I’d always admired the beautiful, blank canvas of my future. I’d always dreamed of the ways I would fill it up, the things I would choose to paint. I imagined the family I would have—how beautiful I would make that canvas. I thought my future would be mine to create, composed of my choices and my actions—it’s my future, after all. I should be able to make it as I please.
Well, in my best-laid plans, I had forgotten to factor in things that were beyond my control, things that had nothing to do with my choices and actions. I never imagined that my future would hold infertility or be confined by the limitations of epilepsy.
In the ignorance of my youth, I’d only ever imagined the canvas as a blank one—nothing but infinite possibility.
Pardon me if I feel a bit betrayed.
When the doctor told us we could not have children, a portion of my future was ripped from that canvas: a hole, where my family should have been.
I have been rather clumsily sewing it back together ever since.
There are stitches now where the family I’d always dreamed of should be. When I stare at that blank canvas of possibility, I only see that scar. I fixate on it. The wound, sewn shut. The puckered fabric. It’s hard not to look around at the rest of the gallery and compare it to the smooth, unblemished canvases of my friends.
When I look back to my own canvas, I only see the stitches, and it’s hard not to think of the hole that was there.
But stitches are life-giving.
Stitches are necessary for healing. They are a joining together of parts that suffered a wound. Suffering was what brought those parts together, and the stitches held them together so they could heal.
I will never again look ahead of me and see the blank, white canvas of infinite possibility that was once my future. No matter how I try, there are stitches in every variation I can imagine.
Those stitches are always there, proof of the healing.
And yes, the canvas is puckered along that scar, but the canvas of my life, of my future, is still blank with possibility, ready to accept the paint I will set to it.
I must learn to see that scar as art.
I must learn to incorporate it into my design and make it beautiful.
My future is not lost. It is not what I thought it would be, but it’s not gone. It’s still here, stretched out before me, just waiting for paint.
I’ve spent so much time seeing my future as ruined, as unworthy of even being made because the painting would not—could never—look the way I had once imagined in my youth. I spent so much time stalling in its creation, letting myself get caught up in the horror of hopelessness.
But I am starting to think all futures get ruined in this way at some point. Maybe not in such a tragic way, but I think everyone’s canvas suffers damage of some sort. We all have a moment of crisis eventually. Things crumble and fall apart.
The trick, I’m finding, is to work with the damage, to paint the scar into a ridge of mountains or a transforming caterpillar.
The trick is to make the scar beautiful and to put it proudly on display in the gallery of life to give others the courage to do the same.
We can’t have our own children, but we can adopt. (And we have—we have a beautiful daughter.)
We can foster. And we’ve done that, too, several times over.
My canvas looks nothing like I thought it would, but I’m doing the best I can to make art from tragedy. It’s still beautiful—just not in the way I’d expected.