|11- The Other Side...|
What is on the other side? What IS the other side? Is it Nirvana, Heaven, or simply put, a state of peace? Must it solely refer to something beyond this physical life?....I don’t think so. Life throws many curve balls at us, some we knock out of the park, others we miss, feeling like we’ve let ourselves down. Worse still, some feel like they just hit us square in in the face, leaving us bruised and broken. Every single time we face a challenge, there is, somewhere in the distance, the other side that we endeavour to reach. On May 12th of this year, The Daisy Network (a registered charity based in the U.K who are solely dedicated to supporting and providing information to those affected by P.O.I) held their annual conference at the Chelsea and Westminster hospital in London. Having read my blogs on this site, they approached me about a month beforehand asking if I would be willing to speak about my experience. I’d never done any public speaking before but was so humbled that they’d reached out to me, there was no question I’d do my best to rise to the challenge. The Daisy Network was founded in 1995 and became a registered charity four years later. Although there have been annual get togethers since its formation, the past 4 years have seen these gatherings take on a different format and what’s now known as Daisy Day has become an important date for the diary! This year was the first time I would be attending so I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect from the day. Walking in to the space where everyone registered I became acutely aware of the bond that we automatically shared, there was something quite powerful about this. I must sound like I’m stating the obvious but I’d never been in a space where I could look around and guarantee that every person in it was either directly or indirectly affected by the diagnosis of Premature Ovarian Insufficiency. The word ‘isolated’ comes up frequently when women talk about the aftermath of this diagnosis, so to know that those around you are on the same path is immediately comforting and reassuring. It would be understandable if a person expected the mood to be a little sombre given the enormity of how this condition affects women and their partners/families but nothing could’ve be further from the truth. As I glanced around the room, it struck me that the fact everyone had made the journey to London, taking time away from their usual routine was significant, the simple choice to attend symbolised hope! Showing up required a willingness to be open, to embrace the fact that help is available, a thirst for information and/or support, and ultimately, the hope that one may feel a little differently by the end of the day.
*4 weeks earlier....
I put the phone down following my chat with Kate Maclaran, Co-Chair of The Daisy Network having told her I’d be honoured to speak at The Chelsea and Westminster hospital on May 12th. It was one of those fleeting moments when I felt a heavy lurch deep in my stomach, a sign that would usually make me question my decision and yet amongst the excitement and fear I sensed that this was going to be a full circle moment for me. This was a moment in time that could help to make sense of the past 8 years, a new experience that might just confirm why I am one of many for whom infertility is a reality. I had often wondered if there was a plan for me, a path I was destined to take (albeit different to the one I’d imagined for myself) and maybe standing in front of strangers, telling my story was part of that destiny? Here was the chance to share my truth out loud and suddenly it dawned on me, this would be a whole different ball game from writing my blog. I’d no longer be an invisible narrator but a physical presence and so began the process of trying to structure what I wanted to say using excerpts from my blogs as markers. I knew that I needed a common thread that would flow throughout the speech, a foundation that could hold everything in place. It became clear to me pretty quickly that PEACE should be that glue given that from the moment I was diagnosed with P.O.I that’s exactly what my heart/gut/soul was longing for! I’d doubted at times that it was possible to find a quiet acceptance with a diagnosis that was so desperately sad but it happened, I did find it and felt now was my time to reassure others that inner peace was available to them too! Apart from taking a couple of passages from these blogs to read, I knew I couldn’t possibly type out a script and memorise it, nor did I want to have my face down for the entire 20 minutes reading from a piece of paper. It was vital to me that it felt organic so I could try my best to connect with those in the room, letting them in so hopefully they’d have some sense of who I was. I practiced a few times, blagging it really, recording myself on a dictaphone and then listening back to see how it flowed. I was shocked with the first couple of takes when I discovered I’d gone way past the twenty minute time allowance! Agh, how was I going to make this work? I jotted down a handful of bullet points and after a few attempts my speech finally started to follow a more natural rhythm and pattern despite the fact it varied slightly in content. Part of me had intended to run it by my best friend Claire but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I was fearful that if it went well I’d never be able to re-create it, I wouldn’t be able to remember exactly what I’d said and so I made the decision to just do it for the first time on the day and pray that I didn’t blank or stumble over my words. Until the actual moment arrived, the woods became my stage, the birds my captive audience!
