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Ever since the accident the other day I find myself whirring and dizzy with so many thoughts and emotions they are so hard to compartmentalize in any way. They bleed together, overlap, & come out like a Pollack painting–splotchy colors that appear random and haphazard until you stand back and stare from a distance.

I find myself thinking about the woman I met wailing over her husband’s body, blood soaking into her jeans, not knowing what her life was anymore, not prepared to define herself without her life partner.

I found myself, in that moment, thinking “That’s it,”. In a family of two when one is gone and one remains that family ceases to be–there is no legacy of that love beyond the memory of it.

This led me back to my own continued dilemma of babies, thinking in a new light of the preciousness of creating life anew in a family of two–something to be shared in love and partnership, something that extends beyond two people and beyond death.

A coworker of mine, a therapist equally bogged down by her own internal snags and hesitations over procreation told me once,”The one thing I do know is that of all the elderly people I’ve worked with, the ones with children are undeniably the happiest at the end of their lives.”. That has to stand for a level of significance whatever the source of this phenomenon.

Maybe, for some unscientific, unquantifiable, unsubscribable, purposeful reason, having a family is not about all those things I feared they might be–relegating oneself and being relegated to some stereotypical stepford female experience, or a frustrating impediment to professional growth, or a narcissistic ego boost in creating ones own replica, and it might even be something more than biological necessity for maintaining the species. It might, in fact, have something to do with LOVE.

Again, per usual, I know, big “duh” moment. I had always known this idea in some peripheral theoretical way but I had neve before gotten out of my own head long enough to get into my own heart on the matter. Until Saturday night when in a flash of shock and grief and a wave of feeling so close to another’s experience (seeing the potential for me in tha widow) I saw the purpose for having children just purely because of and for love.

“Love has no desire but to fulfill itself. To melt and be like a running brook that sings it’s melody to the night. To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving.”

Kahlil Gibran

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

 

My Childhood Pumpkin Art

 

 

THE WOMAN INSIDE

It is the eve of all hallows eve and mischief abounds, except of course on the street that cannot be found.

 On a little sandy road, in a house at the end, a hobbled woman lays with no way to bend. 

She has a crooked grin and walks a crooked line, and her belly, inside and out, looks like Frankenstein.

But don’t worry children, do not have fear.  And ignore, if you please the clawing and growling you hear.

Inside these dark narrow halls, behind the cracked yellow walls, lays a woman who is not to be feared at all.

Her insides may be red and her outsides may be blue, but she is a therapist, and would never hurt you.

So if you pass by, on this dark sacred of nights, just be sure to tread softly, not to give HER a fright.

 

 By Teresa Bennett-Pasquale, “Mischief Night”, October 30th, 2009

 

 

Yes, in leu of a quote tonight I thought I would cobble together my own little post-operative ditty and homage to one of my favorite holidays—Halloween.   I am home from the hospital and have finally nestled myself into bed after much struggle against my “restless person syndrome” which compelled me to get up for something every five minutes until my surgery soreness and exhaustion couldn’t take it anymore.

This post will be brief, for reasons including stabbing CO2 aches in my right shoulder and hand as well as the aforementioned soreness that takes quite a bit out of even the fidgetiest of people.  I just wanted to wish, via poem, a wonderful Mischief Night (be good) and Happy Halloween to all and than everyone, both bloggers, bloggees (?), and friends and family who have poured out of every corner a heartfelt thanks. 

I also wanted to say that all my many tids and bits appear to be in good working order and there was little surgical removal of anything which gives me great hopes of a future for my organs and any potential use I might want to have for them.  I will write a lengthier post on the whole endeavor when body and mind allow.  This is as much lucidity I could muster tonight.

Thank you again to all and enjoy your Halloween Weekend!

 

 

 “Hold on, man.  We don’t go anywhere with “scary,” “spooky,” “haunted,” or “forbidden” in the title.”

From Scooby-Doo

   

 

Moon Silhoutted Trees Mosaic by ctd 2005 on flickr 

        African proverb: “The ax forgets, the tree remembers.”

