hope, pain, and resistance…

November 28, 2006

…or, how I hope that disparate thoughts can form a unity.

On the journey home yesterday, I sat next to a father and his four year old son. We got into conversation simply because I asked him how old the boy was, though the initial British reluctance for stranger dialogue had previously been eroded by my concession of the window seat to the child. I shared how I too was soon to be a father, and then took up the offer of a read of the man’s newspaper. We mentioned the human catastrophe of the Iraqi occupation, and the seemingly never-ending struggle in Palestine/Israel – two stories featured in the day’s news.

The man looked out of the window, and talked about how, when you have children, you feel the pain of these conflicts more keenly, especially as it affects other children.

I can’t, as yet, make a comparison. But should this be true…

***

This morning I caught a few minutes of a television programme looking at the lives of a group of British teenagers turning 16 years old. Each came from widely differing social, ethnic, cultural backgrounds. All the 16 year olds were asked about their thoughts for the future, and one guy talked about how he hopes that, if he has children, they will have all the opportunities he never had, like going to school, and getting qualifications. Another girl said she was scared of the future because she didn’t want her child to have a childhood like she had experienced.

***

“in the dark age in which we are living under the new world order, the sharing of pain is one of the essential preconditions for a refinding of dignity and hope. Much pain is unshareable. But the will to share pain is shareable. And from that inevitably inadequate sharing comes a resistance.”

p.164, John Berger, The Shape of a Pocket, Vintage 2003

a break

November 23, 2006

I’m going away for a few days, back Monday. Until then…

faith

November 23, 2006

If there’s one thing I’ve tried to do with this blog, it’s to try and be honest and as much as possible, to simply relate my feelings and thoughts ‘unfiltered’. I’ve realised that there’s been a bit of a gap however, since I haven’t really discussed my faith much. There have been some hints perhaps, but nothing explicit. This has probably been in order not to alienate readers who would find it hard to relate to that part of my life, but since it’s so central, it seems odd to leave it out.

 

The fact is, in those times when I am teetering on the brink of all out panic – when I’m confused, apprehensive, and uncertain about what the future will bring, it’s my faith in God that pulls me back from the brink. I’m not sure if that’s a particularly useful picture however. I’ve been reading a great book by Martin Laird on silent contemplation, and one of the chapters describes the process of moving from being a ‘victim’ of feelings, to being a ‘witness’. So in fact, when I’m nervous and fearful about fatherhood, I’m not so much denying these very real emotions, but not being controlled by them. Observing them, not being driven by them.

 

So God is my peace, and the ultimate answer to when, as I wrote previously, I am feeling “in the deep”.

 

To be continued…

the ultimate activism

November 19, 2006

Responding to my previous post ‘ready‘, a visitor recently remarked that after the baby’s birth, “you will sense what it also means to wonder if your child will experience the same life that the people of the difficult places you have visited experience”. An interesting thought, and just today, a friend emailed me with a similar question: “has your political struggle now become a more personal one – raising a young life as the ultimate activism, and world changing endeavour?”

All of which got me thinking (surprise surprise). I certainly find it difficult to imagine a situation , God forbid, where my child has to live unwillingly under a military occupation. A war, or the risk of terrorism? More likely perhaps. And what about my own passion for justice? Does being a father need to dilute this? Is my friend’s suggestion, of seeing parenthood as the “ultimate…world changing endeavour” an exercise in wishful thinking, masking over an inevitable compromise to ‘settling down’? Or, could it be true?

Since I could easily enough write a post tomorrow, or next week, when I’ve changed my mind, for now, I’m going to take up my friend’s idea and run with it. Because, after all, political change, be it structural or single issue campaigning, is vital and worthwhile, but we are also perhaps more likely to make a real difference, through our daily interactions with those we know – from those closest to us whom we share a house and our lives with, to those fleeting experiences under a bus shelter or in the workplace – and everything in between. Investing in a life…well, what a privilege, opportunity, and responsibility. In the life of a child? Change in our world will only be possible when we ourselves are changed. So yes, the marches, the writing, the activism continues. But maybe fatherhood is indeed the “ultimate activism”. I should still probably pick Pooh Bear over Marx at bedtime though.

money

November 15, 2006

Something strange happened the other week. I didn’t expect it, and now it’s happened I feel powerless to reverse it. What I’m talking about is a huge shift in my approach to my own money. I can’t remember exactly the moment this hit me, but it could well have been when withdrawing a tenner from a cash machine, or checking my balance.

