This morning, I sat outside the beach hut, looked out at the vast expanse of sea before me and cried.
I cried because I’d just had a massive adrenaline come-down after writing a deeply personal article on ambivalence about motherhood for the Guardian: I feel grief and relief that I’ve never had children.
Although I’ve been doing this journalism thing for nearly 25 years, and I’ve been sharing my personal journey in the press for the last decade, it still terrifies me, especially when I only have 800 words to tell a hugely complex, nuanced story of fluctuating emotions that I struggle to make sense of myself, never mind communicate to anyone else.
I’m a vulnerable and sensitive soul with a skin that’s only just thickening after years of being paper thin. And while I crave to share my story and adore the jigsaw puzzle of writing, this level of visibility, with all its potential for criticism and judgement, is incredibly scary.
I also cried because writing that article and reading the 730 comments, plus the bundle of Facebook comments and emails I received afterwards – overwhelmingly positive, I’m thankful to say, empathetic, touching, affirming – has stirred my feelings around this topic of ambivalence and childlessness again.
At the beach today, I shed some tears for those beautiful children I will never have, that I’ll never see grow, mature, get married and have kids.
I cried joyful tears too for this wonderful life of mine, for the delicious cold of the sea water as I plunged beneath the surface, for the tingling in my body, for the brain freeze that helps to calm my ever-present anxiety, for the fact that I get to do this – swim in the sea, live near the beach, do whatever I like with my mornings, sit in the sun, hear the waves and soak up the peace.
I cried for the way sea swimming always makes me want to write. I cried for the joy of writing, for my passion for writing and for the huge possibilities ahead of me as I work through and finish my second book.
The wonderful feedback I received on yesterday’s article, and on some of my earlier blogs on this topic – Am I childless or childfree?; Ambivalence about motherhood; and the more general Ambivalence – confirms to me that I am a writer, that my writing touches people and that I deserve to give it time and space.
Thank you to those of you who have written to me, recently or in the past, with beautiful words about my beautiful words.
I cried because I’m getting married in two months and things are not how I expected them to be, especially now that my partner has been made redundant. Marrying an out-of-work 50-something was not part of my plan. Marrying at 48 wasn’t part of my plan either. But it’s our plan – a delightful, magical and challenging plan. And I love him and I’m committed to this journey we are both on, to walking side-by-side, through the rough and the smooth.
And I cried for my past, for my background, for my childhood that brought me to this wonderful, complex, nuanced, ambivalent place.
I guess this is where I’m meant to be.
Writing the Guardian piece and reading the comments also got me thinking about ambivalence on a broader level and about commitment. I wrote in my book that ambivalence runs through me like the candy swirl in a stick of Blackpool rock (here’s a link to Blackpool rock for my non-British readers). I explain why that is in some of my earlier blogs and in my book, so I won’t go into it here.
But I would like to reach out to any single people or people who are struggling in relationships because of ambivalence. And I would like to raise awareness about how damaging ambivalence can be, how it can sabotage our chances of happiness, how it can show up disguised as something else.
Ambivalence kept me single for years.
Every time I got close to a happy and healthy relationship, my ambivalence reared its ugly head, pointing out all manner of reasons why this man wasn’t right for me, finding fault with him, thinking the grass must be greener over there. I did this to my partner a number of times, leaving him to search for someone else, before returning to our relationship and committing to it.
But my ambivalence remains powerful. This weekend, it got my attention. Just two months off my wedding, it went into overdrive, finding fault with my husband-to-be. My fault-finding was driven by my fear, driven by my anxiety. As a life-long commitment-phobe, it’s not surprising that I’m incredibly anxious as I step into a life-long commitment.
I have since apologised to the beautiful, patient soul that is my partner.
If you are in the wrong relationship, if you are with someone who isn’t right for you, who can’t love you, commit to you or who won’t grow with you, then the chances are the grass is greener over there – that there is someone more suitable for you.
But if, like me, you struggle with ambivalence and indecision in other areas of your life, it is likely to be amplified when it comes to romantic relationships. And the closer you get to your dreams, to your chance of happiness, to real intimacy, to commitment, the more vocal that ambivalent voice will be.
So before you run off or wreck what you have, ask yourself if you’re afraid.
You may have to dig deep. Sometimes our fear is buried under all manner of excuses and seemingly valid reasons to walk away from a relationship. Sometimes we’re not even aware that we’re afraid.
But ask the question.
Am I scared?
Is it my fear or my instinct that’s telling me to run away?
I have a section on this ‘fear versus instinct’ question in my book. And I’ll be discussing it later this week on my Facebook page (see below). It’s a topic I’m hugely passionate about because of my own story and because I hear other people’s pain as they try and work things out.
Is it your fear or is it your instinct?
As I always say to my coaching clients and on my courses and retreats, you have your answers.
You have your own answers.
You may have to dig deep to find them. You may need support in drawing them out.
But you have your answers, if you are willing to look inside.
Is the grass greener? Understanding Commitment in Relationships Free Facebook Live Webinar, Thursday May 2, 1 pm. Recording available afterwards. On my Facebook business page.
I have an amazing 5-week course starting on May 6 – How to Fall in Love – Laying the Foundations. It’s a small group video course for a maximum of 10 women, including 1:1 coaching and 5 group coaching calls. It’s transformative. Watch free previews here.
Free Facebook group, Being Real, Becoming Whole.
Join me on a Love Retreat in Spain or Turkey.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org