That connection I felt

Last night something woke me up. I realized it was some loud conversation right below my bedroom window. It seems in our apartment complex someone had a party and the guests were leaving. It was 2:30 a.m. and this group of people were not even trying to keep their voice down. They were saying goodbyes, they were making plans for the next gathering, chit-chatting, completely oblivious to the fact that it was late at night, that it was a residential complex and people are sleeping. My initial urge was to get up, walk in the balcony and sternly ask them to keep it down, reminding them the time of the night. And in most cases I would have done just that. But for some reason (may be because of the cold), last night I stayed in bed and tried to calm myself by actually listening to their conversation. Okay, I grant that these people are perhaps being inconsiderate right now, but how different they are actually from me? Turns out, not much. True, I can’t see myself making noise in the middle of the night like that but these people also are going about their lives, making plans with friends and family, urging people to visit again, accusing some others that they do not keep in touch often enough. The glimpses of their lives I could see (rather hear) is something so familiar, so wholesome, so lively, that it soothed me, it reassured me. It filled me with a sense of peace and love, with a sense of belonging. The thought came to me that I don’t need to be anywhere else right now, this is exactly where I am supposed to be at this moment, with this flow of life going on around me. The life that so many people have built on love, on companionship, on kindness, on eagerness to hold onto each other. I felt at peace with everything.

I wish I could write that I finally drifted back to sleep, my heart overflowing with love and gratitude but unfortunately that did not happen. I could not sleep at all afterwards and for the whole day at work today I was tired and miserable, could not concentrate at the task at hand.

But I wish to experience such moments again. When I am able to feel connected with everyone, when I am able to see how little difference is there between all of us….I wish I could put myself in this frame of mind more often. I wish I am able to do this when I feel angry at a driver who cuts be off in traffic, when I feel impatient with a colleague who complains about everything, when I feel annoyed with a stranger for taking enormous amount of time at the supermarket cash counter…i.e. in many situations in life when I feel “I deserve better than this” and hence immediately disconnect myself from the ‘living’ that is taking place around me. I wish I could fall back on this mindfulness, on this conscious choice of connected-ness at those moments.

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Childless-Childfree

I don’t have children, and I am in my early forties, which means I don’t plan to have any either. No, this does not mean I am a child-hater or some such thing. I love children, and actually I am the most favorite aunt of many of my friends’ and cousins’ children. It is just that I never felt any urge to have my own. People talk about ticking biological clock….somehow it never ticked for me. As a result, having a baby never seemed like a natural thing to do in my life. I am career-wise quite successful and being a mother would have meant making some big adjustments in my priorities, and I found no reason to do that. I was perfectly happy with my life and lacked nothing. And thus I reached my forties, without creating a “little me”.

However, the problem comes from the society. I am based in India and in my country the society is a conservative one. So “childfree” is actually interpreted as “childless”. And immediately you are flooded with sympathy from people. When I was younger, many people, after learning that I have no children, would encourage me to get medical help. Some relatives would even pass me contact details of some very good gynecologist they have heard of, who have helped lot of women like me. Yes, in a conservative society, where assumptions are rigid, boundaries are often not maintained. As I became older, thankfully these advises have stopped. Now I just get sympathy, heart-felt sympathy from people. I have actually learnt to accept it gracefully. I don’t feel any need to actually explain to these sympathetic and kind souls that I am really happy and miss nothing in my life. They would think I have gone crazy (for failing to become a mom by a certain age) or I am outright evil.

Having or not having babies should be an entirely personal decision. Specially for women, whose body is going to be affected by this decision in a major way. Even if there is no other reason, I can simply choose not to put my body through this extremely uncomfortable and painful process. Unfortunately, most people do not look at it that way and would actually find this point of view quite shocking. But in my opinion that is sheer ignorance on their part. I am not the only one, there are lot of women like me who feel no maternal instincts and would like to opt for a life without children. But they are often not taken seriously. Imagine a college-going girl, who announces that she would never ever become a mother. Elders are always telling her in a loving way, knowing way, that she would change her mind someday. Or suppose you try having a sterilization surgery when you are well-within your child-bearing age limit, and when you have not had any child yet. No doctor would do it for you.

It is funny that how reaction from the society would make an issue a big one. In my life for a long time, I have never really thought much about being or not being a mother. I was a very bright student all along and from a very young age I was completely focussed on my studies. Yes, I was a nerd. If I will get married, what type of husband I want, or if I will have babies, etc. were not the questions that would bother me even when I was in my early or mid twenties. Rather, I would sweat about my career options, whether I am making good use of my potential, how to move my position up the success ladder etc. I had lot of friends, had good amount of fun, but all along I was looking for a solid ground beneath my feet, just like other male friends I had in my circle. I met my husband while pursuing my career. However, as I reached my late twenties, early thirties, mid thirties, I was having to face questions like when I am planning to have children, if I already have any…..and slowly this became an important thing and my views on this issue became an important part of who I am. Funny, isn’t it?

My childfree choices allow me to live the life I want, I am able to travel, I am able to focus on my job that I am so passionate about, I am able to spend quality time with my husband. For many many friends of mine, whenever they land in this part of the world, their default place to stay is our home, because we have time for them, because our schedule is flexible. Particularly, those friends who have small kids, will definitely not stay anywhere else since the kid is so fond of us. In our extended family, if anybody is faced with some kind of medical emergency, we are the only people they can count on, since all others are so busy with their children. I am not trying to argue that my choice is better than somebody else’s who has children, I am just pointing out how this works for me.

I hope you are also happy with the choices you have made in your life. Those choices may be acceptable by the society, or may be frowned upon, but what matters is you are happy with your choices and don’t feel burdened by them, what matters is these choices are working out for you.

Please share your thoughts, your comments  below.