That’s Affirmative

I spoke with a wonderful woman a couple months ago who was asking questions about an adopted niece  out there somewhere.  She expressed the desire to try to find her, maybe reconnect her with her mother, (her sister) and develop a relationship with her.  Inwardly I cringed.  I did not cringe because of the heartfelt desire, but about the can of worms that it would open for everyone involved.  I asked her to make sure she understood her own motivations for such a search and to consider the impact it would make on a grown woman who has had no contact with her biological family.  Many intricate strings exist here, for all involved. I have known my whole life that I am adopted and it has never really bothered me.  Kids in school often made remarks that I did not have any “real parents”.  It seems that many think that being adopted means that they don’t have any real parents.  How wrong a belief that is.  The fact is that we do have real parents, we were really born to someone and were given life.  The circumstances for an adoption are as varied as snowflakes that fall.  Hearing statements like that can really mess with a kid’s head, then again–sometimes it doesn’t..I will speak to my experience only.  It is the only story I know, and the only story which I have permission to share.

I know that many speak to the adopting parents experience and many times to the one who is giving the child up for adoption.  Then again, sometimes it is out of the biological parents control.  Few understand, or speak to the adopted child’s point of view.  Few realize that growing up there are real feelings that happen and they tend to stay into adulthood.  Not everyone is aware of that impact, but in studies of the psychological impact of adoption, some real emotions occur. I will speak to my experience only.  It is the only story I know, and the only story which I have permission to share.

Isolation:  Sometimes I feel like I am so different that most people would never understand why I think some things and my reactions to situations.  There are times when I watch families together that I physically ache for something real like that.  People have real connections with the people who REALLY have given birth to them….they are their biological family and thus can feel a tie to them that I will never have.

Loneliness:  It is true that I was adopted and cared for and raised by a set of parents.  I was given rules, guidelines, and opportunities that I would never had had.  I was able to realize what a household with parents and siblings feels like.  There are times though, when feeling different (even though I am not) makes for a lonely spot where I wonder if anyone else understands how I feel.

Affirmation:  This one is the hardest to feel, it is also the hardest to admit.  I am a creative soul, one who observes and feels emotions and the world around me intensely.  I cannot change this no matter how hard I try.  Being involved in speech events, theatre, and writing lends itself to a certain need for affirmation.  At 40, this drives me nuts.  Did I do this well enough?  Was I good enough at this task?  Did I do enough to please someone else?  Am I perfect enough that I won’t lose the relationship I have with this person?  Did I disappoint them so that they will go away, or decide that someone else is better?  Am I good enough to stay in this relationship…will they give me away if I do something wrong?  Can I be perfect enough to stay where I am and feel secure with this person.  Is it safe to love them, to let them love me, and to believe them when they say they care?  What may look like a compliment fishing expedition has little to do with ego stroking and more to do with the safety of that relationship.  If I do this, this, and this….I will get to stay.  If not, I am on my own….separated from the status quo that I understand.  That stability is so vital to my existence.  I know it may not make sense….I wish I could eliminate it, but it is part of who I am.  Missing a comma can throw me into such a moment of self doubt and fear that I will be replaced that I cannot tell others because I do not think they will understand.  Half the time, I do not understand.

Lastly, Wistful Dreaming.  I smile a bit here because like it or not, everyone of us has a dream in our head about what a reunion with our biological parents would be like.  We may never ever admit it to a soul, but the thought has crossed each mind.  The wondering of how they look, what they do, what are they like comes to the surface at least once in our lives.  The lifetime movie concept of running across a room with arms open wide and an easy explanation of circumstances has played before my eyes more than once.  Unfortunately that will never be the case.  I have met mine, know the situation, and know that that type of a reunion will never happen.  I have to be ok with that, and sometimes it is hard to admit that I want more than what I have.  It is hard to admit that the yearn for a “real family” surfaces…I wish it didn’t.  Much like I wish that I did not seek affirmation, I wish the yearn was not so strong.

