Search This Blog :

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

"It's Just Not Fair"

"We have no right to ask, when sorrow comes, 'Why did this happen to me?' unless we ask the same question for every joy that comes our way." Philip S Bernstein

There are certain lessons we learn our whole lives through. Patterns, habits, thoughts and actions we fall into again and again and again and then feel like giving ourselves a smack on the forehead as we think in exasperation (or sometimes despair) "Didn't I learn this last time around?!"

Many of us live under the illusion that life needs to be "fair" to us. When something isn't fair, we experience numerous reactions: childish petulance, outraged hurt, anger or we find ourselves falling into despair, anxiety, fear, a spiral of negative emotions...

When our precious sense of fair is tampered with, we often lash out at others, God, ourselves, in the immaturity of our understanding.

Where does our sense of entitlement come from?

There are many, many things in life, the world and history that aren't fair. Horrendous things happen to good and innocent people and good things happen to misguided, cruel, and evil people. Why are we always surprised anew by this as though the world has always been a haven of fairness and justice and our experience is the first of its kind? Perhaps because we were created with a deep craving for justice? Created with an innate sense of dignity that in a perfect world would always be respected and valued? Or less lofty but worth mentioning, because we are essentially selfish beings who have difficulty rising above a situation that hurts us, looking at it from angles other than "it's unfair"?

It isn't wrong to think things like "Why me?" or "It just isn't fair.". But it can't end there...those thoughts need to be the beginning of a journey toward a broader and more enlightened understanding of the situation. We can choose to step out of the role and mentality of being a perpetual victim and into one of maturity, grace, and acceptance.

I think that overcoming the idea of unfairness is a lifelong battle. I didn't think it was fair for example when shortly after learning my husband and I would never have biological children, I read a story in the newspaper announcing that Karla Homolka was pregnant. (For those of you unfamiliar with the name, she and her husband together raped, tortured and murdered many teen age girls and women, her own sister among them.) That is when the absurdidty of it struck me most intensely. I had been telling myself that I didn't deserve children, I wasn't fit to be a mother, all sorts of hurtful, self destructive things to be able to bear my own feeling of it being unfair. It struck me reading this piece of news that if Karla Homolka can get pregnant and have a baby, then fairness really has nothing to do with it and obviously neither then did the notion that I somehow wasn't fit to be a mother.

Eventually I reached a place where fair and unfair took on different and more perspective definitions. As we progressed in our first adoption journey, I came to understand fair is a bigger picture than what I can see and understand...it's so subjective. Instead of thinking "Why us? Why will we never have children of our own?" I slowly began to think "Why anybody? Why this mother in Sri Lanka who has to give up her child? Why this little boy? Why this hurting broken country?" None of it is really fair. The issue was so much larger than my initial "why me". I believe there are answers and most of the time the struggle is simply to think outside of ourselves. Let go of our sense of fair.

Monday, 12 September 2011

An Unusual Fondness For Elephants





As a woman actively trying to cull her possessions and achieve some sort of transcendent, zen-like, materially detached peace ;), I truly have a problem when it comes to anything embellished with an elephant design or made in the shape of an elephant itself. I loath collections but I have been guilty of buying totally useless items only because they were in the shape of a gaudy, colorful, dazzling elephant.

Take this summer for example. My husband, brother, sister and I went to Oslo. While my husband worked, my brother and sister and I like dutiful Catholics, attended daily mass in St. Olav's which actually was not a duty at all but a serene pleasure as for once William wasn't there wreaking unholy havoc during the sacred celebration of the Eucharist. When mass was finished we got out my brother Sean's laptop and searched out various thrift shops in the vicinity. Unlike North America or the UK, Norway isn't big on thrifting unfortunately but there is the odd shop here and there so each day we walked hours through the city streets in the pouring rain and hit a new one.

When we found them, we would stumble in, dripping water victoriously all over the threshold and go off in search of...treasure. Each day I discovered something elephant related. Each evening I went through buyer's remorse as I agonized over why I had needed a marble elephant shaped ashtray that was heavy enough to double as a murder weapon if the need ever arose. I giggled in alarming hysteria, eyes glazed over as I said in anxious tones..."It's for my guests that smoke! My guests! They'll use it! They will! They'll love it! When they come over and want to smoke, they'll be very happy to see a marble elephant ash tray!" But alas, I convinced nobody. Sean rolled his eyes and asked why any guests that smoked couldn't just butt their cigarettes out in an old beer can like any normal person and I had to concede that he had a point. That and the only guest I have that smokes is in fact Sean.

