My feminist self would have never in a million years imagined to hear me say these words, but I’ve reached the point in my life when I come to terms with the fact that there’s a wound that no one will ever heal. And it’s something that I don’t often talk about, because I wish it was healed but it’s not.
A year and a half ago my partner and I filed for adoption in the country we lived in. We got through most of the process and were ready to meet our baby girl when we were told that it wasn’t going to happen. For a stupid bureaucratical reason. We would have been amazing parents, she would have been saved from a life of misery (and please refrain from commenting “you don’t know that”: it’s my job, I know that) and yet it didn’t work out. We even picked a name for her. We bought her clothes, we read books about what to do with babies, we learnt how to change diapers, we made plans.
This keeps haunting me. It’s not my fault, it’s nobody’s fault, but I still think of her every day, she’s almost two now. I try not to think about what my life would be like with her, but the truth is that it would probably be happier. I would be more settled, quieter and less in the constant search for something. I wouldn’t be running, I wouldn’t be reckless, I wouldn’t be as professionally successful and French Village Boy wouldn’t have found a place in my life and in my heart.
I’m currently attending a training in Europe, on my way here I watched a movie on the plane without much expectation. It’s not a masterpiece, but it’s own way it’s a little gem – I will talk about cultural shock in my next post.
There’s a specific scene that has really hit me: in a church the American lady travelling with the French man (the two main characters) explains how she lost a child 39 days after he was born. She then parted from a her first husband, who didn’t cope with the pain in the same way she did and married someone else and had another child, but she never forgot that one, gone so long ago.
In the church she says something that resonated with me: “When I’m in a church I always light a candle for Virgin Mary, only who has lost a child can understand how it feels to lose a child”.
I haven’t technically lost my child because I never held her in my arms or carried her in me, but I dreamt about her, I bought her clothes, I worried about her cultural shock of being from one country, being raised by parents from two different countries and in a number of other countries, I worried about her health when I learnt she was sick, I pre-worried about when she would have friends and fight with them, I pre-worried about racism against her, I pre-worried about the men who would see in her only a pretty Asian girl and planned ways to prepare her to fight back.
I did lose a child. And I’m inclined to believe that the root of some of the big issues (bigger than French Village Boy, but that include him) come from the sense of loss and loneliness I felt after that. My partner suffered, in his own way, and then moved on. I didn’t move on and probably blamed him, albeit subconsciously, for not being closer to me and feeling my same pain. But can someone ever feel the same pain? Can pain be measured? Can pain come out years later, as something that was forgotten in a drawer and suddenly comes out?
I recently found out that a friend of mine is pregnant. She has been very close at a certain time in my life, one of those friendship that grow strong very fast more due to the circumstances than to the actual similarities between two people. She is very different to me and I have been mostly a support to her than an actual friend. I needed a friend who didn’t belong to my professional context (as it turns our humanitarians ALWAYS hang out with other humanitarians) and she needed someone who would behave as friend, without a hidden agenda.
I don’t have a good relationship with several new age techniques (or rather blunt appropriation of millennia-old philosophies, like Qi Gong, Tai Chi and the likes) and therefore I tend to process change while running. Running in Africa comes with a perk: life around you. If in the West people have dedicated places for running, or the most narcissistic choose to run in the middle of the shopping areas of their towns (honestly dude, you are just showing off), in Africa there are no running tracks, often not even sidewalks, so you run where you can.
Running in your neighbourhood can be quite an experience. First of all because of the pace, most of us usually drive everywhere and miss the details of life around us. Of course we notice a beautiful tree in full bloom, but we miss the lady selling roasted corn on the side of the road, the stray dog with a litter of puppies behind a bush or the massive stork nest on top of your head.
These are the small things that, while I run, put the problems I went to run to process back into perspective. Life is beautiful, not because of the big scheme of things, it’s beautiful for the small things that decorate it. Quite possibly Life can be compared to an average apartment in a very average neighbourhood, but what you manage to see around you, the details you can grasp, make it a dream home or a shithole.
The other thing you notice when running in Africa is that the only one person out of context is you. Whether you run to lose weight or to steam out stress, anger, frustration, no one around you shares your same concerns. Most people around you don’t have such sophisticated problems (and the fact that your problems are sophisticated, in this context, is unflattering, trust me) and, by the end of your run, if you have looked around you, this difference affects you.