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Bri, Joel, and Indy by Kevin N Murphy on flickr

“In family life, love is the oil that eases friction, the cement that binds closer together, and the music that brings harmony.”
Eva Burrows

 

Last night I was sitting in the amber light of my bedroom, waiting for pain medication to kick in and belly ache to subside, becoming hypnotized by the rhythm of bullfrog snores from the adjacent room where three dogs and a man slept on the couch and a memory returned to me.  Lately my mind has been swimming with ideas of infants, children, and an imagined life resembling  “family” as defined by the traditional history of the western world–including husband, dogs, and kids.  I never considered myself a traditionalist perse but I always felt warmed by the thought of family. 

 

The idea of starting some variety of lineage of my own lead me back to my own infancy.  An international adoptee I have been pondering my own early childhood the last week as I prepare for speaking this weekend (nothing like flight and speaking engagements to hasten surgery recovery) at the Let’s Talk Adoption Conference at Rutgers University in New Jersey. 

 

I am speaking on issues of adoptee trauma, trauma and the body, and yoga for adoptees, foster children, and caregivers.  I have been revisiting many thoughts of my own infancy, childhood, and memories of family growing up–what is that definition of filial love that makes us a part of a cohesive unit under one name and one roof with one another?  For me it wasn’t a matter of blood, biological or racial heritage, or anything so literal it was only a matter of love, unconditional love.  To this day I feel that, that is the best defining point of family and the essence of what we should share with those we love most in this world.

 

In this way, as an adoptee, I was given some liberation from the idea that this status and conception must be limited to those we share blood with or a name or even a roof.  I was, in some respects, given a freedom to define and find family where it organically grew from bonds of unconditional love and support and not because of sharing genetics.  I know many people, both as a therapist and in my personal life, who were bound to unhealthy love and unhealthy bonds with people they did share genetics with, but little more in abusive family relationships and neglectful or cruel childhood histories.  I always found myself reflecting on the fact that birth giving does not make a mother, a lifetime of nurturing, loving, and mothering earns that title–birthing is just that, a physical act. 

 

The relationships we have in our life that have forged their way through hardship and trials and come out with love intact are the ties that bind us.  And love that makes a family can come from every place–it is the same love that brings life partners together and keeps them together whatever comes and what brings friends back to each other after years and miles and life lived at distances, but hearts that remain faithful to the relationship. 

 

We are, in some ways, the makers of our own lives and the molders of our own family units.  What love and which relationships make up our world is ours to embrace or reject at every turn.  We must work to create love and must work one hundred times harder to maintain and care for that precious gift.

 

So, as I thought of all these things again, preparing for speaking, and thinking of my future and what my future family might look like it also brought me backwards–to an early moment of mine, a maternal flicker in time, and the moment I first fell in love with a baby girl named Seuhedi.

 

I was fifteen at most and she was only a few months old.  It had been the year following my mother’s most recent miscarriage (actually the stillbirth of a son named Christopher) and via family meeting we had made a decision to work with an organization called Healing the Children who paired families in the USA with children from third world countries in need of housing during major operations or medical care only available in the States.  It was sort of an international short-term foster care program.  Seuhedi was the third child we had sponsored who had come from the Dominican Republic and she suffered from spina bifida.

 

crib by valentinapowers on flickr

 

She had the most beautiful face, with soft olive skin and deep brown eyes filled with a quiet intensity far to powerful for her age.  She was gentle and never cried except at bedtime.  I think it was the only time, in the darkness and silence of night that she realized she was alone–foreign smells, strange sounds, and no face she knew. 

 

My parents urged me to go in, speak to her, hold her hand hoping maybe I could placate her.  I walked into the room with her soft sobs the only noise echoing through darkness and silence.  The hallway outside brought in the only brightness and her crib sat covered half in shadows and half in light.  I stood over her and she reached out her tiny fingers for some comfort.  I held her hand and spoke whispers of spanish into her crib and looked at her looking at me with deep brown eyes that were so familiar–as if I were looking into a picture of  my past, hovering over myself in some orphanage from years before. 