        Maya Angelou, Even the Stars Look Lonesome, 1997

 

 

When I left home for Fort Collins, Colorado at twenty I was running away.  Running away from my trauma, my memories of places, memories of the faces that had become blurred, and the history of a life that (at the time) I didn’t want to remember or own.  So, I went half way across the nation hoping for geographical healing and what I confronted was everything I left behind.  First, subconsciously, through painful mistakes, symptomatic responses in overdrive, and a very unhealthy and volatile relationship.  Then, intentionally, when two and a half years into my “new life” and many falls downward I realized that my demons, my ghosts, and my life didn’t disappear just because I did. 

 

I remember sitting in my first trauma therapist’s office and her making me do what I now know to be “The Empty Chair” Technique from Gestalt therapy and just crying all the tears I had been holding in for the person I was before my trauma, for the person I had become after it, and for all of the unnecessary years of guilt and shame I had bestowed on myself.  It was a first step on a very long journey that continued to include falling down, but at least it didn’t involve any more running away. 

 

Six months after the afternoon in that office I moved back to New Jersey—to confront myself and my memories in the place from whence they came.  I realized once I stopped hiding inside myself I no longer had to hide externally. 

 

On the brink of my move to Florida (just a few months ago) I wanted to make sure for myself that this was a move forward not a fleeing situation.  I find myself very attentive to my own self assessment—making sure I am making conscious decisions for viable reasons so as never to fall back into the trunk of my own car on the road of my own life again.  Most of me knows this will never happen, but the intellectual part of me just wants to think it through anyway.  I realized that in coming back to my hometown and confronting the faces and places that had haunted my mind I had been made free to find my home again.  Not home as a place on a map but as a space in my heart. 

 

I found home in my family, my friends, the new memories I created, and those I could let go of by confronting them.  I found home, most recently and most poignantly, in marrying my husband:  marriage being something I never thought I would do—some for feminist precepts that I held to tightly, but ultimately deep down I think I had cultivated a pervasive fear of trusting someone that implicitly with me—mind, heart, soul, and body

 

I found home in this past year in the most intimate way I could—In a family of my own, in love that gives all and allows the heart to receive all, and in learning in another that I could completely trust myself.

 

I realized in assessing my Florida move motivations that this physical move was essentially just shifting to another point on a map; the real move was a move forward to a life with my family of two plus (now) THREE dogs and an embracing of whatever is to come without fear. 

 

Trauma is like falling to the bottom of the deepest ravine or being pushed off a cliff’s edge into a frigidly cold ocean.  It is the hardest thing to climb out of and it takes all the strength you may have and often then a bit more than that.  You create new strength and new muscles you never had before in the process and it leaves you with a new sense of fearlessness.  Once you have seen the bottom of the coldest ocean and fallen from the highest peak the rest of life’s problems pale in comparison. 

 

Do you have weak points?  There are moments.  No one is impervious to life or feelings or memories.  There are moments when I wake up with a startle or I jump when someone comes up from behind or get a chill when I see a man leering at me, but they are identified and moved beyond—they are not paralyzing and immobilizing like they once were. 

 

 I don’t see shadows in my room every time I open my eyes or sleep with the lights on or numb out, block out, or space out to avoid the pain.  I do not fear life, fear love, fear touch anymore.  I do not hyperventilate and shake from some unknown triggered memory.  I do not hate my body (most days J).  I do not categorically hate men.  I do not wait for the day when the other shoe will drop or anticipate my world falling out from under me. 

 

I can move and move on without carting all that past pain around with me.  I can talk about healing from my own perspective as well as from my “therapist” chair.  I can, when hard days come (quoting, randomly,“Sex and the City”):  “Breathe and reboot.”  I can find my center, find my quiet mind, find my yogic self that can take life in.  I can let the past go enough so that I can keep breathing, breathing deeper, and breathing in this new life, new move, new dog, and whatever else is next. 

 

I will never run away again.  And I will keep remembering to run without fear into my future.

 

 

An Arabian Dream by TAYSER on flickr

          Experience is not what happens to you;
          it’s what you do with what happens to you.

            Adlous Huxley

 

* MY STORY to be continued tomorrow with the post “Full of Sound and Fury: A Survivor’s Tale”. *

May 2020
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