Writing used to be cathartic, therapeutic.
If necessary, I’d write in the middle of the night.
For the last few months, I’ve struggled to force it. Until this week, the reluctance to record has baffled me.
I don’t easily admit, even to myself, “I have a problem.”
As you may know, the last 6.5 years have been a true roller coaster. When I scrolled through a few posts from a couple years ago, I read HOPE. I read PROGRESS. And I realized
I’ve been living the last few months in 3D.
But not the thrilling “let’s see a movie with those fun glasses” 3D.
Discouraged. Depressed. Distracted.
These three D words have ruled my life of late—and I didn’t even realize until now.
I drive Hubby a little nuts sometimes. I am the Optimist who makes everyone roll eyes at least once in our friendship.
Hitting every red light? Maybe God knows if we get to point X in ten minutes, we’d be crushed by a falling tree. He’s slowing us down on purpose.
Traffic is at a standstill because a tree is blocking the road? Well, thank goodness it didn’t crush us.
Cashier had a horrible attitude? Maybe she just found out her mom has cancer.
Lost that job (this has happened to both Hubby and me)? God’s got a plan. We’ll be fine.
I have an immune disorder? (This one took a few months to find silver lining…) Well, I guess this will force me to take better care of myself.
Our boy is in residential treatment? This will give me the ability to focus most of my attention on helping our daughter excel in school.
Give me your worst scenario and I can find a silver lining or a probable reason it can all turn out for good. It’s a gift and a curse, because sometimes I can come across as flippant, but I generally have this belief that God will work it all out in the end.
I’ve always applied this belief to our kids. I still believe.
But this boy is wearing me out.
He doesn’t seem to care about coming home.
I’m resigned to the knowledge that he’s not coming home anytime soon. And that even if/when he does come home, it’s likely many of our dreams for him will never happen.
All that is okay, but without even realizing, I’ve become discouraged.
The discouragement has pressed down on my soul for weeks. They say expectations are the death of everything. Our lives would be better without the word “should” in our vocabulary.
Unmet expectations destroy relationships. Bring destruction to the best-laid plans. Decimate optimism.
Underneath it all, here’s the narrative my heart wrote when we brought these two kids into our home:
Siblings experience trauma and too many re-homing disruptions until they are 5 and 7. At that time, they find stability with a loving couple who provide them with everything they need. Although the first year is terrible, subsequent years grow easier and within three years, they are well-adjusted, happy, bright, inquisitive children in love with learning about the world around them. The entire family enjoys traveling, playing together and finding ways to help others. When the kids turn 10 and 12, the family travels to Peru on a missions trip, where the children are thrilled to bring love to others who may have had an even tougher early life than the one they experienced.
I have recently confronted this narrative I didn’t even know was lurking under the surface of my thoughts.
This is not our story.
Right now, our girl is flourishing, although she periodically reminds me (usually when I praise her for progress) that “it’s all still in there, in my head. It might come back.” And it might, but we’re prepared.
Our son has been in residential treatment since October 1 and shows no sign of wanting to come home. Although I do understand that trauma played its ugly part, on some level he’s choosing this.
In recent conversations, he’s informed us that he wants to stay at the center because they “let us watch lots of TV and you don’t” and he likes to play basketball. Ironically, when they have gym time, he usually plays in a corner by himself—something he can easily do at home with our hoop. (His TV complaint…totally valid. Not going to change.)
He also informed us that he sees the situation in the following light:
You’re putting in a lot of effort, and I’m not putting in any effort.
At least he’s honest.
The death of my narrative has depressed me more than I was able to acknowledge until now.
Discouragement and depression are not my usual modus operandi. I’ve felt a dissonant fracture within…and been unwilling to address it.
Giving me relief for a short time: Once Upon a Time, a series about happy endings.
I’m a sucker for fairy tales rewritten, as well as pirates in leather and guyliner. Win-win.
The show is true Brain Candy; almost a soap opera with fairies. And SOOOOOOO distracting.
As I watched Emma Swan learn to BELIEVE, there was no room for discouragement or depression.
As Regina the Evil Queen became my favorite character (the reason for her Evilness was underlying trauma and heartache), I forgot my own heartache.
Finally realized I had a problem.
Hubby went on a business trip and I watched the series until 3 am.
