Us~ability

When my DD declares that I am the source of her troubles, I frequently react. It refutes my beliefs and understanding of myself as a “good” person.  I struggle to find a new balance. What is this power she is handing me? I am the source, the god, of her brokenness. I am her creator. I am the reason she isn’t whole.

Or not.

My third grade sunday school class memorized Psalm 121 ~

1 I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills,

from whence cometh my help.
2 My help cometh from the LORD,

which made heaven and earth.

It wasn’t until I was in college that I realized it said my help comes from the Lord. Up until then I heard it with a period  at the end of the first sentence instead of a question mark. My help comes from the Lord, the source of creation, that which made heaven and earth (and the hills). Well yeah, sometimes my help does come from the hills. I was in the coast range when I figured this out anyway. I was in the Sierras the first time I was aware of the creator.

Today I checked out some youtube buddhism for reassurance. I don’t fancy myself a buddhist, because I find attending to the source of all creation to be very useful and as far as I can tell Buddha doesn’t go there. All the same, Buddhist teachings are also very useful, especially in dealing with the mind. Am I a good person?  Just like my dog is a good dog, I am a good person because I am a person day in and day out. I don’t give it up for a moment.

In and ex clusion

I wish there was a guide, a handbook, a Miss Manners for reunion. Some thing to refer to when everything is upside down. I wish I had the presence of mind to realize no means yes and what we say about each other reflects what we think about ourselves. Maybe some of my mistakes can clear the way for someone else.

A couple years into reunion, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. Two years to live. Those next two years were rocky ones for DD and me with a lot of mixed up memories– trying to look like we were handling things and mistrusting each other. Our families thought we should have one meeting and put it behind us. I suppose Joy was quite frustrated; trying to bring me out of my “fog” about the way adoption worked.  I was preoccupied with Mom’s stoic and optimistic outlook.

Looking back I see the foolishness of expecting Joy to trust me. She had a lifetime of feeling abandoned by me.  I hadn’t proved  trustworthy. She withdrew from her mother/stranger, cut off contact for periods of time, and accused me of neglecting her. Last fall she described it as not having anyone on her side, as though we were opponents.

The first summer Mom was sick, Joy and I had a very unsatisfying visit.  I was bewildered with grief for both my firstborn and my mother.  I had expected Joy to accept the complications of my family with grace and ease, which was ridiculous. Joy had PTSD. Mom had cancer.  I just crashed into it.

After our “visit” I holed up in my folks guestroom until morning, scaring my dad into talking about adoption for the first time.  I listened as he explained his views on family loyalty. His views from the Great Depression as well as being drafted into WWII. He knew @#$# happened to women and children. DD and I had been protected. He had dealt with considerable family upheaval due to emotional/mental depressions.  He didn’t want to lose me again. I appreciated his concern and continued to feel disconnected.

Joy said “She’s not really dying.” I thought she meant mom’s illness was just an excuse, diverting attention away from her. (She later explained that she didn’t think Mom acted like she was dying.)  Knowing that I wasn’t going to get to spend much more time with Mom hurt. That my daughter resented my focus on Mom hurt.  Joy’s skepticism was still on my mind when Mom died.

She almost made two years after diagnosis.   She planned to visit us in Kansas in the springtime. I called to wish her Happy Birthday three times on April 19th. The tulips were blooming. When she couldn’t come to the cordless phone, I figured out she wasn’t going to make the trip. My brother and I were standing by her bed in the early hours of the 27th as she passed over. The day before her scheduled trip to KS.

Dad’s blood pressure was sky high and he had two herniated discs. There was too much to be responsible for at that point. I drew a picture of amaryllis blooms for the memorial program cover, borrowed a dress to wear and picked a song I’d been listening to throughout her illness, You are a Flower by Greg Brown. I love that song.  My brother, the Golden Boy, and I both did eulogies. I didn’t even call Joy.  She had not been able to make the trip to visit when Mom was alive and I didn’t realize her death was more significant than her life. But mostly I didn’t want to deal with criticism of the mother I was saying goodbye to.