 

In those moment something linked us together, outside of words, outside of time, locked in a familiarity of loneliness where we both understood being in an in-between world.  Night after night I would go by her crib and speak softly in my limited spanish and look into the deep eyes that knew me as I knew them.  She would not sob and my heart would fill with light and tears: in those moments with her I fell deeply in love with her tiny soul, her open beautiful heart, and the honesty that resided in her never-ending brown eyes.  She trusted me completely for no reason besides a vague sense of familiarity and understanding.  I loved her completely for allowing me into share in that space in the in-between–to connect with a part of myself I had forgotten and to give something to her that I never had.

 

That first love of a child in that kind of unconditional way was something I never felt before, never could explain, and never fully understood except that it was pure and real and based on nothing but shared moments and unconditional love. 

 

So, in thinking could I ever love a child that much–the answer is yes.  Could I love so much it expands and breaks your heart all in the same second–the answer is yes.  Am I ready for the responsibility of that kind of a love sustained for a lifetime–that is the question.  But in remembering myself, my infancy, and that first love of a child with unconditional proportions I know that it is something I am capable of.   “Am I ready?” is the only real question.

 

I share this story with you for a multitude of reasons, but I send it out there because I know that nearly everyone in their life has someone they love so much it both breaks and expands their heart in equal measure.  That kind of love is a gift and a blessing–the gift of family.  However we define it or create it, whether it be in a traditional context or one of our own making, love is love, and it is the essence of what binds us together.  I am glad that my journey through mind and memory brought me back to the blessing of knowing and loving Seuhedi–even for the brief time I knew her.

 

“What greater thing is there for human souls than to feel that they are joined for life – to be with each other in silent unspeakable memories.”

George Eliot

 The Sanchez Family by Kevin N Murphy on flickr

Early pink dogwood flowering heads by Martin LaBar on flickr

Expect the unexpected. 

 

I had an entirely different post planned for today and then I found myself in my new doctor’s office this afternoon and all that changed.  I guess I should have learned this far into the living process that we can never assume, never predict, always just be prepared (like a good boy scout). 

 

It is always difficult to find a specialist for a chronic illness that does not have its own day or pin or charity of note.  So I held my breath as I waited to meet my new endometriosis specialist especially as I was at a particularly frustrated point, having spent the last week in fairly severe pain (or, medically speaking, about a 6 on a pain scale).  I had a constellation of thoughts sparking and shooting through my brain.  I was not sure what my next step was but I was fairly certain decisions would have to be made. 

 

I had my exam, lets pass over the details, and then I met with the doctor in his office to discuss things in a fully clothed state.  I found this doctor to be a refreshing anomaly already.  When dealing with a male doctor dealing with female issues I tend to walk with trepidation, assessing for a complete lack of empathy or bedside manner, but he had a jovial quality and a softness with a side of humor.  I already liked him.  Then I walked into the office for the “serious business” and sat down in the typical dark wood  office chair.  He began talking to me seriously, frankly, and in a way that was both frighteningly and refreshingly honest. 

 

“Endometriosis is worse than cancer, really.  It would be preferable to have cancer.  You treat it and it’s gone.  With endometriosis there is no cure it just continues to grow and all we can do is manage it long enough so that you have the time you need to have children, if you want them.” 

 

The follow-up inference of that statement is, “Before it all disintegrates in a painful sequence of  internal explosions till, like a building with detinators in the foundation, the entire structure collapses into dust”. (My paraphrasing of the inference later discussed at length with the doctor)

 

I sighed, maybe even audibly.  Finally, someone just said it how it was, and understood what it meant to have and live with this condition.  I needed a qualified person to validate my own hypotheses I had been mulling over this week. After not even a year following my first laparoscopy procedure my pain was returning to the same pinnacle point and I knew it was not a sign of internal wellness. 

