Monday, December 31, 2012

Things come together and fall apart

Lately, I've noticed that I've become more anxious, due to both my thyroid medication and the more mundane realities of middle age. I've always tended toward a slight and useful paranoia, but circumstance and hormones have tipped the balance and I am substantially more prone to worry than I used to be. Although I've come through a disruptive bout with thyroid cancer pretty well, it left me with the lingering feeling that if anyone were to look too hard, we'd probably find some more bad news. I don't get through the routine mammogram as breezily as I used to, and the other night I woke up from a sound sleep with the distinct thought that, just based on age and statistics, my life (at least the active part of it) was probably more than half over, which was not a soothing thought. I am sure I am quite typical of American adults in their forties.

I'd like to quell the emotional edginess of my newfound perspective (or lack thereof), and at the same time, I'm aware that it's a fairly frank response to reality. As the Buddhist Shunryu Suzuki Roshi once said, "Life is like getting into a boat that is about to sail out to sea and sink."

My fretfulness does not make me a better parent, but it does make me more like T, who is a world-class worrywart. Just today, he walked into the bathroom and said with absolute seriousness "What are we going to do when I'm not here to remind you to brush your teeth EVERY morning?!" Yesterday, he told me three times "Do not forget to lock the front door behind me after I leave!" The day before that, while we were packing for a short vacation, he must have asked Tim and I a dozen times "Is there ANYTHING we forgot? ANYTHING AT ALL?!"

Selfishly, I find this relaxing and a little bit comic (my thyroid medication compromises my short-term memory, and I'm embarrassed to admit that his post-traumatic stress-induced hypervigilance works out rather nicely sometimes!). There's little likelihood I'll overlook some obvious risk, so vigilant is he in alerting me to life's potential hazards. But I feel for the guy. It's no wonder he has a hard time giving up his beloved marijuana!

We had a nice weekend trip with T and his bestfriend, with whom he shares a very similar life story. Together, they create an odd atmosphere, both innocent and mournful, but they love each other best perhaps because they let each other ebb and flow and never let a stormy mood interfere with their absolute loyalty to one another. I think they are a bit ahead of me on the path to enlightenment, as obvious as their struggles are. (In fact, I have often wondered that T must be a particularly advanced being, because the universe seems to have conspired to hurl at him an epic and ceaseless array of thunderbolts from the moment he was born, while all it's really dealt me was an ordinary midlife crisis!)

Listening to them chat casually about this childhood disaster and that one, I was struck by their advanced awareness of loss. The lesson I am learning now--that I can't control or predict the future, that inevitably, everything I have and love will be lost or change--took a long time to sink in. Dumb luck made me arrogant; I became accustomed to having and holding on to what I wanted for myself. But T and others like him knew the truth very well a long time ago; through no action of their own, they've lost their mothers and their fathers, as well as numerous homes, many friendships, and most opportunities to experience a "normal" childhood. (While we were driving to the mountains, T's bestfriend casually said to me "This is so great- I was never allowed to go on trips like this when I was in foster care, because I had to get permission for everything from my social worker, and if was up to her, nobody would ever be allowed to even talk to me without being fingerprinted first.") Yet they manage to get up every day and take the next shaky step on their path, and listening to them together, it's impossible not to notice their open-heartedness.

Which brings me to another bit of Buddhist perspective, two quotes from the writer Pema Chodron that, together, capture my thoughts about bonding with and parenting an older traumatized kid. She writes, "Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It's a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others."

And further, "We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don't really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It's just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy."

I'd say that only a grasp of those two ideas is required to make a decent foster/adoptive parent to a traumatized kid.

Happy New Year!


8 comments:

GB's Mom said...

Happy New Year! Thank you for giving me words for what I need to do. Get it together, fall apart. Sounds easy, so hard to live with.

dcorey said...

What perfect quotes. Two years in, I feel like I am just now finding that place with my traumatized kiddo and with myself. I might have to write those down and hang them up somewhere to keep me on course. Thanks for sharing.

Julia said...

love your blog ~ OFTEN try to comment but the encrypted words never seem to be what I see. I love the quotes!

kirafiki said...

just wanted to say thank you for your blog. You and I have a lot in common. We have a traumatized kid (well, young man. He's 19, but really just wants to be a kid and have a family and just rest in that for a while) that just moved in with us so I found your blog while looking for some answers. Its been helpful just to understand why he acts like he does at times, makes me feel a little less crazy about some things. I also recently had thyroid cancer so I get where you are coming from that prespective as well. I've always been on meds for my thyroid, but the cancer thing, you're right- BAM! right into the middle of all your best laid plans. Makes you wonder what's coming next. Hang in there with the hormones and thanks for all that you say on here.

Hope L said...

Two months into my first foster placement with 2 sisters (8 and 11) as a single parent, and I find my exhausted, but committed to maintaining the placement.

The reality of the life experiences of these children is heartbreaking and their resilience is impressive.

FosterCareQandA said...

Beautiful, beautiful thoughts. This post inspired me to look at the loss and heartbreak the children I foster have experienced in a new light. Rather than being these horrible tragedies that have happened to them, these experiences just might be the fuel they need to drive them to their perfect life.

Melanya said...

Hi Lulu,

I thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog.

I work for an amazing team of people who are working very hard to launch a new community site called Adoption.net that will be about adoption and fosterhood. I would love to talk to you about some writing opportunities, could you send me an email? I would email you directly, but I could not find contact information on your blog.

Thank you!

Melanya
melanya@adoption.net

Melanya said...

Hi Lulu,

I thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog.

I work for an amazing team of people who are working very hard to launch a new community site called Adoption.net that will be about adoption and fosterhood. I would love to talk to you about some writing opportunities, could you send me an email? I would email you directly, but I could not find contact information on your blog.

Thank you!

Melanya
melanya@adoption.net

 
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