Creativity is one of the words that brings out the ‘woo woo’ faster than almost anything else. It’s as if it’s the one word guaranteed to make our inner bitch jump up and say “no thank you, we don’t do that around here!” before you’ve even had a chance to open your mouth.
Why is creativity so scary?
I’ve come to believe that creativity is one of the roots of recovery from involuntary childlessness. However, it’s quite easy to become so comfortable with our “poor me I couldn’t have children” persona that we’re actually a bit reluctant to let go of it. I mean, if we weren’t feeling so sorry for ourselves, and blaming how shitty we feel about our lives on our childlessness, we might actually have to do something about it…
And that ‘doing something about it’ nearly always involves change. And change is scary. Terrifying actually.
I have a theory (road tested to exhaustion in my own life) that we only change when the pain of changing becomes less painful than the pain of not changing. I can be as stubborn as a mule when it comes to hanging onto things that make me miserable. Call me a martyr, call me a masochist… or call me human.
Creativity and change are two aspects of the same thing. It’s about making something new happen. Bringing into being something that would never have existed unless you’d been alive. And one of the reasons it’s so scary is that once we take that first step, we don’t know where we’re heading. We’re building a new path to a new destination and there’s no guarantee that when we get there we’re going to like it.
But if we don’t like where we are, isn’t it worth the risk? (Nope. I’m staying right here. You go first.)
Sometimes it seems unfair that not only did we not get to be mothers, but that now we have to take responsibility for our own happiness. Some booby prize, huh?
Fed up of change
Sometimes, when I’m feeling fed up of transformation, and the pain of letting go, I get a bit nostalgic for denial. With my imperfect memory I fantasise that I was happy then, even though my dreams were dripping with monsters and gore and I simply couldn’t stop eating. I mean, it got to the point where I was sleepwalking and eating simultaneously to keep those monsters at bay! In the end I had a spontaneous Kundalini awakening on a Monday afternoon ten years ago (sounds more fun than it was) and the ‘monsters’ won. Turned out they were on my side after all. Since then change has become my constant companion. And we bitch at each other from time to time like all constant companions tend to do.
I think one of the things that makes us fear change is the idea that ‘letting go’ of the past means ‘losing it forever’ – but that’s not been my experience. Through the changes of the last ten years my past lives on, but in a different way. It’s now integrated into the person I’ve become, and keep becoming. I view my past through a different lens now, and am a lot kinder to the person I was then, and some of the dumb decisions I made, and blamed others for.
The process of change accelerated massively over the last four years once I accepted that I would never become a biological mother. Sometimes I have been quite terrified by the way that my life seemed to be on fire – relationships, careers, hopes, security, ambition, self-image – the whole damn show on the bonfire. The dream of becoming a mother was the last to go, but boy did it make a big bang when it went!
In alchemical terms, this process is called ‘calcinato’ which means to be purified by fire. And out of that fire comes the phoenix. Many of us are familiar with the symbol of the phoenix, but tend to draw a veil over the process of being burned alive. I know, I’m selling it really well…!
Blowing the doors off the car
One of the (many) reasons that creativity is so scary is because we know, I mean we really know, that even allowing ourselves a tiny side-trip into it will begin a process of rediscovery and change that could blow the doors off the car. That we might risk taking our happiness into our own hands again and relinquish our identity as “that poor woman who really wanted to have children and it didn’t work out for her.” But we don’t yet know what we’ll put in its place. We’ve got so used to feeling left-out, hard-done-by, unlucky and pissed off that we wonder if we’ve lost the knack of being any other way.
As Erica Jong wrote, “Take your life in your own hands and what happens? A terrible thing – no one to blame.”
If your back’s against the wall and you’re sufficiently fed up with how you feel about how your life has worked out, please listen to the quiet voice that says to you “I really want to go ice-skating again” or, “Wouldn’t it be great to actually go to Paris” or, “I wonder if my potter’s wheel still works?” or “Maybe I could write a blog?”…
Your soul is calling you. It’s ready. And so are you. Put your oven gloves on Kitty, it’s going to get toasty in here!