And I realised that this money is not mine anymore. It’s our baby’s. It’s A’s. This money is not for me to spend as I please. And you know what, after I first thought this, I can’t put it out of my mind. Everytime there’s an opportunity to spend some money – from a drink in a pub, to a CD online, even train tickets and petrol – there’s something in me that stops me before I punch in my PIN number or reach for my wallet. I don’t feel particularly heroic and nor do I feel annoyed. It’s just a fact. I don’t want to spend anything that could be for our child, or for A.

It feels like I’m experiencing an extreme, and that this will dilute at some point. But it’s also made me think of all the many ways in which being a father could change how I view quite significant things, principles, or values, that adjust and shift because now I feel primarily like I am a provider, carer, protector, nurturer…

It’s a good job this broadband line is pretty cheap.

a shift

November 12, 2006

I’ve realised that my whole approach to the unborn baby, to birth, even to the newborn, has undergone a fundamental shift in recent months. Perhaps because I am a man, perhaps because of particular social conditioning – but I was inclined to view pregnancy and child birth as quite a clinical scientific process. Mysterious sure, but all the same, it came down to what were the required mechanics of getting a new life on the scene. But now…I think I can probably cite two specific contributions to my change in outlook – reading Leboyer’s ‘Birth without violence’, a work I referred to in a previous post. Leboyer was passionate about restoring the mystery and beauty of giving birth, not so much for the parents’ benefit, but for the child him/herself, and while I’m not really in a position to do a comparative study on its scientific or even psychological merits, it certainly shook up my attitude towards the whole child birth experience. I use the word experience here, because I initially thought of the word “procedure”, and then realised that the difference between the two is precisely the kind of paradigm shift that I am trying to articulate. And if you think all of this sounds just fine coming from the man who won’t have to undergo labour, well, I was recommended this book by A in the first place.

 

The second factor has been what I have learned about the acute awareness of the unborn child, and how much they are already participants in life even while still inside the womb. Before long, our child is going to be able to distinguish the voices of mother and father, and then recognise them after birth. The baby can hear music, and move to rhythm; experience sharp contrasts in light and dark. For some of you reading this, I may be just repeating something you have known about for a long time. I can’t say whether the fact I’m expectant makes this things more wondrous, though it’s likely.

 

All of which increases my sense of awe, respect, incomprehension and joy at this birthing that begins long before the maternity ward.

the tension

November 9, 2006

“My own mortality has become a central fear & concern. The thought of what I may now miss. It’s an uncomfortable feeling.”

 

That from another expectant father, leaving a comment a few posts ago. It put me in mind of a passage from a book by a favourite writer of mine, called Henri Nouwen:

 

“There is a quality of sadness that pervades all the moments of our life. It seems that there is no such thing as clear-cut pure joy but that, even in the most happy moments of our existence, we sense a tinge of sadness. In every satisfaction, there is an awareness of the limitations. In every success, there is the fear of jealousy. Behind every smile, there is a tear. In every embrace, there is loneliness. In every friendship, distance. And in all forms of light, there is knowledge of surrounding darkness…When you touch the hand of a returning friend, you already know that he will have to leave you again. When you are moved by the quiet vastness of a sun-covered ocean, you miss the friend who cannot see the same. Joy and sadness are born at the same time, both arising from such deep places in your hear that you can’t find words to capture your complex emotions” (Nouwen, The Dance of Life, pp.124-25)

Waffle

November 6, 2006

While on my travels, I logged in and discovered that one expectant doesn’t seem so impressed with my “waffle” or “rhetoric” (see Comments on previous post). Since you’re expecting in January, I understand why you might be more preoccupied with practical issues, but there’s probably a bit more going on there. Maybe it’s personality – maybe it’s because of personal circumstances – but I began this blog in the first place because I felt like there was a lot of “waffle” related to being expectant that I wanted to share, and hoped would be appreciated by others in the same position. I’m sure that as time passes, I too will start musing on more hands-on matters. This, ironically, is turning out to be a rather waffley defense of my waffle, and ultimately, all I can do is be real in what I think and feel.

On a more amusing note, today I purchased a book on being an expectant father which had for a front cover a picture of a sports car for sale. I wish I had such a car to sell. Anyone else been forced to sacrifice a treasured possession in preparation for fatherhood and arrival of a newborn?

on the move…

November 1, 2006

I’m travelling around quite a bit this week, so might not get a chance to post much. But if you’re reading this, and like me, you’re expectant, please drop in a comment or email to share your thoughts.