Throw me a line

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I spent most of yesterday at the hospital with my nearly 86 year-old mother. First we were in the Emergency Department, then later she was admitted for an overnight stay and some tests this morning. (She’s home again now and everything’s going to be okay.)

What struck me most about the day when I finally got home last night and thought about it was the waiting. There is no sense of urgency in the ED these days. We’ve been fairly frequent visitors since I moved in with mom 5+ years ago, and it doesn’t seem to me that it has always been as bad as it was yesterday, but waiting is definitely a big part of that experience.

There’s no choice but to gut it out, though, cuz the fact that you’re miserable and that it might be their job to ease your misery as if it were an emergency, clearly does not seem to register with anyone there. It makes me wonder how these people are being trained, and maybe even why they wanted to be in a “helping” profession in the first place. Didn’t they know they were going to have to deal with sick people?

The most helpful thing they did in the 5+ hours we were there was to admit mom into the actual hospital, which was a completely different experience. Thank goodness.

Anyway, that’s another blog. Back to waiting

I had an epiphany sitting in the uncomfortable chair in the little room in the ED in which my mother was on a gurney writhing and moaning in pain, and we were waiting for someone to decide to do something. I realized that I’ve been waiting for my mother all of my life. Waiting for her to let me go. Waiting for her to grow up and realize that she was the parent. Waiting to begin the life I dreamed of, not the life she envisioned for me with her as the center and my own needs secondary (read: non-existent).

There are a lot of dynamics at play in our relationship, adoptee guilt, fear of abandonment and need to please not being the least of them. I take responsibility for my choices – I could have walked away and never looked back, certainly. That’s not my nature, though, and there were other reasons I gave in to the manipulation, so I own my decisions. I spent a fair amount of time in therapy a while ago working through the resentment, so that’s not really an issue anymore, and I am certainly here now with her since my dad died by choice. I have been a good daughter to her and my dad and I feel good about that. I think it matters. 

But I realized yesterday that now instead of waiting and hoping she will change, I am waiting for her to die. I think about the changes I’ll make in my life after she passes and that makes me feel hopeful about the future in a way I’ve never experienced before. Being tied to her and her needs has always been a given, a limiting factor in my life, and the end of that is in sight now. I’m not wishing for her death, and it is most likely years away, but it’s no longer a lifetime away.

It seems a little ghoulish, but I’m making plans for my life without her and Iooking forward to that time, much the same way I’m looking forward to retirement. To me both those things represent the freedom – the liberation – I’ve been hoping for all of my life.

I felt a little guilty last night when I realized I was thinking in those terms, but there it is. It’s probably just rationalization, but I feel like I have done my time, and it’s not horrible for me to be thinking about my mother’s demise as a good thing. My parents have lived good long lives, and in a lot of ways I eased the way for them, certainly for my mother. I served my parents well and when that service comes to an end, I will be free and clear. All debts paid, and a clean slate before me on which to write the rest of my story.

No more waiting then – for anything or anyone. I have a lot to catch up on!

 

Trust in me

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Trust is hard for me. I suppose it is for most people. For the most part throughout my life I didn’t trust anyone or anything – not people, not circumstances, not even myself sometimes. It’s something I’ve worked on over the years, and I think I’m better at trusting now then I ever have been before, but still it’s hard.

I’ve worked especially on trusting myself; being someone I can count on even if everyone else lets me down. I try not to take anything personally, I try not to beat myself up when I make a mistake, and I give myself permission not to know everything.

I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t expect to anymore. I no longer compare myself to other people, nor do I care what they might think of me. I would like to be liked, of course, but I get that I’m not everyone’s cup of tea, nor are they mine. That’s okay. There’s room for all of us here, and though we do have to get along and be kind to each other, we don’t have to like each other.

The Golden Rule says, “Do unto others as you would have done unto you.” It doesn’t say, be like everyone else, or that other people have to be like you. We just have to treat others as though they matter to us as much as we matter to ourselves. Be nice. Be patient. Be compassionate – to others, and to yourself.

