Accepting Limits and Letting Go

I have never been all that accepting of limits and the things I have let go of generally have claw marks on them.  A friend once told me that my issues with authority were so severe that if I were dictator of the world I would stage a coup d’etat.  I once looked backed and saw how much of my life was set up so that no one could tell me know.  I had a lot of attitude and very little trust in others – a product likely of being on my own at such a young age.

But even as a grown adult now, there are few areas in my life where someone other than me sets the limits so when I bump up against a limit I really struggle.

Six and a half weeks ago I had major neck surgery – they cut out a section of four vertebrea in the cervical spine and put in two rods to hold my neck together.  This happened while I was in the middle of my 300 yoga teacher training with a very busy schedule of training, teaching 4 classes a week, two kids and just life happening.

At first I did not want to put teacher training on hold and wanted to miss as few days as possible and was working a plan to make up the time I would have to miss as quickly as possible.  Post surgery in a hard collar life started to change.  I could barely life my arms up to wash my hair.  I was not allowed to drive.  And was in too much pain to do much of anything.  Thankfully I had a strong community, sangha, that organized visits and taking me out so that I would not be too lonely or bored.  My surgeon cleared me to go back to training provided I did no asana.  I went for one day and was in so much pain that night and the next day.  Then I started dreading going back.

I have learned things in yoga.  One is called ahimsa.  Non-violence.  Compassion to self and others.  The other was non-grasping or clinging to things.  I sat with this for a few days and contacted the head of my teacher training and let her know that I would not be able to finish this year.  They are letting me suspend training and pick it up where I left off at no additional cost.  Very kind and gracious.  But it was a big letting go.  I could hear myself saying “I am not a quitter!!”  But then I could hear the quiet little voice saying – ahimsa, compassion.

But there was also the limits my body has set.  I could not drive for six weeks and had to depend on others for pretty much everything.  Hard.  I have a great and kind sangha but I struggle still with trusting that they will be there.  And the limits my body sets every day. That I can only walk slowly right now until my neck heals rather than do all that yoga.  That I can teach yoga now but I had to become practiced at teaching with more verbal instruction/assists and less demonstration.

Everything as I age – I will be 50 this year – is a new limit.  A new opportunity – welcome or not, to let go.  Its hard.  But the moment I let go is the moment that I get peace.  So that I can be happy for my fellow trainees who will finish this year without resentment or bitterness – which would have been a thing for me in the past.  And every yoga pose as I slowly start to do them will be learning what my new limits are and offer me an opportunity to meet myself with ahimsa rather than aggressively pushing through something to potential further injury.

And finally, as I age so do my children and there is big letting go there.  I no longer dictate all parts of their lives and have to let them figure some things out themselves.  Let them make their own choices even if it is not a choice I would make.  With guidance for sure but there are more and more areas where we talk things through and then I let them make their own choices.  Its interesting to watch the progression.  And the progress I make all the time in more easily and quickly, accepting limits and letting go.

As they say, let go and let God.  Surrender.

My Child’s Pain

It has been quite a while since I have written anything.  Life got busy and I had major neck surgery.  I am looking forward next week to getting out of this neck collar.  It has been hard, but the hardest thing I have had to deal with is my daughter’s pain.

Over the summer we located her birth mother and she had her first of many conversations with this woman.  She discovered she has sisters, two children that this woman kept, and a brother that this woman gave up for adoption as well.  She talked to her sisters, she talked to her birth mother.  The brother she may never meet although the universe decides these things.

After months of this woman telling my daughter that she loves her, can’t wait to meet her, wants to be a part of her life etc., she bailed.  She talked to me on the phone and said she had just been leading my daughter on, she has no room in her life for her, that there was a reason why she gave the kids up, and that she does not want to hear from her again.  And I had to break that news to my daughter who was, of course, devastated.

I held this sweet girl in my arms the best I could with a neck collar while she cried.  And it has been about two weeks and she has easier and harder times with it.  I’m thankful that I never took her to meet this woman as I think it would have made it even harder for her.

The cruelty of what this woman did is beyond my comprehension.  And I know it would not offer my daughter any comfort to tell her that while she feels some sort of connection because this woman gave birth to her, this woman does not think of her as her child.  And she is not her child, she is my daughter.  I brought her home from the NICU with her twin brother and they have been mine ever since.  I have cared for them when they were sick, looked after their every need, played with them, taught them, and most of all loved them.