There it is, the longer and not so short of it.  This is not an exhaustive list, and I have not done near the justice I could do.  Suffice it to say, there will be more observations…more encouragement to those adopting, and more caution for those entering into the world of adoption…Tread carefully and with more love than you ever dream possible.

shalom,

cahl

I embark

I have put aside the autobiography for a time to work on something which has captured my attention as of late.  I am choosing 3 verbs from the English language beginning with A and ending with Z and writing a devotional idea to go with it.  Devotional can be no longer than 1 page and must tie biblically.  Here are the first 3 attempts.

Accentuate

“Accentuate the positive!”  The words ring out as shrilly as the platinum blonde bleached into her hair.  She punches the air, making sure the staccato beat of her platform heels is in perfect time.  She knows that to fool the masses, you have to make them look beyond what is really there.  Any good performer hones that skill from birth and to make a director’s head turn, you do what you can to make yourself stand out from the crowd and that is just what she is teaching these young ladies today.

“Backs straight, head held high, suck in the gut; never-ever reveal a weakness.”  The young ladies, all dozen of them hold their 9 year old heads a little higher and look down the line at one another, making sure they are just a bit straighter, a tad taller.  At the end of the line is a quiet brunette of slight frame, angelic demeanor, and quiet strength.  Instead of casting a glance down the line, she straightens a bit taller, closes her eyes and begins mouthing something to herself.

Perhaps it’s the litany of “Backs straight, head high, never a weakness.”  Maybe she can Ac-cen-tu-ate  pos-i-tive as she practices plies at the barre.  Whatever the reason, there is an assured look on her face, one of almost pure joy, in stark contrast to the other girls’ grimace of agony.  Madame’s pitch creeps higher and her heels pick up pace even faster.  Sweat breaks out on many faces and she screeches to wipe it off, “never let a judge see you as human.  You are more than human; you are super human—act like it!  20 more minutes!”

Up and down the line Madame shrieks louder and she stops dead in front of our quiet one and demands to know why she is smiling.  “You look like you are clueless, that is no way to push yourself to the top.  Always standing there, smug and quiet, you are so infuriating!  Why are you like that?  You know you will never rise to the top of the class and be a star without the killer instinct.  Rise higher, reach further, push, push, push.”

“I have been taught that our world looks at the outer package. We judge each other on how we dress, walk, talk, and how we attractive we are. I know in my heart that what is seen on the inside is more important than how I look on the outside to others.    I am of more worth than all the fake nails or high heels in the world.  The Creator of the Universe sees to the core of who I am, not who I pretend to be or what a director may think is acceptable for a show.  I tell myself each day I am here to accentuate the inside gold, not the outside fake.  That Creator gazes at you in that way too, Madame.  Accentuate your inside gold.  Push to the inner recess of your heart, accentuate that pure gold.”

1 Samuel 16:7

The Message (MSG)

7 But God told Samuel, “Looks aren’t everything. Don’t be impressed with his looks and stature. I’ve already eliminated him. God judges persons differently than humans do. Men and women look at the face; God looks into the heart.”

Adopt

They stare out from their secured cages, brought in on trucks or in cars.  They have been found on the streets, rummaging through garbage bins, wandering fields on their own, or a family finds they cannot support them any longer.  Whatever the reason, they watch the doorways, listen for footsteps, hope for a loving young girl or boy they can shower with love.  Maybe this group will be my forever home, maybe they will adopt me and make me part of their family.

Tails wag, mouths hang open, and barks escape as they paw at the metal fencing.  Dancing on all fours they hop up and down in anticipation.  “Pick me!  Pick me!”  Can you hear them?  “Please, please.  This is special adoption weekend.  Can you find a place in your home, your heart? Won’t you adopt me?  Chose me?”

The eyes tell the stories of some of them, the lives they have lived, and their past-the solitude of their journeys.  In compelling compassion they lock contact with you, gazing at you, begging in silence to deliver them for their present reality.   Feel the joyful energy coursing through them as you click a leash on their collar, interested enough to try for a walk around the facility.  See the prideful way they pick up their head, walk through the door and out into the sunshine.  Imagine the relief when they can call corner in your room home.

