love is all you need

There were a group of young girls sitting next to me at lunch today. Late teens, early twenties. They were discussing typical young adult topics: boyfriends, love, marriages, and their futures. They took turns describing the perfect designer wedding gown. They envisioned their dream homes. They debated the ideal number of kids.

Suddenly, I had the burning desire to lean over the edge of their table and whisper to them the cold, hard truth:

That, in the grand scheme of things, not a single topic they were debating truly mattered.

Yes . . .  you can wear an expensive, designer gown on your wedding day, and I’m sure that you will look beautiful in it. But when your wedding day is over, you will never wear that dress again. It will sit in a bag in the back of your closet. It will yellow and collect dust. That dress carries no meaning unless the person you’re marrying looks at you while you’re wearing it in the same way he or she would look at you if you were wearing a brown paper bag instead.

Yes . . . you can build your dream home. But it doesn’t mean that everything inside of it will be perfect. You could have a state-of-the-art kitchen, but never sit down together and have a family meal. Your bedroom could, at first glance, exude the appearance of a calm oasis. Yet, when you and your partner are inside of it, someone could cut the tension with a knife. You could have living space for five children, but what will you do with those spaces if they are never occupied?

Yes . . . you can debate the ideal number of those offspring. You might want three because you had two siblings growing up and you want your children’s experiences to be the same. You might want two because you don’t want to have a “middle” child. But the universe may have other plans. You may have none. You may have more than you bargained for. You may not carry all or any of them. What you pictured your family to be may never exist.

I wanted to tell them that dreams are beautiful, and they are important to have. Dreaming keeps our hearts strong and our creativity sharp. Sometimes, though, the focus of dreams are “off” — they are focused on the things and not the feelings. They get hung up on perfection.

Don’t get stuck there.

It doesn’t matter whether your wedding day photos were perfect, I wanted to urge. What matters is the feeling you get when you think back to that special day. Do those feelings make you happy? Do you remember the moment when your partner looked at you as you walked down the aisle toward him or her? Does your partner still look at you that same way? Does he or she still take your hand and move forward with you, in good times and in bad, and in sickness and in health?

It doesn’t matter if the house you want has a perfect back porch, I longed to say. What matters is the person you’re sitting next to on it, drinking a beer as you watch your dog play in the grass. Does this vision make you happy? Do you want to sit there, with that person, for the next 50 years and grow old together? Will you still love this house if tough times happen here? Will you be okay with all of those bedrooms if they are never filled with screaming children — as long as you have each other?

It doesn’t matter how many kids you have or if you have any at all, I needed to tell them. What matters is that, if you don’t have children, you don’t let anyone else make you feel like less of a woman for not being a mother. That you don’t beat yourself up because you can’t have them. That you don’t let others make you feel guilty because you don’t want them.

And, what matters is that — if you do have children — you teach them how to care about the feelings and not the things. You teach them that loving and being surrounded with love is what is most important in life. Even if you are still figuring that out yourself.

tangled web

Writing helps me. It’s always helped me. I write lists because I can’t remember to do things any other way. I write emails instead of call because I tend to trip over my words. And I blog because it’s my way of muddling through my emotions, as complicated and as dysfunctional as they can be. That’s why I began From IF to When back in 2008. Blogging seemed cheaper and easier than therapy.

I moved over to this site earlier this year, rather than stay in my old place, because my old place didn’t feel like me anymore. I had grown uncomfortable with the exposure and the expectations. Yet, I still needed to blog. I need a space where I could “let it all out.” If I’m being truthful, I haven’t quite felt comfortable here yet, either. Not 100%, and I think I’ve finally figured out why.

It has nothing to do with space. Instead, it has everything to do with me.

