Healing

December 14, 2018

When I woke up one morning 7 years ago, I knew something was wrong. My neck ached, but in a different way than I had ever felt before. By the time I stepped out of the shower, my pain was gone, but the next morning it returned. Each day it stayed a little longer and strangely, it moved around my body. One day my neck would ache, the next day it was my left knee. Then the next day the bottom of my foot, followed my my right shoulder blade. I have a very high pain tolerance, so it didn’t slow me down at all, but it was beginning to worry me. After a few weeks the pain was widespread and never dulled. I would wake up in the middle of the night because both my arms were inflamed with pain. I would feel vomit rise to my throat as I worked, the pain washing over me in waves that made me nauseous and breathless. I thought about my life: I’m a single mom who only sleeps a few hours a night as it is. Losing any of that sleep could break me. And I’m a hairdresser. Without the use of my hands I can’t make a living. I worried that the extreme stress of raising my special needs son on my own had created a crisis in my body that I wouldn’t be able to outrun.

I went to see my doctor, an amazing woman who really listens to me. She tested me for all the suspected culprits of this type of pain, but found nothing. She continued to think about my case and would check in with me every few days, letting me know she hadn’t given up on me and was committed to figuring out what was wrong. One day after driving for a few hours I looked down at my ankles and they were swollen to twice their size. I stopped by my doctor’s office and drew her a picture of what my ankles looked like and the next day she called me with her diagnosis. After looking at my picture she had me tested for sarcoidosis and the test was positive. It’s an auto-immune disease that can be deadly, but can also go away in a short time. I went to 3 or 4 rheumatologists in the next year to seek treatment, with varied results. One told me I was perfectly healthy. “Good news!” she said. “I’ve tested you for several things and there’s nothing wrong with you!” Another sent me away with a prescription for steroids, which did wonders for my pain and enabled me to keep working and sleep through the night. And one walked with me through the illness, teaching me how to step down slowly off the steroids, advising me that one auto-immune disease can easily morph into another. (He was sure I was developing Lupus).

After several years I had still not been able to ween myself from the steroids and I was gaining a lot of weight. My face had the tell-tale moon shape that prednisone gives you and my body was lumpy and swollen. I still had pain–enough that exercise was excruciating–but could manage to sleep and work. I felt like I was always bracing myself. I was afraid to turn my head too fast or run or put too much weight on my ankles or wrists. I felt fragile and puffy and tentative.

Two years ago I lost my health insurance for good and at the same time I began to notice the tell-tale butterfly rash on my face that indicates Lupus. I started getting sores around my hairline and on my wrists and when I Googled them, I saw they were also symptoms of Lupus. I knew I had to do something about my health and I decided to reach out to a client of mine who is an acupuncturist. I have known him and his family for many years and I trusted his expertise. We decided to barter acupuncture treatment for haircuts and I resolved that even though I knew very little about Chinese medicine, I would do whatever he advised me and I would trust him.

I faithfully followed his dietary suggestions and saw him every few weeks for 3 months and I noticed that I was beginning to really feel better. I felt like energy was moving through my body again, I wasn’t always bracing for injury. My daily pain level had been cut in half. We decided I would try again to slowly step down off my steroids, and in another 3 months I was feeling even better. My acupuncture treatments were really painful and I had no idea what he was talking about when he described the energy channels and yin and yang and all the other Chinese medicine stuff he tried so carefully to explain to me. I really didn’t care. It seemed to be working, so I was like, I’ll do whatever you tell me to do! And if you need to twist that hot needle around in my leg until I scream in pain, carry on!  As long as I keep feeling better, do whatever you need to do!

Then last December, a year ago, he suggested that I try intermittent fasting. I had no idea that it would do me any good, but he advised me to drink only water or plain tea all day, except for 3 hours in the afternoon, when I could eat and drink whatever I wanted. For 3 days. I hated it, but I did it. And for the first two days I felt horrible. Then halfway through the third day I began to feel better than I had in years! It was amazing. It really felt like my body was healing itself, becoming whole again. Energy was flowing through me and I felt very alive. I began to make it a regular practice to fast intermittently several days a week, and I was quickly able to completely stop taking prednisone. I dropped dozens of pounds and began to practice yoga again. I would stare at myself in the mirror in yoga class and couldn’t believe that I could bend and stretch and stand on one foot–all my weight on one ankle–with no pain. My body got stronger and leaner. By the summer I added running to my routine, something I hadn’t been able to do in years.

