Generativity and Letting Go

“We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”

-Joseph Campbell

Recently, we began the process of giving away baby items bought or given to us for our son, James. Since he never came home from the hospital, they remain unused. Several months ago, we moved them out of the shed, into a closet at my parents’ house. But the time has come for another step. We are beginning to pass these items on to friends and family who are becoming parents. We have been unable to have another child, and are not in a position to adopt. And so, in the same gesture of giving that celebrates the new parenthood of people we care about, we also acknowledge it is unlikely that we will raise a child of our own. Neither of us ever thought it would be this way.

Since our young neighbors moved in across the street with their infant and toddler, I have been unable bring myself to exchange more than a passing smile or wave on this otherwise friendly block in our quaint small town. More than two lanes of quiet asphalt stretch between us. As much as I realize, rationally, that I sometimes idealize the hard work of child-rearing, it is tempting still to wish for a different life. And yet, over the past three years, I have had the opportunity to face down some of the deepest questions about my life, and how I must make meaning in it anew.

Perhaps a branch of my family tree will end with my name on it. But I have not lost the chance to influence my world for the better. Sharing my love of poetry is one way. As I slowly wake from the long dream of grieving, I am sure I will find others. For now, we are taking small steps toward the next crossroads–one bag of diapers, one box of clothes, one bassinet at a time.