Joy

I’m so happy. 

On the other side of the grinding chronic pain, the sense of disconnection, the humiliating vulnerability, the crushing fear, the darkness that sucks me dry…  is a strong, buoyant joy. 

It’s not ‘keeping my head together’. It’s not employing strategies to manage my thoughts or feelings,  or keep perspective,  or look on the bright side, or support my own mental health in the ways we usually think of them. 

It’s the aftermath of honesty, the raw pouring of heart into some receptacle – journal, compassionate ear, hole in the ground beneath a tree. We don’t have to claw our way up after unburdening the unspeakable weights, we simply float. 

It’s the pushing back against all the stories I’ve been told, what I’ve been told I will feel and think and how this will unfold – and my growing bewilderment at trying to fit my experiences to powerful master narratives that partly match up and partly do not. It’s clearing some space to speak my own story and claim my own truths about my experience, finding in those tiny, personal details the richness of life, the personal and unique in a greater story of what it is to live and be human and try to bring a child into the world. There in those details is my life, is what makes my life my own among the experiences of billions of others. There is where my meaning is found.

It’s also the flying of a heart that’s been caged by chronic pain and found some relief. Yesterday my gum infection flared and set off bad pain my face. Combined with the exhaustion and pain of prelabour I was swamped. I have searched back for what used to help me during the bad years of severe fibro when I couldn’t walk or drive but was brain awake enough to need things to do so the restlessness, boredom, and relentless pain didn’t make me self destruct. One of these things was skilled work with my hands that required focus. I learned embroidery and needlework among  other small, skilled crafts. 

So I’ve taken up bead loom work again, and there in the quiet space of following my pattern and building my design, I find some peace. The building distress eases, the sense of guilt that I am failing to manage my pain, that I know better and should handle it better, the painful self consciousness that my shattered attention is increasing my perception of it, drowning me in it- all those are left behind and my mind becomes still as my hands create. It’s not even a tainted capital A ‘Art’ where I’ve been criticised too often and get swamped by insecurity and justifications for spending my time and money this way, it’s an untainted lower c ‘craft’. Stepping into it merely requires me to tolerate the scorn that it’s too traditionally feminine, that anything that isn’t ‘real art’ is a waste of my time, and that adjusting to impairment, disability, and pain will mean I never recover. That’s easier from a place of vulnerability. Capital A Art for me needs an altered space or a lot more self confidence. 

Rose heats me a wheat pack and I sit by the heater beading, and for the first time in hours I don’t feel tortured. The rocking calms, my broken focus stills like scattered birds coming home, my hands thread and sew tiny beads. My breathing steadies. 

That night I lay in the luxury of a hot bath with beautiful scented oil Rose bought for me, reading by the candlelight, and the trauma state washes out of me. I don’t feel small, helpless, broken, and afraid. I feel beautiful, loved, content, and at peace. We share a quiet evening together, watching DVDs, talking about our daughters. She does a breast pump, I eat soft fruit with the relish of the newly awakened – delighting in scent and flavour, senses alive. The night is soft and gentle around us. My joy is effusive and my mind feels clear. 

My heart is full to overflowing. I’m so in  love with my family, these beautiful women, my lovely home. Rose and I watch our littlest daughter rolling in my belly, powerful and vigorous. I’m excited to meet her, and I finally feel ready for her birth – ready to meet the challenges of it, ready to wait for it. I can endure the uncertainly and the transforming vulnerability of the in-between space of prelabour when I can so clearly see my little girl is okay. With that star to guide me, there’s time for wonder and even joy. The love in my heart bears fruit on the vine and bursts within me. Rose and I lay in the dark together and breathe each others air, skin warming to skin, dreams nesting beside us like cats. 

I’m so happy.

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