Tag Archives: Holiday Stress

In Need of Grace

I always love the ideas of holidays, but holidays are…complicated. They always are even if we all only post the happy versions of the highlight reels on social media.

In my pre-Hope life, things were complicated for all kinds of reasons.

Most of the time I’ve been single during the holidays.

Still not skinny and all my food issues and body issues hop into overdrive and are usually kept there by someone commenting in passing on my body.

The need to drive around creation to “see” everyone.

The desire for simplicity and routine during a time that legit represents neither.

The grief I hold in my heart for family and friends who are no longer here.

The complicated personal theology that keeps me going, but doesn’t quite fit with the holiday themes surrounding this time of year.

And sometimes wondering if I even belong anywhere.

Yep, complicated.

And then Hope came and all of that still existed but new stuff emerged as I tried to graft this new family together with new traditions. The reality is things became more complicated in many ways.

Hope has her own grief, profound grief.

She wonders if she belongs anywhere.

There’s so many people and they want/demand hugs.

There’s “holiday” routines and traditions, but can we get back to our regularly scheduled programming?

How much alone time can be had without folks asking if she’s “ok?”

There’s the introvert’s exhaustion from having to exist around 30 people for hours.

There’s thoughts of what should have been her life with her family of origin.

This year was no different, in fact it might have been more challenging. What can I say, schnitt happens.

Hope and I open gifts on Christmas Eve. Every year Hope writes me a letter (she’s also usually broke so she leans into the much more personalized gift). I heard her sobbing in her room. I asked if she was ok, she kept saying yes. I finally dropped it. We gather to do our Christmas and she hands me her letter.

This year’s letter is different from all the others, which I keep with all my important papers. There’s always a lot of love and gratitude in the letters; they are sweet…precious. I can see her maturity over the years in them and what she talks about. They are a big window into Hope’s emotions, which I don’t get too often.

This year’s letter thanked me for adopting her and went on to talk about repaying me. This letter was beautiful and heartbreaking. Hope does not owe me anything. I’m high key horrified that she thinks she does in any sense. I wanted to be a mom, and she needed a parent. We were a match and we’ve worked hard to make this match work. I adore Hope. I read the letter, sobbed and hugged her an uncomfortably long time while repeating over and over that she owes me nothing.

Yappy doesn’t do well with big emotions—he’s a happy boy who just wants everyone to be happy. So during these moments of sobbing, Yappy is uncomfortably trying to get into our hug, pawing, sad faced, bringing toys to cheer us. We eventually had to do our “sit on the couch close enough for him to snuggle between us” to calm him; it’s his favorite thing. #packanimal

And that’s how Christmas started. We moved from that to an unfortunate incident in which Grammy only claimed her two bio grandkids despite having 5 grandkids—3 by adoption and guardianship. This happened in front of Hope who just pretended it didn’t happen. There were apologies later, but there were hours and hours of discomfort, anger, sadness, rejection, and the rest.

There were challenging moments with 30 people in a house, some of whom demanded “hugs” from everyone, especially the kids. Folks stop doing this and stop your family from doing this. You can’t teach bodily autonomy and safety when some rando woman you only see once a year is insisting on manhandling your kid. Hope only does hugs with folks she’s close to; the hugging demands are really triggering.

Then there were the quiet conversations between me and Hope about family gatherings, biological family, belonging, and sadness that took place in the space between our two beds in the hotel. The moments when I want to cry for her, but am not sure if such expressions of grief and sadness on her behalf are helpful or not, so I wait until the early morning when she’s sleeping to work through it.

And of course there is other emotional drama that I’m not sure will ever fully make it to this space—I’ll say this: getting to know folks romantically is hard. There is a part of me that is like, yo, Hope and I made this match work; those should be transferable skills right? Yeah, no. Years of awful dating experiences have taken their toll and every hiccup makes me want to just call it a day and get a hypoallergenic cat to go with my cute dog. It’s hard to heal, to trust, and to believe after what feels like countless failures. #butIdigress

I’m trying, and I’m trying to just muster sufficient grace to plow through this holiday season and all of the emotional schnitt it brings.

I love time with my family and with my beautiful Hope. I love the downtime from work—seriously my resting heart rate has dropped more than 5 bpm so I’m guessing work is stressful, eh? I love being able to nap in the afternoon. I’m officially addicted to knitting because it’s relaxing and I’m delighted to have all this time to work on projects.

But I’m a calendar based kinda of chick. You know how you wake up in the middle of the night, look at the clock and fret about how much time you have left to sleep? And then you can’t sleep all that great during the remaining time? Yeah, I do that with days, sometimes weeks. I’m already stressed about going back to work. I’m already stressed about taking Hope back to school.

I’m kind of a mess in need of a lot of grace as well.

And I left my fitbit at home, which begs the question, am I even really moving? How am I supposed to make sure my eating and exercise levels are at least kinda in sync?

Yeah, I’m a mess, and this time of year seems to bring a lot of it to the surface. I would love nothing more to buy a winning lottery ticket and disappear, just vanish to some far-flung place. Sigh, I don’t even play the lottery.

So, folks, I’m just trying to focus on being gracious today. Grace is a gift. It is centering. It can lead me to forgiveness when necessary. It gives me strength. It allows me to fret less. In putting grace out into the universe, I’m hopeful that the universe will give some back to me.

I need it.


More Thoughts on Holidays and Adoption

While laying on my parents’ couch earlier today, I was listening to Hope tell me some random story about something or other. I was only half listening, scrolling through my Instagram feed.

I suddenly stopped and interrupted her.

“Do you want to call your grandmother today?”