When people noticed my weight loss, they would ask me my secret. Was I dieting? Oh, I was fasting? Maybe they should try that, too! Acupuncture? Did that help you lose weight? I had no idea. I really could care less about my weight. How could I explain the gratitude and the relief I felt at not being in pain all the time? At not constantly worrying that I would only get worse and worse, compounding illnesses until my body wore away? I have no idea how to help anyone lose weight. I have no idea how to explain why acupuncture and fasting have worked for me. I don’t know how to help anyone heal. I don’t understand why it worked for me. But I do know one thing: I have never been so grateful for this amazing, energy-filled, yoga-praciticing, regenerating, shrinking body of mine! I don’t know why I healed, but I know that I did. And I am beyond grateful for what I consider a second chance at life. I feel blessed and I feel lucky.

If you ask me to explain sarcoidosis or fasting or acupuncture I can’t. If you ask me why I healed when so many others only fade away, I definitely can’t. I know it’s not because I am more faithful or more good or more blessed that I have found healing and renewal. It’s not because I found the best acupuncturist in the world or because fasting is a cure-all. I can’t explain what has happened to me, I can only tell you how I feel. When I work a 14-hour day and have no pain in my hands or cramping in my feet or swelling in my ankles if feels amazing! When I practice yoga and watch my body bend and stretch and strengthen I can barely contain my surprise and awe! As I run around my neighborhood in the middle of the night or through the woods in the middle of the day I literally hold my hands up in the air in praise to God because I can’t believe how alive I feel. I appreciate my health every day. I do everything I can think of to maintain it and celebrate it. As I pray for my friends who have lost their loved ones to terrible disease and for my friends who’s bodies are wasting away from illness, I also thank God for the gift of health.

I didn’t earn it and don’t deserve it, but I will appreciate it every single pain-free, healthy day.

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Me and George Bailey

November 29, 2018

“In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

George Bailey is my hero. He is my favorite fictional character (followed by Jean Valjean and Lorelei Gilmore). Every time I watch It’s a Wonderful Life I discover a new part of his story that resonates with mine.

When I created this blog, many years ago, I had just adopted my son and I was looking for some medium where I could tell my story. I was learning so much and I wanted to share my experiences and reach out for support at the same time. When I was trying to encapsulate what the theme of my life was, I kept thinking of George Bailey. The journey I had taken to motherhood was not what I planned at all. I had a completely different life envisioned for myself! But God determined my steps and gave me things I didn’t even know I wanted or needed. I was full of gratitude for my unexpectedly wonderful life!

George Bailey is a man who knows what he wants from a young age: he wants to travel and explore and see all the things he reads about in magazines. But each time he is about to set off on a journey, a crisis occurs that presents him with a choice. Each time he can either choose to follow his heart and go traveling or he can stay home and take care of his family and his community in some way. He always chooses the unselfish path, but he pays the price by becoming bitter. When he finally becomes so discouraged that he wants to die–when he sees no other way out than to kill himself–an angel intervenes and shows him the magnitude of all the difficult choices he made in his life. He gets to see what the world would be like if he had never existed. And it’s pretty bleak. It turns out that even though he felt like his life was small, he had an enormous impact on his community. Seeing this helps him to be grateful for the life he has and stop yearning for the one he thought he wanted. He understands that he has lived exactly the life that God wanted him to live, and it’s actually been pretty wonderful.

I knew from the time I was very young that I wanted to leave my hometown, move to NYC and become a Broadway actress. I had a clear path to those goals and no one ever stood in my way. I moved to NYC when I was 17 to go to NYU and found a lot of success in the musical theater department. My senior year I held the lead role in both the school opera and the musical and by the time I graduated I had sung for top casting directors in the city and had an agent who was submitting me for Broadway productions. I started getting job offers in theater, and I began to be overwhelmed by the choices I was being asked to make. Each job took me away from home for months and over the years I turned down work because the jobs were too small to warrant leaving home, or they didn’t pay enough. Twice I turned down good jobs to stay in NYC and be the Maid of Honor at friends’ weddings. I didn’t know how to choose work over friends or responsibilities and after a few years I had turned down more jobs than I had accepted. Eventually, the job offers dwindled and I pursued a different career altogether. God opened the door so wide to my hairdressing career that I ran through it and have never looked back. I have found success and happiness and every corner of the business. I had never seriously considered doing any other kind of work than performing and was so surprised and grateful to love my work and have success come so easily to me.

