE LETTER TO LIFE SERIES ::

Dear future children,

It is exciting to write to you, finally, in my late twenties, with a loving partner by my side, looking forward to your existence.
Before this moment in time, it was more frightening to write to you, to dream of you, to question you.
For a little while I wasn’t sure you would exist.
Or if I would ever feel ready to have you exist.
It feels obvious to say, but like everything, the older I get, the more I realise, ‘ready’ is rarely a thing.

There was a time when I was surrounded by brothers, in a large home, full of noise and joy and tension.
A time when I thought I didn’t want you to exist or that I didn’t want to bring you into a family unit like mine.
Where love was clear and complex but financial pressure and marital tension was ever present.
I thought motherhood looked too challenging and like too great a sacrifice.
I thought it would mean I would have to give up on all other dreams, that parenting was a singular path.

Then there was a time when motherhood seemed to be linked too tightly to the patriarchy.
The limiting expectations of a broader society that only wanted women to be breeders, homemakers and full time cooks & cleaners.
I felt the question of ‘are you seeing anyone?’ and ‘when will you start saving for the future?’ too heavily coincided with ‘when will you become a mother and a wife at the exclusion of any other ambition?’
That feeling that women in their early twenties can experience of ‘wanting something’ only to realise they don’t want it all, but society wants it for them.

The next stage of pondering you, was in my mid twenties, and I remember it vividly, of my ovaries, hormones and brain having a secret meeting together before wildly announcing to me that it was time for procreation.
I remember feeling it all over my body, and in the familial parts of my heart, a yearning that I could not control, that said: impregnate me, to no one in particular.
It took a solid few months before I realised that this was straight up biology.
Evolution of the species and all that.
And had nothing to do with me or my desires.
I had settled in a degree and career path that I was finally excited about and you were truly not on my radar.
I had started to think about you intellectually but not in practicality.
I had also begun to believe that there might be only one of you, and I might almost certainly need to parent you alone.
I believed no one would truly love me enough to partner with me, to parent with me and be my equal, my lover and my teammate.
So I decided it might just be you and me kid.

Next up, I fell in love with a man.
I fell harder than I’d ever fallen and it was very, very complicated.
He wasn’t the right man, in a number of ways, but he was the first time I’d truly started imagining a future.
One with the picket fences and the puppy and the rolling hills, but also a never ending sense of adventure.
He was the one who made me think about being a mother and a supported, loved, teamworked type one.
Not the one where I had to do all the cooking, cleaning, homework, admin, caring, scheduling and the loving of parenting.
But one that was in a team.
I knew as a woman I might still need to do most of it, but I wasn’t alone, necessarily.
Needless to say, that was not the right person for me, and I was still subscribing to a muted, suppressed and reserved version of my fullest self.

So on I went.
I travelled, I explored, I self developed.
I re-discovered my love for business owning, creativity, independence and art.
I remembered who I am. I embraced my queerness.
I imagined a world where I may fall in love again.
With a man, or a woman, or someone in between.
And I still kind of believed that that might not happen.
And I was ok with the idea that I was going to have a strong creative career, and it was going to be just you and me kid.

And then three of the most magical things happened.
Firstly, I happily strolled into my late twenties and was more honestly ignoring the ‘single spinster’ trope and suddenly all my people started having babies.
My beautiful cousin and her fantastic partner, my fabulous friend and her loving husband, all of my other cousins, both ladies and gents.
With gorgeous husbands and wives. Teaming up on this most exhilarating and exhausting challenge of parenthood.
And they showed me a version that felt so possible to me.
I spent time with their children, their versions of you, and I loved them.
More than I’ve loved anyone else’s children before. 
I saw myself in my cousins and my friends, and their strength, bravery and honesty, reassured me that I could be some kind of mother.

