We have been an adventure the past two years, or as Chris likes to call it...“an epic quest.” This epic quest has been a journey of hard-fought redemption and healing. This has been a process of becoming. Not only as a family, but for me as an individual as well.
One of the most challenging things about this foster care adoption thing has been putting in the work without seeing immediate results. I often ask myself, “What the hell am I trying so hard for? Does what I’m doing even really matter?” There are some days when all kindness has been dried up. When my efforts feel like peanuts and most of them are empty shells. I can muster up some pretty good pity parties on those kinds of days--feeling like I’m failing at this adoptive parenting gig or at best beating my head against the wall. The fruits of my labor aren’t usually easily seen, so I need to be cognizant of recognizing each step as a victory. I need to dive headfirst into the power of embracing the process of the transformation. I need to accept progress over wanting the instant gratification of results.
As part of my birthday present this year, my sister gave me a bamboo plant along with a sweet card. This is what the card said:
“When bamboo seeds are planted, they must be watered, tended, and protected for five years and nothing seems to happen. Nothing for five years! Yet just below the surface during all that time the bamboo is developing a complex root system unseen to the caretaker. So, in parenting and in life we must remember that it is about the process not the product. ‘God calls us not to be successful but to be faithful.’ (St. Theresa of Calcutta) So, sister, faithfully water your bamboo! Knowing that the real growth and change may be just below the surface and one day it will burst forth with abundance!”
So, this is where our family is at—we’re in the years of faithfully tending and watering. Building our complex root system, not seeing much of anything but waiting in hopeful anticipation. But in order to feel comfortable waiting in this hopeful anticipation, I needed to recognize my starting point. I needed to be at peace about the fact that this part in my life, the past two years, has put me at rock bottom at times. However, I’m coming to realize that might not be such a bad place to be in after all. Author J.K. Rowling says about her own personal experience, “Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” This is where I feel I am headed…
The lotus flower has become an important analogy in my journey to becoming and rising to the top after feeling the sting of being at the bottom. “The lotus is the most beautiful flower, whose petals open one by one. But it will only grow in the mud. In order to grow and gain wisdom, first you must have the mud—the obstacles of life and its suffering. The mud speaks of the common ground that humans share, no matter what our stations in life. Whether we have it all or we have nothing, we are all faced with the same obstacles: sadness, loss, illness, dying and death. If we are to strive as human beings to gain more wisdom, more kindness, and more compassion, we must have the intention to grow as a lotus and open each petal one by one.” (Actress, Goldie Hawn) So like the lotus, I am becoming at ease in the mud of challenge and pushing myself through the waters of change and transformation. I do believe it is through the muck that we become the fullest, most complete version of ourselves, and I am ready for the journey to top…
I am a huge fan of author and speaker Brene Brown. To say much of her work has radically changed my perspective on a lot of things would be an understatement. She ends her book Rising Strong with the following poem. I just love it as it profoundly speaks to the human experience of rising through difficulty into triumph.
Manifesto of the Brave and Brokenhearted
There is no greater threat to the critics and cynics and fearmongers
Than those of us who are willing to fall
Because we have learned how to rise
With skinned knees and bruised hearts;
We choose owning our stories of struggle;
Over hiding, over hustling, over pretending.
When we deny our stories, they define us.
When we run from struggle, we are never free.
So we turn toward truth and look it in the eye.
We will not be characters in our stories.
Not villains, not victims, not even heroes.
We are the authors of our lives.
We write our own daring endings.
We craft love from heartbreak,
Compassion from shame,
Grace from disappointment,
Courage from failure.
Showing up is our power.
Story is our way home.
Truth is our song.
We are the brave and brokenhearted.
We are rising strong.
I feel like I am in the process of rising strong, of becoming. I can feel the sunshine on my face and in my soul. Yet every day is still hard in its own right, and I have found if I dwell on it too much I get stuck in sad land. Not saying I sweep the hard emotions under the rug; I just do my best to process them and move on. I love the saying, “You cannot prevent the birds of sadness from passing over your head, but you can prevent their making a nest in your hair.” So I’m kicking those birds out of my hair by surrounding myself with good things. There’s a Cherokee legend that speaks to just this …
One evening a Cherokee Elder sat down with his grandson.