Human beings are complex. With a couple of notable exceptions, no one is all good or all bad. In my experience, given a chance, everyone will let you down at some point, including and especially yourself. Humans are fallible. We can do better, probably, but mostly we don’t. We talk a lot about it, usually in reference to a book about a god, but mostly we do what we want, what feels good. That’s okay, we’re human. We’re not perfect.

 

What I really have trouble with, though, is in trusting God, or the Universe, or the angels/spirit guides/life energy – whatever you want to call it. I recognize there is a force in the world, and that there is order in the world that emanates from that force.

I feel it, I see it in nature, and I have to admit sometimes I have been witness to small miracles, for which the only explanation could be incredible luck or other worldly intervention. Other times, not at all, usually when it is most needed, unfortunately. So surprise – it’s not Santa Claus – you can’t just ask for what you want and get it.

So my feeling is that it’s no more trustworthy than humans, and usually, downright not trustworthy at all. Not perfect either, apparently. It seems to be random, and that’s fine. Sometimes I’ve been given a gift, and I’m deeply grateful, and I benefit. Other times – no dice.

So okay, that’s fine, but how do I trust that? Believe in it? Maybe. Probably, even. But trust? No way. What good is a god/spirit guide/force in the universe that’s no more reliable or helpful than us? Honestly? If I’m here on my own and can only count on myself and other humans, well then, okay. At least I know that.

But so many people believe in the Santa Claus God, (Christian, Hindu, Muslim – it doesn’t matter) and I’m thinking, if they’re right, then what’s wrong with me? What could I have done to piss that god off so badly that I’d be the only one not on the “nice” list?

Oh, right, it’s not just me. How about kids with cancer? How about all the people who lose their homes and/or their lives everyday in weather-related disasters – “Acts of God.” The list goes on. What’d they all do?

If believing in and trusting in god is the same as not believing in and trusting god, then what difference does it make? So far, I can’t see where believing in a god does any good, but it definitely seems to do a lot of bad. So much evil is perpetuated in the name of one god or another. Really, is god as petty and horrible as the worst in human beings? Doesn’t it seem like any god worth its salt would be a little more evolved? Doesn’t it seem that such a being would be all about LOVE and nothing else?

Do you see love at work in the world on a daily basis? In your life? In the life of anyone you know? Yes, maybe. Is it winning? It doesn’t seem so to me. So where’s the loving god who’s going to make everything okay? Where’s the Perfect God?

Believe it or not, I’m not a cynic. Really. I’m not. I just think chasing our tails trusting in a god “out there” is killing us. I think we need to trust ourselves and each other. We have to become people who are worthy of trust. Our only hope as a society and as a species is to stop looking “out there” and start looking “in here.”

Find the good within you, and within me. Be kind to yourself and then to someone else. Then be kind to the Earth. Live gently. Take your eyes off heaven and look around here now. Nurture yourself, your fellow human beings, and our Mother Earth. Not because of a rule, but because it’s the right thing to do.

It’s the only thing to do.

The innocence of youth?

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Via on Instagram “More Books. L̶e̶s̶s̶ Fewer Guns. (Grammar is important.) – Mae 8 yrs old”

So what were you doing when you were 8 years old? I was playing with Barbies, riding my bike and fighting with my mother about not letting me have long hair. Did I even know what was going on outside of my household or school? In my town? Maybe, but I doubt it. Certainly not in the country. I watched cartoons, not the news.

It was a different time. I was 8 years old in 1970. I had a vague idea about a war somewhere that people weren’t happy about, but I didn’t know where it was or what it was about, really. I also knew my parents didn’t like the President, but that didn’t seem to matter that much to me on a day-to-day basis, either – certainly not as much as the spelling test I had on Friday or the characters in the book I was completely immersed in at any given time.

Like Mae pictured above, I was smart and a good student. I loved school. I liked to write poetry and stories. (I knew the difference between “less” and “fewer.”) My friends and I played hopscotch and jumped rope outside. We didn’t have phones or computers. We played Kick the Can and Red Rover. I thought a lot about what it would be like to be an adult. I wondered about sex and fantasized about having a boyfriend someday. I worshiped high school girls.

I can’t imagine what it’s like to be an 8 year old now. They are aware of so much more than I was at that age. They have to deal with so much more. I feared nuclear war, but it didn’t even occur to me that I might not be safe at school – that someone could, or would even want to, come in my school and shoot me or my friends and teachers.

