If this was the secret diary of Helen Louise Chandler aged thirty-three and three quarters, then I would definitely indulge in a moan. A long moan. A self-pitying, woeful, poor-little-me extravaganza. However, I must remember three things. One – it isn’t secret, it’s a public blog. Two – I’m half Yorkshire by blood, and we just don’t do moaning on that scale. Three – I’m unbelievably bloody lucky.
A week or so a go my best friend posted a link on her Facebook page to this Huffington Post blog by Charlotte Kitley, commenting that it was incredibly sad, but she was glad she’d read it. Now, I generally try and avoid ‘incredibly sad’ like the plague, as sometimes I think that the only way to get through life without a nervous breakdown is in a Pollyannaish bubble of my own creation. Certainly I feel that there is so much sadness in the world that deliberately seeking it out in books or films is perverse. I realise that’s not a good excuse for having refused to watch the news all the way through since 2009, but bear with me. However, if Jenny says something is worth reading then it generally is, and so I followed the link, and am intensely glad I did.
For those of you who haven’t yet read it, this is the final blog post, published posthumously, of a young woman dying of cancer. It is achingly sad and poignant, but also one of the most joyous and life-affirming things I have ever read. It resonated especially strongly with me, as I think it would with any parent of young children, because the terror of leaving your children – ever, but especially before they are grown – renders the fear and consciousness of your own mortality almost unbearably acute. Amazingly, though, Charlotte’s post isn’t self-pitying or angry or bitter – all the things we perhaps instinctively feel we would be in the same circumstances. She does not ‘go gently into that good night’, but her rage at the dying of the light is not destructive, but a massively positive rallying call for us all to make the most of every second of our lives, however long or short they may be. The blog has now gone viral, as obviously I am not the only person with whom it strikes a deep emotional chord.
I’ve been feeling sorry for myself because I’m having a difficult pregnancy. And, by difficult, I don’t mean – like one of my friends – that I’m confined to hospital until the baby is developed enough to deliver. Or that, like another friend, I’ve had intense morning sickness for the whole nine months, leaving me weighing less at 42 weeks pregnant than I did when I conceived. I just mean that my energy levels are non-existent, the smallest exertion can leave me shattered, I’ve got near-permanent heartburn, I get dizzy when I stand up too quickly, my emotions are on a roller-coaster, I get nasty headaches and my brain feels like it’s filled with a thick grey sludge which makes trying to write feel almost impossible. I feel frustrated with myself, because at this stage in my pregnancy with Anna I was working full-time in a pretty demanding job; working ten hour days with an hour’s commute each way left me tired, obviously, but it was a manageable tired. Whereas this time round, even the school run can leave me in tears of exhaustion. I’m also frustrated because my pregnancy, my baby, is so wanted and longed for and I am so mindful of how lucky I am to be at this point and of how many women would kill to be suffering from pregnancy-induced tiredness, and yet instead of radiantly blooming and thanking my lucky stars, I’m languishing round like a piece of limp lettuce.
After reading Charlotte’s piece I have been making a more concerted effort to think positive and count my blessings. It doesn’t really matter if the washing machine is leaking (again), or the cats have gone AWOL when I need to take them to the vets, or my daughter has a tantrum over her school reading book. I have been trying to follow the advice I give to Anna and take a deep breath and count to ten when something annoys me. To not nitpick at my husband and daughter for leaving their shoes in the wrong place or failing to load the dishwasher correctly. To relish the fact that my body is growing a new life, and that tiredness is a price well worth paying for that privilege. To take the time to appreciate tiny delights as they happen rather than worrying about the bigger picture and what is or isn’t happening tomorrow, next week, next month, next year. Easier said than done, as those who know me will confirm that I am both a planner and a worrier, but the perspective granted by Charlotte’s bravery and honesty helps a lot.
I can’t put it better than Charlotte herself does
“Take [life] by both hands, grab it, shake it and believe in every second of it. Adore your children. You have literally no idea how blessed you are to shout at them in the morning to hurry up and clean their teeth.
Embrace your loved one and if they cannot embrace you back, find someone who will. Everyone deserves to love and be loved in return. Don’t settle for less. Find a job you enjoy, but don’t become a slave to it. You will not have ‘I wish I’d worked more’ on your headstone. Dance, laugh and eat with your friends. True, honest, strong friendships are an utter blessing… Surround yourself with beautiful things. Life has a lot of grey and sadness – look for that rainbow and frame it. There is beauty in everything, sometimes you just have to look a little harder to see it.”