The next day we again searched out another Fretex (Salvation Army), this time in a more ethnically diverse area of Oslo, where we all searched through piles of garments and after some time paid for those we had chosen. Outside we all smiled at one another and were eager to see what the others had got. Mary-Anne and Sean showed their purchases and then it was my turn. "What did you get Colleen?" Clutching my tiny bag, I can't decide whether to be brazen and confident or self-deprecating... so with a flourish I reach into my bag and pull out a huge necklace with large wooden beads and a massive wooden elephant hanging off it. I try for confidence "It's really cool, isn't it?" They stare at me. Mary-Anne bites her lip. Sean looks at his hands. Awkward silence. Then with what seems a huge collected effort, they both meet my eyes and say "Yes, very nice Colleen!" But I am not fooled by their insincerity, they hate it. I look at it with new eyes. I hate it too. The next few days and purchases remain a blur. Perhaps this is no bad thing. We also enjoyed Vigeland's Sculpture park and the Edvard Munch museum very much. One must throw in a couple cultural delights in the midst of so much mass going and thrift shopping after all.


Have a most lovely day!

Much love, C.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

There's a Lot We Don't Know

Sometimes I think about how much we don't know.

How endless stories play out all around us all of the time and we never understand them let alone know they are happening. We live our lives so narrowly, viewed through our own eyes and range of experience and so naturally, colored by our own perceptions.

When William was a year old, we bundled ourselves onto a train heading to the nearest town and there we sat while the rolling hills of Jæren hurtled by. The conductor was a lovely blond woman about my age and when she came to check our tickets, William waved his chubby arms at her and wrinkled his face into a huge baby smile, cooing and chattering with sheer delight. As his mother, it seemed to me that all the joy in the entire world was contained in this precious, eager messy haired small boy. I smiled indulgently at him and then, used to him being fussed and exclaimed over by others, looked up at the conductor, ready to share a smile over his endearing enthusiasm. Instead though, she ignored William altogether. She stared stonily over his head and pointedly didn't acknowledge him. His smile faltered a bit in confusion but each time she passed he tried again, beaming up at her and waving and playfully hiding his face and peeking out at her from behind small hands and each time she walked by with her eyes focused straight ahead. When we reached our stop, she went ahead of us to the door and we waited for a few seconds before the door opened onto the platform. All the while William continued his bid for her smile and she continued to stare somewhere just over his head.

The doors opened and I pushed the stroller out into the clear, cool sunlight feeling slightly stung as I tried to work out why she couldn't even have given him one little smile. Feeling protective and in a strange way in need of reassuring myself, I started murmuring to William "Don't worry Baby, you're so precious. Everyone loves you Sweetheart...".

And in a flash, I remembered life before William. Life that felt as though it was without hope. How in the space of a single August afternoon, I changed from being the sort of person who adored babies, any baby at all...I wasn't picky, and would make silly faces at them and want to hold them until my arms ached to being the sort of person who could barely find the strength it took to look at a newborn baby. Who would perhaps, stare stonily over their heads when they looked at me because if I had looked at their tiny faces, listened to their precious laughter...I wouldn't have been able to make it. I might have fallen apart in front of everyone. It was instinctive self-preservation. Eventually this healed but it taught me to be more sensitive to others. Not to ask casually when someone is going to have children; not to assume someone wants to hold my baby; not to make careless remarks about children in general.

Anyway, I don't know why the conductor on the train couldn't manage to smile at William. Instead of feeling offended by it though I tried, as I walked away, to think compassionately. Maybe she had suffered through several miscarriages. Maybe she sat in a doctor's office one beautiful summer day, much like I did, thinking her whole life was before her and instead had to watch numbly as her world collapsed around her. Maybe she had had a child who died young. I don't know. Maybe none of those things. There is always the possibility that she just didn't like children and I have an overactive imagination. :)

There is so much we don't know about others and the roads they have had to travel in life. I feel that we would get so much further if rather than be offended by others, we would remember that and try to live a life full of empathy.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Woman In An Empty Room Part Two

"We can not accept an expensive gift when our hands are full of cheap baubles. We must empty our hands so as to accept the rich gift that is offered." Steve Kellmeyer

Don't worry friends, don't worry. I may be waxing poetic on all of this "imagine no possessions" business but by no means am I about to turn my back on all things material and run off naked into the forest a la St. Francis of Assisi. If you will kindly recall other posts I've written, it has been clearly established that I don't have the makings of a saint. This has been a bit of a blow to me because being Catholic, I naturally would like to be a saint very much indeed. Yes, honestly. But alas, I have a two year old son who tried to eat a rosary yesterday and aside from that, I am digressing from the topic at hand which is quite unusual for me.

So...cheap baubles. We live our lives with our hands full of these and grasping for more, never satisfied, never sated because these things do not satisfy. They do not sate. More creates a hunger for more. We become insatiable. Living a wild-eyed quest to "get". Filling ourselves up until the very last thing we can do is give. There is no abundance, no freedom, in having only in letting go.

And now you are no doubt muttering "Well how very cliche you are today, Comrade Colleen." But bear with me...