We don’t need to sit in cages and wait for a special weekend to be picked.  Our place at the table has already been set, it is waiting for us.  We have been adopted, ushered into a family without constraints, without ridicule, absent of cold or loneliness.  It is a place where we belong no matter how scrappy we look or how many miles we have traveled.  There is peaceful and comforting warmth which envelops us, if we are brave enough to embrace it.  The beauty of being adopted into this family is that it is royal.  We become sons and daughters of a King, a King of such radical love; we are incapable of describing it.  Our brothers and sisters of times past, present, and all future have also been adopted into the royal family.  The house is teeming with all ages, stages, hopes, dreams, and stories and all are accepted at the table.  There is always enough, more than enough of all that we dream.  There is more love than we can imagine, always more forgiveness, always.  There is no need to make ourselves noticed so that we will be chosen; we have been seen from the beginning-the adoption papers signed.  We belong just as we are, blameless and wonderfully created to love one another.  Imagine the joy in our Creator’s gaze as another brother or sister understands the comfort of waiting arms and runs to join the celebration already happening.

The celebration of your accepted invitation to be part of a whole family, anxious to know you, care for you, and love you; just as you are.  Come and rest.  Your searching is over and now you can breathe the sigh of relief, confident that you are where you belong.  It is a pleasure to welcome you home my brother, my sister, my friend.

But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.
1 Peter 2:8-10

Advocate

In the education circles the letters, IEP carry special significance.  Those parents whose children are on one also know the importance of those letters; they mean regular meetings, constant evaluations, and incessant conversations with teachers, administration, parents, and students.  Sometimes it seems a rat race of connections until that glimmer of hope peaks through a haze of confusion.  The onslaught of verbiage that only educationally trained people speaks.  Wading through the paperwork appears to be never-ending, as does the guilt that gnaws at the back of the mind.  “Am I the reason they have trouble reading?  Do I do something that makes it impossible for them to concentrate in school?  Are they doing this on purpose?  Who will know I failed?”

For the student, they are oblivious to the world of special education or an Individualized Education Plan.  All they may be aware is that some subjects in school may be more difficult than others, or that their attention span seems to tank around 2 o’clock in the afternoon.  They are unaware of the countless hours that moms, dads, grandparents, or other family members sacrifice in order to help them succeed.  A bag is magically packed and ready for the next day, homework is never tackled alone, and someone is always watching out for them.  They have no idea the conversations that take place over the phone, internet, or in person.  They never see the tears fall as their loved ones try every day to make today a bit easier than yesterday; never do they hear the inner voices screaming at those family members that this deficit is their fault-as if it could be blamed on someone or something.

While they remain unconscious to those moments, they are also naïve to the cheerleading and work that is done on their behalf.  Within mountains of paperwork and conversation and evaluation are people who are pulling for the success of that student.  They will join forces and stand strong to do whatever is necessary for that young person.  It may be as simple as helping to read for an extra half hour after supper, or as involved as assisting them in every area of life.  Whatever the case, the support exists and remains strong.

There are times though, when the hours are long for those fighting, when a blissful night off seems like the perfect respite.  Moments when the fight wares on the soul and the plea to be let off the hook feels like it falls on deaf ears.  There is One who hears, however.  One who chooses to stand in the midst of the fight and advocates on our behalf.        There is a constant who decided in the beginning that each life lived was worth the struggle and climbs into it with us, who will spend the extra moments in quiet prayer or tempered promotion.  The Creator who set all the stars in heaven believes that we are worth more than all creation combined and does not hesitate to enter our world and join us in whatever we may encounter.  Nothing is too large, no darkness too bleak, no amount of red tape and paperwork too daunting for the One who experienced life in all its mountain top and valley moments.   What appears overwhelming for us is a chance for the Creator to fight for and protect the beloved.  Like a mama bear protecting her cubs, we are fiercely loved and fiercely supported, by an advocate who continues to advocate on our behalf.

“As soon as Babylon’s seventy years are up and not a day before, I’ll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.
Jeremiah 29:9-11

Do you See what I SEE?

