I wrote these words because I needed to remember them. There have been a lot of days lately when I’ve wanted to go back in time and erase this part of our journey. Nothing about this feels natural or easy. I love that girl in the pictures. I love my family–but it’s so hard in the midst of home-school and pre-teenage angst and trauma upon trauma to pick up the pieces and be with her in her hurt. In my gut I know she is just a little girl who needs to experience love. But more often than not I feel like I am staring at her across an ocean.
We “rescued” her body from the orphanage. But her heart and her head are still there. She believes that she’s alone, fighting for her survival–for affection, acceptance, and security. And I am so tired of doing battle against her demons and mine. I’m exhausted. This is a bone-weary journey. For this, I wasn’t prepared. Thank you Jesus for people in my life who can make up my lack, so while I struggle, they wrap her up in hugs and invest in her. They listen to her and pour into her so I can breathe for a second. They love her in the spaces where I am failing. This is the body of Christ at work, because I wasn’t made to meet all of her needs. I can’t. And when those friends come in they care for both of us: she experiences that she is for loving; and I get a chance to inhale/exhale–experiencing that I am enough.
It wasn’t that I expected this to be an easy process. It’s just that I expected to want her more. I expected that at night after the bustle of the day, my heart would once again naturally shift towards her. That I would remember for whom I was fighting, and I would feel renewed.
But that hasn’t been the case. And each day adds up more and more. Each slight, and misstep becomes a battle of wills and I find myself breaking and longing for the simpler days. And then guilt and shame breathe down my neck because this is my daughter I’m wishing away. I weep over the mother who died. And I weep over the mother who struggles to love her the way she deserves to be loved. All she wants is a mom. Why is it so hard for me to give her all of myself? I’m scared I’m lost in this.
This, my friends, is my heart and it’s shattered. I’m confused and in some ways I feel betrayed. I don’t feel like a horrible person because I’ve managed to distance myself so much from the emotion. I’m writing this as a clinician. The one writing and the mother are two separate people right now because I would break apart if I felt all of these things at once. So they come in waves, in snippets, washing over my feet and tugging the sand out from under me a little at a time. And I don’t know if this process is a good one or not. But I do know that as I wrestle and as I shift my feet, something holy is happening.
I am braver. I am able to look more honestly at this process. I can say this is really hard. I can confess to my people and say, I resent her for making my life so much harder and more complicated. I resent her for interrupting and for being traumatized and for needing me. I resent all of her questions and the way she watches me. And I know in those moments, I will be held. I will be loved. I will not be shamed for needing comfort. I will not be advised on the evils of my heart or despised for having a human moment. Instead, I will be watered so that I can once again turn to that little girl, take a deep breath, pick up my daughter and breathe life into her. I will teach her to pick up her sword to slay the demons that plague her–and that the lies she once believed are no longer her’s.
We watched the car zoom into the exit lane, and then back out. It was my exit so I moved into the space. At the last second the blue Nissan pulled back in front of me, speeding down the exit ramp.
“He doesn’t know where he’s going, but wherever it is, he’s sure happy to be going there.”
“Whatever he does, he does with alacrity.”
I laughed at our different responses. I loved how we could all see the same thing and paint a different picture. And I’ve been pondering that word–alacrity–since last Sunday. I’m familiar with it, but it’s not one I hear very often. And I enjoy the way it sounds in my mind and on my tongue.
Alacrity–brisk and cheerful readiness
I had a moment the other day where I wondered if I would ever actually write a book. I love writing, but creating whole worlds and lives and characters is overwhelming. It is really hard to do it well. It takes time and energy I just cannot summon right now. But I want to try.
And as I fumble for the words to explain how that one word changed me I know I will fail. But I want to try. I want to tell you about the characters in my head. I want to share with you what they’re doing, why they love the way they love and fight the way they fight. But it’s just so damn hard to put them into words to capture the scope and breadth of them. I feel like I’m taking a giant and in trying to capture it, making it an ant. And then you’ll look at me and say, “It’s just a stupid ant. What’s the big deal?” And then I’ll die a little inside.
But alacrity. Maybe I need to wait in brisk and cheerful readiness until the words and characters grow up inside my head and then when they’re ready they’ll step forth onto the page with trepidation. And then maybe together we’ll become more confident as I keep them incubated. And then eventually maybe those little bits of what Kyler calls “scribble scrabble” will turn into sentences that turn into paragraphs that turn into pages. Sometimes I feel like I have to do this NOW or it’s never going to happen. But maybe the answer is to just write and blog and jot and then somewhere along the way I’ll find the story that I want to tell. And words like alacrity will slip off my tongue and I will captivate you–because I waited in brisk and cheerful readiness for the right time.
