Thursday, January 17, 2013

Sometimes We Just Don't Know

We all go through times in our life that are harder than others.  It might be a tragic incident, a serious illness, or difficult financial times. Sometimes it can be less dramatic, protracted situations that slowly gnaw away at us, steadily making it harder and harder to lift our heads up and see the light ahead.  We all have these lows, the ones that are not as easy to talk about, or are related to a situation so complicated that we can't begin to really explain it all.  Those are the times when we feel the loneliest, and we battle an inner dialogue that beats us up perhaps even more than others ever would.

Then, in the midst of anxiety and loneliness, someone reaches out and makes a thoughtful gesture or says a kind word just when you need it most, and a little flicker of light gives you a smidgen of peace that helps you keep moving forward.  Often, they won't have a clue how important that little comment or act of kindness was.  I am a lucky woman, and at times when it hurts the most, God has used someone who listened to that little nudge to reach out and hug me.  Tonight is one of those nights when I could be going to bed feeling much differently than I am, all because someone was open with their heart and offered a little piece of sunshine on a cloudy day.

We do the same for others, I am sure.  I learned a couple of days ago from Angela that I had a greater impact on her life than I ever would have guessed she would realize.  We were working side by side at the food bank with a young lady who is close to finishing high school.  She has had a really tough life, and it shows.  She was adopted internationally as an older child as well, experienced a disruption of her first adoption, and finally landed in her forever family, but her healing is far from complete.  I knew her vaguely from an encounter with her and her family several years ago, but I didn't recognize her when I saw her again because she had changed so much.  A once  dainty, vulnerable, tender young girl has morphed into a loud, in-your-face, tough girl who hides behind the humorous retorts.  The first time we were there together, she came right up to me, the attitude dripping from her as she said, "Hey, I know you don't remember me." then she shared who we knew in common and I recalled where we had met.  She started talking, staccato style comments thrown across the table at me, her voice like the sound of a secretary pounding out 90 words per minute on an old IBM Selectric.  She'd stop and fire off an insult to one of the boys from her alternative high school classes who were there in forced servitude to fulfill graduation requirements.  Unlike her school compatriots though, she doesn't hang back trying to stall until her 2 hours are up.  She hustles, she is quick to see what needs to be done and hops to it, all the while hurling one liners over her shoulder at the ones she deems to be slackers.  It is obvious she is sharp and does not quite fit with the rest of her crew, who all appear to be ready to go back home and flop on their beds to sleep until mid-afternoon, if only they could get away with it.

Each week, she seeks me out.  By week 3, she is bringing up adoption and orphanages so casually that you can immediately tell  by the feigned yet intentional indifference that this is one hurting kid.  She reveals a horror that happened to her as if she were talking about nothing worse than having a hang nail, but the glance upward at me through bangs covering her eyes tells me all I need to know. I am working it, sensing that she is hoping I hold something that might help her, yet neither one of us able to figure out yet what that might be.  I smart off with her, she teases and gets in my face, I go all So Cal Gang Girl on her which totally surprised her that this 46 year old in Mom jeans could "bring it" and it cracked her up.  She put her arm around my shoulder, 4 inch hoops dangling from her lobes as she says, "You're all right, for a mom.  I bet I couldn't take you down after all!" and we both laugh.

Our day done, we head for the car and Angela claims the front seat, telling her siblings that she needs to talk to me.  I put the key in the ignition and turn to her asking,"So what's up?"  Angela looks at me and says, "That was me when I was younger and first came home, wasn't it?"  before I can respond she continues, "Mom, if I didn't have you, that would be me at 18.  I know it.  I would be just like her.  I was so tough when you got me, I was awful!  I didn't know how to talk about things, and I was scared and mad inside.  No one knew it, and I didn't know how to be different.  Everyone thought that was just me.  How did you know I was different?  How do you see it in her?"

"I just knew, I don't know how, but I did.  Sort of like you just know it with her.  That's not who she is, but she can't be who she really is because she is afraid of showing she is soft inside, and she has been hard so long it is not easy to drop that if someone doesn't help you."  I explained.

"She doesn't have anyone she can trust, does she?" Angela asked.

"I have no idea, but I'm betting not." I replied.

Then, in such a great act of grace and selflessness, our daughter who is much farther down the road to healing said, "She could have you, Mom.  You can tell she really wants to talk to you but doesn't know how.  She needs someone like you in her life, or things are going to get worse for her.   I think you should try and help her.  You might be the only one who could, because she is coming to you and that means something, doesn't it?"  Then she added, "I am so glad that when I am 18 I won't be like that.  I never liked myself when I was tough back in Kazakhstan.  I didn't like that I was always trying to be a bully girl so that others wouldn't hurt me, I just didn't know what else to do.  I bet she doesn't either."

We spent the next few minutes in deep discussion about how people go into survival mode when it is necessary, and how that can become ingrained behavior.  We talked about the courage it takes to be vulnerable, and how much trust it takes to share our hearts with another...and if we have done it before and had it used against us, we will find it very hard to try it again with anyone else.  Angela told me how she really had wanted to be "less tough" when we came but she didn't know how to be different.  Now she understood why that was so hard.

I asked her, "So what made the difference?  What was it that helped you let down your guard?"  She looked down at her hands as she spoke, saying,"It was when you came back to Zhazira's office  after I was so mean to you.  You were very tough, Mom, but you were also very loving.  You talked about the things that had happened to me, and you cried with me.  Maybe part of me knew you were tough enough to not let me get away with things, and I knew for a long time that you loved me because the letters you sent said things like I thought a real mom would say."  We were quiet as I reached for her hand.  A few minutes later she said, "I wonder if anything you have said already has helped when she talked and laughed about XXXX happening to her, and you looked at her and didn't laugh and said that must have been a really scary thing to go through, and you didn't think it was funny, you thought it was so sad and you were sorry she had that happen.  She looked at you different for a minute, and I was hoping she could talk about it with you more serious, but then you could see she decided not to."   Angela turned to me as I continued to drive and said, "Some Moms are afraid to talk about things because they don't know what to say.  Sometimes, you have to say it for your kids to help them be able to talk about it.  I wonder if anyone has done that with her. Doyou think her mom has?  You did that for me, and I am different because you did.  I wish she could have that, too, because I think she could be a good woman someday, but right now she is headed into a lot of trouble.  I think she could be really nice if she stopped being tough."

I asked Angela, "Why is this bothering you so much?  You seem to be really concerned."  She waited a couple minutes before responding as she stared out the window. "Because she is me.  I know she could be OK, but she won't be if she doesn't get help."  I then said, "All we can do is be willing to let God use us, to continue to show love and understanding.  But we can't force anything to happen. Sometimes, what we say or do doesn't seem to make any difference, but a year or two or even ten years later that person will remember what you said or did, and suddenly they get it in a new way, but you might not ever know it."

Angela squeezed my hand tightly and softly said, "I am glad you know it and got to see it.  I love you, Mom. Thanks for adopting me so I will have a good life and be a good person."

"Thanks for letting me be your Mom, sweetie."

Sometimes, you just don't know.


Schlef Family said...

We never know the opportunities God will bring to our doorstep and where He is leading us. This sounds like a wonderful opportunity for your family.


Kathryn said...

Cindy, you always inspire me.

Kathy W