 

After finding out in my first surgical procedure that the past 15 years of being told “it’s just your normal cycle, you get bad cramps is all,” was completely lazy diagnostics, I got the official stamp of “Endometriosis, Stage IV“.  There are four stages of the illness and four is the most severe and pervasive.  I knew even a year ago that, that was not a prediction of good to come but I had hoped for at least a couple of years between surgeries.  Now, sitting in that office, hearing the realities I knew I needed to know what was going on in there and there might be more decisions beyond just surgical maneuvers that would follow the “knowing”. 

 

 So, here I sit at home with a bit of medicine meant to mollify the pain beginning to make its way into my system system, along with the bread I use so that I don’t vomit from said medication.  I am preparing for my second laparoscopic surgery on Friday and pondering the information confirmed by my new doctor/surgeon.  I knew it would come to this but having the internal conversation that follows “knowing” is really frightening.

 

How badly do I want to physically have children? How soon am I willing to do that to keep it a possibility? And how do I discern both these things with a clear head and not rash sentimentality? 

 

The first question is: How long do I have before my internals liquify to use my inner pieces to procreate?  The follow-up question is: How soon am I willing to begin trying to have children to prevent losing the chance altogether? 

 

People sometimes ask the theoretical question, if you could know the day you might die would you want to know?  Is it better to know a fate or not.  If you can predict your potential for life, or to create life, would you really want to know?  I find the knowing that I have limited time is like a huge weight pressing on my airway, making it impossible to breathe let alone think clearly on the matter.  At least tonight it feels that way, full of bread, medication, and pulsing pain surging through my abdomen, back, and legs. 

 

Babies.  What are my thoughts on babies?  I am definitely of two minds.  They are messy, and poopy, and needy, and wake you up all the time, and need, and want, and must be constantly watched, and even if you do all the best for them there is no guarantee they will be ok.  They are so much responsibility, but conversely, they are so much love.  They smile, and laugh, and play, and love life in a way that could, potentially, remind you of how much there is to love in life. 

 

Why must I decide now though?  Part of this decision process makes me uncomfortable as an adoptee in a family that is mostly not genetically related.  There is no reason why my decisions, or my body, needs to prohibit babies just because it inhibits procreation.  And is making a decision with such importance about procreation diminishing to all the other ways to have and love a baby?  I never wanted to be a pained and yearning woman amid fertility treatment where it was biological or nothing, but conversely I feel a pang at the idea that I may never have the option for the biological even if I were to choose the non-genetic version of a family regardless. 

 

So, I have surgery the day after tomorrow and my husband is rushing his return to Florida to be here Saturday morning.  I have to get through one night of post-surgery pain alone.  That I can do.  The rest of it, perhaps, I will also leave up to my post-operative brain to coordinate.  After I find out what the present state of carnage is in my potentially womb-less womb. 

 

Make way for ducklings by shoothead on flickr

“True stability results when presumed order and presumed disorder are balanced. A truly stable system expects the unexpected, is prepared to be disrupted, waits to be transformed.”

Tom Robbins

 

1  …My husband’s move to Florida. 

Dog care and maintainance issues aside, I miss him.  I miss shared dinners after a long day of work, I miss taking the dogs out or exploring something new.  I miss watching a movie side-by-side either inside in the warmth and on a couch or shivering amid chilly theatre air.  I am excited to explore Florida together and create new memories under palms and sun.  I am hoping to find time to take a short trip to Marco Island which sounds like a lovely place and I have been hearing great things about it as a place to take a quick reprieve–from what I’m not sure, we do live in Florida, but I would love to explore.

 

 

 Horse and Fog by Claudio Ar

2  …The NARHA 2009 Conference! 

I am beginning an amazing new adventure involving complimentary therapies and horses and I am so excited.  One of the fantastic new avenues that has opened up due to postponing the yoga teacher training by two months is giving me the time to go to a three-day conference for specialized training in the area of Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy.  I will be beginning my first pilot program in late November and am so excited for where this new path will lead and how I can cross and blend multiple holistic approaches.  I may be incorporating some seated yoga on horseback during programming!  I am very excited about all these prospects.  If only I had a charitable financier to help afford all this here learnin’.  For now I will try to make it work any way I can because I know, somehow and in some deep place, that this new equine arena of study and practice is meant to be part of  a more cohesive therapeutic whole. 