We all perhaps have our own interpretation of "cheap baubles" that hold us back from growth and grace. Mine includes possessions, the idea of ownership, all the distractions of the world we live in, labels and definitions, opinions and expectations - both our own and those of others about and for us.

These little trinkets fill our hands and rooms. When I think about "the empty room", I not only think material goods. I think what if we were to also let go of everything else as well...and then simply, quietly and graciously accept the richest of gifts on offer.

The God-given gift of who we are.

Who we are. It has nothing to do with what we have or don't have. It has nothing to do with how other people view us. Who we are is not what we do. What we know. What we have accomplished.

We are who we are even when everything else is stripped away. When we don't have a penny to our name. When we don't have a job that makes it easy for others to label us. When we don't write or paint or draw or have any skill in any area what so ever. We are who we are when we are ill. When people leave and abandon us. When our names are dragged through the mud. We are who we are when every one is against us. When there is not one friendly face to be seen anywhere.

When wealth, beauty, health, and ability have been taken away from us, we still have intrinsic worth. The very fact we are alive. That we were created with purpose by a loving God.

We have worth. It is intrinsic. It can not be added to or taken from. This is why human life in every form is so precious. There is nothing we can do or that can be done to us that can alter our worth in God's eyes.

In my quest to live as a woman in an empty room, I am constantly seeking to remind myself of who I am. Not in the world's eyes. But in God's. Not to seek feelings of affirment and worth from those around me or cultural and societal norms; but to seek them in a deeper place, from a deeper source.

I don't know how I'm doing with this. Better some days than others certainly.

Ah well, if I need to take drastic measure...there is always running naked into the forest to prove my point. ;)

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

"They Call Us Sick As Though They're All So Sane"

Couldn't speak. Couldn't ask.
And so came silence.
Stealthily.
Stretching...eternal...ice-tinged cold...
It's death. It's death.
I swear it's death. This thing you hold.

Fighting. Screaming. Let me go.

Silence smiles:
I am precise and patient.
Deadly. Cruel.
I'll shred your peace.
Take away your gentle days.
I'll rip the words
Right from your mouth
Make you beg
If I have to.

Silence nods with grim determination.
All power, abuse and deadly control.
Silence smiles and whispers deathly cold:
I'm going to break you.
In the end.

And then
Where
Will you go?
Where
Will you be able to show your face?
Where
Will you know me again?

I swear after this
You'll never know me again.

You'll never find me.
Among shadows and lost souls.
All white fog laying low over ice covered fields.
Trees stretching out their bare
Skeleton
Arms.

Among pain.
Dull faces marked with empty life and empty gain.
This is the result
Of my destructive reign.

The mystery of it is this:
After I am through with you;
Have ripped and forced and torn your words from your soul
You will never know me again.

It's pain.
A sort of death, a sort of life...
Silence shrugs, apathetic, continues blandly:
...this thing that you now know.




Thursday, 11 August 2011

Woman In An Empty Room

Painting By Albert Reuss

We are made anonymous by too many possessions. Rather than being defined by them, we are overwhelmed by them. Lost among them; uncertain of who we are without them and so, dependent on them for identity and security.

We are socially engineered into believing we are nothing without our possessions. That the clothing we wear or the music we listen to or books we read or even the colors we paint the walls in our homes define us. In all of this sweeping mad consumerism, we ignore that we were made for so much more than to own things. This other side, the more important side...our spiritual, philosophical, searching side is underdeveloped, left un-nurtured in the pursuit of "things".

But our hearts are not made light by owning. We are wearied and worn down and joyless. Burdened by all of our things that we buy to enable us to ignore the deeper, pressing questions of who are we really. Why are we here. Enable us to ignore that we all are born with nothing and we all die with nothing eventually.

My grandmother Leona died with nothing. I don't mean she was a poor woman though; neither was she a materially wealthy woman but she was rich in love and generosity. Her spirit was beautiful and rich. Ridiculously rich in all she gave to others. She lived on very little and all her concern was for other people. All her heart went into loving others. She didn't give from her "extra" store, she gave what she often couldn't manage to give. When she died, there wasn't anything to divide up. It had mostly been given away. Nothing to leave but the memory of the richness of her gentle spirit...what a beautiful legacy.

So, what if we let it all go? What if we allowed ourselves to live as free beings unbound by possessions, money, cultural and societal expectations? Would we know who we are if we found ourselves living in an "empty room"? Would we know how to describe and define ourselves?

I know for myself I don't want to be remembered as "Wow, she sure had a lot of clothing!" or "Colleen sure had a huge collection of books, remember?". I don't want people to smile ruefully and sum me up in these tidy little sentences. I want so much more and so much less. I want to be able to stand in an empty room and know who I am. Quietly, confidently, gently, richly know.

