Sunday, January 11, 2009
Walls Around Our Hearts
Today was a hard day for me. The reason might seem foolish to some. That's OK, much of what I have done in my life and continue to do with my life seems foolish to many.
This morning I received an email from someone who had visited one of our girls. It had taken a really long time for our packages to arrive so they hadn't heard anything from us in about 3 months. Our friend was innocently and anxiously asked "Did they forget about me?".
I read the email quickly before leaving for church, before I really had a chance to process it. It doesn't seem like much was said, certainly most people wouldn't make a big deal out of it. For some reason for me, it was like getting sucker punched in the gut.
I have written often here on the blog about the kids left behind, about them being forgotten. And here my own daughter is asking the same thing, and it leaves me feeling helpless, angry, at the mercy of a system I can't speed up no matter how hard I try. And it leaves me so terribly sad. I guess to say my heart is breaking is cliche, but it is true.
I cried. In front of a lot of people. I felt foolish. I was hurting and still am so badly. This is my child, as surely as Matthew, Kenny and Joshua are my children whom I would give my very life for. Looking into their eyes, thinking of one of them EVER having to ask that question again in their life is enough to make me want to lose it. Today, I guess I lost it a little.
I think about them daily...hourly if I am being honest. No, it is not an obsession, it is love...pure and simple love. I hurt and I want them home so badly, I hurt for them that they are feeling forgotten, that the hope that existed in their heart may have been lost, even if only for awhile. You see, if that happens enough, it hardens a child.
Forgotten??? How can you forget a piece of yourself you left behind? How can you forget that every morning you wake up and one of the first thoughts you have is that you are not whole...not yet at least. We have spent hour upon hour talking about them, planning for them to join our family, praying for them, wondering what it will be like, worrying about their fears for the future, sending kisses towards their photos as we all giggle a little.
I asked myself later today why this kind of stuff affects me so, why I can't be thicker skinned about it all. Sometimes I am pretty successful at walking around with a smile pasted on, often pretty happy and not allowing myself to get mired in the emotional garbage that is inherent with all of this adoption stuff. You stay busy, you remain focused on the goal line, you trust God that it all will work out, and you prepare as best you can.
There are plenty of practical and obvious preparations we make: thousands of hours of research so we know we are as safe as we can possibly make it from fraud, dossier preparation, eventually decorating a room and buying a few clothes, travel plans to make, etc.
But the most important preparation I can do is to prepare my heart. I was taught something incredibly valuable by Joshua and his Reactive Attachment Disorder. I had a sudden understanding that in order to be the mom I needed to be to help him heal, if I wanted to raise children who exhibited certain qualities that I admire, if I was going to ever have the kinds of relationships I have been blessed to have with each of my children, I was going to have to be a different person. I was going to have to do the scariest thing I have ever done, and that was to be fully open to everything...to every hurt, to every joy, to the honesty of emotions and the fullness of life.
This sounds stupid, I know, and I can't express it well. It's like I suddenly saw quite clearly that to parent my children in the way I wanted them parented, I had to become a person more willing to join them in their sorrow and celebrate in their joy. My emotional wall that had built up over those 30+ years had to be torn down, for I had a huge job. I had to teach children how to love who had every reason to never love anyone and who had likely never been truly loved as they deserved. How do you teach best? By example.
Joshie didn't need a parent who couldn't allow others in, who was unwilling to express pain or had to be "tough". What he needed...and subsequently Kenny and I know the girls will as well...was a mommy who could trailblaze the path of emotions for them, walking a few steps ahead as I turn back every few steps and say "See? It's OK to express your pain...it won't kill you and you'll feel better afterward. Try it! You see, it goes like this..." and then I have to be willing to open up in the ways that bares our souls to one another. They need someone to help them see that those emotions they have shoved down so deep for so long in order to protect themselves are safe to reveal, they need to know their hearts are cherished in my hands.
If they are ever to be whole, they need to know the world is a safe and loving place. And they need to learn this after having spent years being shown the side of life that is not safe and loving. And, they have to learn these lessons so quickly, we have so little time before they are grown...half a childhood has already been spent learning how to guard their emotions, how to appear strong and capable, how to not allow loss and sorrow to swallow them up. They have had no safe place, ever.
So, I have subconsciously focused on learning how to be as honest emotionally as I can be, I have slowly taught myself to be as vulnerable as possible for if I can remain in that place, my kids will see what is real. I might be able to teach them not to be afraid of letting their own walls crumble, thus allowing them to walk over the rubble of their walls to experience the gamut of emotions that they have stuffed for so long.
What does this do? It leaves me open and raw sometimes. It leaves me appearing foolish at moments in front of others. It causes me to reveal more of myself to others than most people feel comfortable doing. It leaves me feeling very scared sometimes, and unable to stuff what I sometimes wish I could stuff down deep.
It has also helped my kids heal, it has helped them to feel joy, reconciliation, to recognize God's presence, to express pain and to show great love. It has helped them to become whole, where before they were shattered pieces.
And it hurts. On days like today, it hurts more than it would have before. It hurts when others would be able to blow past it.
Someday, years down the road, my sons and daughters will read this. They will be young adults or close to adulthood. They will hopefully recognize their mommy's heart in every line. And when they do read it, my daughters will know that during the long winter days of 2009 when they felt forgotten I was thinking of them constantly, I was preparing for them to come, I was loving them long before they arrived.
No, my dear daughters, you are NOT forgotten. How I wish I could take you in my arms right this moment and begin our life together. You have no idea the amount of love that awaits you. You have no idea how much my heart is breaking for you tonight as I write this. I know, it has been so very long. For you, it has been a lifetime of waiting for someone to love you as you should have been loved from birth. Have Faith, cling to that Hope, don't add another brick to your wall.
But even if that wall turns out to be 3 feet thick and 30 feet high, I am preparing to stand there side by side with you, swinging away with a sledgehammer until it is mere rubble at your feet. It may take us awhile, but we'll do it, and I am preparing right now for it. That preparation makes me look silly and foolish to others, but for you I would look even sillier and ever more foolish.
So go ahead, imagine me tucking you into bed, brushing your hair after a bath, telling you bedtime stories. Continue to dream right along with me. We may be halfway around the world from one another, but our hearts are forever connected.
And don't worry about the love stuff, in time it will come. You see, I am already on the path looking back at you and waiting....just grab my hand and I'll show you how. I've been practicing.