Hope was mid-sentence and her voice just trailed off. She just looked at me. I wasn’t looking at her, but I could feel her staring at me. I finally looked over at her.

“There isn’t a right answer, you know that right? Whatever you feel or decide is cool. I just…felt like I should ask. I’m sorry I interrupted you.”

About two minutes of silence passed; one of my sisters was sitting in a chair in the room with us. As those seconds continued to pass, it kind of felt like we were all holding her breath.

“Ok,” I said, and resumed scrolling through Instagram.

Hope never responded; instead she picked up where she left off with the story she was previously telling me.

I mailed Hope’s grandmother a framed copy of her senior ROTC portrait and a letter. I wrote that I know she would rather hear directly from Hope, but that for whatever reason it was left to me to provide updates.

As the months stretch into what will soon be two years since Hope had direct contact, I find myself wondering how things will play out for Hope and her biological family. In moments like today, I feel like I can genuinely feel Hope’s and her family’s pain in this rift. I think about how I talk to a member of my immediate family nearly daily, and how gleeful my parents seem on those occasions when I am able to drive down to visit them. I think about how it must feel to not have those feelings, or those expectations or any of that. It is honestly hard for me to conceptualize, and I’m acutely aware of how fortunate I am since the absence of all of that is experienced by many people throughout their lives and especially during the holiday season.

While I do not badger Hope about connection, I do try to bring it up during times that seem appropriate or advantageous. I make myself available to all parties to facilitate contact. I work out the logistics for possible phone calls, letters, social media interactions, whatever. One of the college’s Hope has applied to is about 50 miles away from her biological family; I’m planning a campus visit for us next month. My offer to set up a visit while we’re close by was again me with chilly silence. I’ve learned to just leave those responses there. Ultimately, I do not believe I can or should force Hope to have contact that she doesn’t want. I do not want her to engage in things she feels are unhealthy for her. Her feelings and well-being are paramount.

And yet, my heart strings wish desperately there was something I could do to help them bridge this gap.

I’m glad that I have provided Hope a beautiful extended family. I chuckled to see her and her cousins holed up in a funky teenager room (why do they smell so bad???), shooting the breeze, playing video games, talking trash and making plans to hang out together tomorrow. I smiled inwardly as I grimaced outwardly when I had to tell her “let’s go” for the 6th time because she really didn’t want to come with me to check into the beach hotel. I’m glad she has this family.

But she does have more family; she just doesn’t know if she wants them, if they fit, if she can have a good, healthy relationship with them. And there’s lots of legit reasons to ask so many questions why. I respect my daughter’s inclination for sell-preservation. But it still hurts to watch from the sidelines. But as Hope slides into her 18 year, that’s my position on all of this—the sidelines.

So I will continue to point out or provide opportunities and follow her lead. Somehow, it will work out, right?


Holiday Anxiety

Ok, first off, I wish I wasn’t anxious and I wish I wasn’t feeling whiny.  But I am and I do feel anxious and whiny.  My shoulders hurt from stress and anxiety.  I feel prickly and irritable.  I would really prefer to withdraw and just hide in my house for a few more days.  But it’s Christmas and that would be sad and somehow just wrong.

In an hour or two I’ll head a hundred miles south to visit my parents for the holiday.  Grammy and I are tender with each other; we love each other very much, but I know we both are still hurt from our drama from the last few months.  My new/refurbished cell phone doesn’t give off its own wifi signal so I can’t just hide in my old room and work on my dissertation.  Going all the way there just to retreat to the Panera to practice overt avoidance doesn’t feel right.   Maybe I’ll go visit a few friends.

Oy vey, I just realized that I didn’t get my godson a Christmas gift.  Sigh…

Christmas afternoon I’ll head west to go visit Hope for all of one day (Thursday).  I’ve spent the last week and a half trying to manage Christmas expectations.  Interestingly, Hope asked for two sets of books and an Ipod Touch.  Originally she asked for Beats by Dre headphones; I quickly explained that new mama didn’t believe in spending more than $10 on headphones, so $50-$200 were wholly out of the question.  The Touch is really a no go at this point; although Hope will have internet access here I’ve found her not ready for it quite at the tip of her fingertips, especially if its portable.   I’ve decided to bring her a pair of sneakers, the Bieber perfume and some gift cards that we can use when we go shopping that day.

She’s excited that I’m coming to visit.   I’m anxious about her reaction when I get there; she’s been fickle since she’s returned.   It’s probably good news; she goes monosyllabic on me like any other kid her age.  She’s being normal in a most abnormal situation.  Her behavior has been stellar since I took her home; no detentions, no suspensions; no visits to the principal’s office or notes home from teachers.   I’m so proud of her.  Of course, she’s highly motivated because of a deal I made about her getting a cellphone this spring if she could stay out of trouble.  This brings me to my anxiety about this trip.  I don’t want to do too much too soon, so I’ve kept the gifting light (especially since I have to carry this stuff).  My family gifts but we tend to do just one or two gifts and that’s it.  Of course we’ve not had a kid in the family for many years, so all of this is new.  I also know that I need leverage and motivational points with Hope; this works with her in helping her be less impulsive.

I have to realize that I can’t control how Hope will react to the gifts I bring.  I just need to spend time with my girl and try to have the best time I can with her for this expensive but short visit.   I’ve got a house full of stuff for her, but I just want to mete it out over time on my terms rather than this huge explosion of gifts just because it’s Christmas.

I’m hopeful and prayerful that she will be home for good soon.

For now, I just want to get there, see her and give her a hug.  That’s all I want for Christmas.


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