Was I naive? Was I sheltered? Yes, probably, but no more than most other white kids living in a small town at that time, and maybe some black kids, too. I get now it was harder for people of color and women then – for anyone who was not white and male and straight really – but I didn’t know that then. I’m sure life in the inner cities was not as sedate as the one I experienced in the Midwest, either, but none of that registered with me then. I was pretty happily clueless about the world outside of my immediate realm.

Kids don’t get to be clueless now. The whole world comes at them day and night on TV and the internet. 24/7 panic over something somewhere. But here’s the amazing thing about these kids: they haven’t been desensitized or paralyzed by fear. They seem to feel empowered. They are smart and creative, and brave.

They are rising to the challenge of living in this frightening world. Literally. The kids who marched this weekend have risen up and said to all of us and to our elected officials, “Enough.” They should be home doing homework and going to the prom this spring. What they’re doing instead is schooling us. They are taking charge because the adults aren’t.

I haven’t felt this hopeful in a long time. I hate to see the way they’ve been vilified on the internet, but it doesn’t seem to phase them. They are doing what needs to be done, saying what needs to be said, and they don’t seem to mind that some people think they don’t have the right.

Of course they have the right. If they are old enough to be killed in cold blood, they certainly have the right to express how that makes them feel. And soon they will have the right to vote. Marching is awesome and inspiring, but voting is what ultimately matters. They are working within the system to effect change. That is the heart of democracy. While our President is in Florida playing golf and his clueless cronies are cuddling up to the NRA, these kids are changing our country.

And they’re leading all the other folks who have been overlooked for too long: people of color, women, gay and trans people. But this isn’t about money or politics. It’s not about Democrats or Republicans. It’s not about religion or race, straight or gay or other. It’s simply about our human community and the way we have a right to live.

God bless those beautiful kids for the gift they’re giving us: HOPE. They are standing up so that we may all rise. I’m so proud of all of them, and I have hope for the future in a way I haven’t for a long time. They are giving us back our country. Wrenching it right out of the hands of the adults who have allowed it to get so off track by greed, self-interest and short-sightedness. They are standing up for the future – for their future, and saying to the rest of us, “You’re not doing it right. Do better.”

So we have been called out, folks. How will we respond?

 

Let it be

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I couldn’t sleep last night because I kept thinking about something someone “did” to me yesterday. I went over and over in my head all the things I wanted to say, the letter I was going to write, and how I was going to right the wrong. I kept telling myself to just let it go and go to sleep, but I wasn’t listening to myself. I was “listening” to my humiliation.

That’s where the anger (and the anxiety) was coming from: someone questioned my integrity, but even worse than that, they treated me as if what I need doesn’t matter. Yep. That’s right where it is, in my gut, in my head. That desperate feeling of being less than. What a horrible, sickening feeling that is. It hits me where I live.

They made a decision they knew would hurt me, denying my request for something I need and that they have the power to give. That’s really what it comes down to: I am powerless in this situation and that makes me feel horrible. They treated me callously and dismissively and that’s hard to take. No one should ever be treated that way.

Happens all the time, though, doesn’t it? I treat people thoughtlessly sometimes; not usually because I mean to, but because what they feel doesn’t seem as important to me as what I’m feeling. It’s really that simple. I treat you differently than I want to be treated because I think my needs are more important than yours. Not that hard to understand.

Hard to accept, though, when you don’t get what you want because someone didn’t give you the consideration you feel you deserve. Being treated as less than, as if you don’t matter, that to me is the hardest to take. It’s my “red” button. Press it and it’s instant anger.

But I have to let it go. The anger, the anxiety, the hurt.  I don’t want to be carrying this around any longer than I have already, in fact. If I hang on to it for very long it’ll eat me alive.

So, there’s nothing for it but to forgive. If I am going to get any sleep for the foreseeable future, I’m going to have to forgive the person who has done me wrong. Not for their sake – they don’t care. For my sake. Because there’s nothing else I can do to and keep going on.