The second most magical thing is that I was lucky enough to become an aunty.
And oh my goodness does that change you.
I thought it was so cliche before.
When people would say that once you see that child, hold them, and feel your biology in them, that everything changes.
But it does.
I looked down at that fresh mini human and it disarmed me.
My nephew came into this world and I loved him instantly.
I will protect him, and help raise him and spoil him and take him on adventures.
And I am honoured, and humbled and moved.
It made me remember, that love and connection, is really all there is.
We can be our best selves and create our best communities but all in the pursuit of love and connectedness and caring for each other.

And the third, and even more magical thing happened.
I met your other future mother.
My glorious, adorable and beautiful girlfriend.
To be fair, I did not meet her.
As you will one day hear.
I knew her.
Very, very well.
And she knew me far better.
She was one of my closest friends, and as it turns out, had loved me for a very long time.
All through those times of not knowing what I wanted or who i really was.
She loved me anyway.
And through an enormous amount of self reflection, and a few perfectly imperfect and confronting coincidences, I realised I loved her too.
And then my dear future children, I knew you were possible.
I already knew she would make a phenomenal mother to someones children.
And fuck am I lucky and excited that it gets to be mine.

Loving your future mother, and more accurately being loved by her, has shown me how you can exist.
How I can be a mother and an artist and a leader and a human in this world.
She has shown me that I do not need to do anything alone again, if I don’t want to.
She has taught me that it is ok to ask for help.
To NEED help.
To surrender to my health, my heart, my fear.
To lean in.
She has shown me what my ideal version of partnership and teamwork looks like.
And you know how I told you I didn’t think sharing parenthood was possible.
That was a lie, I knew it was possible, I knew what sharing the physical load, emotional labour and joy of parenting looked like.
I just heavily doubted that I would find it in anyone.
That I could handle waiting. Or committing. Or heaven forbid, being comfortable enough to let them in.
But it is possible.
She is possible.
She exists.
Awkward that she was here all along, but we’ll forgive me for the personal journey I needed to wander through first.
Because this is so so worth it.
I am scared in an excited way now.
And I feel ready.
Ready in a way I’ve never felt before.
Just before I knew she was my person, I had already fallen in love with the idea of you, and I knew I would find a way to make you happen.
But now I know she is my person, I have fallen in love with the reality of you.
Now I think about where we will live.
What we will name you.
How we will teach you that gender is a social construct.
And how you can love whoever you want to love.

We will teach you that every version of self expression and using your brain is valid, worthy and can carry you through your life.
We will remind you that your body is yours, it is enough and you can do whatever you like with it.
We will show you that adventure is everything, that the world is so big and so small, and that all cultures matter.
We will take you everywhere we can possibly manage.
We will find ways to expand your learning opportunities at every moment.

Your other mother will show you what clean looks like and will give you the very best sense of humour and adventure.
I will show what delicious food tastes like and will give you the very best sense of art, craft and expression.
We will both take you to every sport, dance, music, body combat and language class that you ask for.
And we will show what the city has to offer whilst always taking you through the joys of a country lifestyle.

We will be a team. We will make mistakes. We will get scared but we will lead by example and be honest with you.
And I will hold you.
Like my mother held me.
And I will tell you that everything is going to be alright.
Even if i don’t know how.
Because it will.
And I will tell you that no matter what happens, or what time of day or night it is, that if something goes wrong or you’re scared, you call me.
Like me mother told me.

Because loving you will be one of my greatest joys and I’m sure the greatest challenge.
And I am ready.
And I already love you.
More than I thought possible.
Not because I think I have to, or because society wants me to, or because your Nanna is the best Nanna a kid could ask for.
But because I want to.
For myself.
And I am ready.
And I already love you.

Thank you for calling me to learn about what womanhood means to me, what parenthood looks like for me, future children, I love you x

Sarah xx

 

Photo by Jordan Whitt on Unsplash

Dear Anxiety

:: THE LOVE LETTER TO LIFE SERIES ::

Dear Anxiety,

It’s tricky to write to you. To be fair you tend to make it tricky to do a lot of things.
I’ve only recently discovered you, or more accurately - learned about you and then started putting a name to you.
Turns out you may have been with me on this life journey for as long as I can remember.
You might explain some of the fear, the overthinking and the overwhelm induced procrastination.