I had always intended to get married. My parents got married when they were 22 years old and that seemed like a good plan to me. I did have a serious boyfriend at that age, but at just the time when we would probably have begun thinking about getting married he went through a very difficult crisis and I saw clearly that I needed to give him space. I couldn’t explain to him why I was breaking up with him, but I was 100% sure it was what I was supposed to do, not for my sake, but for his. And he did recover and flourish. And move on without me. The same thing happened again and again with other men until I began to realize that maybe I was supposed to be single. I didn’t stop dating, but I did start to really appreciate all the awesome things about being single. I had intended to marry, but I loved my independence more than I loved any of those men. (To be honest, there has been one man I really wanted to marry. But that’s a whole other story…) Looking back on my life now I can see that God knew exactly what would be make me really happy and fulfilled. He created me and He knew how much I would love adopting and raising a child on my own, owning my own home, owning and running my own business. I have had a really wonderful life and I’m grateful that God wrote a special story just for me. I know He is still writing my story and believe me, He constantly surprises me.

Becoming a mother was never a dream of mine. Until it was. And then I adopted Rahul! And being his mom has been the most unexpected, wonderful blessing of my life. Who knew I would love mothering so much? I dream of adopting 10 more children and who knows? Maybe God has that in store for me as well.

Some people may watch It’s a Wonderful Life and wonder why someone would make the choices George Bailey did. It might seem like he chose his own failures by not following his dreams. He always had them in his reach, but he constantly makes decisions that he knows are the right thing to do, but probably couldn’t explain them to other people. I know what it’s like to be a disappointment to people who shared your big dreams. I know what’s it’s like to be so boxed in and lost that you want to give up your life. But I also know what it’s like to find contentment by following unexpected paths and to be fueled my a greater gratitude than you even knew existed.

Basically, I’ve given up trying to write my own story. God has such better ones written for me! I’ll just document what I learn along the way, through this wonderful, George Bailey life.

 

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Ms. Dressup

October 31, 2018

I grew up so close to the Canadian border that my family was only able to tune into Canadian tv stations for most of the 70’s. And one of Canada’s hit shows was called Mr. Dressup. Don’t believe me? Google it. It’s a real thing. And he was super cool. He had a Tickle Trunk that he would open on every episode to reveal some amazing costume he would wear around his living room, where his “friends” Casey (small boy) and Finnegan (dog) would appear from behind the couch (they were puppets) to talk to him. I think they may have lived in a treehouse in Mr. Dressup’s backyard…

Anyway, my love for dressing up started early, thanks to Mr. Dressup. My sister and I and our friends would always be wearing clown makeup or flowing dresses or wigs or tutus and prancing around our living room, putting on “shows” or just lost in some imaginary world. My sister and I especially liked accessories and props. We didn’t need braces or glasses in real life, but we would fashion braces out of tin foil or paper clips and wear sunglasses with the lenses poked out. At a certain point we asked our dad to make us crutches (we had never needed those either) and that was super fun. We would hobble around the house with our crutches and glasses, lisping through our tin foil braces…it was endless fun!

So, of course, Halloween was always a big deal. We grew up before there were many pre-made options for costumes, so our parents always made them. My sister was Betsy Ross once, with a red, white and blue hoop skirt (our hula hoop) and a flag she carried with needle and thread. My dad made me a costume one year that incorporated the crutches: Man Who Has Just Been In A Car Accident. I had bloody bandages all over me and my arm in a sling. And a fake broken leg, of course.

I worked and studied as an actor for a number of years, so always had lots of opportunities to dress up there. But it was the impromptu costuming that was the most fun. One evening, my neighbor Lea knocked on my door in a panic because she was throwing a Murder Mystery Dinner Party and 2 of her guests didn’t show up. And if you’ve never been to one of these parties, each guest plays a role and has a script, which gradually reveals who the killer is. So she really needed 2 more guests and wondered if I could come. Yes! I said. As long as I can bring my other 2 roommates and we could all dress up! Done and done.