 A Young Teresa Psychotically Happy On Her Horsey

 

 

 

3  …My upcoming speaking engagement at the “Let’s Talk” Adoption Conference at Rutgers University in New Jersey on November 7th. 

I will be speaking on Trauma and Yoga for adoptees, their caregivers, and for social service agencies working with adoptees and foster children.  I am so honored and happy to bring this information on mind/body healing to a large audience of people involved in the care of children who may find such great benefit from yoga.  I have purchased, via my good ol’ pal Amazon both of the following books to put out for attendees to flip through:  Babar’s Yoga For Elephants and My Daddy Is A Pretzel: Yoga for Parents and Kids.

 

 

 Merry Christmas to All my Flickr Friends by duane schoon on flickr

4  …Christmas in Florida. 

My lovely sister will be coming to visit and so I cannot wait to show her my new home state and enjoy the Holiday Season sans dirty soot colored snow.  New memories, new visual delights, and a reason to decorate my home thematically and “hang stockings with care”–just for a moment though because I have a feeling in a three dog household they will be dismantled and removed with very little care and much expediency. 

 

5  …My first wedding anniversary this New Year’s Eve. 

 

6  …Beginning my yoga teacher training program.

Hopefully, I will have cultivated some added manner and method of contemplative practice, meditative mind, and calmed spirit before I even walk through the door on the ever-nerve-wracking First Day of School.  I have, in the spirit of that effort, gone my first week without any television whatsoever.  Now this used to be, once upon a twenty-year-old, a very easy endeavor but I fear I have gotten into the “plopper” practices I discussed earlier this week and have to work my way back to enjoying the silence with nothing surrounding me but the tapping rhythm of puppy nails on wood and crisp pages turning in a good book. 

 

7  …Learning how to let go. 

Let go of the illusion of controls.  Let go of the illusion of “knowing”.  And letting go the self that expects so much but explores so little of the internal space of my own inner spaces–a funny irony for a person who, as a therapist, spends my days delving into the psyches of others and encouraging their self exploration.  No more holding on and holding in–I am giving over to letting go.  Tiny step by tiny step. 

 

8  …I am looking forward to seeing where this writing exploration will lead. 

I feel that all my internal archeology both starts and ends with this writing I am doing.  I have always felt like I explored myself most honestly when I wrote.  This is first time I share that journey in an outward way.  This is the first time I take this inner archeological dig into a public forum.  I am hoping it brings a new ripened and raw dimension to the journey that both enriches my own path of discovery and helps another on their internal and external quests.

 

 

Stairway to Heaven by Lyrical Time Wastrs on flickr

 

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things   that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Mark Twain

watch me fly away, give me life like a butterfly by Te55

 

There are people who come into our lives maybe for a minute or a day but leave an indelible mark, an imprint in our heart and our soul–they teach us something about people, life, and ourselves that is unexpected and a blessing.  I thought I would take this Friday to focus on a few of those people who I have met and seen beauty through in some unexpected way. 

 

 

I am sure everyone has those people in their life history.  Often we remember our mothers, our fathers, our closest friends and they are truly jewels to have in a lifetime but there are also the more anonymous relationships that we have, in passing, which may be fleeting but I feel speak to the beauty and grace that exists in the world, not just from those that are close to us but from random strangers that flutter through our memories from time to time.  I wanted to take a moment and think about those anonymous souls that have stepped on my life path.

 

There are also those people we meet, equally randomly, in whom we see such pain in that may live with us and haunt us–change who we are and deepen how we can feel for someone else.  They may tell us a story, share a sorrow, or just exude such ache that they are permanently inked into some shadowy place in our inner selves.  Those people, as much as the former have changed my experience of the world.  They have helped me to be more empathetic, to see people even when they just pass by me, and to understand sorrow to be as universally human as joy, love, and kindness.  Sometimes people provoke kindnesses in us by the experience of knowing them in some deep and inner way.  I wanted to remember those people too–those who taught me about hurt in the human condition.