It has to be sincere. It won’t work unless I really open my heart and let it out. All the vengeance, the humiliation, the blame. The “you did this to me, and how dare you!” All of it. Fully accepting that they did it on purpose, knowing it would hurt me, and that they didn’t care about that. All the ugliness – out. It has to go. It’s the only way to have peace.

Then I can heal from this, and then I can sleep. That’s how I take care of myself in this – by dumping it all back in their lap:

I forgive you for not treating me as you would want to be treated.

I forgive you for not trying to understand the ramifications of your decision, and/or understanding and not caring.

I forgive you for using your power to hurt me rather than help me.

I forgive you for being human.

 

The hard way

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I’ve had two situations today in which keeping my mouth shut was the wise choice. It was NOT my first inclination, but that’s exactly what I did in both instances, thank goodness. Apparently I’ve learned a couple of lessons: “living to fight another day” and “picking your battles.”

So this is growth, right? My temper and my mouth got me in such trouble when I was younger. Over and over. I lost friends, jobs, relationships – the list goes on and on. Just about every time I opened my mouth in anger I was still yelling as I or someone else walked out the door. I felt justified in my anger and I told myself it didn’t matter. Picture Jack Nicholson: “You can’t handle the truth!” Not my problem. I was righteous, baby!

It did matter, though, and I have learned from those mistakes. That’s a good thing. Learning “the hard way,” as they say, is painful, but effective. I would like to reach a point at which I learn without pain, but I’m not there yet. Not even close, I’d say. I’d also like to say that I’m always able to keep my mouth shut, but I’m not there yet, either. I’m a work in progress.

Mostly, though, I’ve learned not to tick off people from whom I want or need something. That may seem fairly evident to you, but it has not always been that obvious to me. Duh. Turns out, people are not inclined to help you or give you what you want if you just yelled (or are still yelling) at them. Huh.

So, the second part of that puzzle is what to do with the anger that I’m not unleashing on someone, and I’m getting pretty good at that, too. I walk, ride my bike, write, sing, or play a game until I calm down. And I talk to myself. I talk to that angry part of myself who is so desperate to have her say. And we make a plan to make it be okay – to right whatever wrong has made me so hot under the collar – down the road. Not now…later.

Just because I’m not yelling, doesn’t mean I’ve given up. That’s the key. That’s what took so long to figure out. In the past I had two modes when something made me mad: get angry and lash out, or lay down and die. Angry as hell or depressed. Nothing in between. The concept of delayed gratification was foreign to me.

I get it now, though. As in all things, moderation has turned out to be the better way. As often as I can, I take the middle way: think about a considered response to whatever has set me off, and figure out the best way to deliver that response. Not in the heat of the moment, but sometime later when I’m calm enough to think it all through and make sense of exactly what made me angry and what I want to do or say about it, if anything.

Yeah, sometimes after I’ve calmed down, I don’t do anything. I work on letting it go, cuz I’ve figured out that no good would be served by responding. Imagine that! Thinking before you act or speak, and then CHOOSING not to do either. Wow. So simple, and yet so, so, very hard.

One of the situations today begs a response, and I’ll figure out the best way to respond when I’m calmer and I’ve thought about the situation some more. Fortunately, I have the time to do that. I have to try to be sure I know what I want out of the situation – turns out what I think I want initially is not always really it – and figure out what the other party wants, so I can present my case so that we both win.

The other situation I have to let go if I want to keep my job, and I do. So I have to work on reconciling myself to doing what I’m being asked to do, even though it’s not fair, it’s not right, and it sucks big time all the way around. No matter how I look it, I lose. Except I win, because ultimately what I want is to keep my job. So lips sealed tightly, fingers stopped from hitting “Reply” and typing what I’d really like to say, but can’t.

Growth, right? Maturity. Man, it’s hard. I feel like I won today, though. I still have my job, all of my friends, and my dignity.

Most importantly, I will live to fight another day.

Fly me away

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I love bicycling. It’s been a huge part of my life. It’s the one thing I could always count on to make me feel okay; from my first green Schwinn Stingray® with the white banana seat, to the 3 bikes I’m lucky enough to own now. There have been a few others over the years, including a rust-colored 10-speed Schwinn Varsity® I probably put 5000 miles on growing up before it was stolen after college, and a couple of mountain bikes I rode the wheels off – literally.