I guess I want to live my life as the woman in the empty room. But also as a woman whose heart and mind and spirit are unbearably, unfathomably, disgustingly rich. :)

How about you?

Much love, C.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

In Defense of Love

Alley by the Lake by Leonid Afremov

Thoughts. Feelings. Sparked and felt. Deeply. In the blood. In the head. In the heart.

Love.

Topic of a Facebook (yes there is that dirty word again.;) conversation/ debate last night.

Love is not solely a feeling but a very conscious decision that we choose to make.  Or not make as the case may be.

We choose to love. We also feel love. But the problem, the words I wrote that perhaps sparked the conversation last night were that I believe to base love only on a feeling is immature and lacks a certain understanding of what it means to truly love another. I don't consider these words offensive. I consider them true.

To feel love is certainly valid and worthwhile. Wildly exhilarating and fun. It's a pleasure and a pain. But feelings fluctuate daily. Feelings can't be relied upon to carry us through the hard stuff. Feelings will fail us in the end. If we place our trust in feelings alone, we place our trust in something that changes constantly.

We excuse ourselves from the hard work of really loving.

To decide to love on the other hand, that is powerful. That is the essence of mature love. To choose to take responsibility for love. To wake up in the morning and not feel in love with ones partner; to feel upset, impatient, or furious with ones child; to truly dislike someone and yet to decide to love them regardless of feeling. To choose to love through action and word because, make no mistake, it is up to us.

Love, the active verb. Love, the challenge. Love, the hardest and yet most rewarding part of living.

Where as if love is only a feeling, nothing more, how very little we have to rely on. We can wake up in the morning then and not feel in love with our partner and so determine based on feeling alone that the spark is gone, it was lovely but now I feel nothing for you, I won't fight for you and our love...I will leave.

Love can be romantic, passionate or calm and peaceful. It can be everything we hope for and long for it to be. But one thing it must be in order to survive, is stronger than whatever we feel it to be. It must be more. It takes the force of will. The determination (sometimes grim determination) to put feelings aside and get down to the gritty, frustrating process of putting love into action.

For our partners. For our children. For our family. For strangers. For those who we genuinely do dislike.

I'd like to share another post with you. I wrote it in when we were in Sri Lanka in the thick of the final stages of our adoption; at the beginning stages of learning to love a little boy who wasn't "ours" biologically. Suspended Time http://thecolorspectrum.blogspot.com/2009/10/suspended-time.html
I believe we all should strive for a broader understanding of love. It's a big issue. :)

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Colleen On How To Share More Of The Mundane

I don't use Twitter but I can tell you without shame that I find the Facebook statuses people post about what they had for breakfast or better still, what they are making for dinner utterly thrilling! Don't even get me started on how interesting it is when someone buys something new and expensive and posts that fact along with the price of the aforesaid object on their status! Never do I get enough information about other people! Never! I long to shout, please elaborate, tell me more! So you ate bread and cheese for breakfast but what sort of bread?? What sort of cheese?? In how many bites??? I want to weep and beat my fists against the table in frustration for that information being so cruelly held back from me.

I believe as a culture we simply don't share enough of the mundane details of our lives. Wouldn't you agree? I know that I want my head to be filled up with information like this! I want someone to ask me if I believe in God and my answer to be a parrot-like chirp proclaiming rather that "I know that Susie ate a slice of bread this morning and smoked two cigarettes after lunch." I want someone to ask me how I feel about any currant issue of the day, let's say euthanasia...and my reply to be a blank-eyed "Jennifer bought three new shirts for thirty dollars and is making lasagna for dinner!"

Come on people...let's work together on this! I really do believe that if we try just a bit harder, we can make it to a place where all communication is completely devoid of intelligence! We're almost there! We have but to try a little harder!

Who's with me? Let's go forth and be that change we want to see in the world!  I want to hear a resounding "amen"!


Monday, 2 May 2011

I Can Only Say These Things To You While You're Sleeping



My little boy, my precious baby.

You feel more like a "baby" to me now than you did when you really were one. I've thought and thought about why and the only thing I can come up with is that at first, although I loved you, I didn't know you. Not really. Does that make sense? I loved you immensely but with caution. With a heart that needed time to grow used to you, to attach properly. Maybe you needed this with me as well. Time. Grace? I often wonder if the reason you never would just sit with me, just lay in my arms, even when you were only a few months old was that you didn't know me either. You didn't know my voice. My scent. My arms. I often laughed at you in the first months after we got you because your tiny face had such a perplexed expression at times...hesitant and alert. Watching me so seriously from your little blanket on the floor, perhaps thinking "Who are you?"