There are parts of my life that I will never be able to post about. It’s not for lack of needing to write about them or wanting to wade through my feelings. Instead, it’s because I can’t. It’s because, first a foremost, I’m a mom and I have to protect my child. I can’t bring myself to put everything out there for the world to read, just because it makes me feel better to type it out on the screen. I know plenty of moms who DO put a lot out there, and that’s okay. That’s their choice. It’s simply not an option for me — because as important, if not more so, is my responsibility to protect her story.

When you have a biological child, your child’s story is your story, too. You are free and comfortable to share it and fully embrace the emotions you feel about it. This isn’t to suggest that embracing and sharing your feelings about raising a biological child is easier. It’s just different. When you adopt your child, there is another emotional layer. It’s a layer of understanding that not ALL of your story is your child’s, and vice versa. For me, at this moment, it’s a level of discomfort or guilt when certain emotions surface.

What do I mean by that?

In my last post, I wrote that I couldn’t feel anger. Technically, yes, I can feel angry. I do feel angry. However, it’s a matter of where that anger is directed — whether it’s the people involved or the situation — that creates this cloud of uncertainty and confusion. Do I want to feel anger at the people? Yes. I do. In many ways, it’s easier to feel angry at someONE than someTHING. But being angry at someONE crosses a fuzzy line in adoption. There are rules. Boundaries. Best practices. It’s a delicate dance that I am constantly engaged in, separating the person with the problem.

If it sounds confusing, it is. (Sometimes I wonder if there is anything about adoption that isn’t confusing or complicated.) I knew it was this complicated before we even started the process. I knew that there would be many of these moments over the years where at least one of us would struggle to make sense of what we were thinking and feeling. That said, I’m not complaining about feeling unsure about expressing my emotions. At least I am feeling something. That’s good. I think if I felt nothing, it would mean that I didn’t care. There are times when I feel numb, for sure, but it doesn’t come from lack of caring. It often comes from trying to shelter myself from what, deep down, I’m truly trying to process.

I guess I wish that I could put down what I’m working through in my head, in this space, because untangling it within the confines of my brain makes it that much more difficult and time consuming. Unfortunately, blogging in-depth about it can’t be my outlet.

Or maybe it can. It just has to be as vague and complex as what I’ve just written.

hurt

I hurt.

I hurt more than I wanted to. I hurt more than I think I should. I hurt even though I feel relief, and I didn’t know that I could possibly feel those two emotions together.

I hurt because I didn’t want things to end up this way.

I hurt because I’m not allowed to feel anger.

I hurt because it’s all I have the energy to do anymore.

I just . . . hurt.

i got you babe

A few days ago, I woke up and started getting ready for work. While I was brushing my teeth and simultaneously putting lotion on my face, I bobbed my head to the tune of the song from Groundhog Day.

I got you babe.

I didn’t even realize I was doing it at first. When my brain finally put two and two together, it made sense – because our lives have become much like Groundhog Day. We move forward, but we only move forward so much. Then, we begin the next day right where we started the day before . . . with no clear answers or insight into what lies ahead.

This should feel ordinary now. We’ve lived our lives this way for as long as I can remember. This is how things played out when we were in the throes of infertility treatments. The constant uncertainty. The fuzzy future. It’s how our world spun round when we were waiting to adopt. Waiting for that phone to ring. Waiting to learn our fate. This waiting place, this pause button, is not a stranger to us.

And yet, this time, it feels different. Before, I wanted a very distinct answer. I needed a specific outcome. I needed to become a mother, and I would have put myself through that misery of waiting until the end of time if it meant that the universe would give me a chance to take on that role.

Now? I just want the waiting to end.

There’s no particular outcome that I need to see. There isn’t a need for anything except closure. I need to know so that we can move forward and stop revolving our actions around this one situation. I need to know one way or another how this is all going to pan out, sooner or later.

I need peace, and I have no idea when that peace may come.

Until then, I keep thinking of Groundhog Day and that song. In a way, it’s ironic – that song – because no matter what happens when the universe hits the “play” button once again, I have her. And that’s all I need.

Then put your little hand in mine
There ain’t no hill or mountain
We can’t climb