It begins at 6:30 am, 7:00 am-if I am lucky.  Up from his spot on the floor, because neither of my children will sleep in their own rooms, my oldest will jump up  and run tearing through the house, looking for the next sleeping victim to rip from their slumber.  Because the youngest is a nightowl, I am lucky to see sleep by midnight…Weary and bleary eyed, I listen to my oldest son scream at planes he has made the night before and turn the TV up louder than snoring can cover.  I sigh, knowing another day has begun.

I love my sons with all that I am.  I would do anything for them and will advocate and fight for and with them my whole life.  There is nothing that I would not do to make sure they grow to the men I pray they become.  I lay awake at night and wonder what more I can do, what more I can supply for both of them.  Often, I am left still wondering and hoping I am doing the right thing….whatever that means.

I watch and I listen.  I watch what I remember as my oldest was a baby  and he fussed and fussed, who would not let me put him down–who would not let me out of his sight the whole first year.  Who continued to grow into a toddler, with a verbal expression and physical control that amazed most people.  He was shooting baskets at 2 1/2 and speaking in full sentences.  I was astounded, and already tired.  Already full of energy, able to feel his way through situations, and with an intelligence that was evident, he hurled toward toddlerhood as I brought my youngest into the world.

The gloves were off, now I had an angry 3 year old coupled with a newborn I was nursing.  I was convinced I was gonna do this right!!  no matter what it cost me in sanity.  What is right, anyway?  My oldest was livid with me for daring to bring another into the family–so was my dog.  We had to let her go when I found her using my pillow on my bed as her personal toilet.–that’s another story.

My oldest hated that child and hated/loved me more fiercely than I had seen him.  Almost exclusively attached to me, I worked  hard for him to establish his independence, which he did–and he flourished.  Even bigger gains in intelligence and understanding took place, but the energy and activity level sky-rocketed to highs that saw him clawing at the window blinds and banging his head on the wall in anger and frustration.  THIS was my first born, the one who had been with me the longest…what had I done to him?  What had I not done for him?

I remember a day when he becme so angry at my youngest that he tried to attack him with a metal baseball bat….I stepped in between and took the bat swat from my son instead…I threw the bat away as soon as I was calm enough to gather my thoughts.  That day saw my son ripping curtains in his room and clawing at the walls….I still do not know what set him off, I don’t think I ever will.

Onto my lap I pulled him and set him so his back was against my chest and rocked him back and forth like I did when he was tiny….I whispered, I shushed, I sang, he was enraged.  He threw his head against my nose, heard it crack, and he laughed.  I fought back tears and forged on…I had to save my son.  That was the longest afternoon I remember, there have been others, but none when I have been so scared.  I will never forget that, yet I wonder, what did that moment say and do to my son?  I am not sure I will ever know.

Fast forward to school and 3 solid years of worry and fear.  Test after test after IEP meetings….NO!!! he is not special ed, not able to comply or function.  He is my son and he has a name.  PLEASE!  Won’t someone see the constant chewing of fingernails and any other non-food item….please someone advise me how to handle a passionate and strong young man full of energy that he appears like a tornado the moment he wakes up and sleeps only when his nighttime med allows his body to rest.

Someone please watch his face when he is frustrated with the fact he will never be perfect and he doesa not know how to reconcile that.  Tell me what I am supposed to say to my oldest who asks me to find a gun and kill him, or continue to bang his head against the all–with his fists, or whatever is handy.  Someone please tell me it is not because I am adopted or that I had medication when I carried him or that I have genetically passed something on to him…I know all of us want someone or something to blame when there are no answers, but someone please tell me this will resolve.

I continue to watch, to monitor.  My oldest would still like to “take out” his brother.  He has said horrendous things to me, has destroyed much of the furniture and his toys, and is still attached to me like none other.  He is also sweet and understanding of global pain and heartache.  He knows about prayer and God and creation and possesses a deep spirituality which he questions with logic and inquiry.  He is smarter than any person I know at that age, except maybe my older brother….his uncle.  He is compassionate to a fault, yet will turn around and without batting an eye will choke my youngest and throw him to the ground.  There are times I cannot get there in time….when my youngest will take matters into his own hands.  Sometimes I have to let it happen, sometimes I don’t know what to do.