A month or two later, when we did talk about it, Joy was indignant that she hadn’t been informed/included/invited. I mistakenly took it as interest in her grandmother.  I thought feeling left out meant she wanted to know what happened. So I sent her a program and a cassette recording. It wasn’t until this year that I finally grasped that  her indignation was at not being included as part of the family. She wasn’t interested in my mother, her grandmother, as a person. That was me.  She wanted to be recognized and treated as a granddaughter at a family gathering.

She wanted to know why I didn’t do that.  Simple incompetence is my answer; or lack of awareness, as my grandson so eloquently said. Spring of ’95 I was self absorbed and clueless and on my own. The internet has it’s pitfalls but it’s the closest thing I’ve got to a mentor re reunion.

Resilience

I want to be so grounded in who I am that I can cooperate with whatever comes my way. I want to be able to be knocked over like this Tweety Bird Bop Bag and bounce back up singing.

I’m feeling sorry that Margie seems down for the count right now. It brings into perspective the hard times we people have trying to get along. Can’t we just get along? Shoot, sometimes time I barely get along with myself.

Volunteering at a local garden for nearly 7 years,  I’ve watched a number of volunteers get burned and burned out. One of our most valued members quit a couple weeks ago. She had been driving 1 1/2 hours round trip twice a week to nurture new plants for the garden and for sale to raise funds for the garden. She did a fabulous job in the greenhouse. But her feelings got hurt. She felt dissed by people working in other areas of the garden and she quit! She left her team of 10-15 people learning her propagation techniques on their own.  She has a wealth of knowledge that can’t be easily replaced and I really don’t understand walking away from all she had started.

As a fledgling organization we recently opened a gift shop in hopes of raising funds for more planting and more educational programs.  The first two people heading up the shop got their feelings hurt and quit without notice. I’ve got no bznz experience and my last retail job lasted 3 months in 1969. But I stepped in as temporary shopkeeper. I asked the volunteer coordinator to find a replacement for me asap. It took almost a year. During that time I kept the administration informed that I was going to leave, but I wasn’t going to leave in a huff.

I lean into things. I let people know when I’m dissatisfied and make plans for transitions as much as possible. When the replacement gift shop manager was found I was thrilled.  I gave her my number, my email, my files and offered to meet with her weekly as long as she wanted and walked away happily. She quit after a  month.

I guess that’s what people do.

Maybe I’m the kind of person that inspires people to sing, “How can I miss you when you won’t go away?”

Maybe this is the good side of stubborn?

Blogs are written by different people for different purposes. I think I remember Margie feeling ambivalent about her blog for the past season. I wonder if the woman that headed up propagation was weary of the work load she was carrying and the last misunderstanding was just a good excuse to walk away. I’ve pulled away from my very personal blog for very personal reasons at times.  Mostly I was just struck dumb with fear that what I had  to say hurts my DD. Or maybe I was feeling like I just didn’t have anything of merit to say.

What am I doing speculating about why Margie closed her blog? Why does anyone close down? What business is it of mine? I don’t feel like I knew her well enough to ask her. But I knew her blog well enough to feel it’s a loss to many people. It’s loss is to much more than me.  I do want to say THANK YOU MARGIE for the time you blogged. I’ll send that out to the universe and that will have to do.

And a little quote from a young celebrated adoptee, “People need to persevere around this town!”

Perfection may not be available. The paradox is still going for it.

The best I can end up with is excellence, and excellence in loving is good enough for me.

Goodbye Dreams

Well the nail holes in the trim boards have just been filled. So I’m hoping to get the washing machine hooked up in two days.

Lest I give the impression that my life has become just a bowl of cherries,  an emotional residual energy is messing with my mind. Waking up in the night and in the morning with something dredging up the hopeful turned mournful fantasies I had a couple years ago when both my daughters decided to move to the same city. I entertained visions of visiting the city and spending a day with each of them and very likely getting together for some time with all three of us. I had small dreams, nothing spectacular by city standards, just the opportunity for some co mingling.

