Category Archives: Other Stuff

Fragile

Everyday I set a couple of small goals for Hope: help me with making dinner, going for a walk, showering and getting dressed. It is not easy, but most days we achieve one or two goals on the path towards healing from the trauma of the summer and early fall. Naturally, some days are better than others, but there is an element of “pulling teeth” to everyday.

This week I acknowledged to myself that juggling work full-time and a heightened level of care-giving is hard. Actually hard is an understatement. My job takes its own emotional toll on me, and this year that toll has been extraordinarily high. Racialized social unrest in a pandemic during an election year is like the worst of the perfect storms for folks like me who do diversity work. I usually am able to compartmentalize some things, but this year–really where was I going to compartmentalize my own emotion? Under the kitchen sink? I upped my therapy to weekly, figured out my preferred strains of cannabis that would help me relax a bit and cope and increased my exercise. I knew that my rope was frayed, but I felt like I wrapped around a little duct tape and was able to keep going.

Then things hit the skids with Hope, and everything has felt like a house of cards built on a seesaw for a couple of months now. At first I could busy myself with the immediate task of pulling together the medical and mental health teams (part of which involved securing a new psychiatrist who does not take our insurance). I’m actually not bad in crisis–I can clearly identify what needs to be done, so I got to doing those things.

Work continued to be demanding, and I began making a cake nearly every 4 or so days because: EATING MY FEELINGS. I tried to pull back on a few projects, and set better boundaries. My evenings became devoted trying to cook better meals, spend quality time with Hope and Yappy and trying to create some sense of normalcy in the midst of what is becoming the worst time in my life.

My own light began to dim a couple of weeks before the election. The idea that that Orange Demon could possibly win began to set in, and I had a harder time managing my anxiety. I took up crocheting a few months ago and I just started trying to focus on that. The COVID cases began to rise and the hopes of visiting my family for Thanksgiving started to fall. I started baking, crushing chicken figures like I was a toddler and throwing myself into dealing with Hope’s challenges. I started feeling just too tired to get my 13.5K steps everyday. It became hard to answer any phone call that wasn’t work related. I tried to pull it together. I bought a new desk, since it’s clear I won’t be in the office anytime soon. I became consumed with rehabbing an office chair I bought second hand (I ended up just running out to buy a new chair this morning), Amazon started making more frequent deliveries as well.

I could and can feel my depression and anxiety is at an all time high; I also feel like there was and is pitifully little I can do about it.

Hope began to make baby steps forward on her journey, and that was the only bright light.

And then both of our bad days collided. On the weekends, I try to plan several activities to get us out and about (safely of course). Last week we went to a farm and did some shopping. We got some fresh fruit and veggies, fresh pressed apple cider, jam and honey sticks. Everything was delicious and it set us up for a few good eats during the week. Hope wanted to go back this weekend, but I found another farm for us to visit that had more things (fresh ice cream!) to enjoy. We’re supposed to visit today.

But yesterday, I struggled. I keep crying for no reason. I was fixated on the stupid office chair, and I was furiously crocheting Yappy a 2nd new sweater. I was am emotionally exhausted, which makes me feel physically exhausted. Yesterday’s goal was to go on a short family walk. The walk happened and the walk was a disaster. By the time we returned from the house, I just felt like giving up on everything.

I didn’t cook.

I didn’t fold my laundry.

I binged watched Fargo.

People called, but I could barely talk.

I sporadically cried.

I tried to nap, but couldn’t.

I air fried half a bag of tater tots and ate the left over cake and a bunch of chocolate covered peanuts because yum.

I finished Yappy’s sweater (Bright side: he looks very handsome in it).

I sat and just looked into space.

Today, is not much better. I do not feel like dealing with anything or anyone, sadly not even Hope or Yappy. I am disgusted that there are no more chicken fingers in the house–yet I also know I’ll be disgusted if I ate more chicken fingers. There is not more cake which means I need to make some, which is energy I don’t have. I know I can make a mug cake but it’s not the same. It’s mid-month and I need to pay bills, which frankly enrages me for no apparent reason other than hating the exercise. I still don’t have the energy to talk to anyone, even when I know it will help. My gout has flared because I’m eating poorly, so I hurt and I have no one to blame by myself, and well the Holy Homeboy for allowing me to have gout.

Oh yeah, I’m in deep. I *know* I should get Hope up and I know I should try to achieve the small goals, but real talk: My tank is empty and even the fumes are gone. I got nothing, and that’s hella problematic because Hope really doesn’t do well when I lose my shit.

And my shit is definitely gone today.

So because I’m the super fragile one today and I’m also the one who has to keep this boat from capsizing, I’m taking the day to just wallow.