 

There are also those people who teach us about hate, fear, and misunderstanding.  Their bitterness seeps out into the world because of their discontent and they can touch our lives, hurt our hearts, and jade our worldviews.  If we try we can find our way back from those moments and away from those people but they leave their mark–like water damage on a page, the water dries, but it has seeped into the ink.  They permeate our memory in some way and we may recall them randomly and without warning.  They too teach us about the world, and ourselves, and give us an opportunity for resilience and empowerment in ourselves.  It may be a painful path but it is a worthwhile trip–so that we do not remains stuck in their bitterness or sucked into their darkness.

 

1.  Mama from Laos:

Mama was a lady who ran the guesthouse where I stayed during 5 days of my solo travels to Southeast Asia following graduate school.  While I was staying at the guesthouse I got one of my patented killer sinus infections and Mama was an angel.  Bringing me tea, patching my face with vicks patches, and praying for me at the local temple.  The morning I left Mama gave me a bracelet that she said she had blessed by a monk in the temple at sunrise and she placed it on my wrist, kissed my hand, and welled with tears.  Her kindness was profound and her impact on me so great I found myself on the plane to Ko Samui later that morning surprising myself as I welled with my own tears for a woman I barely knew and barely knew me but had treated me like a daughter nonetheless. 

She taught me that even anonymouos love can be unconditional–across and despite all the boundary lines that humans create for themselves through religion, language, culture, and familiarity. 

 

2.  The Colombian Police Officer In Bogota Airport: 

When I met him this man was probably in his early 20’s and I was in my early 7’s.  We were both pretty confident and assured and we clicked right away.  My mother and I had traveled to Bogota (city of my birth) when I was 7 years old to get my newly adopted sister Maria (aka Yolanda–that was her orphanage name).  We had just arrived, rumpled and tired at the airport arrivals area and found that we were stranded–the driver meant to pick us up had not arrived.  Not that I was aware of it at the time, wondering with  impatience why my mother was so on edge, but a woman and a child from the United States in the Bogota airport in the early 1980’s was like a stationary target.   The officer was well aware of that and went far above his required position in staying with us, as our personal sentry and my personal new playmate, until we were able to get a reputable taxi to take us to our housing.  He smiled wide, played my games, and probably gave my young mother traveling with a child a blessed gift of security. 

 

He taught me that men wielding rifles can wear unguarded smiles and that even, and maybe especially, in countries with such dangerous reputations  kind hearts and good deeds can still prevail.

 

3.  The Brazilian Guide In The Pantanal:

I can no longer remember his name but I remember him clearly, first and foremost, as the man who got me to swim with gators.  Now, lets just say that at that moment I needed little provocation just a small reassurance from my barefoot, machete-toting, jungle guide that, “They are fine, I feed them fishes,” to get me to edge into the cold river, flanked by alligators on both those sides.  It was a now or never and I foolishly went with the “now”.  That is a story for another day (a story I have written but fearfully never even attempted to get published–the same goes for stories I have written about many of these momentary characters in my life). 

 The thing I remember about him even more vividly than instigating my gator encounter was what happened later that night back at camp.  This scene is set in a deep and brush-filled region of the Brazilian Pantanal Jungle (northern jungle cousin of the Amazon) and the only inhabitants of the area are anacondas, piranhas, gators, snakes, lizards, jaguars, the jungle guides, and their guests that dorm in grass-roofed huts lined with hammocks.  And I cannot forget the corrugated shack of a jungle bar stocked with beer and sugar cane liquor enough to satiate both campers and guides for a night–or until the generator dies.  That night I saw my guide, once confident and adept by day–probably one of most well-versed natural ecologists using a wealth of training handed down by fathers and grandfathers–become a stumbling, aggressive, incoherent alcoholic.  He did so for all three nights I was there and on the third night his lifelong friend and fellow guide revealed to me, without knowledge of AA, and in portuguese accented english, “He has a problem and he has for a long time but I just don’t know what to do.”

