I celebrated my birthday a few days ago and realised that I have reached that age when I can look back upon youth with nostalgia and a sense of loss. So many things have changed. Gradually yes, because I noticed them changing over months and years out of the corner of my eye, but suddenly as well, because I only fully acknowledged what is, and what has gone recently.
My body has changed. I never was model thin, but when I look at the excess weight I want to lose in the mirror now, I can see the extra wrinkles and sag that only a body that has had to accomodate another human being can boast.
My heart has changed. I used to think love came in one shape and one colour and if it changed even slightly, then it was no longer pure and genuine. Now I can see it comes in a rainbow of shades and hues. Some days I look at my husband and wonder what I ever did to deserve such a man and other days I look at him and wonder what I ever did to deserve such a man. But inevitably, I know whatever I did, it was something good.
My perspective has changed (and changes almost daily). When I see babies, I still wonder how I could possibly have fitted such a big being inside my womb and when I watch my daughter play, I wonder that she could ever have been so small that I could hide her safely within my self.
My understanding has changed. Things that seemed so important once – a clean outfit, an ironed blouse, an organised room, punctuality (and punctuation!) – all adapt to the routine and whims of a toddler. Now it matters more whether she is learning something from the experience and what she is learning from it. Time itself loses importance if she is taking another step forward.
My perception has changed. Before I had my daughter, I didn’t think I would be able to get along with a baby, or know how to be any sort of mother to her. On good days, I now think that another child, or maybe two, might be nice (and while we’re at it, wouldn’t twins be interesting?) On not-so-good days, I wonder how I’ll keep up with the one I have as she demands more and more of us with every sunrise.
My faith has changed. I used to have deep conversations with God about my own salvation, asking Him for answers, spending sleepless nights thinking about His Majesty and nurturing an awe for His Beauty. Now most days, I’m too tired to think beyond my endless To-Do list and figuring out how to answer the questions my daughter asks. My relationship with God has been reduced to a few, frenzied whispers on the fringes of my sleep: to keep my child safe, to guide her always and lead her to Him, because I’m not sure I won’t botch that up along with everything else.
But what has changed most is my writing. And it is this change of all others that has been most difficult for me to accept and embrace.
I recently listened to the words of a teenager who had written a beautiful piece of spoken word poetry. It touched me not just because of its depth and rhythm, but because the first thought that came to me after hearing it was: “I used to write like that”. A long time ago, I had that passion, those words, that heart. What happened to it?
When I wrote my book, I hadn’t thought of marrying, hadn’t even met anyone remotely interesting. My story was one of ideals and dreams. It was a time when my soul whispered to my heart and my heart spoke to my brain. A time when words flowed like the waters of a raging river; there was so much I had to say and share. The future was uncertain and I could build it as I wished.
The years that followed brought emotion and heartache, revival and reason, compromise and learning, but those same years took away my words and my confidence that anybody would want to know my story. Certain aspects of my future became the constants of my present; there was less fluidity and more solidity in my life. My story began to sound more and more common; one of millions being told around the world. My words became more and more simple, until it seemed I had nothing to say except the obvious. And who wants to read what they already know?
It has taken me a long time – and I am still in the process of accepting this change – to realise that my muse no longer is, and never will be, what it used to be. I can go back and read what I managed to pen as an observer, some times sighing, other times cringing over the words, but to write that way again is a thing of the past.
I envy the youth who speak with such passion of futures and unbridled dreams, of deep passions and fresh ideas untamed by knowledge or experience. Yet, I pray and hope that they will grow and gain these same experiences, because if you give them a chance, the pains and losses, the frustrations and sorrows – even the disillusionment – all have the ability to enrich the soul. The muse mulls over them, maturing them like fine wine. And you have to wait patiently until the day it will be ready to bring them out and present them as new stories for the telling.
My muse is maturing, and it has been a tense, scary time for both of us – this necessary seperation from one’s self. But now, it is emerging, slowly, cautiously and with a slight lack of abandon as well. I’m reaching out my hand and waiting to see what it is that will take a hold of it.