It’s the same feeling now as I had on that Stingray 50 years ago – freedom. Going fast and seeing new things, riding to new places; getting lost and finding my way back. On my own, out of reach from everything that threatens to drag me under in everyday life. The wheels spin and my mind calms, dialed in on the road in front of me. Nothing else exists for the hours I’m out there, putting mile after mile under my saddle.

My lungs scream for air, my heart beats out of my chest, my thighs burn, and my soul soars – so happy to feel the wind in my face, to smell the trees and the water as I fly down the trail along the lake. Whatever happened at work, or at home; whatever demon is chasing me that day I ride off my wheel within the first 5 minutes.

Cycling has gotten me through depression, bad relationships, bankruptcy, loved ones’ illnesses and deaths, bad times at work, the loss of a business – everything life has thrown at me. Through it all, I saddled up and rode my way through…that is, of course, if those things happened between April and October.

Because I live above the 45th parallel. Because Winter here starts around Halloween and sticks around until at least Easter, and it doesn’t kid around. Lots of snow, ice, serious cold. Today is the first day of Spring, right? Well, last night it was 16° F, and during the day today it got up to 30-something, but the wind was wicked – straight out of the northwest, so the wind child was in the lower 20s. Actual Spring for us is a couple of months away.

I’m not particularly wimpy, but I have a pretty firm 50° rule. Encountering 50° F at 20 mph is fairly unpleasant. Even with all the cold-weather cycling gear I have – and believe me I have it all – it’s cold, and for me, being too cold overrides the joy of the ride pretty quickly. Actually, the real deal-breaker is that I have asthma, and my lungs just won’t let me ride in cold temps.

So 6 months out of the year, I don’t get to do the thing that saves me, that gets me through, that sends my soul soaring. This is troublesome, in that I’m forced to find other ways to cope. In the past what I did mostly in the winter was eat too much and drink too much, both of which are poor substitutes for the soul-soaring feeling being on the bike gives me, but they do a pretty good job of at least getting those endorphins stirring,

They also did a pretty good job of driving my cholesterol and blood pressure through the roof as I got older. The older I got, the more weight I gained in the winter, and riding all summer was not enough to take it off as in my younger days. Ack. So that had to stop.

I’m happy to say I’ve gotten my weight and the cholesterol and blood pressure under control. Took a while, but I got there, and it’s now an on-going change of lifestyle thing. It’s good, but honestly, eating an apple is not as good for holding stress and aggravation at bay as a nice big piece of chocolate cake or a donut. Ditto beer.

Just sayin’.

So here I am – all stressed up and nowhere to go. What’s a girl to do?

Hurry up Spring!

 

Today’s the day

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Yes. Exactly.

This was a long time coming for me, but I’m so grateful that I finally got here. Proud of myself because I didn’t give up, even though so many times I wanted to. Up until 15 years ago I never could have imagined the way I feel now;  comfortable in my own skin, forgiving of my flaws and those of others, accepting what comes as the days unfold (mostly – sometimes it takes a while…), confident that I have the ability to get through (or over, under or around) any roadblock I encounter on my path.

I would have preferred to be “normal,” I guess – to have lived life without the chronic depression that dragged me under for weeks at a time and forced me to fight for my life over and over. One thing those struggles taught me, though, is that everything passes – the good and the bad, and that – no joke – what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger…and smarter and more compassionate, if you let it, toward yourself and others.

Because life is hard in some way for everyone. Absolutely everyone. Always. Regardless of all those “living large, shiny happy people” posts on Facebook and Instagram – everyone struggles in some way with something. Everyone has something they hide from other people; something they think makes them different from everyone else.

I’ve learned to enjoy the good times, and to appreciate them, for I know that life is up and down and nothing lasts forever – good or bad. The “ups” are fabulous, but the “downs” can be pretty deep. Even without depression life can be really challenging and discouraging at times, with no end in sight; but I’m learning to set fear aside, split problems into manageable pieces so I don’t feel overwhelmed, and to ask for help if I can’t do it alone.

