Sunday, October 9, 2011

Houses as Hobbies

As I am typing this entry, RJ is sleeping on the couch beside me with his arm wrapped around my belly as I sit on the edge of couch. We were looking at houses that are on the market in the neighborhood. Every now and again I peruse the listings to see what is out there to get a feel for cost and trends of those renovating houses. I dream of owning a house. And I also keep an eye out for deals that RJ might find appealing for his own investments in flipping or renting--knowing that my efforts are very amateur.

But today we looked at some of the houses together because we each like looking at houses, kind of like a hobby. I asked him questions about if he thought the houses were priced appropriately. He was patient as I clicked through the pictures and he sometimes asked to see more in the comments section. We talked about the layout and the condition of the houses--what we liked or did not like--what needed upgrading or updating.

And when we were done, RJ told me that he liked that I am interested in buying a house. I asked him why? With a smile, he said he likes that I enjoy doing what he finds himself doing with much of his day. He also said it is good to see me dreaming and wanting something more.

This shared moment with RJ today makes me happy in appreciating what we have in common. It is nice to see those shared interests that support the foundation of our relationship. I love that we both love houses and what is involved in fixing them up. I love that we both enjoy being active and outside with fall as our favorite time of the year. I love that we both love reading and can spend hours in a bookstore. I love that we speak Spanish and appreciate learning about other cultures and world views (However, his Spanish skills are excellent, it inspires me to reinvest in mine.). I love that we enjoy the simple pleasures in life--good company, cooking and playing board games. It all just puts a smile on my face. I've said it before, but I love how RJ knows how to live in the moment of the present and take pleasure in all that it brings.

(Now, let's not get ahead of ourselves...I know this post could have potential for a lot of speculation. It is just one day at a time and I have a lot left on my plate to get my life back in order. We are happy with our relationship and where it is right now--a very good thing.)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Inside/Outside Box

During my summer internship, one of the Child Life staff was sharing about her experiences during a conference about death, grief and bereavement. She talked about a presenter whose son had died and what she did to help her process her feelings of grief. The presenter was an artist and she used mixed media to express her sorrow, pain and anger, which she photographed and put into a packet. The Child Life Specialist passed the packet around the room. One piece that spoke to me in particular was a sculpture of two hands holding tattered, blue cloth that looked like it came from a worn, favorite hoodie. The artist shared that when a child dies, it is often the child's clothing that can be the most difficult to let go.

The tears started to flow and I wept silently as the Child Life Specialist finished speaking. She was also teary and shared that she was so deeply moved and touched by the presenter from the conference. My thoughts shifted and it was like tiny pieces were beginning to falling into place...those of acceptance with giving myself permission to grieve my own loss.

As I have been reading to prepare for the Child Life certification exam, I read a chapter about death, dying and children. In it, it explained that a death of a child is the greatest loss a parent can experience. It goes against all expectation in that a child is not supposed to die before the parent and it is the death of the dream of all that was hoped for that child. It can be isolating and complicated. Grandparents experience two losses. They experience similar losses as the parents in hopes of the future. But then they also struggle to support their adult children because there is nothing they can do to take away the pain. Bonding and love start long before a child is born--it can begin with learning of conception--and for some, maybe in the process of deciding to attempt to become parents. Those building dreams and hopes are strong. When a child dies, it takes a long time for parents to go through the different levels of grief before they are able to carry forward in their lives.

In addition, a failed adoption can be very similar and real as a death of a child. The emotional investment process also begins prior to a child being placed into a home. It can be devastating, sharing several parallels. I experienced imagining a life with that someday child. Both of my parents said that they felt a double loss. While they could relate on some level, they also struggle knowing that my pain is different and almost unreachable because they are parents. My brother and sister were very angry in that protective way about the divorce. However, over time, that anger has been replaced by a deep sadness. As I listened to the lecture and read the chapter, there were times that I could identify in my own way with the loss of a child. In my case, while the failure of the adoption was due to the failing of my marriage--and not of the biological parents changing their minds--it has been a considerable loss for me. These recent events have validated my deeply felt pain as real and deserving of time for me to process that pain.

Now, back it up to April with my play therapy class. For the final project of the class, we partnered up with a classmate to research and present one form of play therapy. Part of the presentation included doing an activity to demonstrate and practice that form of therapy. One of the groups presented on art therapy and chose inside/outside boxes for the activity.

Basically, you are given a box to decorate the inside and the outside. The outside of the box is how you think you appear or present yourself to everyone in the world. The inside of the box is how you feel on the inside, which often has elements that are private and that you keep to yourself. The activity allows a person to non-verbally communicate these thoughts and feelings in something concrete. Each person has the choice to share or to keep private the contents of the inside of the box. It is very important to respect the individual's choice to foster trust in the therapeutic relationship. So, no peeking!