At the convent in Colombo, the sisters told us you were very content, that you never cried. That the other babies lay crying in their beds all day and night but you never made a sound, just lay there silently. Not wanting to be picked up or entertained. When we would visit you each morning, you also just lay there in our hands, staring at us. Eyes huge and wary. Tiny hands clasped on your chest. You were tiny, just 9 pounds at three months old. We'd play with you, tickle you and you would start to laugh and then stop, jamming your fist in your mouth. Like you didn't dare. Like anything might happen if you shut you eyes and laughed with all your heart. Yes, I loved you then so much but with the slightest pain too. Like I didn't dare. Like anything might happen if I opened my heart fully and confidently to you and loved you with all my strength.

After all, what if I failed? What if it...hurt? What then?

I took so much joy in you always. From the first day. That you have to understand. My heart was full of you. I knew the first day I saw you that if anybody dared to say an unkind word about you or hurt you in any way, I'd want to kill them. No question about it. I looked at the soft downy hair growing on your head and I fiercely wanted to protect you.

So I loved you from the very beginning but after awhile the part of that love that felt dangerous to me, the part I was so afraid would have the power to tear me apart, that part I was so afraid to just...feel...because I was afraid of its strength, that part changed and became less cautious. I remember the first night I went to bed and lay there grinning in the darkness thinking about you like a teen-ager with a crush and I thought "Something has changed, now you are my baby." My little boy who I love so much but I can't bear to be one of those gushing mothers so instead I down play it down, roll my eyes, make wry remarks about you...detach, detach, detach...

And my heart aches because I see you growing into a real boy. A determined boy. A boy no longer afraid to laugh. Or cry for that matter. A noisy, lively, busy, mischievous, beautiful little boy. You still won't sit with me or cuddle with me or let me sooth you but sometimes lately you run into my bedroom and pat the bed while smiling eagerly at me, your way of telling me you want me to lie down with you and hold you and sing to you. You lie there quietly, alert, much like you used to lie in our arms in Colombo...like you aren't sure but you kind of like it.

Oh William. I just don't want to fail you. I love you so much I can barely stand to think that someday you won't be a baby, this chubby wild toddler that I can gather up squirming in my arms and whose little face I can cover with kisses. But I am not sentimental. I know you are not mine to keep. You are mine to love and cherish. Mine to instruct and teach and guide. Mine for awhile. But not mine to keep. To think that would be a grave mistake. It would be to do you a disservice.

You are God's. You are your own.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Saint Colleen

When I say I'm proud, I don't mean in the obviously arrogant or haughty, high and mighty sense.

How can I explain it? It's more like a sort of rather ridiculous vanity which is why I try to work on being humble which to most people may seem rather pointless in today's world of mad self promotion.

Like I'd like to be holy. Like a saint, you know? (Or maybe you don't, maybe I'm insane and the only person who instead of wishing to be rich or famous wishes they were a saint.) I like to laugh and joke though and I am a rather enthusiastic, smiley, chatty sort of person. I am too fond of ridiculous humor and very often find things funny that others may not. Still, who's to say there weren't saints with this very same trouble?

I want very badly to be a silent, humble and wise person. Like in my imaginary life, people would whisper together in little awe-stricken groups about how profoundly wise and deeply self-sacrificing I am. It's a weird sort of pride, I admit it.

So today in mass as I sat quietly in my pew, I was thinking "God? Today can you help me be really humble?" (I always get myself into this sort of situation during mass I'm afraid.) After I finished with these words I sat silently, smiling in what I felt was a calm and wise manner at the few people gathered in the seats around me and wondered to myself if my face was perhaps already glowing with a humble yet holy radiance. I knew my hair was quite shiny and that my lip gloss was freshly applied and thought perhaps that people would admire my gentle humility even more because of how very lovely I was. You know, like they would glance admiringly at me thinking that that girl has no need of humility looking like she does. (In retrospect I think God hasn't quite changed my heart to one of true humility just yet, wish it as I may.)

As you may know, today is Palm Sunday and though I joke about many things, I actually am very reverent when it comes to my faith. So I held William as I listened to the priest read the Passion of Christ and the most horrifying thing happened. At the most somber moment, the moment of silence as I bowed my head William began to belch. I say began because it must have lasted almost the entire moment of silence. The entire time we were supposed to be reflecting on the death of our Lord. It was loud and atrocious and worst of all, at such a terribly inappropriate time that in my embarrassment, I absolutely dissolved into a shaking heap of stifled giggles. Not that I am so immature that I find that sort of thing funny but you know when you know laughing is forbidden and that very fact makes the urge to laugh worse? So I stood there, shaking with laughter, or hysteria, hiding my bright red face in William's hair praying desperately that the other people thought I was crying. It was awful. I was so ashamed of myself. But I simply couldn't stop giggling. Honestly it was so inappropriate. Once I got my hysteria under control I sat there quietly, head lowered, blush fading, simply mortified...suitably humbled.

At this rate, I'll never be a saint. Never. And at some point I'm going to stop praying for humility as well if this keeps up.