My coffee is currently in a wine tumbler. I’m about to eat some buttered bread for breakfast. I’m going to take a shower, put on some comfy fleece and crawl under my weighted blanket. I might go for a walk at some point, and I might even stock up on more chicken fingers. I’m putting some butter on the counter for later, so I can make a cake. And I will make the Tikka Masala I was supposed to make yesterday, if for no other reasons than 1) the chicken might spoil and 2) I bought fresh naan yesterday and I don’t need the guilt of eating it without the dish.

Yeah, we are both fragile over here.

#sendmorechocolatepeanuts #fragilelikebombs


Election Anxiety

In undergrad I majored in government and politics. I worked on Capitol Hill during my senior year of undergrad. I went on to study public policy in graduate school before switching over to education for my doctorate.

I have loved politics since…well, before I can actually remember. One of my earliest memories is this US Bicentennial dress my mom dressed me in during the summer of 1976; I was 3 years old.

I know the shine started to dull with the 2000 election and the drama with “hanging chads.” As a Democrat, I was heartbroken by the outcome. I lost friends over it.

Today, the 2000 election almost seems quaint.

Today, the US election is taking place, though just about everyone I know personally and professionally has already voted. The stakes for this election feel really high. Will we pull back from the brink of all out devastating crazy or will we push our poker chips all in?

Up until about 2 weeks ago, I really wasn’t fretting much. But having endured two elections where the outcome was completely unexpected, I know better than to trust the polls any more. I started getting a bit worried. This weekend my anxiety really spiked.

Can me and Hope really do another 4 years of this? Do I want to? Where can we go? Do I really want to leave the US?

No.

No.

I dunno.

Maybe.

I really could use a major change of scenery, but essentially going into exile seems dramatic–but so is having a White supremacist as head of state. I am seriously considering heading somewhere at least for a few weeks–but with our COVID -19 cases spiking…I’m guessing no one in their right minds are welcoming refuge seeking Americans in the middle of a pandemic.

So, I’m doing my best to cope here. I’m limiting my news consumption. Staying off of social media most of the day. I stressed shopped (blowing any sense of a budget, mind you) and bought me and Hope our favorite foods, because I needed comfort food. I’m getting my Fitbit steps in, and I made devil’s food cake for dessert.

It’s not enough though. It’s hard enough to suffer through the pandemic and Hope’s challenges right now. I’m usually in my bed by 8pm; and folks have no boundaries. People will still call or DM me. It seems they’ve figured out that my phone snoozes messages after 5pm, so folks routinely text me as late as 10pm. I’m sooooo exhausted. Last night, I dragged my weighted blanket to my bed and crawled under it. I slept soundly.

Today I will rally. I celebrated Hope’s first time voting weeks ago. I was excited for her, but sad that she didn’t get the full experience of going to the polling place and getting her sticker. I will work most of the day, scoot Hope to an appointment late afternoon, use my coloring app, leave the TV on mute or off all together and check in periodically to see what’s happening on Twitter. Despite all of the food I’ve purchased, we will likely get takeout tonight, because I frankly don’t see myself being functional enough to pull together dinner this evening.

How are you practicing self-care today? Are you anxious like me? What’s at the root of your anxiety? What are you telling your kiddos? Do you have a “post-election plan?”


A Sad Escalation

I am still in the emotional whirlwind. We’ve been stable the last couple of weeks, but it’s like a stable version of hell, soooo it sucks.

I’ve been angling for a breakthrough in this situation. I made a request that went unanswered.

I’ve been patient. I haven’t lost my schitt in front of Hope. I have moderated my outward emotions. I have not raised my voice. I have tried reason. I have tried science (I’m a nerd, leave me alone). I’ve leaned into every bit of every skill in my toolbox.

And nothing.

I announced to Hope on Sunday that she had 2 days to move the needle or I was taking matters into my own hands and escalating things.

Nothing happened so, I made my move today.

There is a part of me that wonders if it is the right decision, and there is a part of me that sees this escalation as the only path toward making sure I’m doing my job of looking out for Hope’s wellbeing.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few weeks thinking about what I was like and who I saw myself as when I was Hope’s age. In some ways we are alike and others so vastly different. I realize just how much I took for granted looking back now.

I certainly engaged in my share of shenanigans in high school, but I was also a “good girl” so I showed up to college with some innocence. Despite all that Hope has been through, she also showed up with a bit of innocence.

I was an avid reader and continue to be an endlessly curious woman. I was certainly academically ready and my curiosity meant that I was always looking to understand all these new experiences. I am intrinsically motivated and I had some very specific goals to accomplish during college. I avoided just about everything that would possibly derail me—except a ridiculous boyfriend who was handsome but not at all what he appeared to be. Even that, I managed to escape with some emotional wounds that certainly shaped the way I viewed future relationships, but in the grand scheme of things, I got off lucky.