At the time of writing there are still a few places left on the two Gateway Women Groups starting this September in London. Still Hopeful (Wednesday eves from 5th September) is for women who are still able to have a child and are being gripped by the silent misery and toxic shame of thwarted motherhood; Reignite! (Monday eves from 10th September) is for women who are no longer able to have a child and would like some support, inspiration & encouragement to get their Plan B going! Both groups last 12 weeks and follow a structured series of steps to arrive at a new way of dealing with your situation.
Jody Day is a London-based writer and the Founder of Gateway Women: an organization she founded in 2011 to support, inspire and empower childless-by-circumstance women to live fertile, passionate, meaningful lives. Gateway Women is for women who are still hopeful of becoming mothers, and also for those for whom that time has passed. She holds a certificate in integrative counselling and is training to qualify as an integrative psychotherapist. Jody runs groups & workshops for Gateway Women, and also offers one-to-ones for women looking to explore issues around identity, maternity & fertility. A Godmother & Aunt many times over but never a mother, she speaks regularly at events and is always looking to share her empowering message with new audiences. If you would like Jody to speak at one of your events, or to write for your blog or magazine, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
For priority booking for all future Gateway Women events including our upcoming series of monthly talks, please check that you’re on the events mailing list by clicking here.
I’ve been thinking about this one… reposted:
” we only change when the pain of changing becomes less painful than the pain of not changing.”
These words really resonated with me, that was precisely how I felt when I packed up Part I of my life and moved to Germany to start Part II.
The idea was that I had wanted to have children so that that life-change would be a way to grow and leave what I called my “perpetual adolescence” behind. But instead I would have to find some other challenge to make me change and grow.
I remember being terrified it would all go wrong and my husband would leave and I would be alone in a foreign land… well this did actually happen but what I hadn’t factored in was, that by the time this happened, I absolutely loved it. I loved my few years of ‘being all alone in a foreign land’, it gave me a breathing space to remember who I am.
So what I learned was this: it’s valid to fear something uncomfortable may happen when you make huge life changes, but you need to take into account the fact that when that happens, you are not the person you are now, you have moved on to a place where you can deal with it, or even welcome it as the thing you needed the most…
And back then, when I thought about my “perpetual adolescence” it was actually my unfulfilled adult life- drinking and smoking and more drinking and more smoking… What I have now IS a perpetual adolescence in that I have dreams and hopes, I’m being creative; drawing, learning a musical instrument, studying, dressmaking, knitting, and, like all adolescents, investing a lot in my friends, and getting such a lot back from them.
What a lovely way of putting things, and your comments have lifted me as I go through the fear of change in my life…yet, I also feel I am growing towards being more authentically myself 🙂
Onwards and upwards to us all!! :)))
Lisa, I see from your other comments that you are making changes already 🙂 It feels a bit at times like walking an invisible path of stepping stones where the only stone you can see is the next one as you step on to it… but the benefits start showing up quite soon, and you get used to listening to your inner voice.
I also started keeping diaries, and I write down every resonant and inspiring quote, from books and songs.
From being exhausted and terrified to being full of chutzpah, independence and joy; it can be done 🙂
Best of luck and keep on going!
The “we only change when the pain of changing becomes less painful than the pain of not changing” jumped out to me too. One becomes often too complacent as it seems easier to just “hang in there”. For me the time has come to move forward in a different direction.
It’s a truth I’d like to disprove, but seems to be part of the operating system! Sounds like you’re ready to shift… xx
Thanks, Jody. In particular these lines stood out:
“Sometimes it seems unfair that not only did we not get to be mothers, but that now we have to take responsibility for our own happiness. Some booby prize, huh?”
I get it. Taking responsibility for my own happiness can be exhausting. But there is really no other choice.
Well, there is another choice – and that’s to allow ourselves to have a lifelong pity party about our situation and become bitter and twisted.
That’s exhausting too, but at least the outcome is guaranteed!
I’m being a bit naughty here, but you know me… 🙂
If we’re still grieving our loss, a bit of bitterness is part of the process – but getting stuck there, that’s a choice.
It’s hard being the captain of our ship – sometimes I yearn for the simple single-mindedness of motherhood and a break from the self-obsession of childlessness. I’ve found the best solution is to give of myself to others. Fastest way I’ve found to get out of my own way!