He taught me that even in the deepest jungles and amid the most raw beauty anyone can feel emotional pain and numb themselves with addictive behaviors.  He showed me that human pain is universal and even men who brave alligator infested waters and carry machetes with ease can be weak and injured inside.

 

4.  Mama from Mississippi:

I met Mama from Mississippi in the very small town of Pearlington the year following Hurricane Katrina.  My mother and I had decided to volunteer over Thanksgiving to assist in clean up and found ourselves on a very eclectic bandwagon headed by a Catholic Priest who loved to play U2 Songs on his acoustic guitar.  He was a native Mississippian and had grown up in Pearlington, Mama was his mother and so there we found ourselves, crowded on the floor of Mama’s tiny FEMA trailer.  The trailer was parked alongside her once beautiful southern home which had been drowned from the inside leaving a hollow shell dripping with mold,  littered with shattered glass, and splintered in two with pieces of lifelong memories collapsed and crushed under the weight of water. 

The entire town had imploded and on every street there were pieces of pots, strips of photographs, and remains of family treasures.  Some people had fled and never returned while others came by daily to rummage what they could out of what was once their lives and now was mud.  And there was Mama, a sort of self-appointed town delegate, checking on families and making us food from whatever she had stocking her barely livable trailer home.  She cried when she prayed, and shook in a Pentecostal sort of way, beside her Catholic priest son.  But above all she had a beautiful soul, it shone through the dimness of dark times and town ruins with a hope that seemed unbreakable. 

Mama taught me what unwavering faith could look like and she reminded me that there were people, in unexpected places, who were strong enough to hope and pray and love even when even the world and the ground beneath her feet had given way.  She reminded me that there is a love universally found in God, in humans, in ourselves, that can not be broken even by the greatest of storms.

 

5.  The Widow In My  NonFiction Writing Class:

She sat there, often fairly quiet through our ten week creative non-fiction class.  While some wrote out pain in a group therapy type method and others held back emoting with the use of journalistic style prose, she lay somewhere in the middle–writing intelligently and beautifully but often just above the surface of something bigger.  I just couldn’t figure what. 

One day she read a story she wrote about the death of her husband just weeks before beginning the writing program.  She read about how she had taken this class as a means of reviving herself, finding life after his chronic illness and years by his pained side, and losing him finally at the end of it all.  She read how she had found some kind of spark of herself again in story-writing and reading with a purpose.  She had immersed herself in technique and storytelling and found something alive that wasn’t there before. 

It was the most beautiful story I heard in that entire class and is probably the most I ever got to know her–and in that I felt like I knew her both intimately and not at all.  Now I cannot even remember her face but the exquisite craft, melancholy and bravery in her story I will never forget. 

She reminded me how therapeutic writing can be and also that the best writing is made while straddling that fine line of telling the story, feeling the pain in the pages, but not indulging the pain in leu of the craft.  She did it perfectly with artistry and bravery.  In reading her story of mourning and her capacity to tell it, unwaveringly and honestly, I would have guessed years not weeks had passed.  She reminded me that writing has a power that extends beyond the author and becomes alive–her melancholy is still alive in me.  It also reminded me of the curative powers of words–writing and reading them have a capacity to revive and heal. 

 

6.  The Man On The Train To Amsterdam:

He was from Kosovo.  I was from New Jersey.  And we were both riding the night train to Amsterdam from Germany with a man from Austria.  It is a complicated beginning I know.  It was late summer of 1999 and the War in Kosovo had just ended.  We all found ourselves on a train to Amsterdam, me on my first backpacking trip, and the both of them headed somewhere with a purpose.  The Austrian man spoke English but the man from Kosovo spoke none.  He was wrinkled and tired looking with tanned skin and dark hair.  And we began to talk–me and the man from Kosovo–with the Austrian man acting as intermediary translator. 