“My son,” he said, “inside us all, there is a battle between two wolves. One is good: It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, kindness, empathy, generosity, compassion, faith, and truth. The other is evil: It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, resentment, superiority, arrogance, self-pity, and lies.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf wins?”
The Elder simply replied, “The one you feed.”
There’s a saying, “We all eat lies when our hearts are hungry.” And isn’t that the truth! When we’re hurting we will fall prey to many insidious lies that are whispered to our souls. So I have found it is imperative to be proactive in feeding the right wolf by surrounding myself with Truth and with those who will speak it to me. In doing this, I am confident that the right wolf will win and change will happen. Socrates says, “The secret of change is to focus all your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” So I am enjoying the new that I already see in myself and in my children…however small it may be. We are climbing a mountain whose summit we have yet to reach. My aim is to just keep heading in the right direction.
I am a recent addition to the world of CrossFit and I absolutely love it! One evening, I was watching an interview with Matt Fraser, four-time consecutive CrossFit Games winner. His story is pretty inspiring. And from this interview comes a quote from Fraser that I think about often, “Progress not Perfection. I don’t care if you’re running towards your goal or on your knees fucking crawling, just stay pointed in that direction. Keep chugging. You’ll get there.” Somedays are definitely a crawl and some glorious moments are a run, but in all of it, I have confidence that our family is headed the right direction. And we’re doing it together.
Progress loves companionship. There is an African philosophy called Ubuntu. There are many different interpretations of it, but the clearest definition in my eyes is given by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Tutu writes about Ubuntu saying, “It speaks of the very essence of being human...It is to say, ‘My humanity is inextricably bound up in yours.’ We belong in a bundle of life.” Simply put…we’re all in this together. My humanity isn’t fully actualized until yours is. We are all on a journey to becoming whole—a journey to be who we were created to be. It is an expedition of empowerment found as the result of defeat.
I am a true believer that empowered people empower others. It’s not a competition; it’s a
joint effort. “The world is not a game in which you lose if someone else wins,” says author Brianna West. “Another person’s success doesn’t not mean you have failed. Another person’s success does not mean you have failed. Another person’s beauty does not mean you’re ugly. Another person’s romance does not mean you are unloved. Another person’s happiness is not a shadow on yours. The world trains us to think that the good things in life are like one piece of cake. We fight for it, the best person earns it, and everyone else is left to fight for scraps. But success is really getting yourself into the kitchen and making your own damn dessert, and then sharing it with everyone you please.”
This is why I write about my journey and the struggles of being an adoptive mom. It’s the dessert I’m making that I would love nothing more than to share with you all. I’ll be honest, it can be scary to put yourself out there--to show your vulnerabilities and scars. But I am a believer that “…courage has a ripple effect. Every time we choose courage, we make everyone around us a little better and the world a little braver. And our world could stand to be a little kinder and braver.” (Brene Brown The Gifts of Imperfection)
By allowing you to see me, I want you to know that I in turn see YOU. I will never pretend to know the sorrow of each of your stories. For “to understand another person, you must swim in the same waters that drowned them.” But I do believe in the essence of compassion and in building relationships by sharing your struggles in vulnerability and truth. This is part of the redemptive story for all of us.
Author Marcy Pusey in her book Reclaiming Hope says, “I believe that everything that happens can be used for good somehow. I don’t always get to see that good or understand it personally, but still I believe it. It gives me hope that even the messiest starts can be used for the best of ends.” We are each on different paths to the same end; we are on a metanoia—on a journey of changing one’s mind, heart, self, or way of life. Because it’s always about change—whether it’s taking that next baby step or plunging headfirst into the unknown. We’re putting in the work-- watering our roots and pushing our way through the muck. We are on our way to the top.
We are becoming.