Hope and I are very, very different in this respect. She is not motivated in the same way, and trust over the last 6+ years I’ve tried to understand what motivates her. I still don’t know, and I’m not sure she does either. She is naturally curious, but I’m still not sure that she has figured out that she can channel and leverage that curiosity in ways that would directly benefit her.

I never doubted that my family was my support system and that they would be there for me. They had been engaged with me my whole life, so of course I felt secure in that.

Hope has only been with me for 6+ years, which on some days seems like an eternity and others seems like the blink of an eye. We are very attached, but I feel like there’s a part of her that is just out there. I get it. I will never, ever fill some specific holes, and I don’t try to. I can only be what I am to Hope. I love her dearly. I know she loves me, but the path to our family is a littered with loss.

That kind of loss changes you. It changes your brain development and function. It changes you emotionally. I am sure it changes you at a cellular level. And those changes…

Well, I believe that those changes have left my daughter vulnerable to all sorts of things.

She has come so far over these years, but emotionally, she’s not 19. She’s like a 15 year old dropped into college student aged stuff. And, some of it, she can handle and other stuff…it’s just clear she’s out of her depth.

There are few times I’ve been as afraid for her as I am right now. It’s consuming me. Between work, which continues to just be barely bearable because of workload, our family crisis is taking whatever is left.

So, I escalated things today to see if I can get this situation to some sort of resolution. I don’t know what that resolution is going to look like and that terrifies me. I don’t know what my relationship with Hope will look like when its all said and done. I don’t know what she will do next. I don’t know what the next revelation will be or how much it will hurt to hear whatever it will be. I just know that there will be more emotional upheaval before its all over.

And I just…I am just so very sad. So, so, so sad.


Checking In

Hope and I are just in a state of overwhelming grief, sadness, and rage. The events of the last week–the weaponization of White tears against the Black birdwatcher Christian Cooper and the murder of George Floyd by four police officers–are physically and emotionally heartwrenching.

I’m not able to pull together my thoughts in a truly coherent way and spellcheck is definitely of a mind that I should not try this right now. I desperately want to say something, to make meaning of it–not just for my readers, but for me and for Hope. The truth is I’m kind of lost at the moment.

For the first time in her time with me, Hope woke up in hysterics after a bad dream. The dream? She dreamed that she was being chased by police with batons in the air and their guns drawn. She dreamed that this happened on her wedding day. It took more than an hour to get her settled down.

I couldn’t say, “Oh honey, it’s just a dream. That will never happen!” I do not feel like I could say that because I don’t believe it to be true. I just gathered her in my arms and told her I knew what she was feeling, and that I’m so sorry that I can’t protect her from one of the “few bad apple” cops. That is not the message I want her to get, but I also can’t lie to her.

I know that her heart hurts and so does mine. I’m not sure when we will feel better. We fret over the violence at some protests, but then we see police acting badly *at the protests.* We know despite our grandest hopes that this will happen again.

And again.

And again.

And again.

I don’t know what to do with that or say about it right now, so I’ll say this:

As a reader of this blog, I challenge you to do what you can to end White Supremacy and police terrorism (it’s also brutal, but my daughter was terrified).

Don’t ask your BIPOC pals/family for a to-do list to affect change. That requires emotional labor. Google is effing free–seriously, look up:

How to not be racist?

How to be an antiracist?

I promise you tons of amazing things will pop up. You will find the answers to your questions with minimal collateral damage to the BIPOC around you. Don’t make them do the heavy lift of educating you–you can do that; the resources are legit at your fingertips.

If you are a blue lives matter person, I believe in good community policing (with some caveats), but real talk, there is a problem with policing in this country. In fact #throwthewholecriminaljusticesystemout and start anew. Besides, blue life, revered and respected is a career choice; black life, maligned and marginalized is not a career choice, it is a happenstance of birth. These things are not responses to the other. Stop it.

My Christian peeps, if your church wasn’t talking about preserving Black life with a heavy dash of liberation theology this morning or over the last week–Why? The Holy Homeboy missed given y’all a message about how justice oriented Jesus was? He was about liberation before it was cool. Ponder that along with whether your church’s adoption messaging is louder and larger than its family preservation ministry.

Finally, if you work with Black folks, this might be a good time to tiptoe through the emotional tulips. Don’t get tight when the video on Zoom is set to the avatar picture. Keep meetings short; minimal small talk. Yes, it’s ok to check on them, but see above if this is your follow up, “Juanita this is so sad, do you know where I can learn more about the inherent racism in the US criminal justice system?” Sir, ma’am, them, stop, pull out your phone and ask Google Assist or Siri to find you something to read. Be patient with us.

Finally, to my fellow BIPOC, I’m holding you in my heart. This is a sad time, but all of our ancestors have experienced more and worse. We can continue to fight for equality. EArlier in the week, Hope told me a quote she found online.

