Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A life in three phases.

In a discussion a long time ago, Oliver first introduced me to the idea that humans typically like to make patterns out of the data they have access to. In order to make sense of things. Things that happen to themselves. As a species, we would rather have a bad explanation for something than no explanation at all. (He can explain it much better than me, and I may have misrepresented what he said a bit here).

Since this discussion I have noticed I do it a lot. I always have some theory going on why I feel a certain way or think a bunch of things. On why my feelings or thoughts might change or take an unexpected turn. It comes out a lot in this writing, because it drives me to think about things so much... and assign wild explanations.

And so, I have created for myself a new life model that I'm feeling rather pleased with. Bear with me, it may take a while for me to get to the point.

Not long ago, I saw my life as a period of time up until the present moment only. I felt frustrated and frightened that it was almost over, that somehow I had wasted it. Made some terrible decisions and lost time in the wrong places. The future was invisible to me, something I didn't acknowledge.

Last year's brain tumour experience immediately jolted that view of my life into a totally new perspective. I suddenly saw my life as a much longer whole, extending way into the future and I was only (hopefully) a third (for example) of the way through.

Immediately I felt incredibly positive, in contrast. It was a very strange shift - instantaneous, and significant. One end of the spectrum to the other. I tried to explain this at the time, in a post about some of the positive parts of the experience (point five in the list). I realised that there was so much for me to still experience and learn. There's a lot of football to be played yet.

In the vast amount of self analysis and writing I did throughout that time, I started to think in terms of "pre brain tumour" and "post brain tumour" as a way of explaining to myself the different ways I had started to think, and in some cases, act.

I only mention this as I find it really interesting that I had this way of explaining things about myself, to myself, which worked very well for a short amount of time - until I found out I was pregnant. One small (but very significant) additional piece of information changed the pattern again. And now I have my new model. Here it is: my life, in three phases.

Phase one.
This phase is from when I was born until the day my first child is born. Overriding characteristic of this phase is selfishness, but not necessarily in a bad way. All I really have to do is look after myself. I can do what I want, go where I want, when I want, for whatever reason I want. I am bound only by the choices I make and the rules I choose to live by. But essentially, they're my choices. I am responsible for only me.

Phase two.
From when my first child is born, until all of them (eek) are grown up and "ok". There is a weakness in this part of the theory, which I am overlooking for neatness purposes. This phase basically boils down to responsibility for others. I am anticipating a big shock when our first child is born, that my first priority will for the first time not be me. I will need to forego sleep, independence and choices. I will make sacrifices - in terms of working and sharing food (I am Smithy in this clip) and plenty of other things that haven't even occurred to me yet. 
Although I am ready and willing to make these sacrifices, I won't really understand how it feels or how well I will do it until it happens. It will no doubt be difficult and scary - in fact phase two is the hardest work of all the phases (according to my model), but also the most rewarding. I get to see our children grow up, achieve things and become independent themselves. This is the goal of phase two, to give them the best possible start in life that I can, in order for them to successfully reach phase two, too. 

Phase three.
At which point, I will move on to stage three. Grandparents! This isn't just defined by my kids having kids, but more on them becoming settled and happy and responsible for themselves. There is the weakness, how on earth do you know when that has happened? (I know my mum still feels responsible for me now - but I think it will be just become obvious when the time has come).  
Hopefully by the time they do have kids they will be as settled as I am now. I think the relationship between us (me and my children) will change as they grow up and enter phase two themselves, and they become more aware of their own journey.  
And I can become selfish again, and do all the things I've been making a list of during phase two. It will be a time of enjoying a renewed freedom, as well as a growing family that all stems from our initial tiny family. Phase three sounds like awesome fun.

I realise I am writing this from a completely naive standpoint. People are keen to tell you when you're pregnant that you have no clue what's coming. Gleeful, and sometimes patronising, reminders that we don't understand how things are... yet. But that's the beauty of my model - it's just mine, so I can (and most certainly will) change it when I get access to more information. To help me make sense of what I am feeling.

But what's really great about this model is that I'm still in phase one - admittedly not for long... but there is so much more to come. Which kind of brings me back to where I started, the future suddenly is an exciting place, full of opportunity and fun as well as hard work and challenges. It's an action-packed future - there's loads of it still to be experienced.

This is in major contrast to my previous suspicion and bleak view of what's ahead, the future was something to be mitigated, prepared for, second guessed.

I'm really looking forward to the future it's going to be brilliant. But right now we have less than three months of phase one left, so I'm off to make the most of being selfish.