After the pithy night of paper rain dances at the hookah night club on Saturday, I was moved to think about my life up to this point and how glad I am that it’s changing. In Why this Life is Awesome, I found myself looking back at versions of my former self, appreciating her and happily running toward the new me.
The reality is that my existence as ABM is really, very new; heck, I am practically an infant! I can’t even claim the 1:7 dog year conversion, here. I’m wet behind the ears and have milk on my new mom breath. So that brings me to a contrasting post on why life is also really miserable at the moment.
The adoption process is an odd thing. It’s exciting and joyous and reflective and forward looking and deeply personal and really exposing. It’s a growth phase that is transformational. It’s emotionally draining and exhausting and devastating and it makes you question your capacity and your heart’s true desires.
It can make you doubt yourself in ways that can be almost self-loathing.
It can make you as sensitive as a snake having just shed its skin or as terrified as a chipmunk knowingly being eyeballed by the snake that just shed its skin. It can be so isolating and so lonely because you can’t bear to tell anyone how rough the transition really is because you don’t really believe they will understand or relate or even believe that what you are experiencing is even close to reality.
It’s just a constant exercise in enduring emotional upheaval. Some days in the midst of such rainbow sparkly super-awesomeness you find yourself in a really dark place, pondering whether the adoption boogey-man is around the corner.
(I have no idea what or who the boogey-man is, but I’m convinced that he’s out there somewhere wreaking adoption havoc. I know because I see it in other bloggers’ posts as well as my own. Eff you, adoption boogie-man…)
Meltdown triggers are all over the place, sometimes you know where they are, and sometimes it’s a surprise for EVERYONE experiencing the moment.
And so learning to apologize becomes a bigger part of life. You need a dump truck to carry the loads humility that you actually need, but often you’re so wired and hurt and angry and frustrated and BLAH that you can only manage a teaspoon of humility and grace and you just dig your heels in and refuse to apologize or play fair.
The need to learn who is safe to confide in and who isn’t and whether folks are switching up those roles is a hard fought lesson to learn but one that’s critical to your very survival. Some people around you are struggling to figure out their new roles and how that role fits in with all you’ve got going on; your heart breaks because sometimes these folks catch the worst of your messiness even though everyone is fair game for your misery-induced exploits.
A constant sense of defensiveness looms because you just don’t know when the next comment that feels like judgment about your decision-making or just your experience in general is going to emerge. Some slights are entirely imagined, and yet you just go off the deep end anyway only to have to bob back to shore and find a humble pie to nosh on.
There is a prickly annoyance on some days when someone just says just add prayer and stir when what you feel like you really need/want is a serious, “Hey God, we need to have a sit-down, holla at you moment,” like the one in the book of Job or you need a burning bush experience like Moses, all lit up brighter than a Christmas tree. Prayer while awesome seems so woefully inadequate even when it might be the only thing you’re capable of doing with some degree of sanity. Oh Lord, hear my cries.
God help you if you are naturally a high achieving, control freak like me. I have so little control over anything; some of the control I voluntarily laid down, other aspects of my autonomy seem to be wrested from me by a WWE primetime wrestler who cracked a chair over my back. Failing is supposed to be a healthy complement to achieving, but the truth is it feels like crap. I should add that one’s definition of failure can also become so skewed that it’s probably meaningless.
You thirst for encouragement and support just like you were stranded in the desert without food or water for days. “A good job,” “atta girl/guy,” or “you’re doing great” can be enough to cling to for a week because you just needed some affirmation that you aren’t screwing up. Sometimes you just need someone to say, I hear you and I affirm what you’re saying without any additional commentary. That’s all you need to help dry the tears in that moment.
You create scenarios in your mind practicing how to react more appropriately when someone says something shady so that you don’t go all Dexter on them. Never mind that your kid may be practicing the same scenarios.
You grimace in actual physical pain every time someone say something about how lucky your trauma surviving, grief consumed, loss-experiencing kid is to have you. It’s a complement but folks don’t understand that you are really the lucky one, even on the days when luck seemed to have taken a hard left somewhere in the Artic on the way to your house.
You create coping mechanisms like my sorting strategy, “Am I going to die charging up a mountain on this issue or am I’m going to die walking in a parking lot on this issue? I refuse to die in a parking lot so I’ve got to let that issue go.”
You engage in controlled cries. You engage in out-of-control cries. My own love of handkerchiefs has only deepened during this year.
Hear me well, this is hands down the best time in my life. I’ve grown more than I knew was possible, but it was fast and painful. I’m a frigging basket case. I’m so ridiculously happy about Hope. I try to focus on what life is going to be like when she arrives here for her extended visit. I live for discovering what life will be like when she moves in for good. She and I are becoming peas in a pod. We click. I get her. It’s all this other crap in the roux that I don’t get, that I struggle and wrestle with. It’s hard. And I don’t even know yet if or how hard it might be when she is permanently placed. Haven’t really a clue.
And every moment isn’t consumed by darkness, but the darkness is present, sometimes in the background like an operating system. It’s just there, intermingled with unspeakable joy and happiness. I see other bloggers and sometimes the darkness lifts and fades far away as time passes and everything and everyone gets settled. For others it lingers as families deal with things like oppositional-defiance or reactive attachment disorders.
Adoption is a wonderful, magical choice and I am so glad I’m on this journey. It is both sweet and bitter. I’m still running towards this next chapter and all that is unknown about it. But some days it’s a dark, rocky, lonely place.
So, in honor of National Adoption Month, go out, hug an adoptive parent, affirm their choices, build-them up, listen when they need to cry or vent or just cry some more. Listen to their amazing stories of their amazing kids. If they look like something the cat coughed up, offer to take their beloved little one(s) to the Baskin Robbins for 45 minutes so they have a little bit of time to just get themselves together. You might do that for your friends with bio kids, think about offering for your adoptive friends and family too. Give them a call to just check in on them because they may not be asking for the support they need to hold it together. Learn about support structures and how you can be an adoption ally. Trust them to make good choices for the kids they chose to love, and recognize that you don’t know all the deets for their situation that led to their seemingly draconian decisions, and no matter how close you are, it isn’t really your business to know anyway. Don’t say any of this stuff; really, just don’t go there. Forgive us when we are inelegant and sharp in response to well-intended feedback, advice or commentary because we may have just been bombarded with 12 other opinions. Know that we are so happy you are walking this journey with us; we need you more than you know. We longed for this path to parenthood, but we might never have imagined all the emotional space junk that comes along with it.
So there you have it. My adoption public service announcement.
I feel compelled to again say, in spite of all of this, this is the best time in my life. I would immediately do it all again for nights like last night when Hope said I was her mom. There are still many Best. Days. Ever.