Let me be clear about this: it was easy to write that last paragraph, but it is still not easy to do those things always. But thanks to a good therapist several years ago I have tools now that help, and I learned that running away just postpones the pain, and that there is no value in “toughing” it out, either. There is a big difference between being strong and being tough.

Being tough is just bluster, blundering through, knocking things around, sometimes making things worse. Being strong is facing things head on, making good decisions, finding the way through carefully and thoughtfully, while keeping yourself whole and healthy along the way. Never backing down, but not pushing through blindly, either. Remembering always that this too shall pass.

I encourage myself to rise to a challenge now, rather than shrinking from it, and every time I do that it gets a little easier. I take a deep breath, get a drink of water, pat myself on the back, and start assessing the situation:

  • Is this my problem to solve?
  • Is the problem solvable?
  • Is the solution within my control?

If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” I’m setting myself up for failure right from the start. Better to let go of solving the problem (getting through the obstacle), and to start working on accepting the situation as it is and trying to minimize its impact on my life and wellbeing (getting around the obstacle). Either way, I keep going on. I keep learning and growing and trying.

That’s all anyone can expect; all we can ask of ourselves in this colorful, hilarious, difficult, tasty, challenging, cacophonous LIFE:

Just keep moving forward. That’s enough.

Apples and trees, near and far

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I was adopted as an infant, so there’s a lot I don’t know about my genetic medical history. I was in touch with my birthmother via letters for a brief time, 10 years ago or so, so I do know a couple of things about her medical history – she had breast cancer – but nothing more current.

I know my birth parents’ names and being a genealogist, I have traced back those family lines as far as I can. So I also know the cause of death of immediate relatives on both sides, but nothing more than that medically – just what killed them. I did a DNA test several years ago, but that doesn’t tell me much beyond what ethnicity I am. The upshot is that I don’t know what specifically lurks in my genes; what I should be watching out for medically as I age.

So I’m proactive about regular doctor visits and screening tests. Doctors always ask me about my family history, and I have to tell them beyond my mother’s breast cancer, I don’t really know. This is frustrating to them and to me, but that’s just the way it is. I’m lucky I know my bparents names. (That’s a story for another time.) There are so many adoptees who don’t have the first clue about their genes, and what might be hiding in  there waiting to pounce.

Today I went to the skin doc for the first time. I have a million freckles and almost as many moles – lovely Scots-Irish skin. They, of course, asked me about my family medical history, and I told them I was adopted and didn’t know much. The young woman who was giving me the once-over, paused as she was looking at my back, and said, “I know you don’t know your birthmother, but I can tell you that her back looks exactly like yours.”

It threw me for a minute. What a thing to say! So I said, “Why?” and she said that most of the moles on my back were genetic, that in fact, a predisposition to a certain type of mole and just being mole-y in general is a genetic trait. I didn’t know that, did you? I had never really thought about it, actually.

On my way home I thought I should have asked her how she knew it was my bmother’s back I got and not my bfather’s, but I think she’s probably right about which parent passed down that gene. I have a picture of my bfather and he has really nice smooth, non-freckled skin.

I got his crappy eyesight and allergies, but the skin was all hers, apparently. I have pictures of her, too, and while my facial features and blue eyes are my bfather’s, it’s clear to me as I get older that with those exceptions, my genes are trying to turn me into my bmother – a short fat woman with whiter-than-white freckled/mole-covered skin. Lucky me.

So in addition to the other gifts heredity has given me – high blood pressure and high cholesterol, a higher risk of breast cancer, as well as the aforementioned crappy eyesight and allergies; thanks gang – now I get to worry about melanoma, too. Yikes!

Well, we all got something from our folks, right? It could have been a lot worse. I’m not complaining. I have been spared plenty of other really horrible hand-me-down stuff. What does bug me is that I don’t know my own genetic/medical history. That’s just ridiculous. We know now how profoundly we are shaped by our DNA, and it’s just not right that adoptees don’t always have access to that information. Pretty barbaric in this day and age, if you ask me.

Well, you didn’t ask me, but there it is. Most people who don’t have an adoptee in their lives don’t know that for a long period of time, and still in some cases today, original records were sealed at the time of the adoption, and most adoptees don’t have access to information about their birth parents or their medical history.