You catch me out when I least expect it.  You creep in when I think I’m feeling my best and you unravel my mind and then the day in the most unreasonable fashion.
And my-oh-my are you a hypocrite.
When I first resonated with someone else talking about you and then named you for myself, I was a little bit relieved.
Naming you made me feel less ‘crazy’.  In a way, less out of control.  Less like it was solely my fault.
Because you are a reason. You explain some stuff.
The annual existential crisis.
The crippling inability to make a decision when presented with more than two options.
The life on hold behaviour of a fear of commitment - to people, places, purposes.

You might be the reason I don’t like silence. Why I feel the need for podcasts, audiobooks and music to fill the air.
To move time forward without getting stuck in unhelpful thoughts.
You might be the reason falling asleep sometimes feels utterly impossible with the whirring of thoughts, about everything from ‘did i lock the front door?’ to ‘will I ever be financially stable?’ or ‘is my headache actually a fatal illness of some kind?’.
Charming stuff.
Insert more comedy podcasts here...

You might be the reason that believing in myself and my art and my words is sometimes really really hard.
You might explain the overwhelm and the frantic-ness.
But I’m learning how to live beside you. Not without you, not in spite of you. But with you, beside you, ahead of you.

You got ahead of me once. Well many times but this time, particularly harshly.
And an irony appeared.
I have always been such a strong believer in mental health awareness and an advocate for mental illness support.
I believe mental illness is like any other. Like diabetes or a broken arm. Except it is physically invisible. Its on the inside. Its in the chemicals.
It’s some tricky acrobatics occurring in the brain.
I have supported friends, lovers, parents, siblings.
And then you happened to me.

You came on strong. You made me physically ill.
I had taken on a lot of responsibility, personally and professionally, and I had created unrealistic levels of performance for myself.
My anxiety brain, tricked my rational brain into believing everything needed to be perfect even though A) that doesn’t exist and B) the circumstances dictated otherwise.
And so my body got on board.
The headache came and didn’t leave.
The dull yet harsh pang in my stomach came in waves.
The tightness and sharp breathlessness took residence in my chest.
And I didn’t know what it was.
But it hurt. And it stopped everything.
I couldn’t make a client call without crying before or after.
I couldn’t talk to my mum or my girlfriend without getting upset.
Or texting a very good friend without falling apart.
But that was the only way the chest ache went away. Momentarily.
There wasn’t enough ibuprofen in the world to make the headache stay away.
Too much coffee made my hands shake.
Double strength pain killers was the only way to lull my body into sleep.

And I could’t do my job. The one thing I was trying harder than anything to just get through, was feeling impossible.
And I couldn’t ‘snap out of it’ and I couldn’t just ‘get on with it’.
And I was so mad.
I felt so betrayed.
So let down by my body and my brain. By you.
I just wanted to be perfect.
To impress everyone.
To be validated by everyone.
To keep all the balls in the air.
Even the ones I hadn’t been asked to keep.
And I was so mad.
Infuriatingly frustrated with myself. With you.
And unsurprisingly, that did not help.
That made you worse.

And I had to succumb to the reality of the situation.
That I was sick in a new way.
A way I did not recognise.
And it was not my fault.
And I could not ‘control’ it.
And it was not my fault.
And it was not a negative reflection on my capabilities.

So I went to the doctor.
I had sessions with my counsellor.
I kept being honest with my girlfriend, my mum, my best friend.
I told the truth to my thoughtful and supportive bosses.

And I came out the other side.
Talk therapy.
Honesty.
Medical professionals naming and validating my experience.
I was unwell.
You were ahead of me.
And that was ok.