My life has not been easy at least in childhood and my relationship with my parents was hard and I was on my own very young.  But nothing in my life has been harder than walking my daughter through this devastation.  I have cried more in the last two weeks than the last ten years.  There is just something about being helpless in the face of her pain – I could not stop what happened and I can’t put a bandaid on it.

I also think that when your child goes through something it brings up things for the parent about their own childhood.  So its twice the pain.  But also twice the opportunity to heal.

I let my daughter watch me cry.  I also let her see me do my own work on myself.  And this sweet 14 year old girl has a brother who struggles to understand things so he would keep talking about it trying to understand that my daughter was not going to have a relationship with this woman.  When I was about to ask him to stop talking about it and that he and I would talk later, my little girl looked and me and said “it is ok mom.  If I don’t hear and talk about the reality of it then I won’t accept it.”

So over the last two weeks there have been tears, therapy, more tears.  But my girl is smart.  She decided to explore what she actually likes doing for fun, what brings her joy, and to do more of those things.  She is starting to cook, to draw, and wants to learn to play the drums (I promised her a drum set).  So she talks about her sadness and anger but also holds space for the fact that something might shift in the future.  She refuses to say or hear anything unkind about this woman.  And my heart breaks a little every time she says maybe she will try again in a year or two.  But I know that she has her own path that she has to follow and it is not for me to say.  My job is to love and support and protect her the best I can.  But about this, it is her path.

It just took me aback at how much pain I experienced over her pain and how much it brought up for me.  And that I know is my work.

Life can be complicated.

Adoption Unfolding: Finding the Birth Mother For My Kids

Not being able to have kids of my own was a huge issue for me.  I went through a long, protracted, agonizing grief period.  I was angry at God and my body and filled with longing and despair.  It was something I longed for since I was small.  A family of my own that no one could ever take away.  I remember feeling entitled to this because things had been so hard and screwed up in my family when I was a child.  This continued well beyond the time when I adopted my kids.  I love my kids beyond words, that is separate from this longing that I experienced.

When we adopted the kids, it was basically a closed adoption.  We met the birth mother once and there was no communication between us after the day we first arrived in Arkansas to adopt the kids.  She had lunch with us and then took us up to the NICU to see the kids.  She left suddenly, I imagine because the pain was so great.

The kids have always known that they were adopted.  My 13 year old daughter has gone through many periods of longing to know her birth mother.  She was and is young and I did not really imagine that I would be dealing with her meeting her birth mother before she was 18.  That all changed this week.

My daughter again brought up the issue of wanting to know this woman who gave birth to her.  The desire, the longing, pulls at her maybe in a similar way to how wanting children pulled at me.  So this week I searched for and found her birth mother.  I spent some time crying while looking through this woman’s FB page.  I looked at her family, her husband, her daughter, her life.  It seemed like she had pulled her life together and was pretty happy.

So I sent her a message, sobbing the entire time not exactly sure why.  The message basically said that I’m the woman who adopted your kids and my daughter wants to know you.  I told her that I hold her in a place of immense gratitude, that I hoped my message would find her well and not cause her pain.  I asked her to contact me and welcomed her to look through my FB page to see the kids.  I was not sure she would contact me and hoped both that she would and a little bit that she would not.  Mostly that she would.  Then I told my daughter that I had found her and let her see her birth mother’s FB page and the message that I had sent.

I had no idea what would happen.  Would she respond at all?  Would she be upset?  Would my daughter be ok if she did not respond?  If she did respond, how would I feel?  Would my daughter prefer her to me?  Would my daughter forget me?  Would she still love me?  Questions that don’t need an answer for the most part.  They are patterns of not feeling worthy and patterns cannot be reassured.  So I took a deep breath,  One of the gifts I learned in yoga and the personal work I have done the last several years is that I can breathe into any kind or amount of pain and it will lessen, it will ease.

Yesterday afternoon the birth mother replied to my message.  She said she had wished for this day for many years, that she thought of the kids and us often.  She said she needed a little time to pray about it but that she was grateful that I had reached out.  I was surprisingly excited to hear from her.  Not just for my daughter, but for myself as well.  This too surprised me.  After sitting with it for just a short period of time I realized that I want to share them with her.  I want her to see that I cherished the gift I was given.  I want her to know all about them and know that I did a good job.  I want her to see that they are happy and well adjusted.  I want her to like me.  Then I did the unthinkable and told her all of that in a message.  She thought it was sweet and said that she never doubted the kids were wonderful and well loved.  We have not had any communication since that and I expect it will be a few days before we do.  I told my daughter about all of this with my husband who is having a really hard time with it all.  My son just doesn’t want to know.  He said, “look Wuddles, I’m fine and I’m going to be with you forever so don’t worry.’  He also said he is not interested in meeting his birth mother at this time.  But he is at a different stage of development and has challenges of his own.  He may change is mind, he may not.