No one who attended that party will ever forget it. The 3 of us came in ridiculous costumes (A turban! A flamingo pink disco dress! Curlers in our hair!) and entered in character, complete with accents, ticks, and attitude. The very conservative party guests had no idea what to make of us. Halfway through the script I guess my roommate Kara realized that she was the killer, so she made the character choice to reapply her bright pink lipstick often, each time going a little more outside the lines. And when we got to the last part of the script, where she confessed her guilt, she uncovered her face to reveal a giant painted mouth that spread from ear to ear! As she relayed with a straight face how she had done it, the rest of of fell off our chairs laughing.

Like any decent NYC actor, I spent several years waitressing. And like any decent NYC restaurant, all the servers at Sambuca’s were creatives of some sort, so our manager encouraged us to dress in costume for Halloween. My best friend and I worked there together, so we would compare notes on our costumes, then share a cab to work, rather than take the subway or rollerblade (my favorite mode of transportation in the 90’s) so as not to embarrass ourselves too much. The first year we worked there she dressed as Hester Prynne (from The Scarlet Letter. Google it!), complete with a red “A” on her bodice and a fake baby Pearl. I had gone a slightly different direction with my costume–I was a Beauty Queen Gone Bad. Here we are:

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On our way to work that night, we were in the taxi, still 10 blocks away from work, when our driver pulls over and tells us to get out of the car. I’ve forgotten why. Maybe his cab broke down? Anyway, we were stranded and there were no cabs around. We saw one down the block that was off duty and Libby took control of the situation and told me to “hide” behind a tree on the sidewalk that was literally 4 inches in diameter. I obeyed, knowing no cab would pick me up in my weird outfit, and did my best to blend into the tree, while wearing my pink satin gown and leather dog collar. Libby took off her cap and started franticly rocking Pearl, desperately waving down the off-duty cab. He pulled right over and she commanded me to jump in quickly before the cab driver noticed me. As he was pulling away from the curb he stared at us in complete confusion. Where did that crazy blonde chick come from? Is that really a baby? That second question he asked out loud, to which Libby replied she’d tell him once we got to our destination.

The following year, she dressed as Ophelia. (From Hamlet. Google it.) She learned her speech about the flowers and recited it to ALL of her tables that night, before allowing them to order. And when they asked her who in the heck she was, she made them guess. The whole night the only person who answered correctly was a man who later that night called the restaurant, announcing himself as Hamlet wishing to speak to Ophelia and he asked her on a date. I, on the other hand, did NOT get asked on any dates that night. Because I dressed as Medusa (From Greek mythology. Google it.), complete with green snakes in my hair. I didn’t make my tables guess my costume. I announced to each of them in a loud, angry voice that I was going to turn them to stone if they didn’t order from me right away. They would all nervously giggle and try to ignore me, but I insisted and never broke character, snarling and frowning at everyone all night . It was the best night of waitressing I ever experienced.

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One is mad…

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and the other is MAD!

I don’t dress up too much anymore. I think I’m just too exhausted. And my son is not that into Halloween. But as soon as I recover from single parenting, I’m totally pulling out that red wig and tiara I’ve got in a box in the closet and coming up with some awesome props to create an obscure, insane costume.

Ooo! Maybe my dad can make me some crutches!

 

Happy Unbirthday

October 24, 2018

Today my son turned 18, but it wasn’t his birthday. He most likely wasn’t born on October 23rd, but he has no idea when he was born. He began living in an orphanage when he was about five years old and we don’t know very much about his life before that time. What we do know, we mostly keep to ourselves because it’s sensitive, treasured, highly personal information. Suffice it to say, a stranger brought him to the orphanage where he lived for the next 2 1/2 years before I adopted him. And the date Rahul arrived in the orphanage was October 23rd, so that was assigned to him as his birthday.

The first year he was my son, I planned a very small, simple birthday party for him on October 23rd. He was still very suspicious of me at that time and did not believe he was turning 8. He remembered being told at the orphanage when he turned 6 years old, but no one over told him that he turned 7, so for the first few months he was with me he didn’t believe his age. But once he had his first birthday party, on his 8th birthday, he finally became convinced of it.