They better be glad we just want equality and not revenge.

Take care of yourselves; I’ll be back with more in a few days.


Pandemic Chronicles, v. 4

So, Hope and I are back to our Pandemic Normal. I’m finally feeling fully recovered and Hope has finished her first year of college (amazeballs). Now we’re trying to chart out our summer.

Due to a variety of absurd reasons, Hope was unable to register for the first session of summer school (she’s nearly 19 but they still wanted a form from a legal guardian). So, we had to do a hard pivot—it is time for Hope to find a job. I told her that she needed to find creative ways of volunteering if she couldn’t find a paying job. I was ready for her to consider doing UberEats and/or do shopping for some of the older residents in our building. She spent yesterday morning hunting for and putting in applications at grocery stores and fast food places.

Honestly, given how trash the economy is, I didn’t think that she would really find a job. I realized on my morning walk this morning that the universe has other plans for Hope for the summer. In a single day she was able to set up a couple of interviews for this week, one of which has already sent her the onboarding information. Clearly, schoolwork isn’t what was supposed to happen this summer.

I’m excited for Hope and this new experience she’s going to have this summer.

Our relationship has changed so much these last two months, and honestly, the relationship we have now is kinda what I’ve been chasing all these years. We have our own inside jokes. We have deep philosophical conversations. With both of us at home, Hope is able to get a much better sense of how I hard I work, and I think she is much more understanding of why I get pissed when she’s particularly lazy or entitled. I get to see her habits and how she works; I can see better what coping mechanisms really work for her and what things she probably still needs to work on. I think we both have a lot more patience with one another; there’s just a lot more grace and a lot more understanding.

In many ways, I’m grateful for this time with her even if I did wish she would just spontaneously clean the kitchen without me asking her.

And me? Well, I’m learning to crochet. I’ve resumes my exercise efforts. I can’t handle a lot of intensity these days, so I make up for that with more workout time. I’m reminded that I have a gym membership for when the weather is bad, and cold isn’t bad weather. I still would rather bundle up and go walk a couple of miles. I bake bread a few days a week because it’s so yummy, and I enjoy cooking a real dinner for us a few days a week. (By the way since it’s become so hard to get bread flour at the store, I now get it from a local bakery and it’s AMAZING!) I have started a daily habit of trying to find beauty when I take my multiple walks throughout the day. I try to post the pictures on my private social media accounts.

I’ve zeroed in on my skin routine; during a recent video call with my sister, my brother in law even commented on my skin. I’m transition to more natural deodorants because this seems like as good a time as any to do that—when I’m around just 1 other person! LOL. I get enough sleep each night which has radically changed my outlook on a lot of things. It’s really amazing how tired we all are when the world is “open.” I’m increasingly convinced that we’re all just overstimulated. I luxuriate on the weekend because after I make the grocery run, I can chill. I bought a zero-gravity chair and Yappy and I hit the balcony when the weather is nice. It’s nice to be rested.

Yappy is also doing well. He gets way too many treats and is gaining weight. I worry about how anxious he will be when I finally return to the office, but for now, he seems incredibly content to have his pack all in one place. He seems to be at his happiest when we take a walk as a family in the evenings. It’s a delight to watch him, and it’s comforting to cuddle with him.

Yappy & I enjoying the morning sun on the patio! And yes, that is a side eye.

In all, Hope and I are doing better than ok these days. We are still wary of the world opening back up, fully aware of the dangers that await but also relishing in this special time together. I’m realizing that if Hope doesn’t boomerang home, this might actually be the last substantial period of time when we live together. I think of that often, and I let it guide my engagements with her. It’s not that I want her to boomerang home; I hope she is able to take flight. But if she does come back I want to be sure that we have a new baseline of what our life can be like with a mother and her adult daughter living together.

Of course, that’s in the middle of a pandemic, but I still hope it will create a reference point for whatever might be necessary in the future.

But for now, Hope and I are enjoying each other and getting a window into each other’s lives in ways we didn’t pre-pandemic.


Thoughts on Mortality & Grief

I have reached the age where it is not terribly uncommon that my peers are having strokes, heart attacks, cancer, body part replacement, and major illnesses requiring longer recovery times. I’ve also reached the age where some of us don’t make it; we succumb to our ailments.

Realizing that you are in this phase of life and that it will never subside, nay that it will actually get worse as you age, is a bit disorienting. I still see my friends through the lens of our prime. I see us as young, wandering the streets of Adams Morgan in DC on the weekends, having Jacks and cokes with a giant slice of pizza after the clubs close and before we head home to sleep it off so we can do it again the next night.

I notice our gray hairs; I wave at our children and marvel at how much they’ve grown. We all aren’t as slim as we used to be, but we’re still young at heart and fly in spirit.