Used the Netflix app to watch in my spare moments.
And I didn’t really want anyone else to know, which was my first clue I needed to quit.
The second clue? Realizing I’d burned through hours of the show, time I could have used for…ANYthing else.
Sometimes I’m a little slow, but when I finally get it, I get it.
This week, I faced my 3D life.
I listened to an audio version of the Bible to fight the Discouragement (audible.com is fabulous—and no, they don’t pay me to say it).
I admitted to Hubby that I’ve been dealing with Depression lately. He’s incredibly supportive, giving lots of hugs (my favorite) and a package of amazing cupcakes (my less healthy favorite).
My Distracting Netflix app went the way of Candy Crush (an earlier addiction I needed to delete from my phone).
And now, I’m ready to go
Discouragement, Depression and Distraction will always be with me, but I’m also
I’m sure the 3 D-words will sneak up on me from time to time, but I’m Determined to stand my ground.
Letting go of “my” narrative will likely be a battle I fight for the rest of my life. Remaining vigilant and keeping myself focused won’t be easy.
Admitting my flaws and weaknesses is always frightening, but one of the great lessons in Once Upon a Time is this: your flaws hurt you when you try to hide them. Out in the open, they simply make you human.
Our son described us to his counselor as “The Grizzly and the Pit Bull.” Hubby is the Grizzly Bear, fiercely protective of our family. I’m the Pit Bull, ferociously hanging on to keep us together and make sure the kids get whatever services they need.
This week, I live in 4D.
New International Reader’s Version (NIRV)
So put on all of God’s armor. Evil days will come. But you will be able to stand up to anything. And after you have done everything you can, you will still be standing.
*Verse from BibleGateway.com
This week, Richard was kind enough to allow me to interview him about adoption. His candor and willingness to dig deep are impressive. You’re going to love him.
So, tell me a little about your adoption.
I was adopted domestically when I was three days old.
You have an adopted sibling, correct?
My parents adopted my brother when he was about a month old. We’re not biological siblings. We didn’t really get along, growing up, and aren’t very close now. He’s six years older.
How would you describe your parents’ relationship with each other?
They are loyal and loving to each other. My mother has a more dominant personality than my father. I never saw them fight and my father instilled a high standard of patience and love.
How would you describe your relationship with your parents?
Mostly good. When you grow up you learn how to do deal with people’s personalities in healthier ways. My mom tends to be passive-aggressive and avoid hard things. I discovered it really affected me growing up and I had to grow out of some of these behaviors.
I think our differences have to do with the major personality differences between us. They are introverts, and I am definitely an extrovert. They are completely happy to live simple lives. I need a bit of chaos and want to change the world.
I’m doing my best to learn to nurture these relationships in a healthy way.
What are some of the things they really “got right” as they parented?
I was always loved, always safe, always fed. Most of the time, they listened to me and encouraged me. I think the best things they did in regards to adoption is that my parents told me since I was young that I was adopted but treated me like I was no different than if I was their own son.
What do you wish they’d done differently?
I wish they pushed me a little harder. I really struggled with Anxiety and ADD and I felt like I lost so much time.
As I grew up, I had to discover that I needed distraction and some form of chaos, I am a very passive person, and really know how to hold on to my emotions, but I only felt alive when something was wrong or needed to be fixed.
I also should have been sent to an adoption counselor at a young age. I didn’t seem unhappy and back then we didn’t have studies or people like you addressing these issues I was safe, but I didn’t feel safe. I always had this feeling, “everyone will leave me.” I couldn’t identify where the feelings came from.
This may be more biological but my depression wasn’t everything is awful. More like “everything is boring.” Nothing seemed fun, nothing seemed pretty. Maybe I was a good actor. I never lashed out with it and I tried to be a good kid, but I was really hurting inside.
Are you close with your wife’s family?
My wife’s mom is one of the most amazing and supportive people I’ve ever met. She calls me and tells me she’s proud of me.
Do you want contact with your birth family?
Yes and no. I’d like some closure, but I don’t want to disrupt anyone’s life (more than I did twenty-some years ago). I do look to see if anyone is searching for me, specifically my mother.