So all of this is a lot to sit with, and here I am surprised again.  I have no fear that this is going to be a negative experience.  I know that my daughter’s innate nature and the way I raised her means that her heart is big enough for more than one person.  And so is mine.  I can see a world at some point where the birth mother and her family become a sort of extended family to my kids.  We share the biggest possible thing together, the kids.  Likewise, I know that none of that may come to pass.  My husband is upset and having a really hard time with it.  My son is on the fence.  I have no idea whether the birth mother’s husband and family know that she had these kids and gave them up for adoption and what them knowing might do to her life.  I don’t know what fears she may have and whether she is willing and able to face them.  There is a lot that I don’t know.

What I do know is that I have done so much work on myself and learned so much from my yoga practice that I can sit with not knowing.  My mind can spin fears and I don’t have to believe them.  I can allow my heart to be open enough for any of these possibilities.  I can sit in the contradiction and be ok.  I can breathe anytime it hurts.  I can feel relief rather than fear.  I can know that this may be one of the biggest gifts I can give my daughter, that she doesn’t have to wait until she is an adult to find this in her life like so many do.  I can wait while this all unfolds and not feel the need to rush to see how things work out.  I can be thankful for whatever this brings to my life and the lives of my kids.  I can watch all of this unfold and know that God sent me nothing but angels to bring us to this beautiful place where we can grow and experience ourselves and each other in a place of light and love.  I can do all sorts of things today that I could not do before I started on this healing journey.  For all of this, I am grateful.

Namaste.

Are We Old Enough To Talk About Suicide?

Today my daughter wanted to watch this new movie 13 Reasons Why.  A movie about the suicide of this girl who apparently left tapes behind for people explaining how they were in part responsible for how she felt, which feelings led to her suicide.  I have vaguely heard of this movie before and knew there was some controversy about it but I had not seen it and I do not intend to.

The argument with my daughter was pretty straight forward.  She thought she was old enough for the topic and should be allowed to see it and “all her friends were watching it.’  I said, no, it is not your choice as it is my job to protect you and that I would decide after watching it or finding out more about it.  Somehow she came to the conclusion that my protecting her was an excuse – an excuse for what I do not know.

After soliciting opinions from people I trust who had seen it, I emphatically denied her permission to watch it.  She was pretty upset.  But all opinions that came in were that this movie glorified suicide without any insight or direction to something that would help someone with this struggle.

My daughter was so insistent that she was old enough for the topic.  But is anyone really old enough to manage suicide or the desire to end one’s life?  Having had this struggle and having attempted suicide in the past, I think not.  There is no preparing someone for the reality of this struggle.  We can talk about getting help and where to get it.  We can talk about what to do if someone says they are feeling so despairing that they want to end their life.  But the actual reality of that despair and what it is like to be in that or be in it with someone going through that?  There is no preparing for that.  There is help and support but that does not diminish the trauma of going through this as the suicidal person or the outsider trying to help.

I hear people say “the struggle is real” and “life is hard” all the time.  But these are flippant statements of minor struggles.  The struggle of choosing life is a whole other thing.  To have to face what it means to be here, with all of what life does and how the mind sees no other options other than death – that is the ultimate struggle.  To find meaning in life when the mind says it has no meaning.  To uselessly try to find meaning in the traumas of life, the pain, the suffering – only to find out that sometimes there is no meaning other than those things have brought us to where we are today.  To this point of finding joy amidst the pain and suffering.

What I have learned is that we have to process everything.  That most often the despair, fear, sadness just needs to be heard in detail.  That we can in fact go back and write a different ending – perhaps not “in reality” but rather energetically.  I have done this a lot in my personal work around my parents and the traumas from my childhood.  I have used statements like “that was not my real dad, my real dad would have done this…” and I have talked to my “real dad” and asked questions, told him how I felt with my therapist playing the part of the real dad, mom or whoever it was I needed to work with at the time.  It did change the story for me.  I did help me know that there is that essence of people – the essence of the real dad and mom to work with to help heal.  My therapist calls it part of the re-parenting process.  The work was unspeakably hard and required a lot of support.  But for me the decisions I made about life not having meaning, that nothing and no one was safe, that I had no worth in this world, that life itself was not safe and that therefore death was better were decisions I made during this trauma period when I was young.  For others I am sure the story is a little different although the feelings are so very often the same.