I heard about his wife and his children who he loved dearly, who had been crushed in the bombing in his town.  I heard about his journey to find life and work and to try to find a reason to live with his family gone.  After a few hours I nearly forgot that the Austrian man was there, it was as though we were the only two people on the train and in the railcar corridor.  I remember feeling like part therapist, part mourner, and part historian hearing a tale of history in the making. 

He showed me what pain was, what war was, what trauma was and how excruciating it can be to be the one that lived when everything you loved has died.  He was my first touch of the existential of war and loss.  He was my first session, although unofficially, as a trauma therapist.  He showed me the value of just listening to someone’s story and the importance of hearing someone else’s pain and validating it.  He showed me war and the casualties of war in lives, in hearts, in souls crushed with love lost.

 

7.  The Montville Racist:

He was a teenager around my age who lived in Montville, New Jersey.  Beyond that I remember nothing distinctive about him as a person–besides being a racist, of course.  I remember that night and what was said very distinctly but in a backwards dream sort of way.  Mostly this was due to the fact that I only figured out what transpired and what it meant after the fact–with a sort of suburban child naivety which, thanks to him, was lost that night. 

I remember going to this anonymous boy’s house one weekend night because he was a friend of a friend.  I remember getting there and them arguing in the other room.  He was saying things like, “There is no way.  I don’t want her here.  I want her out of my house.”  I remember her shouting back that he was a “pig” and “awful” but I didn’t really understand why.  I remember we didn’t have a car and he had to drive us back to our town and to my friend’s house.  She was blush red when we got there and apologizing to me profusely.  I didn’t realize until half-way through her gushing what had even happened.  He didn’t want ME there.  He didn’t want a HISPANIC there.  He didn’t want someone NOT WHITE in his house.  Then I felt nauseous, disgusted, humiliated, and vulnerable all at once.  I wanted to pass out and go home and hide.  I was disguisted at myself for not “getting it” before and for having to spend an entire ride home, unknowingly, with a bigot who hated me just because I “was”, period.  I was horrified that, that kind of bigotry existed and that I had experienced it first hand and I was angry that he had shifted me in a way that could not be taken back or taken away.  I felt unwanted for my skin and the genetics of my birth–and that was a first. 

He taught me that hate can exist–be it for fear or learned stigma–just to exist; for no rational or real reason.  He taught me that bigotry was not just in history or somewhere else but it could be anywhere.  He taught me to be prepared but never ashamed.  He taught me to know people’s potential for wrong, but to not let that hold me back for seeing all the good and right.  I would not let him taint me…but in some ways, in just existing in my memory, as a memory he did, and he has. 

 

8.  My Birthmother–Imagined and Real:

I have thought of my birthmother throughout my life in a number of ways.  When I was young I idolized her as a perfect angel from impoverished circumstances who, with saint-like capacity, gave me up for some greater good.  When I was a teenager I despised her for feelings I had about myself, for not knowing where I came from or my hispanic lineage, and for not giving me the answers to why I was the way I was from the roundness of my nose to my racing mind and hormonally excited emotionality.  As an adult I just wondered–without answers.  After two private investigators and a number of dead ends I guess I came to terms with having nothing but questions without answers.  She is who I am, but also she is not.  She may be my hair or my nose but I’m not sure she has anything to do with my obsessive literary bent.  I blame that on my (adoptive) mother talking to me like I was 30 at 2 and reading me long, linguistically winded novels at 3.  I have found my balance between nature and nurture.  But there are days like my birthday that I still look in the mirror a little too long with a little too much melancholy laying on my heart and wonder about the questions. 

She taught me to love who I am even when I don’t know where I came from–not by example but by absence. She is someone who I have the freedom to imagine however I choose.  She is someone I thank for freeing me to live the life I have, and love the family I love and know that they love me.  But despite all that she has given me, without even knowing that she has done so, she is still a stranger.  She is someone I only see when I stare in the mirror a little too long. 

 

 

Footprints in The Sand by johncooke on flickr

 

My article “Yoga: A Healing Art in A Psychotherapy Context” has just been published in the Fall 2009 Issue of  THE NEW SOCIAL WORKER MAGAZINE

Check it out if you would like!

May 2020
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