I didn’t grow up dreaming of becoming a mother, and until I decided to adopt a child at age 35 I hadn’t planned on having children. It just wasn’t something I desired, as much as I have always loved children. But then God led me down that path and He completely changed my heart. I am sure I was born to be Rahul’s mom. But because I hadn’t spent a lifetime dreaming of it I hadn’t anticipated how much I would love certain things about motherhood. And celebrating his birthday was one of those things. I didn’t ever plan elaborate parties for him, but I loved to buy him gifts and plan special surprises for him. There is something so special about celebrating the person you love more than any other in the world. I loved bringing cupcakes into school so his classmates could sing him Happy Birthday. I loved having my parents and my sister’s family come visit so we could celebrate all together. We had costume parties for several years, then one year we went to Coney Island and rode rollercoasters, and once we went to this crazy place in the woods and had a paintball party! Then a couple years ago he stopped wanting to celebrate his birthday. He didn’t like the attention anymore. And that date, October 23rd, was becoming problematic.

It was starting to really bother him that he didn’t know which day he was born and that the date that was chosen for him was actually anniversarying a difficult day in his life. He no longer wanted to celebrate the day he entered his orphanage and pretend that it was his birthday. So we stopped having parties, then we stopped inviting family over, and this year we stopped saying “Happy Birthday” or buying presents or making anything special out of the day. I bought him a few candies that he likes, but that was it.

And Rahul had a really great day today. He and I talked and prayed about how this date is very bittersweet for him, because if he hadn’t ever made it to that orphanage, he never would have made it here, to me. He doesn’t like to commemorate the date, but tonight he acknowledged what an important milestone it was in his life. It was a crossroads, and the road that was chosen for him led him to me.

I’m so proud of him and so grateful that today was good for him. But all day I have been so, so sad. I have watched Rahul pass up so many joys that other kids so easily embrace because his early trauma robbed him of his ability to celebrate and receive loving attention. And all I want for him is for him to be able to be happy and to live life to the full. These are daily struggles for him. And he is a rock star, constantly pushing himself to engage and participate and connect with people. But sometimes it just breaks my heart that he can’t blow out candles on his birthday cake. All day my heart has been grieving that child he briefly was, the date we’ll never know, the story of his birth, all the things I can never give him. And I grieved for myself that one of the beautiful surprises about being a mom, one of the things I have really loved–celebrating my child’s birthday– has disappeared from my life.

This year we started commemorating his adoption day in special ways, and when he got his tattoo this summer, in honor of our ten years as family, he had that date etched into his skin. April 17, 2008, the day he became my son. That’s the date he wants to remember and celebrate.

So I thinking that maybe next April I can get him to blow out some candles:)

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Opening presents at his first birthday party

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The Last First Day of School

September 5, 2018

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Rahul’s first first day of school, age 7

Every year that Rahul has been with me, I have printed out a copy of his school calendar to put on our refrigerator. There’s one page for each month, so as each one ends I rip it off and throw it away. The first full school year he was with me I was shocked to discover that I was completely overcome with emotions when I threw that last calendar page of the school year in the garbage. I remember feeling like I’d been punched in the gut. The year was over! I would never get it back. And we would just keep moving on like this until one day there would be the final calendar–senior year. I suddenly realized that in his final year of grade school each month would hold a special pain as I threw out the last September, the last February, the last June…

Well, here we are. It’s Rahul’s first day of his senior year. The last first day of school.

Rahul didn’t start school formally until 3rd grade. He had some lessons in his orphanage in India, but couldn’t read or write Hindi (his native language) or English. And when he arrived home with me in April 2008 it was practically the end of the year. I put him in a 2nd grade class, and he had a few weeks of school where he got to participate in field trips and perform in concerts. One concert, his school’s annual dance concert, was life-changing for me. I didn’t know what to expect–actually, I didn’t know what to expect about any of his school experience–and I had a conference call with my work team that morning. I thought surely I would be finished with the call by the time the concert started, but the call just kept going longer and longer. I tried to keep up, but I had my video camera in one hand, my regular camera in the other and my phone to my ear. (If only I had an iPhone back then!) And as Rahul’s group got up to perform, tears were streaming down my face as I watched him keep up with the class that had been learning this dance for weeks. I hung up on the phone call and quit my job soon after. I had realized that I couldn’t do it all and would have to find a more flexible job if single parenting this child was going to work.