That was the seed for a lesson in what makes reunion so ~ um, challenging. We three did have two opportunities to sit down all together. The first fueled my fantasies with even more hope despite the anxiety and my blundering emotions and words. A short time later I learned my blunders were more than faux pas. They were devastating and undermining and we were not going to try that again right away. It took nearly 18 mo. for me to re group and try again.  That second time I got a clearer message.  Quit trying so hard. Quit pushing. Just quit it. I came away telling myself I am not going to do that again. I didn’t know yet exactly what I had done. I did know it wasn’t working for anyone though. Not that there weren’t some sweet moments and tender sharing.

Overall I understood I had pushed too hard. I had tried to overlook / skip over/ the faulty foundation the three of us had.  There wasn’t adequate resilience. So I’ve been studying myself, my daughters, our situations and life. I’ve been building my resilience. I’ve been using tips, techniques, friends, peers and everything that comes my way to learn and grow and turn to loving no matter what.  Sleep is one of my best friends. I like to “sleep on it” when I get upset or defensive too. So often that really helps.

But lately this nagging depression sneaks in even when I’m sleeping. So I have to wake up and purposefully redirect myself. I acknowledge that DD, my firstborn, got screwed. Her experience of me is that I have been wantonly reckless with her well being. That is our foundation. Trying to make light of my fragile emotional state instead of easing things, hurt her even more.

Teaching elementary school I was frequently astonished at how easy my raised kids were to raise.  I looked at what my students parents were facing and felt lucky. I must admit during  Buster and Ezzy’s teen years their teachers didn’t always agree with my assessment. But as an educator I have the luxury of questioning the system and knowing it too well. I used to privately compare my raised kids to memories of me as a kid~ again I’m lucky.

Looking back I am still grateful I did have an easy time with the younger ones. And I pray for the strength to grow into reunion.

This summer my youngest is moving across the country, to a bigger and even more expensive city. The remnants of my dreams of family reunion blossoming are breaking through ~ testing my resolve and mettle. I look at them as more material. More stuff. More information telling me to let go of fantasy or what I thought and hoped could be in favor of working with current reality. The tender resistance tugs me awake to say goodbye and hello. I’m going to the city in a month, to help her move.  That’s what woke up the remaining dreams. It looks like it’ll be the last time I’ll be up there for a while.

We’ll go on, the three of us. My fantasies and plans adjust. The separateness sits a little more solidly now.

The Best Mothers Day Ever

That’s what I had yesterday. Disclaimers first. I did not receive flowers or gifts, go out to brunch or see my kids, all of which I would enjoy tremendously. I applied a third coat of drywall mud to my re done laundry room. I went to the big box store for a new dryer vent and Bliss Blue exterior semi gloss paint for the door.  In the outer ways it was a pretty run of the mill day. Both my raised kids called. We usually talk on the weekends anyway. DD left a phone msg on Saturday.

*side bar*(Buster called this am to wish me “Happy Mothers Day again”. I momentarily swooned.)

What made it the BEST EVER was that I was feeling more at home in my particular body, emotions and mind, my particular manifestation of life.  I love celebrating anything ~ a brilliant idea, a new word, a smile, with dance and song. It was Sunday so my drywall work was accompanied by the local blue grass radio show, so there were also fancy footwork and shimmies.

Looking at and expressing my residual feelings  around MD freed up the energy that I’d been bottling ~ out of a sense of shame for letting myself be hurt/wounded. I still see remnants of a puritanical view of the holiday. But I’m looking at changing that too.

I’m looking at not holding back. Kind of a “Take Back the Night Mothers Day” experience for me. Robin Westerbrook’s story of missing her mama helped.  That and receiving the most inclusive Mothers Day wishes from a few other first mothers clued me into the idea that I contribute to what Mothers Day is for everyone. And the first thing I heard when I set up my boom box at the worksite was the song I’d been singing to DD in my dreams.

