Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Sound of Unlocking

Do you know what the sound of a heart being unlocked sounds like? What it feels like? Is it a burst of knowing that someone is going to change your life? A type of emotional epiphany? A warming of the heart? A quickening of the breath? 

I am a gal who keeps a lot of things under lock and key. Emotions, mostly, especially when the stakes are high. I’m not a gambler, least of all with my heart. I am a gal who keeps up walls and boundaries and, in some cases —barricades— until I know that the relationship is safe to enter fully. I do not like getting hurt. I do not like being hurt. I do not like hurting others. I think a lot of us spend a vast amount of time planning on how to keep ourselves safe from pain. And yet, in the complexities of human relations—there is always a spoonful of hurt that no amount of sugar can take away.

The night before the kid came into my home, I had what the Southerners in my life would call “A coming to Jesus” moment. I had to let go of all the voices speaking to me from the recesses of my mind (even if some of them were in French). The voices that told me that this whole process was going to hurt. A lot. No matter what happens when the jury reads the final verdict. It was going to hurt being a single mom. It was going to hurt the day that I had to give her back. A lot. It was going to hurt watching her go back with people that you just don’t trust. It was going to hurt to give up my career plans, vacation plans, social plans. It was going to hurt if I got to keep her. It was going to hurt if I did not get to keep her. Hurt. Ouch.

I had to let go of the fear of getting hurt.

I had to live in the day to day and the night to night.

I realized on Tuesday what the sound of unlocking sounds like. It sounds like tiny, 2-year-old feet stepping lightly across the bedroom floor. It sounds like the rustle of her blankie dragging behind her. It sounds like the little whirl of “Aunt D’Arcy?” as I open my 5:30am eyes and see her 5:30am eyes looking at me. It sounds like pulling her up, taking her into my arms. It sounds like an exhale as she settles. It sounds like a soft exchange of “Nose!” and the tapping of a finger on the two noses that were present. It sounds like a tired “umhmm”, said with closed eyes, to confirm that she got it right. It sounds like all those little sounds that we do not ever really listen to.

It actually does sound like a tiny little “click-click”.

And you know the pain is going to be overwhelming at some future point...but you pull the key out of that lock and open the door anyway. You open it to more than just meeting her needs, more than just helping her survive, more than just giving her a schedule and security and teaching her to say “please” and “thank you”. More than all of that. You open it up and you start to love her like she deserves to be loved. Even if that love is going to end up just feeling "helpless" the rest of the time. You unlock.


Saturday, May 5, 2012

Gaining a 2-Year-Old

When I found out that my niece was being taken away from her mother (no relation), my mind went into a bit of a fine frenzy. I had to make a decision. And I had to make it soon. DCFS gives a couple of hours to decide and you don’t just decide to take her for a few weeks, you have to decide, in that moment, that if her parents never get their act together, then you would be ready and willing to adopt the child. I sort of hate DCFS for that. I sort of love them, too. But right now I just think they are a little batshit crazy in asking people to make those kinds of decisions.

So—putting my brain in hyper-speed--I thought about it. Maybe I am the crazy one. Maybe the answer is such an obvious “YES” that the fact that I would hesitate so long makes me a bad person. Maybe it makes me selfish and self-centered. Or maybe it makes me intelligent and cautious. I’m not sure anymore because I haven’t gotten a full night’s sleep in about 7 days.

The thought process of deciding between having my niece come to live with me, and having her go with a foster family went something like this:

1.     Maybe foster care will be better. Maybe she will be placed with a loving couple who really wants a child. (I’d cling to this for about 3 minutes and then it would go away)
2.     Maybe she’ll be sexually abused in foster care (this one never went away)
3.     Maybe the mom will be home all day and play with her and help her learn and grow. (happy thoughts!)
4.     Maybe the mom will put her in front of the tv all day and ignore her and only do it for the government money. (sad thoughts)

And then the thoughts continued to this:

1.     I do not want kids.
2.     I love my life the way it is.
3.     What can I give to a child?
4.     How will I be able to afford daycare and babysitters?
5.     I had so many plans for my photography business this summer and a 2 year old is going to eat up all that time…how do I provide a living for myself...and her, now?
6.     My single friends aren’t going to hang out with me...or they won't understand...and....

But, more difficult than processing all my rollercoaster thoughts, has been processing what people have been telling me:

1.     This will be good for you, it will make you softer.
2.     See, God really did want you to have children, so you got them one way or another (don’t you just love that Christian God? Always giving you what you need, instead of what you want? )
3.     This will increase your ability to love (again, because apparently, all single people are somehow so stunted in this area).
4.     This will give more meaning to your life (this one pisses me off the most, as I don’t really succumb to the idea that being childless means that I have less value or meaning in my life).
5.     This will be the best and hardest experience of your life  (this one confuses me).

I understand that I’ve opened myself up to all kinds of advice. I’m taking it in. I’m processing it, but, in the end, I don’t think I am going to fall into the nice little categories that everyone seems to create regarding parenthood. But, naturally, I'm also trying to protect myself from the real possibility that her parents are going to get her back and I'll watch them all fall into old patterns again. 

But, this week is probably not the best to assess it all as truthfully, I’ve mostly just felt numb.

As a friend said to me the other day, “putting on a play is hard, being a parent is hard, dealing with new situations is hard, trying to be patient with people who don't deserve it is hard, and coping with less than normal sleep is hard--but to suddenly deal with all of those things all at once!  I'm not surprised at you feeling numb--I imagine that, like a computer dealing with too many programs going at the same time, your body and spirit and mind are just trying to survive.”