I check adoption finder websites about once a year. She knew my name so I don’t think it would be difficult to find me. I found her last name through some people I met on forums who have access to that kind of information I’ve looked up the name on Facebook to see if anyone looked like me. Doing this isn’t very productive. 🙂
What are your thoughts on adoption, in general?
The definition of mercy is: “compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.” I think this is what adoption is. It’s not always pretty and will be a challenge, but you are doing a thing that most people are not able to do.
My biological mother chose the hard way to deal with an unwanted pregnancy and knew she could not care for me. My parents chose to take me in and take care of me.
If you had a magic wand to “fix the system,” what would you do?
Identifying the physiological issues and perhaps behavioral issues that adoptees face. I like what we are seeing in the advancement of identifying of some of the issues involved. I think the adoption process should include mandatory counseling.
How do you define yourself?
I think I have a gift of being both technical and creative. I can identify challenges at work and home and address them. I can think clearly in emotional situations. I thrive in exciting situations.
Did you ever feel different, being adopted?
I felt different because I wasn’t anything like my parents. My example of who I should be was much different then who I was. Growing up I didn’t accept me for me. I needed to be like THEM.
I didn’t link it to adoption, but I never felt like I fit in with my friends, either. I always felt left out. I was surrounded by people but incredibly lonely.
“Surrounded by people but incredibly lonely;” I think that describes my kiddos to a T. In fact, last night, my son told me no one in his class likes him. By their positive reactions when he walks into the room, I know many of them like having him there, but his perception is that they don’t. As a mother, how can I help him?
That’s tough, because you’re the mom. Honestly I’d open up to them. Tell them what you struggle with and how you overcome it. I think all this work you are doing is going to help tremendously. You’re recognizing that adoption isn’t simple.
Do you feel there are struggles specific to adopted children? How can we address those?
Definitely. We need to help adoptees understand who they are to address the issues they’re experiencing. We need to accept that they’re different from their adopted parents. Don’t just assume they’re “okay” and don’t try to force them into a mold.
What do you think you really “got right” as you grew up?
I lived to have fun but tried to stay out of trouble. As a kid, I was hyper, but I was kind.
What do you wish you had done differently?
I wish I treated my ADD and depression earlier in life. I wish I used that time that I wasted on art. I just feel like I lost so much time.
If you have the opportunity to adopt, do you think you’ll do it?
Perhaps. I don’t know. I won’t walk into it blindly.
What advice would you give adoptive parents and adopted children?
Parents, you should definitely love your children as your own, but also accept that they are different. Encourage them to follow their interests. Pay attention to them, but don’t smother them. Don’t keep adoption information from your child.
Adoptees, it’s okay to feel different. Explore your gifts. Seek help when you need it. Don’t act out in anger. You’re going to be angry at some point, but you need to identify why. Use that emotion to fuel your gifts. Learning who you are may be challenging, but remember that you’re never alone.
Richard is in his late twenties and works in digital media. He and his lovely wife have been married almost three years. They live in California with their pets, a dog and a cat.
A child who is allowed to be disrespectful to his parents will not have true respect for anyone. – Billy Graham
Our girl is incredibly stubborn.
I realize that this quality will serve her well as she grows older and learns to use it in appropriate ways. For now, it’s just plain annoying.
If you’ve been reading Adoption = for any amount of time, you may have already noticed that I am also incredibly stubborn. I plan to win this daily show-down, but not for the sake of the bragging rights. Eyes on the prize…which is: Future Her, a successful, well-adjusted contributor to society.
We discussed, recently, how her current behavior would translate if she magically became an immediate adult.
Her take: “I’d probably end up in jail or homeless because I don’t want to do what anyone tells me, so I would get fired from my job and if I can’t pay for my house I’d have to sleep in a box and then I would have no money for food and I’d steal food and then finally they’d put me in jail for stealing so I’d be in jail for a long, long time.”
It took everything I had not to crack up at her catastrophizing. (Spell check does not like this word, but for the record, it exists. See here.) For those who do not while away your spare time with a leisurely reading of the DSM V, catastrophizing refers to a person’s tendency to view everything as much worse than it is in reality.