You may read here if you are curious about the first time I asked God to help me be more humble during mass. http://thecolorspectrum.blogspot.com/2010/03/be-careful-what-you-pray-for.html

For some reason He always chooses to answer this particular prayer in a timely manner. ;)

Thursday, 24 March 2011

The Knower of Hearts


Adoption.

Since we began our first adoption process, the initial reactions we have been met with, both those we love and those of strangers, have been wildly varied.

Everything from simple curiosity to genuine joy and happiness on our behalf to tentative, resigned acceptance to actual menacing and hostile harassment which I wrote about here for those of you who'd like to read something really crazy: strangers-on-plane.

When it comes to adoption, people want you to explain yourself. Some people want you to excuse yourself. To fall all over yourself saying you're sorry. Some people want to exult your decision to adopt into something almost saintly. Some people are genuinely happy and some are suspicious. Some, obviously insecure people, want to make sure you know that your choice to adopt is inferior to having biological children and some make subtle references to their idea that you will never be a real mother or father. Then again, some say you are even more of a mother or father for how hard you have fought for this child.

My point is, depending on who you talk to, it all varies. There are as many opinions on adoption as there are people. :)

I've been told I've had it so easy. "Imagine just hopping on a plane to a tropical country for a few weeks and coming home with a sweet baby! You sure chose the easy option!" and my mind wandered back through all the months of heartbreak, darkness, self-loathing, not leaving the house, all the prayers that felt like they were wrenched out of my gut, all the despair and thoughts of death, (that by this stage were healed by the joy of our little son in Sri Lanka whose picture I held clutched in my hand), and blinked and ignored the sharp, quick pain in my heart and smiled while my mind reeled from it all being dismissed so blithely. I wasn't offended. It just helped me realize that if you're counting on understanding from people, you are bound to be occasionally disappointed.

After all, who in the world understands adoption? Not a one, I imagine. Not the adoptive parents, not the biological mother, not the people in positions of power who decide a child's fate, no one.

Adoption is beyond comprehension. It has it's good sides and its bad. It has its stories of success and failure. It uproots a child and gives them new roots. Sometimes deep and secure ones. It binds and severs. It causes confusion. Heartbreak. Joy.

I think of this sometimes, maybe especially as we begin the process again. Also because I read a book a while back that said something to the effect of no one is able to understand a mother's love except a mother. A real mother. Not a step-mother or any other sort of mother. But a woman who has actually given birth.

I read that and while again, wasn't really offended as we are all entitled to our opinions, however stupid they may be, it reinforced my own belief that giving birth doesn't always make a mother. There are women who give birth who are incapable of loving a child, who abuse children, etc. Blood ties can certainly bind but they don't always. As for who is a "real" mother, I don't really think anyone can judge that.

As for me, I don't struggle with this question. I don't doubt I am a real mother. I am. No ones opinion can change that.


So as we embark on this second adoption, I think I will choose to remember that people can think whatever they like. When I want understanding, I'll take it to God. He understands what I can not.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

People Who... Talk About Other People


"Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss other people.
" -Eleanor Roosevelt

There is almost nothing I find so tiresome as listening to someone talk about another person. It isn't engaging. It isn't enlightening or attractive. It isn't interesting.

It shows no imagination. No wit. As the above quote says, all it takes to discuss other people is a very small mind.

I don't trust people who continually talk about other people. Even if it isn't outright slander or gossip, I still find it terribly indiscreet to divulge the small details of another persons life to others as though one had the right. Why bother?

It makes me tired. Bored. Silent.

Talk to me about yourself. Tell me what you hope for. Your dreams, your disappointments. Tell me about your childhood, your travels. What you love and hate. What fascinates you. Tell me silly stories, things you've done that make you laugh, times you shocked yourself. Tell me what sort of food you like. Where you go shopping.

Talk to me about religion. Faith. Lack of faith. Talk to me about art and beauty. Chaos and despair. Talk to me about mysteries, the world, science.

Share your own opinions with me. I might not agree with you but I am not threatened by that.

Talk to me honestly, openly. Communicate with me.

So tell me about yourself. The only person you have a right to talk about.




Wednesday, 16 March 2011

William's Smile




Your smile.
I love your smile.
It knocks me out.

Sometimes I try not to smile when you do.
Not to laugh when I hear you laugh.
But it never works.
Never.

It's innocence.
Fresh. Powerful. Infinite innocence.
Like play and hope and spring sunshine.
Like dreams
It's a certain breathless fear and the all the far, far future smiling back at me.

It's love, that smile.

Ease. Mischief. Movement.

A privilege:

To sit on a cold beach in harsh sunlight.
Watching you watch the sand thread through your fingers.
And you smile.
I think: this is the brightest gift.
The best thing
Anybody has ever given me.

It's wonder at this moment.
Laughter the next.