The idea was that the child was to be considered part of a new family, her “past” erased, as though she just sprouted one day fully formed, in the arms of her adoptive mother and father. Not only was she given the family name, but she was to take on all the family characteristics, too. My house is your house, my history is your history.

For lots of reasons (another time) that was just a stupid idea that has caused untold heartache around adoption for decades, but the most ridiculous notion was that genetics wouldn’t matter and that the child would never need to know what kinds of diseases ran in his/her birth family. Cuz here’s what they failed to consider: that child would not always be a child! Just as in the storybook this practice was modeled after, the child was to grow up and live happily ever after, no problem, see ya, good luck!

Of course this wasn’t a story. This was a human being, with a real life and real feelings and real concerns about health, and what genes he/she would be passing on to her own children. Did anyone consider that before they tied everything up in that pretty pink and blue bow?

Nope. Oh well.

For the record, I’m not anti-adoption, or bitter about my experience or on a crusade of any kind. Being an adoptee is just one small part of who I am. Adoption was and is a small detail of my life. I’m grateful to be here; the logistics of my arrival are water under the bridge. Every once in a while, though, like today, it pops up and kicks me good, and reminds me that I can’t take some things for granted. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe it makes me more vigilant and I’m better off because of it.

Maybe. Maybe not. Either way it still bugs me.

Crushing on life

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I play Candy Crush Saga™. I spend an hour or two playing most days. So out of my 15 hours of waking time, say, I spend roughly 14% playing a game. More than some, less than others, I would venture. That two hours is spread out over the course of the day – a couple of breaks at work, an hour or so after dinner most nights.

I don’t consider that to be wasted time for a couple of reasons, the most important being that I enjoy it! I have always liked video and computer games, card games, and board games. I was an only child, so growing up I gravitated toward games I could play by myself and when video and computer games came on the scene I was hooked!

The second reason is that I’m a graphic designer by trade, and Candy Crush (especially) appeals to my designer’s eye. The color revives me when I’m tired of looking at a screen all day, and if I’m having trouble coming up with an idea or working out a design problem, the colors moving around on the screen and the completely different thought process sometimes knocks a solution out of my weary brain. When I’m not at work, it’s nice just to relax and think about something that doesn’t really matter for a while.

Here’s something interesting I’ve noticed lately about Candy Crush specifically, but I’m sure it’s true of some other games, too: it translates to life.

Candy Crush is a “level” game, meaning that as you solve one puzzle, you move on to the next puzzle, which is a little harder. I’ve been playing for a while and I’m currently on level 1800-something, so they’re pretty tricky sometimes. But here’s the thing: I’ve learned skills on the way to level 1800-something that help me solve those puzzles. If I had started out at level 1800, I would have given up immediately, cuz it would just be too hard.

But on the way up over the last couple of years, I’ve solved so many puzzles in so many different ways that I feel confident that I’ll figure out the current one, too. Sometimes it takes what seems like a million tries, but sooner or later I solve even the toughest levels and I move on. I am confident that I can figure out how to overcome anything I encounter on any level because I have in the past.

What’s important about that is that in my life I’ve been a quitter, or a non-starter if something seemed too hard. “Persistent” is not a word you would have used to describe me when I was younger. Chronic depression caused me for most of my life to be overwhelmed fairly easily, and I typically melted into a deep pool of “I can’t” when faced with too much resistance.

Not with everything, fortunately. I have stayed employed with 2 companies for most of my career, and I managed to run a successful business for a few years, too. The things I gave up on too easily were mostly things I wanted, not so much things I needed. Relationships, a desire to live somewhere else (away from my family), my dreams and aspirations.

Candy Crush Saga didn’t teach me resilience or persistence. Life has taught me those things, though it took me a long time to catch on. Depression has taught me, too. I kept getting through it, over and over, hanging on when I thought I couldn’t, more times than I care to remember.

Over and over about a lot of things I think “I can’t,” but I do. My job keeps changing – new technology, new people, new ideas all the time. Everyday I’m challenged to do something I’ve never done before; something I’ve never even thought about before. I start to panic a little, and then I start a new game. I focus on the colors and the movement and I think, “no, wait, what if I tried…” and something in my brain opens up and there’s the answer to the new challenge. I’m reminded that I’ve faced challenges before – real and virtual – and I’ve overcome them.