Our parents are aging, even if we are in denial about our own aging process. Some of our parents are dying and leaving us behind to ponder what to do without them.

I began thinking about my own mortality right around the age of 30 when a close friend died very suddenly due to a brain aneurysm. He had just moved into a custom built home with his girlfriend. He was dead about 4 days after moving in. I was devastated. We were young. We were finally getting serious about life. Friends were marrying, having kids. I had just bought my own home a couple of years before. The loss left a huge hole in our friend group that was so hard to recover from.

Fast forward nearly 20 years and I am still thinking about mortality. The only difference is that I also think about grief so much more now. I’ve had to learn a lot about grief since becoming Hope’s mother.

I’ve learned that I think about death a lot and what it feels like to lose people you love. I’ve had wrap my head around what Hope’s grief must feel like. I still have my parents, and I think about losing them and how hard that will be. I learned that grief is hella messy. It’s like this Gordian knot of a bunch of different emotions that is so hard to untangle that it’s easier to give up and just wallow in the mess. I’ve read a lot, and I’ve talked to a lot of people as I try to understand how to work through and around grief.

I’ve learned it’s so hard.

I’ve briefly mentioned in other posts that one of my exes died last year. His death was incredibly sad for me, but it wasn’t entirely shocking. His history suggested that without intervention and a major life turn around that he would probably die young, and he did. I still struggle with his death. I harbor feelings about what might have happened if I hadn’t left him a decade ago. Could I have saved him?

I know I couldn’t have, but I still think about it. And I’m still working through it. I’m always a work in progress.

My messy feelings about that loss were compounded this weekend when I learned that Elihu, my more recent ex and love that appeared sporadically in this space, passed way this weekend. I feel like I’ve been in shock for days now. I haven’t dropped a tear; I haven’t heaved. I wish I could cry; I feel like it would help me get through this, but it’s not happened yet.

Instead I feel white hot anger.

And profound sadness.

And confusion.

And more anger.

And more sadness.

And despair.

And guilt.

And I’ve questioned whether he’s really gone.

I’ve run scenarios in my head.

I’ve tried to make sense of it.

I can’t. None of it makes sense.

I know that it is true. I know that it is real. And my heart hurts; my head hurts.

It just hurts so badly.

grief

via Pinterest

I replay the best, most glorious times in my head. I remember the pain of our separation. I remember settling into a distant friendship that I never let bloom into a full friendship because I knew reconciliation might come up and I didn’t want that. I feel regret for that distance even though I know it was probably for the best.

I replay his laugh and his deep baritone voice that spoke beautifully accented English.

And I’m just so sad and mad and a bunch of other feelings that I just can’t even name.

The grief is overwhelming.

I’m reminded of all the friends and acquaintances who have passed away in the last 5 years. The number is impressive for all the wrong reasons, and the number continues to grow. Still being here, still living this life… It makes me so grateful that I’m healthy, but it’s terrifies me that at anytime I could fall victim to my own demise. I am increasingly preoccupied by death.

I would rather be focused on living.

So, I’m trying to get myself together this week. I’ll continue to be kind to myself. I’ve contacted an attorney to update all my estate plans, and I had the morbid conversation with Hope about my final wishes. Doing these things eases the intensity of the feelings. They give me a sense of control when everything seems a little out of control.

The intensity of these feelings will pass. I will continue to experience this phenomenon though…the notification that someone else I know has left this life. I’ll go through this again. I don’t like the notion of getting used to it, but I know that there will be some level of acceptance that comes. Acceptance allows the feelings to wash over me without drowning me. I see that with my parents, and I saw it with my grandparents.

I didn’t anticipate contemplating acceptance of mortality without fear at this point in my life, but here we are.

I’m grateful to my daughter for being so kind to me the last few days. Hope is incredibly empathetic on most days, but I know of all the people in my life that she gets this. She sees my grief. She reminds me that life goes on. She says the things I’ve said to her over the last 6 years. It’s a great comfort to me. It also is confirmation that maybe, just maybe I helped her with her grief.

I’m hopeful that like her, I can somehow integrate this grief in ways that allow me to keep moving forward.

Time will tell.


Find the Thing that Keeps You Going

I don’t talk a lot about religion and faith in this space. I’m transparent about being a woman of faith, but I am not one for proselytizing, and I cringe when I think about how religious narratives run through adoption in ways that are not ok.

I was raised Christian, Baptist specifically. I grew up very active in church. My faith was always strong but my views on Christianity and organized religion in general have always been a bit rebellious. I don’t like the perversions of faith, I loathe how religion is often weaponized, how it is used to marginalize and oppress, the intolerance that usually comes along for the ride.

I’ve always, and I mean always since in elementary school, been curious about other religions, other ways of knowing, other faith orientations and how people come to explain the world around them. Consequently, though I identify as Christian, my beliefs are quite a bit more expansive than that. When Hope and I left the church that declined to have public adoption blessings of older adoptees, landing with the Unitarian Church made a lot of sense.