He repeated 3rd grade with the same teacher both times to give him a chance to catch up. Then we switched him to a Special Education classroom in 4th grade when he still hadn’t learned to read. The summer before that school year he had a neuro-psych evaluation done and I wanted his classroom teacher to have this valuable document with all his test results and recommendations on it before school started. But despite my constant calls to the school, I could not get through to his teacher. So on the first day of school I marched him into his classroom to hand it her. Except when we got to the room there was no one there, the lights were off and the chairs were on top of the desks. We walked all over the school looking for his teacher and finally found her in the cafeteria. Apparently that’s were the Special Ed students gather in the morning. No one had informed us. I confirmed with his teacher where to pick him up at the end of the day  and left my once excited, now crestfallen child in the cafeteria. At the end of the day I waited outside the door he was supposed to be exiting from and watched as every 4th grade student in the school ran out into the arms of their waiting parent except my son’s class. I was really angry and panicked by this point, because Rahul has an attachment disorder and if I don’t show up on time it triggers a PTSD episode. He thinks I’ve left him and am never coming back. Even now. So that day I marched into the school to find him and there he was, with his confused teacher, wandering the halls. I was supposed to pick him up from a different door. I had already made multiple calls to the school that day to complain and when I got home I made one more. I found an ally in Mr. Manny, the vice principal and he assured me we could work together to improve things. I was still very upset and uneasy, so I decided I needed to go to his school and call on a different ally. I left Rahul home, walked the 2 blocks back to his school and walked around and around the school, praying. I prayed for every single human in that building. I prayed that the adults in the school would love Rahul and be charmed by him. That they would always have their eye on him. That he would find favor with all his teachers. That he would grow and learn and be safe and feel secure. I prayed until I was done, and in the end had probably walked around the school 10 times.

And this walking and praying has become an annual ritual for me. Each year, on the first day of school, I take time off of my job and I walk around and around his school, praying. I pray until I’m done. And as I walk around I picture the instructors at Hogwarts casting spells of protection around the school as the dementors are closing in. I realize I’m not casting spells, but I love to picture creating that same type of bubble around his school. I imagine my prayers traveling through the school like incense wafting through the halls and under the doors and up the stairs, until the whole school is covered by God’s protection and love. I walk away secure and confident that my child is not alone in there. That he has a spiritual army walking with him wherever he goes, whispering in the ears of his teachers, moving in their hearts.

Someday I will write about all the amazing things that have happened to Rahul throughout his school career. It’s nothing short of a series of miracles. But for now, I want to absorb this last first day of school. This last prayer walk around the campus. I want to make it count, for him and for me.

And as I move through this school year, throwing out each month on the calendar as we creep closer and closer to the end, I want to remember that armies surround me too. That I am not alone in my sentimental recognition of Rahul’s lasts and firsts. And that there are still many “firsts” yet to come.

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Rahul’s last first day of school, age 17

My Midlife Crisis

July 24, 2018

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When I told Rahul that I wanted to get a tattoo, the first thing he thought was, “O jeez. My mom is having a midlife crisis.” Perhaps. Then I convinced him to get one too. We decided we would get them in honor of our ten year anniversary of being a family. I knew exactly what I wanted mine to say, and so did Rahul.

When I adopted him 10 years ago, I made him a little movie, and in it I dedicated a scripture to him: “For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” He loves that movie more than any other one I’ve made him and keeps it on his phone to watch it all the time. If he really likes someone, he will make them saddle up to the computer and screen it. And Jeremiah 29:11 is his favorite scripture. It’s now written forever on his back, along with the date I brought him home, 4.17.08.

When I decided to adopt a child, I was in a really good place in life. I had just come through a time of great healing and was feeling especially blessed. I had been sad about a relationship that hadn’t materialized, but was realizing that I was ready to open my heart and my life to someone. One deep prayer later and I realized that someone was not a man, but a child. One that was living somewhere out there in the world, longing to belong to someone. The calling to adopt was so strong that I could not ignore it. I spent several weeks in prayer and fasting, but I knew. I was meant to adopt a child.

In my effort to prepare my heart to become a mom, I discovered what became my adoption theme scripture, Isaiah 58. It talks about how when we act religious we only please ourselves, but when we take care of our fellow man–when we spend ourselves on behalf of the hungry and poor–these are the things that truly please God. And when we lose ourselves in the giving, God will fill us back up. And He promises that our people will rebuild the ancient ruins and raise up the age-old foundations, and that we will be called Repairer of Broken Walls and Restorer of Streets with Dwellings. I just love that language. I love the idea of God renaming us, and recognizing us for our giving. I love the picture of man helping man and together rebuilding things. I read this scripture every day for the year leading up to Rahul’s adoption, and continue to read it regularly. It has reshaped how I see God and how I see myself.