But as a parent now of these 13 year olds, I get to be that real mom.  The one who protects and nourishes.  I am a fantastic mom not just because I do these fabulous things with my kids but because I know what it is to not have that role model in my life.  I don’t know how I ended up being such a great parent but I did.  I did not act like my parents did.  I made different choices.  My kids will probably never know all of that.  They don’t need to.  They need to know they are loved and valued, that their love is precious and wonderful and more than enough.  I have told them bits and pieces of my life.  My struggle about life and suicide I do not share with them and I am uncertain that I ever will.  Certainly not now and not without good reason.  The hubris of youth thinks it is prepared for anything.  But its not.  I’m grateful that I know this and that I can protect my kids by saying no, you are not ready.  No one really is.  We deal with it and get help and support around it when it comes up but to say we are ready for that is just the mind being arrogant and indulgent.

This glorification of suicide in a movie frightens me.  Was it made just because it could be made?  Because someone had the idea?  Is that kind of like making the atom bomb without thinking of the consequences just because it could be done?  And why are so many parents just letting their kids watch this movie?  When did it become ok to detach from the consequences of letting children decide for themselves what they are gown up enough to do, see, and experience?  I may not be able to stop them from everything I think they should be protected from.  But I won’t sit blindly by while they expose themselves to things that are so hard, so traumatic and that will ultimately desensitize them to something that is truly horrible.

Expanding Beyond Traditional Family

I always said that family is not who you are related to but rather it is the people that you love who also love you.  I used to think that this was just something I said to make myself feel better because my family was so screwed up.  But then we adopted and I truly understand that blood relations has nothing to do with it.

Yesterday we brought someone else into our family.  A 17 year old girl.  Her story reminded me a lot of my own and I wanted to help her so she moved in last night.  The official story is that she needs a place to stay until she graduates from high school but I don’t intend to have her leave then unless she wants to.  I think she will be just part of the family by then.

It is horribly tragic when people have kids and they are not willing or able to love and take care of them as they should and as the kids deserve.  The beautiful soul has a horribly alcoholic and from what I understand a sometimes abusive father and a mother who is beyond neglectful.  The mother actually came here yesterday at our insistence.  I did not just want to take the girl in without verifying her situation to make sure her mother knew where she was.  This mom asked me no questions about myself, my family, what we intended for her.  I have not heard from her since she left her daughter here with us yesterday.  I can’t imagine leaving my kids with someone that I did not know.

So this mother’s day, I have a third teenager that I am quickly thinking of as my own.  I tread lightly here because whatever the circumstances, peoples relationships with their parents can be complicated.  I don’t see myself as a replacement for her mother.  More as a new member of my little tribe who is just here to receive love and support.

Thankfully my daughter is thrilled to have her and she is going the extra mile to make this new member of our household feel comfortable.  Its a good thing.  This girl does not seem to have many friends she has met in real life, most of them are from chat rooms.  She does not have any family support although I have heard that her grandparents are quite lovely.  I talked to her this morning about including her on our trip to our VT house this weekend and her face lit up.  Just to be included, wanted.  My heart breaks for her.

So I find myself relaxing just a little bit on the technology rules for the house as she makes dance videos with my daughter.  And I find myself sitting back and watching her receive kindness and love.  Love from one human being to another.

I want to tell her to relax, that everything is and will be ok.  But it is too soon and she is too vigilant right now to take that in.  For right now, its enough that she has a place to be and a family to be with.  And I will take her to yoga.  A place to learn to breathe through life.  I want to tell her she is not alone.  I keep hearing the expression “you are not alone, you have the whole universe inside you.”  The lessons of yoga.  Breath linked with motion, meditation.  It helps.  As the community helps.  I hope that somewhere here there is something she can grab onto.

This mother’s day then will be even more special.  It will include another person for me to love.

Adoption: A Quick Look at the Beginning

I was talking to another mom today and of course we got to the topic of our kids.  It does not come up often anymore that my kids are adopted (twins) but today it did.  At some point in the conversation the woman looked at me and said “You took them both?”

