Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Journey to Love

I sit here late on a Saturday night, feeling quite reflective after some good company, a warm email from someone now home safe and sound, a lovely card received that touched Dominick and I deeply, and a week that taught me a lot about the journey to love.

Many people understandably do not realize how difficult the transition is for a child or children to enter a new family. They see the surface, the "happily ever after", and they think to themselves "Isn't that nice?". The work involved, the emotional baggage to be unpacked, the give and take of building new lives is not readily visible.

It also is often forgotten that every single person accepts a new version of family life...every child already in the family has to readjust and adapt, the new parents have a brand new version of their family before them, and the child being adopted has obviously enormous change to accept. It is not easy, it is something many can never imagine for their own lives, and it is something that for the only way we CAN imagine our lives as this is how we form a family. Don't get me wrong, we don't do it philanthropically...we aren't out to "look good" or "save a child", nor do we have a single, solitary regret about not giving birth. This is just the way we do it, so there IS no other way for us, there IS no imagining a different reality.

I recognize that there are as many understandings and realities about adoption as there are families who adopt, each is a very unique path and there is no right or wrong.

This week, for me, has been all about the journey to love...and about accepting that it is not a destination in and of itself, but is indeed a lifelong excursion into the matters of the heart that is never quite finished if we are doing it right :-)

As I was reminded by someone I love very much tonight, it has only been a month since our arrival home, and we have surely come a very long way. It is sometimes hard to see that when you are living in the vortex and not able to view it from the outside, but the growth curve here is phenomenal, and I need to stop and look back for a moment to remind myself of the transformation taking place right before my eyes.

The first week of December was one of the most sorrow-filled, life changing ones I have ever had. Rejection, battling for hearts, unexpected reaching out, acceptance, forgiveness...all were experienced in this unusual and compressed situation. It was followed by very tentative worry-filled steps, amazing courage, reaching out while still fearful and trying to regain footing and balance.

Here we are, 5 weeks home, and though not at all where we will be in 5 months, we are surely seeing love in an entirely new way as it works it's special magic on those in our family.

I am so proud of our sons and daughters. They are my favorite people in the entire world, for they have all been tested in battle and have proven their mettle over and over again under circumstances that would bend or even break the most mature of adults. How can I not sit back in humble gratitude as I gaze into the eyes of the people whom God has chosen to bring into my life and form a family with?

This past week has been special, it has signaled turning another corner in our relationships, there is an ease that is gradually settling over all of us. I credit my "weekend intensive" which really stretched to 4 days or so with God using wise person after wise person to provide me with encouragement and insight. You all helped me remain focused and mature when it was a tipping point where exhaustion and weariness would have caused me to slip into being a mother I would not have been pleased with being.

Instead, the week began on a better note and is ending on a much higher one. Sitting in the car yesterday as Dominick was driving, I felt the grip of some hands on my shoulders giving me a mini-massage. I glanced in the rear view and was stunned to see it was Angela, and quickly averted my gaze so as not to cause her to shy away like a frightened deer. We are playing musical seats in the car with no one in the same seat twice as all nicely take turns, and I would never have guess that the hands gently kneading my shoulders were hers. I have been allowed to touch her more this week, and feel more "safe" doing so and not worrying about rejection. A hand on the back as I congratulate her, her offering of her own hands to show me how cold she is, hugs that last infinitesimally longer...but it is noticeable. She sat next to me on the couch with thighs touching as we work on school work and read a book together, or as this afternoon she bounced out of her room to share a song on a CD that someone kindly sent that she wanted me to hear because even though it was in Russian it had the word "California" in it so she plopped on the couch next to me so I could hear it.

It may be little things folks, but right now they are HUGE...a touch, a lingering moment of is very, very hard to get to this stage and a child who has suffered so much requires incredible emotional strength to reach out.

And tonight was really...well...just plain old nice. As I sit here in bed blogging, on the nightstand next to me sits two drawings made for us by Angela and left on our bed for us to find labeled "Mama and Papa" in Russian. We ended the evening with all of us congregating on the floor of the girl's room as they played with rocks in a game that was sort of like jacks and showed off their talents while Russian music played in the background and Joshie came in and out looking like Jason in the horror flicks with a glow-in-the-dark hockey mask on. You know, just a normal old night at the LaJoy home. Everyone drifted in and out, slowly growing more tired, and Angela laid her head on her butterfly rug and pretended to sleep. I wondered to myself if I dared, but figured I might as well try so I leaned over after caressing her hair, laid my head on hers and softly whispered "I love you, Angela". My heart raced as I wondered if it was too much too soon, but soared when I immediately heard back an "I love you" in response...and for a few moments we were mother and daughter without a past between us.

We ARE growing together, we DO have success that might not be measured as such to those watching from the outside. There is still the inability to remain physically close very long, and any expression of affection simply can not be done in the light of day face to face, that would be too intimate. She gently rejected me a couple of times today over minor things...couldn't turn to look at me when jumping rope, etc. But oh, how she is trying. What great respect I have for her strength.

