Time and time again I have heard it said that one should never look back, to never dwell on one's past. Instead, one should look ahead to the future, to concentrate on the here and now, to live in the moment, and to treasure every waking moment for who knows when it will end.
But I do look back. I look back with regret for sometimes the present only serves to remind me of my past mistakes, of what I had said or done. I was a naive, ignorant, selfish young woman who couldn't look beyond her nose for she only dwelled on her pain. But how could I not? Surely there were others who did far worse things and maybe even lived to regret their actions.
I once said that I would never have children. And now I don't have children. No one asks anymore and why should they? Too much time has passed and my body has aged. It has grown older with time, tiring more easily. I look at other people's children and wonder what it's like. I have never been withchild. I have never experienced the pangs and nervousness of motherhood. Neither have I experienced the rewards of motherhood. And would it really be so different if I were unmarried? Would I still have all these yearnings and regrets? Would I still feel half-baked as I once did a long time ago? I am married but I sometimes feel as if I am leading the life of a single woman. But of course that's silly for I am not single and have a husband to share my life with, to make a home with. But the home doesn't feel as alive as it should be, with the laughter and running footsteps of children.
I once said that I would not be the one to look after my mother in her old age. And now my mother and I are thousands of miles apart. She grows old while I grow older, very much regretting my words of long ago. I was so much younger then, so foolish and so terribly selfish. Of course I didn't see it that way at the time. I felt that I was justified when I shared those words with a friend at work. What must she have thought of me, I wonder now. We are still friends and I wonder if she remembers what I had told her all those years ago. At the time, I certainly felt that I was right.
Did I leave because I felt that I had to get away? Did I leave because I felt that I couldn't be me -- whatever that really meant -- and that I could only have that freedom to discover who I was and who I was supposed to be -- oh, that foolish, foolish child -- by separating myself from my mother? I certainly felt that I had to even though I did get along with my mother and shared memorable moments which I treasure to this day. And did it have anything to do with my father, with what he did to me? Would I have turned out differently if I had stayed? Bloom where you are planted, so the saying goes. I transplanted myself somewhere else. And I blossomed. It took me a while. And I had different experiences precisely because I was in another land, far from home. I became more independent, even a little bolder. And it was only after all that happened that I ached for home once again.
And I miss -- and long for -- all that was familiar especially the cultures and traditions that I grew up with, and have now left behind. And the faces that were once familiar but who are older now, just as I am older.
My unkind words were spoken more than twenty years ago. People change. They even grow a little wiser. I am now facing the consequences of my actions.
And there is little to comfort me.
I am actually envious of other women and their children, whatever their circumstances. I am envious of women with their swollen bellies, announcing to the rest of the world of their pregnancies. Why them and not me, I wonder. Why not them? For some, they wanted it to happen. For some, they made it happen. For others, it was a surprise. It actually aches to see that and I recognise the envy within. And I wish it would go away. For it doesn't help at all nor serve any purpose except make me a bitter and unhappy woman, regretting her past actions and her inability to enjoy sexual intimacy. I don't wish to paint a rosy picture of motherhood and I know it can be a life-changing experience. And it has changed lives.
Other women had miscarriages or discovered that they were infertile. I never even tried. There was a false alarm early on in our marriage and we were actually quite happy that we might be expecting and even started to think of names for the unborn child, Samuel Joseph or Sarah Grace. I certainly didn't feel pregnant and some time later, we just attributed it to stress. That was the first and only time that it ever happened. I was younger then. Now I am older. As the years went by, I also wasn't sure that I wanted to have children with him. And he, in turn, without telling me at the time, had his doubts about me as a mother. Others said that I would be a good mother. What else could they say? What else could anyone say? And how would they know? They were being kind, to be sure, and I so appreciated their kindness. But perhaps my husband was right. And time passed. And angry feelings grew. Wounds were allowed to fester. But time also heals all wounds. But time, being Time, has no choice but to move on. Gray hairs are more visible; eyesight gets poorer. The body changes and there are times when I even feel weaker. If I must grow old, I wish that I could grow old as gracefully as my mother. Her life was different from mine. I see it all now but it is too late.
I am far from home, far from all that was once familiar. I left home because I chose to. I left home to be with the man I loved and wanted to share my life with. And it wasn't so much that I wanted or even needed to leave home. I didn't mind leaving home or didn't think that I would mind. Perhaps that was just it. I didn't think. Or I didn't think it all the way through even though I probably thought that I had.
I used to be a restless soul. For a while, I thought that the restlessness had ceased but it is still within. I long for home, to be closer to the ones I love and grew up with. I wish that I could make amends and take back those words and have a second chance to make the right choice this time. Did I choose poorly in leaving my family? I wonder about that. Even my favourite uncle, who left home and started anew in other lands, eventually returned. And it was too late for me to say goodbye when he passed away unexpectedly. Or it was expected but I was still too late anyway as I was too far away. Perhaps that plays a part as well.
Maybe it's a mid-life crisis of sorts. Maybe the hormones are going awry and playing havoc with my emotions.
Having never experienced motherhood, I feel like a younger woman but I know that I am not. I have never experienced the challenges, heartaches, and rewards of raising children nor looking after a parent in their old age. I envy, as well as admire, those who do. For sometimes, or maybe even oftentimes, sacrifices have to be made.
And here I am again, standing on the sidelines and being an onlooker as usual. I have experienced much in life, just not those particular experiences. I feel that I am missing out on so much, that I may even be stunted in my growth.
I empathise with those women who cannot have children or who have had multiple miscarriages. I will never know their pain. As for me, I never tried. I was fearful, inexperienced, allowing a past hurt to get in the way. And we never really took the time to work it out. The act of love can be -- and is -- a beautiful experience. I didn't -- couldn't -- give him what he wanted. And in turn, I never received what I had dreamed about and desired in my heart.
Who am I to seek comfort or consolation? There are so many different stories with different endings. This is mine. I just wish it could end differently. I wish for a lot of things and I don't trust enough. I am in the desert where it's dry and barren. And He is silent or I think He is. It certainly feels that way, me who dwells so much on feelings. And I feel so alone, Father, if You would please answer me. But perhaps I wouldn't even recognise His answer?
Self-absorbed. Self-pity. Enough of this. I am bigger than this. I want to be.