Have you read the article from a couple of months ago about Arunachalam Muruganantham and his revolutionary sanitary pad invention? It reads like a Hollywood screenplay – a man dedicating his life to the greater good, at great personal sacrifice, against all odds, to achieve something truly inspiring. He has also unwittingly become a bit of a life coach of sorts for me, sharing a few pearls of wisdom that have really stuck with me since I first read his story.
Sam recently asked me why I can’t just be happy to live in the moment, rather than always looking ahead – asking “What if?” “When?”, and “How do we get to where we want to be?” I think it must be one of my most frustrating traits for Sam. I need to have a plan. I need to know what we are aiming for. I worry that if no one pushes for it, then it won’t happen. He is right, and I hadn’t quite realised. I am not very good at being happy in the moment. I am not very good at allowing my thoughts to be clear, and truly focussed on the ‘now’.
Lately, I’ve been making all sorts of ‘middle class problems’ statements about our house feeling oppressive in winter, and that I couldn’t consider a third child whilst living here.
The third child conundrum keeps tick tick ticking over in my head, threatening to eclipse all other thought until I’ve found a ‘solution’. I need to know when we can make it happen, because then I can slowly begin to focus on ‘life after kids’ – igniting my career, and granting us more financial freedom.
Because, you see, we’ve always wanted three children, but this third child will take more planning than Rory did – if we want to try and increase our living space here by extending, or if we need to move house, that’s at least a year of planning. Because, I don’t want to be spending my third and final babymoon in the midst of a house move (done that before) or a building site. I want to be able to bask in the appreciation of my last newborn without any stressful distractions. Which means I need to somehow project myself into the future and predict when this third child broodiness is going to kick in, so that I don’t have to wait a year from there to get on with having another child. Because, you see, I don’t want to unnecessarily delay the age gap any longer, as it will delay the grand ‘life plan’ of me furthering my career once my children are at school. Which really needs to happen as soon as I can swing it, as we can’t continue to exist on one income alone as it currently stands. And actually, because of this, we shouldn’t really be thinking of having a third child at all. It’s a luxury. But I can’t stop thinking about it. And breathe.
As someone who gets irritated if I don’t feel in control of my life at all times, and who has been slowly accepting a steady lack of control since becoming pregnant with Arlo at THE WRONG TIME, I am still adjusting to letting go of any notions of an ‘ideal’ plan. I never wanted a baby at 25. I never wanted to have larger age gaps between my children because we weren’t yet ready to provide for them. I never imagined all these financial restrictions. I never wanted to have to wait to get on with this part of life.
So, it was a surprise to me that it actually came as somewhat of a release to learn that we would definitely be denied the financial lending needed to make an extension or a move to a three bedroom house happen. It didn’t matter about all my plans above, because they were never within reach anyway. If the possibility isn’t there, the only option is to learn to work with what you have. Do not pass go, do not collect £200. Go directly to jail, and make the most of it.
And then I read Arunachalam Muruganantham’s words:
“I have accumulated no money but I accumulate a lot of happiness,” he says. “If you get rich, you have an apartment with an extra bedroom – and then you die.”
Why do I always want extra rooms? Why must I always be looking to the future? Why can’t I simply live in the present, go with the flow? And if I had the extra rooms, would I be happy then, or would I find reasons to want MORE rooms? Why watch my life go by unsatisfied because of the belief that I need certain, materialistic things to make it work? . I need to stop focussing on closed doors that lead to rooms that I may never see. The room I am currently in will do fine, It’s not the extra space that matters, it’s the LIVING that does.
I need to stop looking at this point in life as a pause before I get to where I’m ‘meant’ to be.
The truth is, right now, I really don’t know what I do want. I’m not in the slightest bit ready for another child. But I can’t shake the idea that I NEED to get a plan in place for child number 3, because then I can start to focus on what comes next – what comes after the great pause in life during my childbearing years.
It’s the idea of the pause that’s been tick tick ticking over in my head. But if I look at the pause as living rather than waiting, then everything becomes a lot clearer in my head.
If we feel like it, perhaps we will increase our family without waiting until we can increase our living space. We will make it work, because it’s what we want. Perhaps I will decide a bigger age gap is actually what I really want. Perhaps I want to enjoy what we have now, and the increasing freedom I am experiencing as my children get older. If I find the call to have more children is still strong 8 years from now, that’s OK too.
All I know is that once we’ve figured out the route we want to take, I won’t be feeling like I need to wait to make it happen. In doing that, I allow myself to take the pressure of the uncontrollable and the unknowable away, and give myself a chance to enjoy the present.
I am still learning a lot about how to be happy. But I definitely think there is a lot of truth in the idea that happiness is not an end goal. It’s not something that you ‘achieve’. It exists in the moment. I am pledging to stop my search, and take more time to appreciate my lot.