Sounds really old fashioned, but being of service to others and to humanity is a bit of secret short-cut to happiness.
Yes, I totally agree. The 5 healthy ingredients to wellbeing (Nef research) is To connect (to people and community), To be active, Keep learning, To notice ( such as mindfulness) and to give (to others in some way)…
Great article! Sometimes the pressure of the transformation itself is too much to handle. Change is definitely scary, as you’ve described. And it’s the overwhelming amount of choice and variables that are suddenly apparent that stop me in my tracks (where’s the road map?!).
However, I would rather take a deep breath and carry on with the massively terrifying change than go back to sitting still. That’s just no fun at all.
Thanks for a very inspiring article. I am 41. Recently I have given up trying to sell the idea of being a father again to my boyfriend. For him it would be for the third time. He told me he was just too old to start over and even though he loved me he just didnt want to go through it again. His decision was not easy for me to hear. This was not how I imagined my life to turn out. Every day I think about the decision to let my dream go. Sometimes I feel like I could cry every day if I let myself. I am getting ready to go back to school and finish my degree. My job is also very demanding. I usually stay pretty busy and just when I feel like my life is going okay someone seems to come around and remind me it’s not too late for me to to have a baby. The options are still there for me. Then there is usually some miracle story. I don’t know why these people don’t understand how much their comments hurt.
Ouch! That sounds really tough.
It is extraordinary the effing ‘miracle baby’ stories, isn’t it. The way I understand it is that these ‘stories’ are a way of NOT talking about our loss, because if they actually ‘feel’ our loss (which is what empathy is) then it triggers all the unmourned losses in their own lives. As a culture, we are RUBBISH at loss. Modern capitalism has sold us the idea that all loss can be ‘fixed’ and it ain’t true! Loss is a part of being human, like ageing, like death. And grief is the price we pay for love. It’s real, it’s messy and it’s very unsexy. So everyone looks away and instead tells us that we can have what we want, without thinking of whether that’s true or not. It’s just a way to shut us up, whilst thinking that they’re being supportive.
They won’t ‘understand’ unless we come ‘out of the closet’ and risk being shamed for our feelings. Which few of us can do when we’re as raw as you are. So the taboos and misunderstandings go on.
Have a big hug from me, and welcome to your tribe. We get it.
I can relate to all that you are saying…I have been on a roller coaster of dealing with loss of motherhood and trying to move forward….until someone casts me the miracle solution or that it is not too late- just do it!!! I am 42 and feel so vulnerable at this time as I let go of idea of having a child while people still push the idea upon me…it’s complicated 🙁 Lisa XX
I was always arts-related creative before the decision to stop trying for children, but it had foundered during the years in which I was trying to create a baby. Strangely enough, I feel that my artistic creativity has really taken off since making the decision to stop trying and move on. Obviously the thwarted creative urge needed some sort of outlet! Although much of my creativity has been about me trying and failing to have children, I don’t expect it always will be. Anyway – I blog about all that here, probably in an attempt to do just what Jody describes in this post:
Thanks for commenting – love your blog and thanks for the shout-out on it 🙂
I think of Frida Kahlo and how much of her work was informed by her childlessness… but not all of it.
Using our childlessness as fuel for our art does transform and transmute it… and indeed, as you say, who knows what will come next, one the pipes are clear?!
Thanks you! I love that: ‘Once the pipes are clear’! Very metaphorical. I haven’t really looked at FK’s work since art college so will have to revisit!
Wow, how serendipitous is this blog!!…
I reached a point where the uncomfortableness of staying in my old life was more uncomfortable than leaving….I am literally on fire at the moment! I am now recently divorced, I’m a NOMO, no home, gave up my stable job and am following my creative intuitions into a new more meaningful life (which has not quite manifested itself just yet…). It is scarey at times as I am relying totally on ‘me’ to get out there and make the changes…
Glad it found you when you needed it. The changes you are making will find a lot of ‘nodding heads’ here at Gateway Women as many of us are making similar transitions.
Do share with us what you learn as you go and would love to hear from you again.
With a hug and a hell yeah!