And your laughter:

Some days it follows me
Everywhere.
A breeze of joy or a wild wind. Whipping around the house.

Later I gently pour water over your head in the bathtub and you laugh
So hard
It sounds like you're crying.

I look at your wet hair clinging to the back of your chubby neck.
Bent over a toy in the water.

And I feel vulnerable.
Like anything that hurt you would tear right through me too.

Suddenly you don't look as strong as your smile.
Or the sound of your laughter.

Will you be alright someday out there in that big, big, crumbling world?

It alarms me.
The idea that you might not be greeted with love everywhere you go.



Sunday, 6 March 2011

Suicide of the Young




Carefully fitting small, uneven pieces together,
A mosaic that whispers of raw secret beauty stretches in scarlet and shadow
Across the soul of the sky.
Fading into paleness, disappearing into the unacknowledged
Without so much as a hint of complaint or a cry.

You have caught the light.
Taken my laughter, peace, certainty.
All that was rightfully mine.
All I would have given you willingly,
If you had only given me time.

You have caught the light, and still, appear unmoved.
Lost in a silence so deep and resonating.
Standing draped in solitude.
But you can not be unmoved.
I can not believe you are.
Because I see the changing depth of color
Pouring from infinite skies.
I see the way it floods over you,
Seeps into you,
Then spills out of your clear eyes.

I count the passing moments.
As I will count each coming, quiet hour
Until I am able to admit to myself
That all I would die to make better for you will always be beyond my power.

Funny
How certain things become treasures -
When etched in the brilliance of loss and pain.
My heart fills and shatters with the knowledge of smiles that will never be directed my way again.

And trust.
And loyalty.
And...love.
That always simply were,
Only that the words so rarely passed my lips
That no clear echoes remain.
No tangible proof they existed
Therefore, nowhere to place any blame.

You must not have seen…
You’re beautiful.
You must not have seen…
You’re precious…

But that is because this world lacks in love and in grace.
I wish we could have protected you
Linked arms and gathered around you,
Somehow kept you in this place.

 April 2005

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

My "One"




Earlier today I read a link that was shared by a friend and there is something about the way this post is written that really reaches my heart, makes me sad. For those of you who speak Norwegian, here is the link: Barna Som Ikke Får Hjerte

For those who don't, I translated the gist of it. I hope that I have done so correctly. If not, please just put it down to my imperfect Norwegian. :)

The article deals with children that attend what we would call daycare but can also mean pre-school or kindergarten depending on where you come from. (Bear in mind that these children can be anywhere from around one year to around five years old. Also this assignment was given with the intention to draw attention to areas that needed to be worked upon.)

"I heard about an interesting assignment that a day-care/ kindergarten gave their employees. The employees were asked to be honest about whether they had favorites among the children. The task was that they were to attach a heart to the child's name. The size of the heart would show how much they liked each child.

Children that they liked passably well got a small heart.
Children that they loved got a big heart.
Children they didn't like got no heart beside their name.

So the employees were honest and many hearts were given out. No one found it difficult.

But the task showed something unpleasant. Two of the little children received no hearts at all. Not even one tiny little heart by their name.

Not one of the adults working with them liked them.

So I am curious, how does an adult act toward a child that they don't like in daycare? How does an adult speak to this child while changing their diaper for example? How do they sooth the child if the child has been hurt and is crying?

How many smiles do these two "disliked" children get from the adults working with them in a day, month, year?"


The original post was thought provoking and well worded. And as a mother, it made my heart break for those little ones out there who "no one likes".

This post isn't meant to be a judgment, I wanted only to share the first thought that came into my head when I read about these two little children. What if it were my baby, the precious, laughing, light of my life, who had no hearts beside his name at the end of this assignment because none of his teachers or caregivers "liked" him?

And what if it were yours?




Every child deserves to think that they are the center of somebody's universe...that if it came down to it, there would be so many hearts after their name, there wouldn't be room for them all...

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Small Things

(Mandal Norway)


I never really knew what to do with myself.

At around 8 years old, I wanted to be an artist and wear straw hats and live in the south of France. At 16, I wanted to be a writer and a poet and only achieve fame long after death. Lead a tragic sort of life but the problem with that was that I was irrepressibly happy most of the time so there went that grand ambition. At 21, I toyed very briefly with the idea of being a nurse but at the age of thirty I still cry when I have to get a needle and pass out cold when I get a vaccine and just last week I screamed when I was at the chiropractor's so physically, I'm a wimp and nursing wouldn't suit me. In between all these great career plans, I worked many jobs in several countries. I have a good work ethic but there was no job I did that I wanted to do forever.