Prior to the revelation that I was going to be speaking at Daisy Day I’d intended to go alone but no sooner had I spoken to Kate, Claire was trying to figure out if she could take the time off work and join me. Once that possibility was out there, I knew that I needed her by my side. If you’ve read any of my previous blogs here on The Lotus Network you’ll be aware of just how close we are and how vital her love and support have been to me since my diagnosis. I felt remarkably calm as we journeyed in to London until we arrived, sat down and took our seats for the morning session. I wasn’t speaking until after the lunch break which gave me 4 hours to relax and settle in to the day except the opposite happened! I sat down and felt a rush of adrenaline which continued to intensify whilst I listened to the guest speakers. By the time lunch came around, I couldn’t feel my fingertips and my heart was pounding furiously in my head. I’ve spent my entire adult life performing for a living, working in some of the most beautiful and awesome theatres in London’s West End so nervousness is a feeling I’m familiar with and yet I’m not one of those people for whom it fuels. Some thrive off adrenaline but for me, it can be completely debilitating (if you were a fly on the wall in some of my auditions you’d see what I mean!). Here I was, so consumed by fear that it was making me feel quite emotional which wasn’t good. I was going to talk about finding peace and acceptance, the last thing anyone needed was to witness a quivering wreck! An inner dialogue started happening inside me....”This isn’t about you, don’t make it about you. Trust that the words will come and if they help even one person today then that will be enough”. I needed to remove myself for a while so instead of joining the other attendees for lunch in the foyer, Claire and I walked down the street and found a cafe. We talked about how I was feeling, she offered her counsel and words of wisdom (she never fails to find the right thing to say) I read through my bullet points once more and then, it was time!
My talk came and went, after a slightly rushed beginning I found my stride and God knows how it happened but the words flowed. About half of the way through I remember looking out at the sea of faces, making eye contact with a few of them (an element of public speaking I wasn’t sure would come naturally to me) and being so incredibly moved by the emotion that some were displaying. Aside from contributing positively to Daisy Day, I had aspired to be engaging, in other words, to not be boring! When I noticed that some women were crying I was so touched as it just hadn’t occurred to me that that would happen. Claire videoed it and I must admit, after watching it back later that day, I was surprised by myself. What seemed a few hours earlier as if it would be a terrifying experience was actually empowering beyond belief! I noticed that when sharing how I came to find my way to peace and acceptance I used the phrase “Pop out the other side” when referring to my journey through the grief and darkness. It hasn’t been a quick process, on the contrary it has taken years but my progress was so gradual, at times imperceptible that when I realised I had reached a place of calm it did seem as if POP, it had just magically happened. I had made it to the other side where my core felt still as opposed to churning anxiously. On May 12th 2018 in front of a room full of brave, beautiful women plus some loving, supportive men I had also made it to the other side of a task that on the surface may have appeared easy but had pushed and challenged me on a deeply personal level.
Life is multifaceted with many canyons to traverse and sides to reach. Once across, often the diagnosis/condition/problem still exists in some form but the difference is how we live alongside it. Chances are the very nature of being on the other side means we’ll probably have shed many layers along the way. In letting go emotionally of anything that doesn’t serve us, we find ourselves with a sense of freedom from whatever enslaved us originally. Everything I have learnt about myself over the past 8 years has left me with this fundamental belief....there is no task too daunting, no canyon too deep, no wall that is too high for the human spirit to scale!
NB: You can view my talk on YouTube as part of my series of video blogs entitled ‘Fishing For The Truth’ visit www.youtube.com/niafisher or copy this link https://youtu.be/tayigMeFz20
Twitter: @niafisher @nia_lotus
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