So this Spring, when I suppose I was going through a bit of midlife crisis, I had the overwhelming urge to etch these words on myself. To get a tattoo, not for decoration, but for the reminder of what I have suffered and what I have accomplished. I wanted it in a place where I could look at it every day and remember. Remember the intention I had when I received the calling to adopt. Remember the incredible pain and desperation I felt throughout Rahul’s first few years with me. Those years were full of joy and wonder, but they were also a constant life and death struggle. Truly, no one except Rahul and I and God know how harrowing those years were. And no one besides God knows how much I sacrificed and how much I lost as I spent myself on repairing Rahul. The pain he had experienced was so deep and he was so broken. And he trusted me to fix him. He brought his pain to me over and over and I took it on. Together we wrestled the demons that threatened to undo him. The experience was stunning and horrifying and miraculous. Most days I focused exclusively on putting one foot in front of the other, not worrying about next month or next week, just Today. Each night I lay in bed and stared at the ceiling in stunned silence, not beleiving we had made it through another day.

And now I look at my son and I can’t believe he was once the broken, hurting child I had to devote every waking hour to keeping alive. He is strong and full of life. He helps me every day. He encourages me and teaches me.

And every day when I look at my arm, and see God’s words written in my best friend’s handwriting–the friend who flew across the world with me to go and get Rahul and who has been a constant source of strength and support to us–and I see the Hindi word for “family” entwined in God’s name for me in Rahul’s original language, I will remember. I will remember what I’ve done.

And when you tell me that I’m too independent, aggressive, forgettable, stoic, unworthy, or ugly, I will look at my arm and words etched on it, and remember that although I may be all of those things, God tells me that I am a Repairer of Broken Walls. I healed someone! I repaired a broken person!

And when I think of all the dreams I let go and all the things I didn’t accomplish. When I begin to compare myself to people who have more money than me, or have achieved incredible success in their careers, who have found true love or have won the admiration of many, I will look at the words written forever on my arm and remember that although I haven’t accomplished those things, I did lay down my life and sell my possessions and fly to the other side of the world to get this amazing boy and bring him to me so he could have a family and be loved and have a hope and a future.

And when I look at half of my life behind me and start thinking of the things that could have been and that I should have done, I will glance down at the midlife crisis carved forever into my flesh, and remember that I did at least one thing right.

I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands, your walls are ever before me.

Isaiah 49:15-16

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Not Forgotten

July 11, 2018

Not Forgotten

Me, in my backyard, lost deep in thought in some imaginary world…

“Where’s Robyn?” my mom asked, sounding a little frantic. I looked around for my sister. A while earlier, she had asked me to watch her as she did some yard work. Robyn and I were playing in the sandbox. Except now it was just me playing in the sandbox, lost deep in thought in some imaginary world, as usual. I looked up at my mom with a mixture of fear and guilt. Because I had lost track of her. I was 4 years old.

As my Mom’s eyes filled with fear and confusion we both heard a loud squeal. Her eyes widened in terror and she went tearing around to the front of the house, screaming. I looked down at the sand creation I was building and quietly set down my tools. I felt a pain in my stomach like a stone as I realized what a horrible sister I was. Slowly, I crept around to the front of the house, going around the opposite side than my mom had travelled. As I rounded the corner I could see Mom carrying my 2 year old sister in her arms. There was a huge truck stopped in front of our house and I came to realize that Robyn had been crawling across the street, completely unattended by her big sister, when this tractor trailer rounded the curve at the bottom of the hill in front of our house. It was going full speed when the driver hit the brakes because of the baby crawling across the street. My mom had arrived just as he was picking Robyn up and carrying her toward our house.

I stood, unnoticed, off to the side of the house, in the middle of the driveway. I watched as my mom gratefully carried Robyn into the house to tend to her and nurse her own guilt and fear. And I remember just standing in that spot staring at the ground for a long time. I didn’t cry. Or run to my mother. I just stood there. Realizing I had nearly caused my sister’s death. Rooted to the ground with guilt and shame and embarrassment, unable to move. I was hoping no one noticed me there, and I understood that I didn’t deserve comforting. My pain was self-inflicted and my mom and my sister were the ones who really needed tending to at that moment.