At first, as I was making my box, I didn't really feel so into becoming super invested in the project. My emotions were running high and I just did not feel like sharing. So, I decided to make the outside of the box kind of cute and girlie. I allowed myself to go with the flow and get lost in the fun of sparkles, shiny and pink.

Once the outside was complete, it was time to start on the inside. I figured that I would just keep going with picking out whatever fit my fancy--wanting to keep it light and breezy without too much thought. As I was routing around through the scrapbooking materials with my classmates, I happened to come across a sheet of stickers with hand and foot prints. They were pink and yellow and seemed to go along with the color scheme that seemed to have morphed from this box creation.

Then I stopped. My eyes went back and forth between the box and the sticker sheet in my hands. It was then that I took a second look at the box--a really good look. Suddenly, I realized that the box resembled something a child might make for their mother on Mother's Day. I felt like what I was holding was the dreamed representation of my desire to be a mother. It was my lost identity of wanting to be a mother.

I had a choice to make--to either blow off these sudden realized feelings to make more fluff or to allow myself to consciously open myself up to embrace the experience. With bated breath, I quickly decided to keep listening to my inner voice, but with new awareness and to put whatever raw emotion into the inside of the box. It was the correct decision. However, I questioned if it was okay for me to still be feeling so sad about not being able to adopt the twins from Utah.

Why wasn't I over it yet? When would enough time pass before I could really let go? Was there something wrong with me for still feeling so sad?

Something buried in my drawer was suddenly nagging me--the sleepers. I still had them--kind of forgot about them because I still had not decided what to do with them and was tabling to deal with it when I wasn't so busy with grad school. But forgotten, is not truly forgotten.

About a month later it was time for me to go to Columbus and I still had not gotten rid of the sleepers. I drove with them to a Goodwill store (again), but just kept going because it just did not feel right. I couldn't do it. So, I decided to deal with it after Columbus.

Fast forward back to the near present. I've been feeling badly about still having the sleepers. So, I decided that perhaps my inside/outside box was not complete. Maybe it would help if I wrote the twins a letter. Then maybe I could finally let go. Nope.

I realize what I am most afraid of is forgetting about what the sleepers look like and that somehow if I give them away that it is giving up on a dream of one day becoming a mother. But carrying them around in my drawer and in my heart to just too heavy.

So, I took some photos of the sleepers and printed out little pictures of them to put inside of my inside/outside box. I am trying to reframe the letting go of the sleepers in terms of letting go of the dreams I once had for adopting the twins. If I can convince myself of this connection between the sleepers and the twins, then by giving away the sleepers is not giving away the dream of motherhood. The inside/outside box allows me to mourn and honor that specific loss.

Maybe this is what I need to move forward. Maybe this is what my heart needs to be able to heal and to turn the corner of finding and enjoying life after loss.

Inside My Inside/Outside Box

  • One hand and one foot print to represent each of the twins.

  • A small stone noting the beginning and end of the IF journey of the past, '07-'09.

  • A scrap of paper with the list of names I was thinking about for the babies.

  • Photos of the sleepers.

  • A letter.

Dear Utah Twins,

Although I was never able to meet you or hold you, my heart already started to dream about you. I remember the day I was on the phone and Suzy told me about you. My heart felt light--full of hope and life again. All of the sadness and heart ache began to fall away. It was like I could breathe again and I felt like dancing. When I told my then husband about you, we were driving in the car on our way to have dinner with his parents. He seemed to brighten and get just as giddy and excited as me about the possibility of you both coming home to us--to share a life with us. We called you our "Blue Light Special."

I will always remember that phone call and that drive. It was then that I allowed myself to dream about you. In my day dreams, I pictured flying out to Utah to pick you up. I had hoped to provide your mother with reassurance that we would love you and provide a good life for you both. I imagined holding and nestling each of you with love and tenderness as I would rock you to sleep at night. I could almost feel holding your tiny hands as babies growing into toddlers. I pictured taking you for walks and going to the park. Swinging on the swings, going to little league baseball games and playing in the fall leaves--those were the kinds of things I allowed myself to imagine. A love was planted on that day of the first phone call and it sung in my heart long after.

But we were not meant to be. He walked away--why, I cannot fully explain. And that dream of you slipped away--certainly I could not start it on my own--not then. It would have been selfish on my part, even if Suzy would have entertained the idea. It was a difficult call to make to tell her to pass. And in my heart I wished nothing but the best for you dear little ones. I hope you are now in the loving arms of a family who can give you their whole heart and soul, just as if you were their own. You deserve nothing less.

From time to time I wonder about you--how much you have grown, what are the things that most light you up and capture your attention and the little people you are becoming. How do you smile? How do you laugh? Is there a twinkle in you eye or dimple in your cheek? Are you bold or are you sensitive and sweet?

But one thing I do hope is that you have each other. Take care of each other--be tender and patient and kind--be encouraging and supportive and strong--be forgiving and honest and thankful.

Even though I could not take you home as my own, know that there is someone out there thinking and praying for you. All that I have to give you is a little angel of hope.