On Everything, mostly

I’ve been avoiding blogging lately. Not because I don’t want to, but because there is so much swirling inside my head and I fear that it will all lump together incoherently and ruin the messages I intend to convey. But I am finding that the longer I put it off, the more everything builds up.

So faced with the incoherent, potentially ruinous lumping or the lack of content, I’ll take the lumping. City Park Statue with Frogs

On Friday night, Jacob and I made dinner and walked around the park as darkness fell. It was cold and rainy, but the air felt good and the conversation warmed my soul. I am grateful for my friendships. My friends are all individualistic, beautiful people. They possess the qualities that I value most in this world, and I respect them immensely.

It doesn’t hurt that Jacob and Carlos adore each other, either. Carlos doesn’t snuggle for just anyone, but he will always snuggle for Jacob. It’s cute.

Jacob and Carlos

(Side note: I got home on Sunday night, and Mike told me that he thought Carlos had died earlier. I was concerned, and upon hearing the story, I just shook my head and looked at the furry creature rubbing himself against my ankles. Mike said that the other black cat that lives in the building had somehow managed to get herself outside my window, and Carlos was howling and trying to attack her through the window. The cat had gotten himself through the blinds and was frantically trying to get at her. I’m just glad the glass held – I accidentally put my hand through one of the panes last  year – and Mike grabbed the cat and took him away from the window. I’m still not sure how I managed to adopt a cat that’s half pit bull. I’m also not sure how he can go from ferocious and wild to loving and needy, demanding that I snuggle with him. I do love him, though, so he should consider himself very lucky.)

in the Mirror

Swisher comes on Wednesday. I can hardly believe that it’s just two days now. I am so excited to not have to take mirror pictures all the time so that I can send them to him. (The great news about unlimited data plans? All the picture messaging you want! It’s allowed us to share experiences, events, mundane pictures, bad hair days, etc.) My phone is filled with pictures just like the one above, and I’m pretty sure that if someone went through my phone, they’d assume that I’m just a terrible narcissist.

I can’t wait. I guess I can, but only because I have to. We’re going to be faced with the immense task of turning our past into a relationship that isn’t long distance. I imagine that it will be an adjustment, but I also imagine that it will be quite wonderful, since both of us are committed to making this work.

I love that he loves me exactly as I am. He loves my curly hair. In fact, he prefers it. He loves my mind, my weird sense of humor, my opinionated nature. I am thrilled by the fact that he wants to cook for me, and has offered to help clean! And best of all, he’s not a purse-carrier (something my family is always quick to ask about). I love that he makes me laugh, and I love how much he teases me.

At Mother’s Day brunch, my Uncle Mike and Aunt Jan were excited to tell me that they had gotten into a debate about something. (Earlier this year, I was attempting to explain that I’d like a mate whose desire for discussion matches mine, and they thought that it was hilarious. “Should we make a list of things to debate about?” my Uncle asked, before adding, “Besides who’s going to make the sandwiches for lunch tomorrow?” I love that thirty-plus years of marriage hasn’t dampened their good-natured teasing. It’s something that I’m looking forward to if I should be so lucky to find a dude who will put up with me for thirty-plus years.)

birth mom!

Speaking of family, I was lucky enough to get to spend my first Mother’s Day breakfast with my birth mom, Lise, who was passing through town with her boyfriend. I haven’t seen her since I was 18 and had just graduated from high school.

(This is us then:)

I was excited to show her the paw print in my eye, since her spirit animal is a wolf and we’ve had a few fascinating (partly creepy, but mostly fascinating) experiences – when I was three, I was on the phone with her and told her that the wolves came to me at night and gathered around my bed, but that I got scared, and when my dad came into the room, they ran away and jumped over the fence. (It was a very intense dream. I had forgotten about the entire incident, but when she mentioned the fence detail, an image rushed through my brain of the blur of wolves and the back fence.) She tells me that the way I told her that story was so unlike a three year old and that she was very comforted by it. When I was 19, I was looking in the mirror in the car and I realized that in the blue of my eye, there is very clear dark paw print that’s set off from the rest of the blue. It’s like I carry her mark with me, and I enjoy that.

My boss, who adopted his four children, says that adopted kids always want to know two things: 1. who are my parents? (or in my case, what do they look like) and 2. why did they give me up? I think he’s right. I know the answer to the second question, and half of the first.

I will never know more about my birth father, but I am so grateful to have an open adoption. I am so glad that I get to see her. I agree with my boss when he says that he doesn’t see much resemblance. As I age, I am more and more sure that I carry a lot of my birth father’s appearance with me. I so badly wish that I could see a picture of him, but there are none. Ah, well. I will settle for the relationship that I have with my birth mother, because I am so lucky to have her in my life (and I’m not actually settling at all).

Both of us are double-jointed, so we showed her boyfriend that at breakfast. He cringed, and both of us laughed. My mom says that there were times when I was little that I would say something, and she’d turn around, half expecting to see Lise there because what I had just said sounded exactly like her. Both of us are unique, beautiful women, and knowing her has helped me to understand a lot about myself. I also love being able to compare our characteristics. As much as I am a product of my environment and therefore carry the qualities of my mother, I am also so much a product of my birth mother and therefore have much of her personality and emotions. i

It’s a beautiful thing. I should also mention that my brother Mike’s birth mother, Jill, is just as wonderful. She always comments on my photos and writes on my mom’s wall on his birthday to tell her that she’s thinking about her. It’s just good. It’s all good.