Even with that, I tend to find it confining sometimes so I’m more of a drop in kind of congregant.

Some things that have never budged: my love of gospel and my ability and willingness to pray without ceasing.

As an adult, there have been about 5 episodes when life kept me on my knees either literally or emotionally. The last big episodes were when I found out I would never have biological children and the first year of my and Hope’s life together.

The grief I felt after being plunged into infertility still gnaws at me. It still stings even as I have entered peri-menopause. It was a betrayal of body and of what I thought was faith promise. I did everything I was supposed to do and my body *still* wasn’t worth ish. My prayers were so angry, furious, accusatory and grief stricken. And then I got back to focusing on the moment that really should have overshadowed the loss of my fertility—the fact that the health issue *only* left me infertile. The original prognosis for my health issue was terrifying; the surgeon told my parents he had not seen anything like what he had found and told them to get ready for the worst. A couple of days later a second surgeon, heavily pregnant, burst into my room, my mom sitting by my bed and shouted that the pathology reports were clear and I was going to be ok. The tears that flowed…I still am reduced to tears thinking about that moment. It took me a long time to shift my focus to that moment because I focused so much on my loss.

I focused on the loss and not the life extension.

The reminder grounds me, even as I still wrestle with my grief years later. There’s a song that takes me there and was so instrumental in me getting to that shift, Byron Cage’s I Will Bless the Lord. That part when he sings, “You don’t know cause you weren’t there when God snatched me out of the enemy’s hand…”

That part.

My life was spared; the price was infertility and while it still feels like a high price, this song reminds me of how much I want to live. I play it anytime I need to get right, especially in those moments of deep depression when it’s hard to pray.

The other recent period was the first year of placement/adoption for me and Hope. I knew it would be difficult, but I really, really had no idea how difficult. When I tell you I prayed all the time and for everything and to any deity…whew.

I was parenting a kid who had more issues than Newsweek. I was alone. No one in my life really understood what home life was like. I was judged a lot. I didn’t have a lot of support in large part because people have such warped perceptions of older child adoption. I exacerbated the isolation by writing about the lack of support, which seemed to make people in my life take sides—they didn’t take my side because I was being mean. So few people asked whether I was ok, why I was writing the things I wrote, what support that I needed that I low key still hold some resentments about it, but that’s another story for another day.

I joke about it now, but there were legit times when it was so difficult to navigate the emotional landmines inherent in adoption that I found myself sitting on a stool in my tub in my bathroom with the curtain drawn, the door closed, sobbing, eating chocolate cake and feeling like I could not possibly do this another day. It wasn’t unusual for me to lay in bed in the wee hours of the morning, looking at the ceiling fan praying for relief and strength to carry on.

I feel like I was a shadow of myself. Alone, with a daughter who needed me in ways that I could barely wrap my head around. I was just trying to get it together, constantly. Songs like this one got me through. #letgoandletgod

My point in this post isn’t to try to convert anyone to anything other than figuring out what you need to give you the umph to get through another day. For me, music, prayer and meditation did it in the worst of times. I’ve certainly added coping mechanisms along the way (a good therapist, anti-depressants among other things). But something about a good gospel song gets me together.

This life thing isn’t easy sometimes and finding emotional energy to build you up can be so hard at times. Figure out what works for you, what fits with your faith orientation (shout out to the atheists and agnostics as well, much love to you). Sometimes it’s a song, sometimes it’s a prayer, a book and glass of wine. Find what recharges you, even if it’s just a quick spark and lean into it. This isn’t just about infertility or adoption; this is about life. And for many, this time of year life feels…even more difficult. Figure out what lifts you and do that.

I tell HAPs all the time to get a therapist, some drugs and some serious coping skills before they bring a child home. I’m serious about that too. Folks have sent me messages about whether that’s really necessary…yeah, it is. Do it, it will help you be the best parent you can be and kids need that. Recognizing and reckoning with your own stuff better situates you to deal with someone else’s.

So that’s it. That’s the post, lean into what keeps you going, what reminds you of the joy of living, what gives you the energy to go another day.


Radical Self Care

I just returned from Puerto Rico, and I’m realizing I don’t do this kind of radical self-care often enough.

Every morning, I got up to walk. I love my daily walks with Yappy. It’s usually dark, and I’ve got to stop a half million times to allow him to sniff, try to reach the errant, tossed away chicken bone or pop a squat. I often go back out for a quick walk without him. These last few days I’ve walked close to 5 miles every morning, coming back to the hotel drenched in sweat, feeling alive and a little more tan.

