I'm just going to come right out and admit it: it's still an energy-sucking challenge to clear out a corner of space in my head to make way for happy for someone else. There's all kind of stuff to wade through to get all the way to some new post-Thomas, post-miscarriages, post-infertility version of being genuinely happy. I have to sort through sorrow, jealousy, and disbelief that it's not me (yeah, still - after all these years. How can it not be me?), and then run the memory gauntlet.
I had my own shower, you know. And I remember it like it was yesterday. I remember the oohs and ahhs for little outfits, and jingly toys, and practical nursery items when I was the one sitting in the specially festooned chair.
So two showers in June. A challenge.
The funny thing is, I didn't hesitate to say yes to either. Okay, a fraction of a second maybe, but that's it. And the happiness for each of those new mothers is genuine too. A first child for one, a gorgeous little adopted daughter from China for the second.
Honestly. I'm absolutely thrilled for both of them, after two very hard-fought and incredibly well-deserved battles.
It's just that the post-apocalypse shower experience is not without a certain degree of mental gymnastics. Kind of like an out of body sort of situation where I float above the sorrowful self, join in the oohing and ahhing, and then plunk back down into the body with the aching heart and sink into a quiet, restorative stupor when I'm back home, safe and sound.
I'm also keenly aware that people know. Not everyone, of course, but some. And I wonder if I'm looking as happy as they think I should be, or if I'm reacting to the gifts with as much enthusiasm as they'd expect. Or if I'm overdoing it - making it look disingenuous and plastic.
I think too much. I know that. And eventually at both showers I relaxed and slipped into a protective comfort zone where I just didn't care what anyone thought, for the most part. I focused on the mothers-to-be and absorbed little fragments of their joy, making it my own.
Joy is like that. Which is useful for me, since I'm very susceptible to picking up other people's moods.
And then I came home, closed the door to the outside world and proceeded to unclench, uncork, and slowly relax.
I shouldn't be, I suppose, but I continue to be amazed by exactly how much mental energy it takes to navigate a child-centric world when you're childless not by choice. There are landmines everywhere, and while they usually don't blow me to pieces anymore, they do inflict some degree of injury. Every time.
But I'm glad I successfully navigated the showers - the first two I've felt strong enough to go to since Thomas died. I think I did okay. And I'm comforted that despite the work (which I have to assume is always going to be required), I really can come to a place where I feel absolute joy for someone else.
All the ugly gunk is still there - let's be clear, I'm not a saint or a magician or completely delusional - but I've figured out a way to drill through it and make a peephole of joy.
And sweet Jesus, a peephole, for someone like me, might as well be the Grand Canyon.