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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