But also, I felt forgotten.

I think everyone has a baseline fear that drives and informs their life. Most likely it is shaped by some childhood experience or trauma. It might be the fear of being alone, or the fear of being rejected. My son’s baseline fear is not being believed. He experienced a terrible trauma as a child when he lived in an orphanage in India, and when he told the orphanage director about it, she didn’t believe him. Of all the traumas he has suffered, that is the one that affects everything he does: not being believed. He is honest to a fault and will turn on you with violence if you accuse him of lying.

My baseline fear is being forgotten. I only recently realized how much this fear paralyzes me.  One of the things I have loved most about being Rahul’s mom is our closeness. We share everything and have been through so much together. We have a really deep bond that has been created through trials and fighting and a lot of hard work and love. Our attachment to one another is well earned. And because of his special emotional needs, we have spent more time together than most families. Last winter, as Rahul and I were talking about what it will be like for him when he goes to college next year, I suddenly realized what it will be like for me when he goes to college next year. I realized that although he will most likely live at home for the first few years of college, everything is going to change. For the past 10 years I have completely built my life around him. I created my business based on his school schedule and special needs. I sacrificed nearly all of my social life to spend most of the time when I’m not working caring for his needs. I sleep half the amount I used to before I adopted him because he has trouble sleeping and because of the demands of my work. I have no money because his special needs drained all of my savings and investments when he was younger, and I’ve spent the last 8 years digging myself out of that financial hole.

Well, all of that is about to change for me. Which seems like it should be a good thing! I will be able to choose a different work scenario, where I can earn more money and receive benefits. I will sleep more! I will be able to socialize like I used to. But all I can think of is this sinking feeling of being forgotten. I picture this vague, depressing scenario where I’m home alone with my cat and everyone has forgotten about me and moved on with their exciting lives. (My beloved dog Baby Fish Mouth is very old and I anticipate that he won’t be around much longer than Rahul’s high school career.) And that no matter how much I push myself into my friends’ lives and continue to care for my my son’s needs, I won’t be woven into the fabric of anyone’s day anymore. I won’t be the first person anyone sees every morning and the last person anyone sees every night. I don’t fear being alone, I’ve always been comfortable being by myself. But I’m terrified that I will be alone because I’ve been forgotten.

I try to explain this fear to my friends and I realize it doesn’t make any sense. I have friends that are closer than family and will never leave me. My friend Libby started crying when I told her about this fear, because she would never forget me and has proven over and over how much she is willing to do to be there for me when I am in need. I recently went though something really heartbreaking and my friends came swooping in from all over the place to take care of me. Calling me from far away night after night to talk and pray for hours. Traveling long distances and leaving their families behind to come take me out to dinner or go on a picnic to get me out of the house and keep me talking. It was extraordinary and I felt very loved and taken care of. But with all of this proof of love and devotion, I’m still terrified.

It’s irrational, but the feeling I fear is the same one I felt when my sister was almost killed. I fear that other peoples’ needs are going to always be more important than mine. I fear that because I am so fiercely independent people will assume I can always take care of myself. I fear that because I’m not usually the one in the middle of dramatic situations, because I’m not particularly needy or a squeaky wheel, people will assume I don’t need their attention. I fear that because the things I need are simple and quiet: a hug every once in a while, a text or an invitation to let me know I’m on your mind, a visit for no other reason than to spend time together–that people will forget that these things make me feel loved and seen and valuable.

I’ve been avoiding all the things I should be doing to prepare Rahul for his college career. I can’t seem to get motivated to research scholarships or set up school appointments or make travel plans to visit schools. And the time has come. We have a lot to do this summer and I can’t delay any longer. Time marches on and I don’t want him to miss out.

So I am resolving to face my fear and to push through it. I am traveling back in time to visit that little girl standing in her driveway, scared and ashamed, and giving her a big hug. I’m looking her in the eyes and telling her it’s OK and that I see her pain. I’m reminding her that her family loves and cherishes her and that no one blames her for what happened. I’m walking her into the house to find her mother and ask for the comfort and reassurance that she needs and will surely be freely given.

And I’m convincing her that she is not forgotten.

 

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