When my home life challenges me, I sit down at the computer and I am reminded that sometimes it takes a million tries to get to the next level, but I will get there sooner or later if I just keep trying.

So a computer game didn’t teach me that, but it reinforces it everyday. It reassures me that I’ll get past this level and with the same determination, if I just keep trying, I’ll get past whatever challenge I’m facing in my job or my life, too. I have the skills and the knowledge I need, if I don’t let myself fall into that “I can’t” pool.

You can’t win if you don’t play the game, and you can’t have what you want in life if you don’t keep trying for it, over and over, until you get there. My intention now is to keep “leveling up” until I run out of time.

All this from a computer game? Yes. Life is all around us. The universe calls to us in everything we do, in everything we see. Come on and play! Every moment is precious and everything we encounter can teach us something of value. Don’t miss a bit of it. It’s there if you look, and if you keep trying to see your way to the next level.

 

Note to self:

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Resentment is a sneaky, back-stabbing liar. It’s worse than fear or even self-pity, cuz you don’t see it coming. It slithers right up close without making a sound, and whispers its siren song so seductively in your ear, that the lies slip right past your “crap” sensor and are part of the story you tell yourself almost instantly. No editing, no critical review, just “Yeah, that’s how it is.”

Except it’s not. It’s a lie. It’s a skewed way of viewing the truth that turns it into a lie. It’s seductive because it makes you a hero. It claims that what you’re experiencing is Unfair! Not your fault! The worst thing that anyone has ever experienced! You, you poor soul, you have been treated horribly unfairly and you deserve so much better! Because you are fabulous and wonderful, and no one should treat you that way.

No doubt that that way is something difficult to deal with. No doubt that you are fabulous and wonderful. No doubt that you may have to mourn something you have lost, or give voice to your anger, or heal in some other way. Probably you didn’t deserve it. Probably you were just living in the best way you could, and someone came along and treated you that way. Or maybe it was just Life, that non-respecter of persons, that dealt you a blow you feel was completely unfair, and you just can’t let go of it. Because: Why Me? Why, oh, why, poor unsuspecting, trying really hard just to get along, doing the best that I can everyday, little ole me?

And there’s Resentment, standing next to you, saying, “Yeah, why you? Not fair, dude. Are you going to just let that go?” And you say, “No! I won’t stand for it! I’ll never recover! I’ll never forget.” Resentment smiles and rubs your back, and hands you a piece of chocolate or a drink, or a pill, and says, “Don’t worry. I will never leave you. I would never treat you that way. You’re safe with me now.”

Except you are sooooo not safe now. You have just given your life away. You now have a lying scumbag in your brain telling you you’re justified in everything you do – being a crappy human being, treating other people horribly, failing to do the things you wanted to do and/or are responsible for, eating/drinking/drugging/whatevering too much. Your life gets worse and worse – you’re dying – and yet you keep listening. Resentment keeps whispering in your ear, “Not your fault. Not fair. Not your fault.” Meanwhile, it’s feasting on your brain, your heart, your lifeblood, getting stronger everyday.

If you’re lucky, at some point, you are able to see Resentment for the lying scumbag it is and send it on its way. Get some counseling, start journaling, meditating, praying – doing whatever you need to do to get over whatever that thing was that allowed you to be duped. Let it go. Forgive, forget. Life is hard. Accept that. Move on. Live in the present, and let go of the past. Bad things happen to good people every minute of every day. There’s absolutely no reason you would be spared. You’re just not that special.

No one is.

Instead of WHY ME, consider WHY NOT ME? Be grateful for the things you have been spared and mourn/heal the things you weren’t. Feel sad for yourself, deal with the pain in whatever healthy way you can and move on. Don’t give Resentment the opportunity to get close enough to whisper its lies. Keep moving. Keep living.

Easy? No! Very, very hard. No kidding. Show yourself compassion. Be patient and kind. It’s not easy; few things of value in this life are.

It is simple, though. If you don’t do it – if you don’t send Resentment packing – you will miss your life.

Your precious challenging, beautiful human life.