I picked up some yogurt from the market, got cleaned up and headed to the beach. I enjoyed the sounds of the ocean, lulling me into a morning nap facilitated by early drinking and an edible or two. I read a trashy book, hit the ice cream shop for lunch and relocated to the pool in the afternoon.

beach2

I discovered a little carry out shop across the street from the hotel; they make the best calzone crust I’ve ever had. I also purchased a bottle of rum and have practically had Cuba Libres on tap the last several days.

beach

I lounged in my king sized bed, channel surfing in the evenings, briefly considering going out, or at least going down to the cigar bar to smoke and drink in the luxe lobby.

Lounging stayed winning during this brief reprieve.

I’ve experienced so few moments of irritation over the last few days that they seem almost a distant memory. Oh, I remember them though and Holy Homeboy, white folks are at the heart of each moment. Now, just remember that part of what precipitated my quick vacation scheduling is having been pushed to the brink by white folks during a meeting on diversity and inclusion, so this is a sensitive thing right now.

Practically empty beach, no please come stand in front my chair to take your selfies for 15 minutes.

Whiny group of 10 traveling together who asked if I would move chairs so they could also sit together at the pool. This chair? The one I’ve been sitting in for 90 minutes? No. I’m good. Cue their melodrama of moving to another row to sit together. #theaudacity

I had time to do a lot of thinking and reflecting on this trip, but honestly…I didn’t. I thought I might take some time to think about my next career moves, maybe spend some time thinking about some of the volunteering I’ve been doing. I thought I might think about finding my way around this dating thing. I thought I might think about a lot of things.

Instead, I gave my brain a much needed rest. I thought about very little. I rested.

beach

Why is it that I had to hit a wall to embrace just doing nothing for a few days? I mean, I know that the daily routine isn’t designed for just being without expectation, but wow, not doing anything for 3 days should not feel so radical or costly. And yet it does.

I’m glad to be home, waiting for the boarder to bring Yappy home. I’m looking forward to getting back into my routine for a few weeks. I’ve got a trip to Hawaii in a few weeks for work. I’m looking forward to freshening my tan and enjoying time with colleagues.

In the meantime, I’m going to find a few minutes every day to just be, to just breathe and to just rest.

Challenging all of you to do the same.


Thoughts on Grief

Someone I dated years ago passed away recently, and I’m finding that it is deeply affecting me. I was already sliding into my seasonal emotional challenges (damn you Daylight Savings Time), and then I received word of the tragic death of someone who I planned to build a life with at some point. It’s left me feeling all kinds of things.  

My relationship with him wasn’t the healthiest, and there came a time when I saw that clearly and made moves to get out. It was during that season of my life when I really was thinking about my future, my desire to have children, my desire to adopt, my career, my life plan. When I realized that I didn’t want to have a family with him, I knew that my desire to be a mother was much greater than my affection for him. Going back to school to do a doctorate was a part of my plan, but then it became a part of my exit strategy for that relationship.  

As I sit here pondering this loss, I am struck by the direct line from him to Hope. That relationship set me on a course that brought us together. Sure, everything before that probably did as well, but that season is when I started being really deliberate about moving in ways that brought me to mothering Hope.  

And even though the relationship ended many years ago, the connection, that line, is still there, and I grieve his death. I didn’t keep in touch; I occasionally stalked him on social media to see how life was treating him. I saw his triumphs and struggles. I wanted no contact, but I hoped for a good, long, healthy life for him.  

Unfortunately, It wasn’t meant to be for him, and that saddens me greatly. 

I’m also surprised how lonely this grief feels. It’s not like I’m going to go around telling a bunch of folks (besides, ironically, my blog readers) that I’m so sad over the death of an ex-boyfriend who was emotionally toxic and who I split from nearly 10 years ago. I mean, life continued and worked out great for me, right? Sure his death is sad, but why am I sad? I’m sad because we shared a connection and there were good memories too, and although I couldn’t be with him, I genuinely wished him well.  

I imagine this kind of grief is similar to what my daughter and other adoptees may feel, not quite but a few parallels at least. It seems almost impolite to talk about it. I mean, sure you lost people, relationships, but adoption should’ve cured all those emotions and isn’t that great? Why are you still grieving?  I don’t mean to compare the loss of an ex-boyfriend to the loss of a parent and extended family, but the inability to express grief without folks questioning your grief at all—that, that somehow feels like there may be some parallels there.  

There is a longing for what could’ve been. There’s a longing for the change you hoped would happen but never did. There’s the sadness of the separation and the disappointment that reunion didn’t or couldn’t happen. Then there’s just the heaviness that it will never happen because they are just gone, forever gone. It’s painful, and yes, it’s lonely.  

Grief sucks. It sucks so badly.  

So, as I sit with these emotions and I ponder the connection between that man and the life I enjoy today, I am grateful for that experience and for his insertion in my life. I’m hopeful that he has found peace on the other side.  