Happy Mothers Day Wishes…

A friend with two young daughters shared this with me. Happiness to All today.

Mother is the name for God in the lips

and hearts of little children.

William Makepeace Thackeray

Mothers Day, again…

Rolling in reunion angst approaching MOTHERS day. Hmph.

Mother’s Day is the Sunday following my relinquishment day. That was a good enough reason to ignore MD for me. When my husband brought me a MD gift a few months after our son was born, I was appalled.  A pretty little plate that I accidentally broke within the month.  He glued it back together. I couldn’t begin to explain my feelings. I was learning how to be a mother, to transform myself from undeserving to worthwhile in the mother dept. After relinquishing I had a LOT to make up for and too too too many doubts to handle.

I wanted MD to go away. I hated being honored on the day that reminded me of loss.

The generations of daughters disappointing mothers in my family held influence too. I was angry at my mother for years, as though she should have made everything in my life ok for me. As though she shouldn’t have had her own burdens to work through.  I had been raised to meet some high standards and was more than able to return the expectations for an extended adolescence. As I made inroads in accepting myself I began to accept Mom and Dad too.

I still minimized MD. I felt guilty for not honoring my own mother much on that  day. My SIL was motherhood personified. She was a La Leche League leader and reveled in her mother self. I enjoyed her ebullience, began to see a bright side to it.

Reunion brought a new kink. All the “I’m not good enough to be a mother” crap took it up a notch.  Our first MD was still in the phase of me being nothing more than a source for medical/genealogical/sociological info. My daughter had a son. But if I was not her mother, I must not be his grandmother.

It’s funny looking back. She was my daughter. She wanted me to be sure people knew I had a daughter out there somewhere. Somewhere… I was not her mother because I had given up that right. But she was my daughter. She deserved that.

“Ok”. Uh, happy mother’s day to my daughter, a young mother. Yeah, no, I botched that one.

I kept up my avoidance of MD sporadically & guiltily, as though there was something wrong with me for not embracing the holiday. Ignoring it, I hadn’t considered what it was like for my first born to have a day for honoring mothers. Her amom was the object of her elementary school art projects, the receiver of her affections. I was some shadowy, ghostlike figure. Her first mother was less than able to care for her – was less than worthy of notice. Yet some vague concern was likely felt by her afamily. Somewhere there was some other mother that had provided this wonder of a child, and then conveniently “disappeared”.

DD questioned me on my MD practices. She questioned her own practices. The personal styles of her first family differed so from the style of her afamily, while reflecting her own nature. Her discomfort with me and even more with my mother distorted my thoughts about us.

I remember her mocking my mother’s home made macaroni and cheese when DD’s son was expecting his request to be met with a box of Kraft. I got the difference, that a toddler accustomed to packaged food would be nonplussed by a crusty casserole dish. But DD’s ridicule stung me. I treasured my mother’s efforts. Grating the cheese, making the sauce, cooking the noodles, assembling, topping and baking it with loving care. The best offering of a woman that had never opened a box of Kraft and hadn’t a clue of her “mistake”. eta I find that I misunderstood DD’s criticism . DD’s son was not accustomed to boxed or prepackaged foods. He was accustomed to finer cuisine. The offense was that he was served left over mac and cheese.

The love/hate thing came across in the details. (Working in the garden yesterday, a new friend told me she tries to stay out of politics because she always ends up seeing both sides of things. We both enjoy working in the beauty).

Two weeks before Mothers Day, 15 years ago, my mom died. DD and I were at a low point, not communicating much.  My dad was the one to tell her of her grandmother’s passing.

I love my mother. She lives on through every kind thing I do. Mothers Day took a new twist after I lost my mom. It is still a twisted holiday of rubbing the raw pain of loss for me and my daughter, with the pain of losing my mother, with the joy of  unabashed loving and appreciating the awesome variety of mothering and honoring all around us.