Well now, maybe I can post about this in a more calm and rational manner. I mentioned in yesterday's post that I was very angry about something and I decided to let some time pass before I put anything in writing...if I decided to at all. I hesitated mainly because it is a bit embarrassing, but decided to go ahead as it may be helpful to someone else out there who might someday go through the same thing so that they wouldn't feel so alone.
You know, it is not often when I am dumbfounded or left speechless. I often have a snappy retort or a quick comeback, but what I encountered yesterday left me literally with my mouth hanging open, and I am still kicking myself for being unable (or maybe unwilling, haven't quite fully analyzed that one yet) to articulate my thoughts well in this situation.
Let me begin with a little background. We live in a small country neighborhood, a cul-de-sac on a gravel road where there are 8 modest homes, each on a little bit of land which at the time we all bought was dirt cheap. We have several retired couples living here, and most of us have been here since the development was built 13 years ago. We all know each other, we visit when we are out in our yards, and there have been mini skirmishes typical of any neighborhood over the year but nothing all that serious and thankfully nothing much involving us.
In every neighborhood there is the one woman who tends to enjoy keeping track of the comings and goings, who likes to sit back and comment when she feels something is amiss or if she thinks someone might need the "benefit" of her experience. In our case it happens to be a retired couple who are both this way. While we have experienced moments of minor annoyance in the past, Dominick and I would both be the first to say that they also have had moments of being kind and going out of their way to help us, so we tend to try and smile our way through the rougher conversations and quietly forgive them their trespasses (I say that both figuratively and literally as we drove up to our home one day and found him sneaking tomatoes from our garden and trying to hide it!).
I have thoroughly expected a visit soon, as Matthew and I have been "spotted" taking a morning walk to the mail box for our mid-morning break. A neck craning a couple of days ago was all I needed as a signal that a knock would be coming, and yesterday it did. We haven't visited in months as they were gone for the summer, but we've waved as we pass one another on the road. Well, as I expected, an excuse was made to come over and have me look something up on the internet for her but the real reason was apparent almost before she set foot in the house as she began to grill Matthew about what he was doing home, why he wanted to be homeschooled, if he missed being with other kids, if he was sad, etc. While I stood there gritting my teeth I realized Matthew was handling it all with aplomb so there was nothing to worry about, and I would handle it the way I always have in the past...with a grin and a nod in person, and shaking my head as she walked away. Talk turned to our impending adoption and the usual skeptical comments were made...not at all a surprise since each time there has been a pretty negative reaction as they simply can not understand why we would go so far away to bring home kids. We have purposely not said much around them so she was in the dark about it all but now that we are soon to travel I figured it was time to go ahead and share a bit. After 30 minutes or so though, she was on her way and we were on with our day having once again decided to just look beyond it.
Matthew and I then took our morning break and headed down to the mailbox, when we encountered her husband who pulled up next to us and turned off his engine. Expecting the usual inane banter I walked up to the cab of his pickup, a smile on my face and a "How're you doin'?" on my lips. I no more had the words leave my mouth when he yells at me...not quite at the top of his lungs but barely a notch lower...:
"How in the hell do you plan on feeding and clothing 5 kids? How in the hell do you think you are going to send them to college? What in the hell are you two thinking???"
My face turned crimson, I could feel it. Matthew was standing right there, hearing this, and he turned and quickly walked back to the house.
And I was left standing there, feeling strangely humiliated, as if there was some reason for shame.
I stammered, I offered some lame explanations of how we felt called to do this, of how whatever we could offer even at the barest minimum would be more than they currently have.
And I felt like a total idiot. A very angry idiot.
You know, I am not perfect. I have surely hurt others unintentionally in my lifetime. I have made gaffs like everyone has. But I have never, ever spoken to someone like that before, and never would.
I didn't know how to handle it. And if I am honest, perhaps it is because it touches that fear that resides not all that far from the surface that we KNOW this is a lot for us to take on, we KNOW it could turn out to be very, very hard...and not just financially but emotionally as well. That fear, I think, is what kept me from responding.
I am so mad at myself, and that is where some of the anger is coming from as well. Angry that I didn't stand up for us, angry that I didn't tell him to...well...you know what I am thinking.
But a tiny part of me also recognizes that for me, my own reaction or lack thereof showed me that I have indeed changed, that I am gradually maturing enough to recognize when it is pointless to argue or justify. I am not one to throw around Scripture, I didn't memorize it as a child growing up outside the church and don't have it handy in my memory banks. But today I turned to my "Rule Book For Life", Proverbs, and found Proverbs 18:2 "A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions."
Besides that, I know full well that what we are doing in many areas of our life doesn't make sense to the outsider. How can I explain our decisions to any rational person? What we are doing IS irrational!!
Through the years I have been backed in a corner over our decision to marry so young, our decision to leave steady jobs in California for unstable and unknown self-employment in Colorado, our decision to adopt internationally versus domestically, our decision to adopt a second, third and now a fourth time, and now our decision to homeschool one of our children. I find it fascinating that people are so vocal with their opinions, that so many people must live their lives so perfectly that it is now time for them to turn outward and offer their advice to other poor saps who are floundering along, sinking in the quicksand of life without their Vast Knowledge.
But in all the years and the hundreds of comments, I have never been attacked like this before. I have had snide comments, side comments, and behind the back comments, but never a full frontal assault like I received yesterday.
Man, I was sorely unprepared and you'd think after all these years of practice I would have been in top form. I am more than a little disappointed in myself!
Why do I share this here? Well, maybe it will make just one person think before they open their mouths to offer undesired opinions. Maybe it will help others see that families who are a bit out of the norm for whatever reason...be they adoptive, gay, step or rainbow colored all still have the right to live their lives however they see fit without fear of someone verbally assaulting them. Maybe it will serve to let those who love us know just how much your support means in light of the words and deeds of others.
I spent yesterday in a bit of a haze, so angry was I. When I walked back in the house Matthew said "Mommy, you should have told him to mind his own business.". Maybe I should have...
But as always, God's arm reaches out to snugly enfold us in our times of frustration or pain. That afternoon I received a couple of packages from people who care. This morning I received an unexpected invitation to have a lunch date and visit at the park, and the love felt there was...as always...nourishing and understanding.
Thankfully, the world is not filled with those who will never understand what I can't quite explain myself. The world is also inhabited by those who don't expect an explanation but will love you no matter what.
Is he right? Time will tell I guess. Will I let it eat at me? For awhile, if I am being honest. Kind of hard to shake it. Will we let it stop us?
Not on your life.
A little criticism isn't worth giving up what I am surrounded with every single day, in fact, it is that which surrounds me which makes taking the criticism worthwhile.
And I repeat my new mantra, as if to convince myself:
"I have faith in the tomorrow I can not see."
Oh please God, let that faith not be misplaced.