To adoptees and others experiencing grief, however it comes to you, it’s ok to feel what you feel. You are not alone, and I hope that you are surrounded by people who get it, who get you, and who understand your pain and facilitate your healing.


Coaching on Coercion

I read that essay on Aziz Ansari and “Grace.” I related to Grace since I have experienced a similar situation a few times in my day. I never thought I had been assaulted, but I definitely felt like I had experienced something incredibly unpleasant and really wrong. I’ll say this, none of the situations I found my way out of featured a dude who apologized after the fact.

Yeah, been there, done that.

And then I developed some skills. I learned how to avoid those situations whenever possible. I paid attention to my spidey sense. I learned to gracefully and ungracefully extricate myself from situations that made me uncomfortable. I learned to find my own voice about consent.

Sadly, I didn’t get to this place until I was probably in my early 30s.

I have tried to normalize conversations about sex and relationships with Hope. I’m certainly not encouraging her to go out and get her swerve on, but I want her to feel confident about herself, her body and her ability to make good decisions about all of this.

Since last summer we’ve spent more time talking about sexual misconduct and the #MeToo movement. We talk about assault. We talk about catcalling. We talk about harassment. I try to be frank and direct with Hope, but I’m also sensitive about what kinds of things might be triggering. I bring it up in the car since that seems to be the super safe space for us. A lot of what we’ve discussed are pretty clear cut cases of sexual misconduct. After mulling over the messy case of “Grace” and Ansari, I realized that even though I’ve spent a lot of time talking about consent with Hope, I hadn’t coached my daughter about something more subtle and insidious in sexual relationships—persistent coercion.

You like the guy/gal. You’re hanging out. Things get a little hot and heavy. You don’t feel as comfortable as you did 3 minutes ago. You kind of put your hands up and push back, but things get a little more insistent. You break away, but your partner tries to soothe your fears; maybe says they just dig you so much; they are really, really into you and don’t you dig them too? You do, and you might even say that you want things to slow down a bit. You might even say no verbally. Your partner goes back to the pursuit, a little stronger, a little bolder; whispering how into you they are and how this feels so right. You don’t think it feels totally right, but you dig the person and don’t want to wreck the flow. You might even feel like you still have control of this situation, but maybe losing that control kinda quickly.

You consent to do a few things; they do a few things and everything continues to escalate. Both of you are breathless. But it doesn’t feel so right so you try to slow things down again, but the pursuit, gentle as it may be, continues. You also still really dig this person and you begin to wonder what will happen if you really stopped everything right now. Will the budding relationship end? Will it get violent? You don’t think they will *really* hurt you will they? Will you seem like a tease after what you’ve done already? What will happen now? Can you even stop this right now after you did what you did? Was that consent for *everything?* And how do you stop or slow down things again without a making this a big deal? The cycle goes on and on until you are just worn down and you just give in and ‘consent’ to activities that you really don’t want to do. Afterwards you feel like crap, but your partner might not even notice, not because they are a rapist but because their twisted concept of consent means y’all are both cool with what just went down.

Yeah, that scenario. Is it assault? Not really. Did you consent? Worn down is a better characterization. Do you have regrets? Forever yes. Do you continue seeing that person? Maybe, maybe not.

I recently asked Hope had she heard about the Ansari/Grace story. She’s heard a little, so we did a recap and I asked her what she thought about it. We batted that around a bit, and then I got a bit more specific—“What if you were Grace? What would you have done and when?” And because it can’t just be a gendered lesson, “What if you were Ansari? What would you have done and when?” Everyone should learn about giving and getting consent. We talked about how to extricate ourselves from situations that don’t make us feel good. We talked about more than just regular safety concerns; we discussed the need to feel good emotionally about our decisions and choices. We talked about that middle ground that seems to exist between enthusiastic consent and reluctant consent.

This was probably one of our more delicate conversations about sex. I shared about some of my experiences and how old I was when they happened so that Hope would understand that I was older and still not as sure of myself as I thought at the time. I shared about how I felt after a particular situation, and noted that that relationship didn’t go far after that. I never demonized my partners, but I also didn’t portray them as the knights in shining armor that a 16 year old girl probably would either. We were and are just regular folks making some not great decisions at a point in our lives. I talked about what I wished I had done differently.

For her part, Hope shared the goings on of a date she had last year and how she handled herself. I was glad she felt comfortable enough to share with me. #thrilled I was so proud of her, and coached her on how to identify coercion and things to say and do in the future to be clear about her expectations and her ability to give or withhold consent.

Sure, we’ll still talk about just good decision making regarding sex, but I’m realizing that it’s this grayish area that I will continue to talk to my daughter about. When she becomes active, I want her to feel confident in her choices and to have skills to react to unwanted pressure. I want Hope to be in control of her whole life, including the sexual life that she eventually chooses.


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