Mike has actively chosen not to know his birth father. We know who he is, and I wonder if at some point later, Mike will desire to build a relationship with him. But I love and value the fact that he has that choice, and that everyone involved respects his decisions.

Adoption is a beautiful thing. Even though the nuclear family that we were both adopted into would eventually shatter completely, we were placed exactly where we were meant to be. We have been so well loved. Anyone who discounts the forces of the universe and fate would be well advised to look deeply at my life, and at my beautiful family. We are exactly where we were meant to be.

Mom babysitting

Speaking of moms, this is my mother and two of our neighbors. She was so excited to babysit for the little one across the street this weekend, and I don’t blame her. He’s so happy. He was all smiles and he handled the attention he was receiving from the four of us beautifully. I held him and fell in love with him.

And then I ran off to do my regularly scheduled babysitting, which included negotiating story time with a very grumpy four-year old and then trying to talk a seven-year old back into sleeping after the rain woke her.

I had a bit of revelation last night. Unbeknownst to me, dinner plans with my other grandma (on my dad’s side) had been cancelled, and so upon my arrival, I found no one. I went in anyway, and ended up staying for dinner at my grandma’s.

We sat outside while it was still warmish and sunny, and talked. I was guarded, as I always am when I’m there. “Is he Catholic?” she inquired about Swisher, after asking me when he was moving here. I responded that yes, he’d gone to Catholic schools. We ended up diverting, and discussing religion. “What is it with the young people these days?” she wanted to know. I responded that choosing Benedict as our pontiff was a bad choice because he’s obviously not a fan of the social justice that I found to be such a positive part of the church while I was at Loyola.

She asked if I go to mass. I don’t. I went with them on Easter, but I usually just go as part of a family-mandated holiday schedule. The disappointment in her voice was clear. I explained to her that for people my age, the Church (church in general, to non-Catholics) represents a very challenging and hypocritical worldview. I explained that Mike finds god through nature while he’s camping and fishing, and in the introspection that he does while he’s there. I explained that I find god in people. I told her that I find god through kindness and love and acceptance and understanding. I emphasized my belief that god, whatever that means, will not bar me from “heaven” based on my lack of organized religion. I emphasized that love and kindness guide me.

I actually borrowed an explanation from Kelle Hampton, a blogger, who’s book Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected is on shelves now (20% off at Barnes & Noble, I found on Friday): after her parents divorce when she was a child, she found that the church, which she had previously found to be a beautiful, loving place, became scary in its condemnation of her father’s homosexuality. She writes in the book that church so often gets in the way of god, and I think that she makes that point beautifully. It’s everything I’ve wanted to say about organized religion as an obstacle to god, because people get so wrapped up in interpreting the Bible (or whichever religious text their religion refers to) literally that they forget to live the spirit. People forget to live lives full of love and caring. I told my grandmother that Jesus hung out with lepers and prostitutes, and welcomed all. Why can’t we attempt to do the same?

As dinner progressed, I was happy, but I was also wary. Her focus is not on my career, my baby steps to success, my tiny triumphs, my personal happiness, but is instead is on my eventual marriage and whether or not the guy that I’m dating is wealthy or not. Honestly, I find that people who were raised swaddled in money are often lacking basic life skills, including independence. They can’t do anything for themselves. That was a gross generalization, but honestly, I detest the fact that financial worth somehow equates to the worth of a person. I have watched ruin come to people who must maintain some sort of lifestyle. And I refuse to be a part of that. I wish to be happy.

For a few years now, a rift has been growing between the “other side of things” and me. I’m still not sure what exactly I did to set it off, and to progressively widen it, but I have remained steadfast in my unwillingness to engage in behavior that mirrors the actions of the people whose name I bear, the family that I wanted so badly to belong to. It was last night that I realized that I have no desire to be a part of a family that does not love me unconditionally, but at the base level, it’s about respect. I have no desire to be a part of a family that does not respect me.

I respect my grandfather immensely. He is a wonderful man who is given far too little credit for his progressive thinking and his intelligence. I have always found him to be a wonderful opponent for debating issues, as he is far more patient and wise than most people I’ve ever met. He has a keen political mind and is still incredibly sharp.

I refuse to accept the lack of transparency. One of the things that I respect most about my relationship with my mother is that she is open, honest, and willing to admit when she is wrong. It’s refreshing, and it’s shaped our relationship into something I am incredibly proud of.

I find that the inability to be upfront and honest is what has most affected (and soured) my relationships with most members of my dad’s side of the family. I reached out, and was rebuffed on two separate occasions, and then informed via third party (Grandma) that I was expected to apologize.

It breaks my heart, although I will not compromise my integrity nor will I pretend that I’m not hurt. At the end of the day, I still have no idea what it is about me that’s not okay. Is it that I don’t go to church? Is it that I was offended by my aunt’s suggestion that I start to be more financially responsible for my grandparents? Is it that I have gay friends?

Since December 24, 2010, I have been confused and hurt. I refuse to remain that way and thus have decided that it’s no longer a priority of mine to worry about the things that I cannot control. It feels good to let go. It feels good to accept responsibility for things I can accept responsibility for and make amends, but unfortunately, without knowing what I’ve done, I cannot accept responsibility for the severing of these relationships. I remain the free-spirited, open-minded person that I have been. I remain honest and true to myself. It is out of my hands, and I’m alright with that.

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