Thank goodness for my people, my support systems and their encouragement to be honest, to go the doctor, to book appointments, to go to be early.
Because i did not want to.
Or more accurately, you, my anxiety, did not want me to.
Thats how it works right.
I need to intervene but you tell me not to, because you're winning.
We’re not side by side, you were getting ahead of me.
And you hurt me.

And I’m still a little bit mad about it.

But you showed me the start of what bad looks like.
And now I’m learning how to try and catch you before you run off without me.
We’re working together.

Im naming you.
I am not ashamed of you.
I know you’re not my fault.
And I am learning about you.
About you and me.
And how our future together can work.

I know you have the capacity to bring out good things in me.
My empathy, my kindness, my emotional awareness.
You bring out a passion for good work and an attention to detail.
And as long as were on the same page we’re ok.

As long as I’m writing you out on the page.
Putting in the self care efforts.
And telling the truth about your sneaky habits.
Around people who love and respect me when you get the better of me.
And sometimes going to bed early to just start again tomorrow.
Then I’m ok.
We’re ok.

Thank you for challenging me to take good care of myself, anxiety, I love you xx

Sarah x

 

Image by Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

Dear Adventure

:: THE LOVE LETTER TO LIFE SERIES ::

Dear Adventure,

Thank you for always finding me, challenging me and stretching me.
Calling me to go, seek and uncover.
Thank you for pushing me to learn more about the world and most importantly more about myself.
I love when you surprise me with an idea that unsettles everything I’ve known up until then, and a plan that unravels and ignites me in equal measure.
You bring out the fear and the brave in me.

Thank you for giving me a reason to go. Your allure ensures I’m never in one spot too long.
Your wisdom shows me how to grow, to stretch, to do a backflip into a new version of myself.I love when we go on a walk with friends and it was promised to only be a two hour stroll and then with a haphazard wrong turn becomes a five hour hike.
Across boulders, rivers, a mountain. And when it feels like it’s too much, too hard, too far, you remind me that I can do it.
You remind me that the story of this, around the bonfire later, with cheese and wine in hand, will be worth it.   You remind me that moving my body, stretching my muscles and being still with my mind today, are more important than a blister tomorrow.

I love when you encourage me to move to another country, to start new jobs, to meet new people.
And I never feel ready, I could have always planned more, saved more. But you remind me that ready is never the point.
No one is ever really ready to anything. We just have to do the thing.
You’re the reason I hired a camper van and drove up the coast on my own.
You knew I’d see the majestic pine trees lining the road, and I’d find the reason for being there.
That rush of calm and serenity and insignificance that fills your lungs and your heart.
The beauty of nature. Of solitude. Of unfiltered thinking.

You’re the reason I wander and wonder.
You help me lust after a better version of this life. 
You help me strive for more peace, more connectedness, more self awareness.
You are going to an obscure restaurant with my partner on an impromptu date night and having to learn how to make our own broth.
You are the family camping trip where we forget the second gazebo and needed to huddle together in a rainstorm, and sprawl out on the grass in a heatwave.
You are the story of my grandmother in her 20s travelling solo, on a ship for three weeks, across the globe, to see where she came from.

I love you for gifting me friends in other countries.  Lovers who didn’t share the same language. Family who miss me.
You are a reason to get up in the morning, to go for a walk in a new neighbourhood, new city, new country.
You are what stories are made of.
You are physical adventure and most preciously you are self adventure.
You are what happens in my heart and my mind when I’m figuring something out.
You are the meanderings of my subconscious.

You teach me. 
When I have my first panic attack in time square in New York city, during my first day of looking for work, after my laptop crashes.
You show me how to ask for help.
How to sit with myself and ask myself why it hurts, where is the discomfort, how can I let go, lean in, heal.
You are the ever present sense of living a life that is true to me, even when it feels against the grain. Against the norm. Against the ‘easy’.

You, adventure, are my deep appreciation for going to dinners with good people, hiking towards waterfalls with my thoughts, camping with my family, flying towards friends with my hugs and travelling the world with my love.

Thank you for carrying me everywhere I go, adventure, I love you x

Sarah x