And in the meantime we’re doing things like this (and yes that’s a pirate in the middle with orange fingernail polish because…alacrity)
My love for you is fragile, like a delicate breath. After years of betrayal, frustration and miscommunication we found solace. A place of existence and almost understanding. I forgave you for the pain and hurt you lavished on me. I realized I was caught in the crossfire of a war, a casualty–not an intended target. I forgave the attacks and the manipulation. I laid it to rest in the past.
I forgave myself for the rebellion, for feeling like I failed you for not choosing you. I forgave myself for the hurtful words I spoke and the way I pushed you away. I released my anger. I recognized I was not an intended victim, but a casualty. And while still hurt, I could forgive. So I laid it to rest in the past. I made peace with what happened.
You and I found a space to exist together and have a relationship that was less destructive. I recognized and honored your love for me. I did not demand for it to be more. I just let it exist and let you express it however you could and I received it as what is–a precious and beautiful gift. I let you love me again. I do not compare it to another’s and I don’t expect things from you that you are not willing to give. And I gave you everything you needed to assure you of my affection.
But with the shifts in our family this year I stopped showing you love the way you wanted/needed/demanded from me. Rather than giving me compassion or understanding, you pulled out childish antics…Manipulation…Passive-aggressiveness…things that hurt me in the past when you used them. Things that cause me to recoil, tempting me to believe that I am not good enough. Because as much as we like to pretend otherwise, our love is like a tiny spark. Something that is newly mended and needs to be coddled. But you are choking it.
I need time and space. I need to know that when I come back to myself…when I reciprocate…when I reach out that it’s out of affection and not obligation. I know that’s ultimately what we both want. But I feel crushed under your demands. The weight of your propriety is a heavy burden to bear. Your expectations are killing me. I set you free years ago. Now I am setting myself free. I love you. And I will show that love in a way that comes from inside me, not based on external pressure.
So, hear me clearly. I love you. But I will no longer writhe under my obligation to you. I will not carry guilt around because I forget something, or because for a moment, in this season of life, I can barely catch my breath. I embrace my role in our relationship with freedom. The things I do that show you love are done out of affection for you, not because of things you do or don’t do.
On Friday I got a new tattoo. This will be my third. It is also the one that is most significant to me. The first tattoo I got was because I was 19 and wanted a tattoo. I walked into the shop, told the guy what I wanted and walked out a few hours later with my permanent flowery anklet. I don’t love it. But I don’t hate it. And I don’t regret getting it, although I wish it meant more than “I’m 19 and want a tattoo.” The other one is a cross on my wrist that I got in North Africa. It’s small, a symbol of my faith and I love it.
I’ve been playing around with the idea of another tattoo for awhile now. I knew I wanted this one to be full of meaning and definitive of who I am and what I believe. So I thought about it and tried to come up with something. I saw other tattoos I adored, but I didn’t want to copy someone else. I wanted something that wasn’t just pretty to look at. Throughout the adoption process one word kept resonating over and over again with me: hope. God continually reminded me that my hope is in Him. This world is ugly, messy and hard. Without hope, we should all just stay in bed and pull the blankets up over our heads. But because He is my hope, I live and I breathe and I fight for the things I love. I decided I wanted that to be a part of my tattoo…Originally I planned on having the word written. In the interim, I read The Language of Flowers. The main character communicates with flowers–which was a very popular way of communicating in the Victorian Era. I liked the subtlety of that so I looked up what flower communicated hope. Several sites listed the flowering almond branch. Unfortunately, in the book the flowering almond blossom means something else, but I am taking creative license here.
I also liked the idea of a bird. I did my research and learned about the nightingale. I already knew it was a good omen for writers and poets, but that has begun to take on a whole new meaning for me as I am actually embracing that part of myself now. But I also learned that this bird is known for teaching it’s children to sing perfectly. My hope and dream for my kids is that they would be as God created them, and that they would sing wrapped up in His perfection the songs He has given them to sing. I want to teach them that their perfection is in Christ. Lastly, early Christians noticed that this bird sang with greater fervency as dawn approached. To them, it symbolized our soul’s response as Christ draws ever more near.
Thanks to some friends, I had a great reference for a tattoo artist. And I want to emphasize the artist part here. I feel like I am walking around with a piece of art on my back. She is so gifted. I don’t feel like words can do her justice. I emailed her some pictures of the branch and the bird and she came up with the design. Her name is Wendi Ramirez and you can find her at Dovetail Tattoo. She is worth the wait.