I am not sure what I am seeking…maybe nothing.  Maybe I am just a tired old mom, who does not want to feel so old and tired at 37.  Maybe I just want breathing room or the chance to feel like it is not my fault or that I am walking on egg shells all the time.  Maybe I want to experience my son without a bated breath of what will happen next, maybe I just want to breathe—AND!  to use the bathroom all by myself 😉

The constant noise, onslaught of questions and need and emotion from this wonder of my son–it takes a toll.  I know there are other parents out there dealing with this….I know they are my age and younger.  If someone is out there reading this who is older–please listen and see!  Sometimes when they are telling you, I need a break, they are not making casual conversation.  There are times when the pressure and exhaustion of it all gets to be too much, yet most of us (women especially) will never say when it’s too much.  They will put their head down, swallow the fatigue and guilt, and march bravely on to the next day.  We will walk out to get the mail or take out the garbage and swipe at tears coursing down our cheeks, we will rejoice in silence of a grocery store trip alone, or blare the music on full blast and sing out frustration on the way home….BECAUSE we can and we HAVE to!  We look for excuses to extend a trip alone a bit longer, when sitting with people who are older and kind and wise mean more than we can articulate.  When the idea of sleeping the day away sounds like heaven on earth.

Please, See what I see..hear what I hear…Please?

shalom,

cahl.

boundaries that bind

 

There are times that the phrase “It is what it is”, angers me to no end.  True, there is an element of release and freedom in that, but there also remain a certain resignation to it.  Does something have to be what it is?    I realize this may be a way existential question for the early morning, but since I am still “Waiting for Godot”, I assume some will let me play with that pun.

I was in a situation recently where i watched an argument ensue over something petty and silly.  I watched and I listened and I recalled all the moments I might have engaged in a similar fashion.  Watching this from a removed position provided me a bit of clarity.  “This argument would be happening whether I was present or not.  These people would be tossing around angry words and frustration no matter the circumstance or who happened to be standing there.”  How liberating for me!  How sad for them.

I wanted to jump in and rescue the conversation, to somehow fix the situation and smooth over the tension.  It was not my place.  That is a difficult moment of understanding, it makes me think of why I would be motivated to fix it.  Are my motives pure?  Do I really want to ease the tension or do I simply want to feel better in this moment?  Would  my assistance make the situation better or worse, and for whom?  Again, these are hard questions with which I wrestle, and I am not sure to what end.

I will say that watching that interaction provided my first AHA moment in a long time.  I remembered thinking that if this would be happening with or without me, then maybe much of what I based my perceptions on were false.  Yowch.  Could it be that what I took on as blame had absolutely nothing to do with me?  If that is true, what do I do with my recent discovery?

A little over a year ago I sat with my full adoption report from the state where I was adopted.  I saw all the narratives about my early months, know all the information about my biological parents, saw the reports surrounding my birth, life, and placement in a foster family, and finally–my adoption.  To say that this was the hardest read in my life would be an understatement.  I looked at it in the first week that I had it and have not referred to it since then.  There is a section in it that describes what an adoptive family would want in a baby, more specifically, the baby they would want to adopt. I smile as I read the wishes and hopes…and then my smile faded as I realize the baby that was described was the opposite of me.  The traits and personalities desired did not match up with what I was told was true of me.  The wishes would never realized in and through me.  I was and am not a calm and quietly complacent person with a lily-white past from biological parents who were simply not able to care for a baby at the time.  In fact, the opposite is true.  I remember reading that description and feeling ashamed–feeling like I had let down the family who did decide to adopt me, guilty that I could never be a pocketful of wishes that any parent would want.  I am what I am, I was what I was, and I can’t change that.