For instance: “I’m out of milk. Oh, no! What if a stray kitten shows up on my doorstep today? It will probably be too young to eat solids, and I won’t have anything to give it. The little kitten will die right here in my kitchen, mewling and piteous. I’m sure Nancy from next door will stop by just then, see the horribly starved kitten, call the animal police and then the Animal Planet channel and I will be carted off to jail for animal abuse, and Animal Planet will film the whole thing and everyone in the world will watch and think I’m just awful and I’ll rot in prison for something I didn’t even do!”
I’m aware that catastrophizing can be a symptom of depression, and as she’s on medication to help her focus (depression can be a side effect), I keep the proverbial ear pricked for any signs of real trouble. Yesterday, I worried.
For several months, her ability–rather, willingness–to wash and brush her hair has fluctuated wildly. It’s not for lack of education; I’ve showed her many times and even done it for her. When clean, her hair is beautiful, and she begged me to let her grow it out long. Our agreement: as long as she takes care of it, she can keep it long, If not, we’re cutting it off, because she is getting old enough to take care of it herself (and we’re getting to the pre-teen phase…I feel a little awkward helping her with a shower. She reminds me, “we’re both girls,” but still).
The last few weeks have been one battle after another. She acknowledges she just doesn’t want to listen. “I want to do what I want to do.” At least she’s honest.
Finally, I realized that the “your hair is a mess!” issue is just one more clash we don’t need. Threatening to do something about it had no effect; in fact, I’m pretty sure she was leaving soap in her hair on purpose, making her hair look greasy and stringy. So yesterday, we went for a haircut. I planned to have it cut just above her shoulders, thinking it would be enough of a change to let her know I wasn’t kidding, but not enough to derail her plans to grow it out.
As I paged through the “Family and Children” hairstyle example book, she asked what I was doing. “Looking for a hair length. It’s easier if the hairdresser has a picture of what you want.” Ever pushing to be in charge, she began pointing. “Not that one. Or that one. Or that.” I gently removed her hand and said, “Thanks, I’ll pick it this time. I’m looking for something you can handle, so keeping it nice won’t be so hard.” I continued flipping pages, and she again leaned across me. “THAT ONE!” She pointed to a boy-short pixie cut. Surprised, I agreed that it would look cute. The hairdresser walked around the corner just then, and our girl said, “I want this haircut.”
Shrugging, I handed the book to the lady. “If that’s what you want.” Much shorter than anything I would have chosen, but a whole lot less trouble.
We left the salon, holding hands across the parking lot (she really did look adorable). I said, “Your hair looks super cute. I’m surprised, though, that you wanted it that short. I was just going to have them cut it to your shoulders.” I was suddenly halted as she came to a stop, jerking my arm.
She glowered. “WHAT?”
I tugged her toward the truck. “What’s wrong?” Climbing in, she said, “You didn’t tell me you were only going to cut some of it.” I was confused. “Didn’t you see the pictures in the book? I was looking at medium length pictures. You said you want to grow it out, so I thought we could just cut off a few inches to make it more manageable, and hopefully by the time it got longer you’d be ready to take care of your hair.”
She huffed, clipping her seatbelt. “Well. I wish you’d told me before I picked this one. So I didn’t have to cut it this short?”
I pushed that giggle down, down deep as understanding came clear. Her desire to control the situation had just backfired badly, and she’d just realized what she’d done.
I still thought the haircut was super cute. “You didn’t give me a chance, and you said you wanted that particular haircut. In fact, you were so definite about it, I thought I’d just let you have what you wanted.” Under-breath-grumbling sounded from the backseat. I smiled. “Don’t worry. It’s cute. And you can still grow your hair out; it will just take longer.”
She grumped, “Well. I’m probably not going to be around for that.”
My radar pinged. “Around for what?”
“I’m not going to live that long, so I might as well just keep my hair short.”
Trying not to display the concern I felt, I asked, “Oh? What do you mean?”
She was silent for a few moments, then said, “Well, there’s that Bible verse about if you honor your father and mother, you’ll live a long life.” Ah. So the conversation last week about Deuteronomy 5:16 and Ephesians 6:2 hadn’t fallen on completely deaf ears. Still, I didn’t want to dismiss the comment completely. “So, why do you think you won’t be around?”
She said, “Well, if the verse says you have to respect your parents to live a long life, I probably won’t live that long because I won’t listen to you. And if I had listened I would still have my hair.”