Except travel which isn't really a job I suppose. At every age, I wanted to be a globe-trotter and at that at least, have been somewhat successful. (But not very because there is a lot of the world left to see.) When my husband first suggested buying a house, I was dead against it because "Then what would happen if we wanted to go travel the world for a year or two?". Thus spake the voice of maturity, responsibility, and logic. ;)

I won't say I always wanted to be a mother. Not that I didn't want to be a mother, it was simply something I never doubted so there was no need to want it too badly and I didn't really think about it aside from enjoying the reaction I got when I would tell people I wanted to have seven children. Of course, I desperately wanted to be a mother when I found out that my husband and I couldn't have biological children. That is when I really discovered what I wanted. Everything else paled in comparison after that. I had an excuse to feel tragic. (I'm not making light of it but it is amazing how mourning the loss of something you can't have gives you a sense of purpose.) So we pursued adoption with purpose. It became our goal, our hope and our dream. The transformation was incredible. I went into adoption with an angry heart, with words destructive and ugly, with huge, encompassing sorrow that we would never have a little boy with my husband's smile or a little girl with my eyes but also with a lot of desperate prayer. Very gradually my heart changed until I could say honestly that I wanted nothing different than what I had. That even if given a choice between pregnancy and adoption, I would still choose adoption and choose it joyfully. I still feel this way.

So now I am a mother. I spend these days with William. Sometimes they are lovely, full of laughter and fun, sometimes they are frustrating and feel far too long. Many days I wonder if I'm any good at being a mother at all.

Sometimes that question of what should I do now winds its way back into my mind, plays havoc with my peace for a short while. The quiet, persistent "Yes you are a mother, but what else Colleen? What else?" And I sit and think "So much else. Leave me alone."

I don't have a career. I don't even want one. I know how unfashionable that is today. I don't care. I am still trying to figure out what I want to do and probably always will be. (At least I always have wearing straw hats in the south of France to fall back on.:)

Sometimes the things that matter are very small things, "to do small things with great love". Last week I wrote about William having such trouble sleeping. I was so frustrated and impatient because I didn't want to spend hours helping him get to sleep. I wanted to do other things. Important things. Like watch "La Dolce Vita". So as I sat in his room, rocking him and feeling slightly resentful, like I was really getting a bad deal, this wasn't what I signed up for when I thought about being a mother, all those sorts of thoughts...I looked at his small, beautiful face, his eyes closed and listened to him breathing softly against my chest and felt the Lord press words on my restless, impatient heart.

"This is what I want you to do Colleen. I want you to rock him to sleep. Your job just now is to love him."

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

The Saint Of Impossible Things Or Hopeless Cases

William is stubborn.

Imagine if you will, a four and a half month old baby not sleeping a wink on the flight from Colombo, Sri Lanka to London. Eleven hours, his dark eyes wide and staring, not shutting for even one blissful second. I imagine it would have been blissful at least. We longed for sleep but sat there zombie-like instead murmuring nonsense and cooing to the small bundle of a boy in the cot in front of us.

This was only a dark foreshadow of things to come. Alright to be fair, he has been a very good sleeper up until now so I guess that's why it's a shock for me the nights he does choose to lie in bed screaming fit to wake the dead...for hours and hours amen.

Of course I go to him...feed him...change him...rock him...but he is not the sort of child who tires himself out crying. No. Not for William you see. He can scream with the best of them from ten in the evening until almost five in the morning so there is no option here of "letting him wear himself out". It's we who pay dearly for his lack of sleep. What does he care? He can nap the next day. :)

Fast forward to Saturday, he is 18 months old. I tried all the things I listed above. He is awake until well after five in the morning. I feeling like screaming myself, tearing my hair out, running away...

Sunday, he sleeps fine.

Monday, back to the same old tricks. I do cry in frustration, tear a bit of my hair out but not so much that it hurts and plan what I'll take when I run away to camp out in the woods across from our house.

Tuesday. I begin to dread the evenings as one does something awful that happens to them repeatedly. I feel a growing sense of panic in my chest. Sure enough as I sip my peppermint tea a piercing shriek splits the air. "No God...please..." (And this is a prayer not taking the Lords name in vain. :) as I put my head in my hands and begin to rock slowly back and forth at the mere contemplation of another night like this.

I go in, determined to be patient. I wrap a little blanket around my own shoulders for comfort and speak quietly to him. But every time I think he's asleep and try to leave, his eyes fly open and his shrieking resumes. Finally I remember. I'm Catholic. We have patron saints for everything! So I run out to the living room and grab my rosary and go back in and make a solemn vow. I will pray it until he falls asleep. I prayed it two times and finally...his breathing becomes heavier and lo, the child sleeps. I don't dare breathe. I get up as quietly as I can and flee the room only pausing at the door to offer up a last, desperate "St Jude, please intercede for us! This is a potentially hopeless case and I need sleep tonight! You are the saint of impossible things! Have fun with this one!"

And he must have because William slept, I hesitate to say "like an angel" but I will, all night.

;)