I Wish for All the World I Could Say, Hey Elizabeth, You Know, I’m Doing All Right These Days*

She’s been gone one whole year. I wrote this poem on the plane home from California on Monday. Last year, I flew home from California a few days after this date, with the knowledge her light was gone.

I still can’t believe it.

Un-Cloud Spirit

I don’t necessarily believe
you float above the clouds,
don’t think you watch me
from between the sun’s
rays, between falling
raindrops on my sons’ heads.

But looking down from this
particular vantage point, I
can’t help but feel your
arms wrapped ’round my
slumped, tired shoulders;
hear your voice in my ear.

Do you know when I struggle
most? When the thoughts
come fast and quick? Do you
recognize the pulse, the fear,
the downward spiral into
full-on self-hate?

You don’t need to answer
with words; I know how close
I dance with the demons—the
same who snatched you from
our hands, but not our hearts,
all too soon.

But you do answer me. I see you
in the way the light falls upon
my boys at sunset. I hear you
in song, in laughter, in a passionate
voice, and in the soft, gentle way
you said, “I understand.”

You act as a guide, flawed and
imperfect, like me. You see me
step to the edge, consider your
final fate, and step back, time
and time again; sometimes
I feel you push me away, back.

I don’t know why you’ve chosen
me, why you visit in dreams, at
lunch, in the sky on a flight home
almost one year after I cry-slept
through the sky, hurtling toward
a world in which you no longer existed.

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When I close my eyes, memories flash
so quickly. Most crushing are the ones
I missed, wasn’t there for, that
pass through my mind as if I were.
I see you standing there; I cannot
reach you in time. Never. Still,

An onion on a coffee mug. Your laugh.
The two of us walking home through
the Square the night I knew I wouldn’t
and couldn’t marry my high school
sweetheart; cigarettes in the snow,
a conversation which lives with me now.

We talk even now, though I know
mostly no one would believe me or
even know you’re here, still, with us.
As you’ve walked with me this past
year, I’ve worked hard to be strong
enough for us both.

I do not know if I have succeeded
on behalf of you, but I know one thing:
I am here. I have new scars, some
too fresh, still itchy. But I am here.
You are in every piece I write now,
and I choose each breath.

For you. For me. For those who didn’t
know you, but should have; should have
read your words, held your hand.
For all of us who have wanted to give up,
nearly followed you into the dark, but
live on with and without you. Forever.

-JLH 7.31.17

Un-cloud Spirit

Further reading:

Title from Counting Crows’ song “I Wish I Was a Girl” from their This Desert Life album. Again. She lives on in these songs.

 

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It’s Time to Start Talking

It's Time to Start Talking

“Don’t write about writing.”

Except that I need to in order to move myself—and my writing—forward. Over the past two years, my writing frequency declined. I left a beloved, long-time job just over two years ago. After leaving another job almost one year ago, I found myself unable to write.

It’s not that I didn’t have things to write about at the time. Oh, I did.

However, some things simply couldn’t be written about at the time. Some things still don’t lend themselves easily to the page, though I’ve been working on how to write about certain topics solely from my point of view. It’s hard.

We write so much about the early stages of parenting. Of poop and sleep and leaky breasts. Of best parenting practices and how to make mom friends and how to make your baby a genius. And yes, thanks to our generation of writing moms, we even talk about loneliness, fear, and depression, postpartum or otherwise.

We’re allowed to keep up this talk, this back and forth of learning and teaching, through some point in elementary school. We can write about school trials and tribulations. We’re allowed rant about unnecessary testing. We’re still okay to share our kiddos pics.

Until we’re not.

Until the dreaded tweendom takes hold.

Suddenly and silently, we’re on our own, and quite honestly, it sucks.

The sudden lack of anything in Blog Land regarding parenting of tweens feels much like the Blogosphere when I started writing about open adoption as a birth mother. In 2004, no one wrote about birthmotherhood, open adoption, grief, loss, happiness, visit, or anything in between. In 2005, when I started Chronicles, I did so solely out of a need to share my truth.

It grew into so much more, of course. It grew until those who didn’t like my voice worked tirelessly to silence me. I do not regret that I “let” them “win.” Chronicles, as it existed in its then form, outgrew its purpose. My experience at that time could no longer be used to help others. I recognized the approaching tweendom wall with my daughter, and if no one’s writing about parenting tweens, let me tell you this:

No one is talking about birth parenting tweens in open adoption.

That’s not really good for anyone, our children included. While birth parents can muster through their grief and loss without much direction or support when their child is but a wee babe, doing so without support or empathy from others during those tween years (and beyond) seems like a bad choice.

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I’ve spent the past year silently wishing for help. My therapist—not a birth mother, not an adoptee—can only offer so much insight. I’ve learned a lot from the vocal, helpful, beautiful adoptee contingent on Twitter over the past year, both publicly and via Direct Message. And still, I felt very alone.

It wasn’t until I reached out to another first mother involved in a fully open adoption earlier this year that I learned some of the things my unique family unit is currently experiencing are not abnormal or unique. I literally felt like the only birth mother on the planet going through what we were going through until that moment.

I felt that way because no one is talking about it.

No one is talking about it out of fear of stepping over boundaries, out of habit of walking on eggshells. Out of being silenced by other birth parents; trolled by adoptive parents; dismissed by a society which wants to believe we’re the bad guys in a good versus evil situation.

It’s time to start talking.

It’s time to start talking about how birth parents involved in open adoption can help their child address the trauma caused by relinquishment. To start talking about mental health and illness and suicidality among adoptees and birth parents. To let other (birth) parents know they’re not alone when a(ny) child becomes a tween and the relationship dynamic shifts drastically.

It’s time, once again, to break the silence. Doing so requires careful attention that we, as first parents, discuss how it feels for and affects us, to avoid projecting our feelings. It requires sharing about our experiences, not our children’s experience.

It means knowing what is our own issue, what is not, and a careful use of language and writing skill.

I plan on being part of this next wave of change in how we share about our experiences in open adoption. (I also plan on sharing more about the tween(s-to-be) who live under my roof.) I share all of this now, in this long post about writing and not writing, so that when I jump in soon, readers have a frame of reference.

I sat silent on topics pertaining to adoption for two years because it hurt too much. For the past two years, I’ve dipped my toe in the waters but stayed out of the surf. I’m ready to share, to ask, to learn, to help once again.

All this to say: Hi. Let’s talk about the realities of parenting and birth parenting again.

It's Time to Start Talking