I nodded. “The good news is, since the promise is ‘respect equals a long life,’ all you have to do is make a decision to ‘honor your parents.’ Sounds pretty easy, don’t you think?”
She slouched further in her seat. “Nah.”
On a side note, I’m rewriting Psalm 23: “Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of Adolescence, I will fear no evil…”
Image from Google Images
My most-prized possession is silver, but I don’t actually have it.
You were born in 1915, a boy raised mostly by your mother and aunt, something of an oddity in the early 1900’s. You grew up in the Dakota Territory. The Great War, later known as World War 1, began the year before you were born. As a four year old, you watch soldiers begin their return. Ten years later, the world collapses. Men throw themselves from buildings in despair.
The adults attempt to shield you, but the radios play on, and you hear everything. The Depression begins; most of your friends’ parents have no work, no money, no future. At fourteen, you determine to stay alive, to keep afloat, to win.
You are fascinated with anything that flies. In the thirty years since the Wright Brothers’ famous 1903 flight, everything has changed. Planes, gliders and airships access the clouds. The Hindenburg comes to New Jersey. You listen in fascination, then horror, as announcers describe the scene in detail. Beautiful airship, burned. Destroyed. Decimated. You are twenty-two.
You and your friend decide to build a plane. The two of you drag pieces of crashed planes to the barn. You accumulate new parts, fabric and wood. Hard work pays dividends, and before long, you are stretching fabric and painting dope. When the test run is successful, you are ecstatic. On many following weekends, the two of you fly, exhilarated by the freedom. Kids and adults wave as your shadow passes. On Sunday mornings, you buzz the church, laughing to think of the startled parishioners inside.
You began flying for fun, but find ways to earn money. The Depression, if it comes again, will not take you. World War II arrives, and you begin training pilots, but thankfully you never have to fight.
PanAm hires you as a pilot. You meet the man who will remain your best friend until his death forty years later. You are dashing in your uniform, and you steal my grandmother’s heart and marry her.
You fly the Avianca route to Columbia, always returning with dozens of yellow roses, her favorite. Through the 1950’s and 60’s, you fly. You are a spectacular pilot.
Then, it’s over. You retire. Ever the entrepreneur, you buy land with your best friend and start a cattle ranch in the Mid-West. You take me to the cattle auction and save my hand from being crushed against a fence by errant hindquarters. I stand in your pickup truck, holding the dash, as we bounce through the sun-dappled fields. We eat vanilla ice cream and watch the sun set. We are best buds. I think you hang the stars.
We move away. My Grandmother passes. I worry about you and miss you terribly. I grow up. You grow old, but always independent, you sell the ranch and buy a 5th wheel. You and your brown Dodge visit most of the lower 48 states and Mexico. You send chocolate from Mexico.
Your best friend dies, asking you to take care of his wife. The two of you marry, for convenience, I think, but then I watch you fall in love. She becomes Grandma, and I love her. I begin college, and you both volunteer at the school. I spend as much time with you as I can, ecstatic to have you nearby. I am not thrilled to find you on the roof, replacing shingles in the summer sun, but you are nonchalant. Silver hair means nothing.
You retire, again, to the Mid-West. My grandma is often confused, and a stable environment will be better. You move to an apartment in a retirement community, caring for her yourself.
You continue to amaze me. I visit as often as possible, which is not often enough. We eat shrimp for dinner and ice cream for dessert. We look at old photos and walk out to check your monster tomatoes. We are best buds. I still think you hang the stars.
You have a silver plaque from Avianca. Every time I visit, you tell me stories of flying. You point to the plaque and grin. I love the silver plaque, not because it is beautiful, although it is. I love what it does to your face. Your eyes have a sparkle borrowed from decades before. Years melt away as you regale me with tales of last-minute landings and engine malfunctions; these stories always end well. You are forever my hero.
You are in heaven now, retired for the third and final time at age 97. I don’t know where your plaque ended up, and to be honest, it doesn’t really matter. Every time I think of it, I remember your face, your joy, your exuberance. My most treasured item is actually not the the silver plaque, but what it represents. My heritage: your indomitable spirit, your determination, your drive, your joy, your love for God and your concern for every human in your life. I want to be like you, to make you proud.
P. S. I saw that a new star was discovered in March. Pretty sure God let you hang that one.
All pictures found on Google Images.