The first time someone “informed” that my biological clock was ticking I was appalled. Such a thing was an impossibility, something that could be conditioned with mind over matter, and certainly not observed from the perimeter by an onlooker who knew nothing about my convictions and beliefs.
Having a child, or longing to have a child, was the furthest thing from my mind. There was never a time when I thought that motherhood would suit me. There was no room in my life to raise children, not with all the ambition, independence and worth I was trying to claim. Its funny how much of my life could seem an adolescent rebellion. When I looked at other people’s lives I couldn’t relate to the choices they made. It seemed so formulated, a repeat pattern of predictability and duty that I could not accept. I modeled my future around what I didn’t want through a process of elimination, a trial and error on the side of caution. I wasn’t looking to blaze a trail of difference or make some bold statement about society. I simply didn’t get all the hype about settling into life before experiencing it. There were things I wanted, like an itch I couldn’t scratch, and a family would suffocate that longing. Life had a purpose I needed time to discover.
At first, this discovery happened in a haphazard manner. Part of me was free and the other a product of my culture. I was taught to believe in certain things and I pursued them accordingly. I spent most of my twenties building a secure life for myself. I had a lucrative career and boundless possibility. I did the things I was supposed to do. I worked hard, I committed to a relationship; I created a foundation for my future as if following a blueprint. My life was rendered by the natural order of things – get an education, get a career, get married, get a house or two, get pregnant, get by. Eventually I felt like a fraud – exactly in between getting a career and getting married.
When I was engaged at twenty seven I looked at that blueprint I drew masterfully and wondered, with all that “getting” what would I have gained? I saw my future self empty-handed, empty-hearted and gravely disappointed. The life I was building seemed remote. I remember looking at my fiancé, a man I was in a relationship with for seven years, and feeling that in twenty more I would feel robbed. Marriage to him would have been a compromise. When we parted ways I contemplated love in a cerebral way, but I realized that I have longing that defies explanation. I stopped trying to make sense of it and allowed myself to follow my reckless heart. Then I came to a pause.
So there I was, thirty-five years old thinking I had things in control. I had been living at the beach for nearly three years. I completed my first novel and began the long lonely pursuit of publication. The restaurant I managed was taken over by a bunch of thieves and it was only a matter of time before I would be jobless. My “life” had come to a screeching halt. Again. Happiness held itself in high regard as it looked down at me in the emotional gutter. At a time where I had accomplished the most important thing in my life, my first book, I was living an internal world of confusion and disappointment. The whole world was my oyster. I could do anything, but I felt stuck regardless of how free I had set myself up to be.
At that time, being in public was difficult. I existed as an image of myself, a vague person with no direction. My social life was near nonexistent. I had dedicated all of my time working in a restaurant that was bound to fail and everyone in the small town I lived in knew the situation. It was rare someone did not inquire about something or another in which I had no interest, zoning violations, disgruntled employees, a state enforced shut down for thirty days - that sort of thing. I could not escape reality, not in my life or in the “real” world. At my age, women either had a career or a family or both. I had my ideas and illusions; and lived alone with them in the safe world I created for myself. The beach that was once a haven had become a small place filled with familiar faces and predictable scenes. I comprehended my desires only through dissatisfaction. It resembled grief. I felt I had failed living up to my independence. I waited in the side lines for something I could no longer define. The days were long and the nights were still.
When I was lonely for company, I would walk to the local bar with my journal and glance around the room at the people who once sat at “my” tables and filled my pockets and my heart with gratuity. These were temporary companions, a group of people with seemingly fulfilled lives, predictable and uneventful for the most part, but much more secure than my own. My only security came with possibility for new beginnings on the horizon. And while change only implied progress, change was a welcome relief.
On this particular day I wanted to avoid conversation at all costs but I was bored and there were ways to dance around subjects. But my barstool companion this evening was thirty years and one step ahead of me. Pop Pop was a good customer. He had the charming blunt style inherent of the men who came from his era. He wore white loafers and strong cologne, a man’s man, someone you could trust, a head of salt and pepper hair just like his nickname implied. As I gave my short smile he pulled out the bar stool to his left and patted the chair heartily so that I could not refuse his company if I tried. “Sit down. Tell me what’s going on over there,” he motioned to “my” restaurant across the street where he was a regular. I tried to avoid the issue, “who knows? It’s not my problem.” He put his hand on my shoulder, “so what else is bothering you?” His gentle touch a contrast to his deep raspy voice. The words I chose were the only ones I could muster to describe how I was feeling. Dramatic as they seemed, they were real and they were valid, “I feel like I have been diagnosed with cancer and given a few months to live. It’s like time is running out and I am grieving for a life I never had.” His response was a swift arrow through the armor of my independent female pride. “Sweetheart,” he tipped his scotch on the rocks with a cocky knowing smile, “your biological clock is ticking.”
Impossible! Improbable! Illogical! The only clock I ever concerned myself with was the external kind. Time was an aesthetic to appreciate, with various shaped faces, manicured hands; an object crafted by man, not an entity found in my body. Time is ornamental, not instrumental. I had set up my life to accommodate the absence of this inevitable feature that came with my female body. I was an upgraded model. In fact, I traded my basket and all of its eggs for a silk lined purse filled with freedom, travel, and a self-fulfilled life.
I laughed Pop Pop’s words away with a shrug and politely changed the subject. The possibility of such a thing was a betrayal to everything I knew about myself. I made up my mind that I would “never” want to become a mother. Motherhood was too much responsibility, required too much sacrifice, too much time, too much of everything, too much of myself. Children did not factor into the equation. Children did not compliment my persona.
It’s now two years later and after careful consideration I can see how Pop Pop might have been right about my biological clock. But what does that mean? Acknowledging such a longing is a ridiculous complication. It brings no clarity. It stirs up feelings of doubt and conflict. It reminds me of mortality. The situation defies logic and cracks my heart wide open, revealing the things that I could not say in the defense or offense of my prior convictions. For a very long period of time, when I looked at the world, everything seemed like such a compromise, an outward display to cover gaping holes in people who did what they thought they should. It didn’t occur to me that these same people were doing the best they could. Responsibility has a flip side. There is love involved and these are delicate matters of the heart. This scientifically proven longing so closely linked to my own; one could mistake it for a feeling of incompletion.
So, this is the cross-roads, the place where I lay everything down and consider an uncertain future. Life will happen and I will make my choices. But I can only speculate what I am choosing between – love and fear, accountability and independence, myself and others, responsibility and freedom. There’s only one answer to the many questions that arise in me, and that is to ask the questions, to say the things we think but do not say, to do the work, to dig deep down and understand the influences behind my choices, to be brave, to throw caution to the wind, to make sense of the senseless and then change perspective, to grow up, to find acceptance, to feel what I feel in the face of expectation, to understand this enigma beyond my perceptions - because there’s nothing logical about it.