And how much I love them both. Can it possibly grow stronger? Of course it can, and isn't that just about the most exciting thing ever, to realize that as wonderful as it feels now it will only get better and better? It still hurts, it will be hard for a very long time, but with patience, perseverance and desire on both sides, we will make it. And believe me, there is enormous desire on both sides for us to become the mother and daughter we have the potential to be.

I give thanks daily for Olesya's easy love and tender affection, for it has been a place I can turn when it all feels unbearable. Her bright smile, her easygoing manner, her open and loving spirit are almost a reward after a tough moment.

I know we will have setbacks, that this is not a straight line but instead resembles the results of a Richter scale after a large earthquake with lots of aftershocks...many huge swings up and down. But those swings will gradually lessen, and eventually stabilize and the quake will be but a distant memory. We have many tremors still to suffer through, but we will do it together, all of Team LaJoy offering support when needed, love without fail, and immediate forgiveness.

Watching Kenny and Olesya work at the kitchen table today side by side on his doll house, I saw cooperation and sharing more than most families ever are blessed enough to see. Seeing Angela pick up Joshie today and swing him in her arms wearing a bright grin was sweet. Hearing both girls express their sadness that Matthew would be away for the night at a friend's house helped me see what bonds are growing here.

You know what? I don't mind at all going through these great trials, for within them we all grow in ways others can't begin to imagine. We all are transformed, we all are challenged to live out the message that Christ taught, we all have greater rewards than most do because with great challenge comes unimaginable blessing. We may not always appreciate the difficulties, but we sure do love the end result!

This week may bring backsliding, it may bring new revelations of an old life that has now been left behind. We will continue to forge ahead, creating our new family, and recognizing that we will never really be finished...will never really have "arrived", for if we are still living and breathing then we still have opportunity for new growth and understanding, and our journey will never be completed. Thank goodness, for who really ever wants to stop learning new and better ways to love?


Anonymous said...

Earthquake, aftershocks--what an apt metaphor including those who reach out to attempt to fill a need, ease a soul. And now the healing, the greening as it is. Your brave and adapting girls, your compassionate boys, and you and Dominick bringing about that healing through love and patience and wisdom.

My own metaphor for you has often been that of a roller coaster. Scaling heights, terrifying drops, twists and turns, and then a smoothing out, less bumps, and a glide into "home". As with all metaphors this is incomplete. Looking back on the ride, which in your case is ongoing and everlasting, it is to remember that this ride has been years in the making. You have built the coaster piece by piece, ridden through the terror (and may again experience other rollers of extremes), and now are experiencing some of the exhiliration and exhaustion of an ongoing ride.

Thanks again for inviting us to the earthquake, the ride, the journey.

Love you all,

Kelly and Sne said...

I once saw a quote that went something like this: Happiness is like a cat. If you coax it and call it, it ignores you. But if you sit contentedly, it will jump in your arms.

I think you could swap happiness with love and see the same thing. The more we make 'love' a goal and obsess over it, the more difficult I think it can be. But, as you are demonstrating, if we let it happen in its due time, then it will unfold in magical ways.

Enjoy the ride!

Anonymous said...

As one who has been in a very similar place with a new adolescent daughter (twice), I can attest and relate to how huge those moments you are connecting with Angela are. We are still working on them with our newest daughter, home over two yrs now. Who knew that you had to teach a child how to hug, literally placing their limp arms around your waist? Angela sounds like she has a deep desire to connect, and you are being wonderfully perceptive to wait patiently for it and to also take slow, gentle steps towards it.

Thanks once again for sharing your caring, gentle ways of dealing with your childrens' healing. Not only do I appreciate your insights (and admire your patience, lacking some of that myself), I can't get enough of hearing of your family's progress! I know it's still a path of both hills and valleys, but I rejoice at every incident that indicates progress in building family. Sharing your journey is a gift to yourself and to those headed to, or on a similar path.

Nancy in the Midwest

Anonymous said...

Seeing the other children receiving and giving affection may be a great encourager to Angela in this new world she is exploring.

May she, and all of you, continue to learn and grow in His love.

Peggy in Virginia

Carol said...

Cindy, I appreciate hearing about all the ups and downs. You do a nice job of painting the "real" picture. It is so heartwarming to see the progress being made, and to watch the building of your family.

Maureen said...

Yes, it is difficult to adjust. It sounds like you are having ups and downs, but it was really nice to read that you are looking for and finding the little celebrations. You are right that things will be up and down, but I admire your willingness to go through it all to grow. I always called it my roller coaster - riding up and down through the transition. A year and a half later I think we are finally smoothing out. It's a long road, but you are getting there day by day.

I also have to appologize for being "gone" from reading and commenting on your blog. I got behind and was having trouble catching up. Instead I've just jumped forward to this your latest post and will maybe go back to read the others as I have time. Or maybe I will just continue forward with you.