Reading those words hurt like so many knives in my chest, knowing what parents wanted and what I was and the fact they would never match is quite burdensome.  the questions bombarded my head.  Did I waste 37 years trying  to be something or someone I could never be?  Probably.  Did I push and push and push myself to fit a mold that was never cut for me?  Definitely.  Would my adoptive family looked and treated one another differently had I been more of some and less of other?  More than likely.  Can I change it now?  Not for all the money in the world.  Would I change it if I could?  Quite possibly.  Does the answer to the last question hurt worse after admitting it?  Most assuredly.

The moment of that fight mentioned earlier and the descriptions I read a year ago play into each other.  They both could serve to further bind and weigh me down, or I could look at them from the inverse.  ( think all your training on inverse fractions here)  Could I turn the concept on its opposite end and embrace a different answer?  I admit, I loathe math with every fiber of my being….but once I learned inverse fractions and grasped the ease of flipping at least one element, it sure made solving the problem 100% easier.  I could actually solve the problem instead of banging my head against my math book.  Once I learned them, I got along  happily with them and enjoyed working the problems.  NOT that I would embrace pages of them today, however.

That long diatribe on inverse fractions is to say that I am beginning to toy with the inverse of reactions.  Do I need to continue to punish myself for what I could not be–do I ignore the fighting that had nothing to do with me?  Am I ready to consider new boundaries that allow me room to move without guilt and shame?  Am I ready to embrace a blanket of health that covers function rather than dysfunction?  Although the latter feels safer and more what I recall, the inverse provides more room.  Am i ready to clip the ties of bound guilt and fear?    Only my reactions will tell.

Shalom dear ones,

cahl.

 

Hiccup

I cannot tell you what my early home life was like.  I know few specifics and those that I do know are not the most pleasant.  It seems that multiple generations lived in my home and the family connections were not the strongest.  State adoption records shed some light on a few specifics.  The department of social services mentioned involvement with my biological family dating back two years before my birth and that a sister had also had a baby and placed it up for adoption just before my birth.  When I look at the black and white facts surrounding my early days I feel conflicted.  On one hand I see in print the back and forth condition to which I was subjected.  Direct record documentation states, “Her mother had her for fourteen days and then requested that we place her in foster care.  She remained in foster care for twenty-five days, four days of which were spent in the hospital as a result of severe diarrhea.  She was then returned home to her natural mother who then placed her back in foster care ten days later after failing to assume the responsibilities of her child.  She remained in foster care for two months when her mother requested her return for the third time.  After caring for the child for twenty-four hours, the natural mother asked that we take permanent custody of the child.”  By February 1975 all parental rights of my natural mother and all alleged fathers was terminated.

This is only a hiccup of chapter 2….i am purposely not posting in any order, but taking a paragraph here and there in an effort to elicit some response.  Feeling weird as I have received no response….not sure if I keep writing or bag it since there are no comments….dunno.  Then again, a writer must write, so maybe I do not publish any more paragraphs…maybe no one is interested….who knows?

Shalom,

cahl

A snippet of Chp 1

Physically I was a small child; records show that I was also a sick child, with a tendency for bad stomachs and not keeping food down.  As a result, by the time I was six months old I had not gained much weight and it appeared I was anemic.  Research shows that for premature babies, the catch up rate for growth can be well past twelve years for some systems and organs.  If that is true, then some of the early difficulty I had in comprehension and agility was simply my body trying its hardest to catch up with the other systems.  The lack of coordination, walking on tiptoes, clumsy young toddler that I was could have been trying my hardest to make sense out of what was foreign.  To be honest, I still do not cut with any great precision, and I have given up caring.

What I do understand now is the inner workings of the human body.  It takes concentrated time and effort to create such delicate and intricate pieces of art.  The more I watch my own children, the more I understand that this work, premature or not, could not have happened by accident or mere coincidence.  The timetable may look different in every case, but the beauty of the inner soul and spirit contained in human flesh is a mystery I will never fully understand.  This realization has been long in coming, thirty-seven years and two children long, in fact.

 

The above couple of paragraphs are from Chp 1 of my writing…thoughts, questions, comments? Leave it as you wish–or not.

Shalom indeed,

cahl

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