What is mine.
Growing up, like most children I imagine, I wanted to be ‘special’. In my case, I wanted to either be a superhero, or a mermaid. Either would have been great.
Going to the doctor was something I almost always enjoyed on some strange level, because I was getting lots of attention and finding out that something about me ‘stood out’ enough to warrant it. The chance to go back to class after a couple days away and be like, “Yeah, I had strep throat, couldn’t eat anything” to curious classmates - a miniature extrovert’s dream.
It always came down to stories; any excuse to tell a good one. Now at 27, I have stories I would happily keep in my heart, for almost nobody to hear, for truly what matter is it of their’s? I even hesitate to get a tattoo that would tell this story, a piece of art in tribute to the ones my sister had on her own body, but I haven’t because I don’t particularly feel like explaining to even those few who would see it.
Yet I’ve realised recently, it may be that while I’d grown up loving little moments of specialness in my own personal story, at some point I’ve always expected it would give way to the of another - that I would have a story of meeting my life-partner, and then we’d have ‘our’ story, and then even more so the story of our children, our family. I’ve travelled, had a career, all good things that many women seem to have before ‘settling down’; I just have yet to actually ‘settle’ (or down, anyway, since I will never settle).
My own story as of late has gone like this:
My sister died of MELAS in March of 2011, because she was carrying too many mutated mitochondria in her body, and they were little engines that couldn’t. Her fire didn’t have enough fuel, and at 25, it snuffed out.
As it happens, I too ‘have MELAS’, given to me by my beautiful mother (said with zero sarcasm), as my sister was. I’m asymptomatic, however, and at this age and stage it’s most likely I will be for the rest of my life. The women on my mother’s side do not fit the physical bill for this condition - “hearty” is a word to describe the Hancock female bloodline.
Yet despite this particular streak of luck, I will need to undergo tests on my heart, brain, and blood about once a year from now on, to make sure that things don’t start to happen. Is it likely? No. Possible, yes. What has upset me more than this, however, is the fact that I am “not advised to have children”, because it is 100% I would pass this on and they might not be so ‘lucky’. If I have asymptomatic boys, hurray everything’s great it dies with them. If I have girls, it continues, and I can’t stand the idea of contributing to the suffering of even far-down-the-line ancestors. In time technology may provide options through IVF, however it’s more than likely that I’ll choose to adopt.
So I grieve - not at the idea of adoption, but that having children will never be an easy choice or process for me or my future partner. That easy settling down will never happen, it’s always going to be news I have to somehow figure out how to ‘break’ to a man I’m seriously interested in.
My story has suddenly got a twist, and I think I’ve found it so difficult because I honestly never expected on being this…interesting? Complicated.
This particular line of thought was triggered when reading Lionel Shriver’s “We Need to Talk about Kevin”, a novel I wish I could say I was enjoying but honestly, it’s more like trying to get to know someone you sorta disliked in the first 5 minutes of meeting. Yet there was a line that struck me upon reading it, where the protagonist, in a letter o her estranged husband, phrases her fear over having children like this: “However intrigued by a ‘turn of the page’, I was mortified by the prospect of becoming hopelessly trapped in someone else’s story.”
I had honestly, never, ever, thought of it this way. Yes, it had occured to me in recent months that perhaps my inability to meet someone is a kind of ‘sign’ that I should be reaching higher and doing more, but to imagine myself as being “trapped in someone else’s story”…
I had always just thought that when the time came, I would be ready to help create that new story, and watch it unfold, and make it part of mine but really, that it was meant to happen just as mine has. Yet my narrative is becoming darker, full of over-thinking and questions and self-wonder, not to mention much more independance than I ever really thought I’d need.
I can’t say it’s a bad thing, just perhaps unexpected - I’m being forcedto continue writing my own story, to stay in it, and to face a special-ness I would have never asked for. It’s something I now shy away from, for it feels dishonourable to do anything other than just be in it. Aware, but quiet, inviting only a very select few to be part.
Man, I bet mermaids have it so much easier.