It never occurred to me otherwise.  I guess I don’t often realize how hard the journey was when we first brought the kids home.  They were born at 27 weeks and weighed a little over a pound each.  They both had heart surgery at 5 weeks and both had BPD and ROP, one much more severe than the other.  They both came home on oxygen with monitors.  My son was in the NICU about a month longer than my daughter.

Our adoption process was quick.  One of the quickest I had ever heard of.  We started the process in October, the kids were born in October.  The adoption was finalized at the end of January, a mere three months later.

I spent six weeks in a hotel in another state.  My daughter was discharged a week after we got there and my son remained in the hospital for another month.  Every day I took my daughter to the NICU and I took care of both of them during the day.  Then at night I took care of her.  I could not wait to get home with them.  I was so happy all the time.

I would stroller her around the hospital stopping people constantly asking them “isn’t she the most beautiful thing you have ever seen?”  Everyone agreed.  And my heart would ache at night when I had to leave my son there.  I enjoyed being with them all the time.

Coming home was a challenge.  We could not fly commercially because of the oxygen tanks and the fact that we could not get a direct flight.  The doctors did not want them in the car seats for as long as it would have taken to drive (probably about 10 days with all the stops we would have had to make).  Angel flights came to our rescue and got us home, for which we were really grateful.

Maybe it was because I had never had one kid so I don’t really know how it would have been easier.  I can’t imagine my life any other way than the way it is.  I also could not see at the time that they were all that sick.  I was so certain they would be fine that I never questioned it.  And it never occurred to me that the kids would be split up.  I have always thought it a gift that they have the same biological and adoptive family.  We have always talked openly about being adopted and we saved everything from their birth mother for them.  We take it out every year when we celebrate adoption day so that they can look at it.

Our kids are comfortable with the fact that they are adopted.  I overheard someone giving my daughter a hard time about being adopted and they said to her that she did not grow in my belly – like it was an insult.  She looked at him and said no, she did not grow in my belly but rather she grew in my soul.  Best answer ever.  And indeed they did.

 

Mommy and Me at Playlist Live: The Aftermath

Watching them grow up is often a struggle for me.  My daughter’s excitement about coming to this event was infectious and at times extreme.  So it is no wonder that she experienced some disappointment; she had built it up in her mind to be something so spectacular that it was bound to disappoint in some way.

She is at an age now where the presence of her friends is part of what she needs.  It was nice to be here for her, but it would have been nicer had she brought a friend.  Someone with whom she could share her excitement and disappointment.  She could tell me about it and we can process it but that is not the same as being with someone who shares those feelings.

Indeed, the event was a disappointment in many ways.  She did not get to meet the people that she wanted to meet.  There was not much to do all day except walk around among the perhaps 15,000 people here hoping to meet someone she admires.  And the noise was incredible.  It seemed very much like watching a trailer for a movie that is really funny and then going to the movie and realizing that the only good part of the movie was the trailer.

I found the event fascinating in many ways.  So many young people in one place without any trouble going on.  I did not see any evidence of drinking, drugs, not even much profanity.  They were genuinely well behaved and often quite kind.  There were very young people giving out free hugs, songs, dance, and discussions on things such as bullying, body image, self expression.  And music that seems to appeal to this younger crowd more than it does me.  There were some with shirts expressing ideas that were troublesome (like the shirt that said “dead girls can’t say no”).  But overall I was really impressed with these young people.  That, however, did not make the event enjoyable for my daughter.

Throughout the day I watched her go from excitement and joy to sadness and disappointment and back again.  It was hard.  As the mom there is a huge part of me that wanted to step in and make everything better.  And there were times where I tried to do that.  There were also times where I felt I needed to let her be in the struggle, let her just experience being sad, overwhelmed, and disappointed.

We spent quite a bit of time throughout this long day processing her emotions.  She came to a point where she was able to understand that it did not serve her to be overly attached to having something happen, having a particular person being here for her to meet.  She understands the pitfalls of letting her excitement run away with her.  The need to reality check her expectations.  We called it a learning experience.  She had more independence here than  I have ever given her at an event.  I did not hover constantly although I was constantly in the venue watching over her perhaps without her knowing or sensing that all the time.

So quickly she will be an adult making all her own choices and I have to give her some time to start doing that where I can guide the process and be there to help her understand what went wrong and why and what went right and why.  But she needs to have her journey, not the journey that I want her to have but the one that is authentically her own.  I find my daughter to be a fascinating young woman and while it can be painful at times to let go and watch her struggle, it is necessary to do so.  With kindness, with compassion, with support, with immense love, I know she can face anything.