The story of “they”……

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My childhood ended the night my water broke on a cold hospital floor.
Mortified, I quickly apologized to the nurse who walked in
and questioned,   eyes still on her chart,
“You’re still giving this baby up?”
It was brisk business.

“Yes,”  the word comes from the far back of my throat and I’m embarassed by the sound.
She raises a syringe to my arm and rubs vigorous with wet cotton
that smells like my pediatritian’s office.
“This will help dry up your milk.”
Dry up.  I know these words.  They mean don’t feel so hard.  Don’t say too much.
Stay small.  And sweet.  And agreeable.  A shot to help me be agreeable.
Let’s all just get through this as pleasantly as possible,  they seem to say.
But this doesn’t feel like Becky and Patty anymore.

I’d moved in across the street from their families
the Summer before second grade and we’d quickly become friends.
Becky had showed me the picture of her home-going
one hot afternoon while we played with paperdolls.
There were two smiling parents standing on a white covered porch,   a baby safeheld in their arms.
“So you’re adopted,”  my mind wrapped around the idea as I took in the happy of her room.
“Yes,  and Patty next door,  too.”   Patty,  whose Mom’s quick smile filled the kitchen while she fried bologna slices and offered more tea.
I loved their home.  And the way my name sounded when her Dad said it warm,
like I was more than a guest at their house.
It hasn’t been so terribly long ago since he drove us to matinees and little league.

I can see their houses from the window when I hear the results of my pregnancy test.

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The weeks that follow are a hard tumble on some heavy rocks and I agonize.
This is an impossible decision.  I don’t see a  win-win……there just isn’t one.
I call them – the place where Becky and Patty’s parents smiled.  I picture again their birthday parties
and scavenger hunts, shiny roller skates and the tree house that their Dad’s together built.
They of the porch sound kind on the phone and will become a strong voice in my ear as my belly grows.
They are the matronly ones that knock on my door for the nine months before she is gone
and each week the last several of my pregnancy.  The ones sent to support my choice for adoption
with words like “unfit” and “unwed” – the ones who assure that everyone isn’t meant to be a mother.

They have come to harvest my baby.  At least that’s what I feel,  but I don’t say the words.
My own voice goes clinched like a fist holding on because I’ve made up my mind
and I hate them for trying to take what I’ve already decided to give.
A new family is going to be born and I won’t be a part.
I am the outsider;  they coach me on my role.
It’s my job to disappear.  They will not offer me a shot for this.

It’s a difficult delivery and I spend hours in recovery before I’m wheeled back into the room where they will come with the papers.
I cannot stop crying and send them away.  I read the impatient fear in their eyes and feel the push,
the press, the please don’t screw this up.
I can feel how anxious they are to not disappoint parents. Her parents.
But I can’t sign right now.  Come back tomorrow.  It’s not going to happen like this.
I won’t be stripped of her.  I call Brother B.

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This grandfatherly man is my pastor.  I haven’t known him long but right now he is my lifeline and I need him to come.
He does and pulls on gloves and gown and,  with him,  they roll her little bed out into the hall and let me take her.
B is patient as I push her cart,  carrying her with my eyes,  to the sterile room where I offer her my finger and she holds on tight.
He begins to pray out loud and I dig down deep to say my heart to the One who is listening with love.
“I’m not giving her away.  I’m not,  dammit.  And they’re not taking her.  I give her to you.  Take care of her,  please.”
And so it is done.

I don’t meet their eyes when I finally sign.   I don’t answer later when they call to see how I am.
How do they think I am?  I’m bereft and between.  I’m counting days,  suspended;  I have 28 of them to change my mind
and I will myself through each one.
I want her waiting to be over…..for her parents to have and hold her wholeheartedly.
For her to belong.  I busy myself against the pain.
I have become in every way un-fit.  I don’t fit anywhere,  an outsider.
I avoid old friends.  I’m a face person and I read too much on theirs.
And I see babies everywhere.
~  ~  ~  ~  ~
Now,  29 years later,  they are calling again and they want information fast.
My head  swims and I buckle just a little with each wave,  but I’ll ride them in time and with joy.
I’ve been on the out and life has tossed me a line,  offering to pass her a note inside.
They’ve let me send an e-mail.  Medical advice.  But she needs more from me.  I know it.
She needs to know my whys.

“I want to write her a letter.”

I’ve held my love up quiet for three decades,
waiting for a door.  And it has opened.
I will be censored, every line scanned for approval,  but I’m free at last
and begin to write  the first letter I will send.

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(So much back story,  I know.  But I can’t tell it any other way.  I’ll wrap ’round and ’round
the staircase until it’s told,  this Summer series.  Hold my hand if you get dizzy;  we’ll steady each other:)
Thanks for being along.)

“But what if the great secret insider-trading truth is that you don’t ever get over the greatest losses in your life?
Is that good news,  or bad news,  or both?  The pain does grow less acute, but the insidious palace lie that we will get over
crushing losses means that our emotional GPS never finds true north,  as it is based on maps that never mention
the most important places we have been to.  Pretending that things are neatly boxed up and put away
robs us of great riches.”
– Anne Lamott

To write through the window…………

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The windows are open to a warm October afternoon
as the phone rings and I’m startled  by the sound of the roar in my head
as my eyes land on the caller ID and see my hand  lift the receiver.
Children’s Home Society of N.C.
I answer in slow motion,
feeling the turn of the earth as a season changes.
~  ~  ~  ~  ~
She’d just turned 18 the last time I’d spoken with the adoption agency that had placed my child
and I was the one calling.
At last she was “of age” and I could finally offer what I’d held heart-tight
for her until then,
could say my love and I’m sorry and how are you and I’m here.

No,  I’d been told.  The records are sealed.  Permanently.
The heavy weight of the words I’d signed in my childhood landed hard,
a door politely slammed on my heart.

But I may,  they’d offered,
in the pleasant way of a helpful customer service rep,
send a note to be sealed in her file.

I wrote my heart out that day,
raw already from wrestling to prepare my other kids for this,
hoping I’d told them well,  that they might comprehend the impossible,
not be singed by the shame that had branded me –
wanting them to feel secure and understand my heart,
to feel her wanted-ness and their own.
I was afraid of hurting someone.  Of hurting everyone.

And aching for connection so that she could finally hold the whole of her story,  beloved.
That she feel the light that I kept burning for her…..for the all of her,
her life and parents and story and song.  For her own unique way.
I’d trembled over what may need to be faced,
but strong love overrode the fear
and reached out anyway,
smacking hard into a door,
closed and sealed.
~  ~  ~  ~  ~

But the windows are open this day in October;
we are all eleven years older
and I answer and turn sharp onto the road that I travel today.

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“I’m calling because of the note you left in her file.”
It had been a persuasive invitation to come get me if ever they please could see a reason.
They had seen one.
“We’ve waived a court order because of your note; she is sick and needs her medical history.”
It was urgent;  would I please comply.
Yes,  yes,  my maternity lunges forward,  and suddenly I am fully a mother,
rushing toward her crying child.

Listening intently to the description the woman from the agency gives of her symptoms,
I recognized them as familiar struggles to my mother,  my sister and I.
“Tell her,”  I plunge in,  and my words flow quick and steady like a ticker tape,
my voice barely supporting the pounding of my heart.

“Will you let me write her,”  I ask.

The next day the voice calls back, warmer this time, to take the information I’ve gathered.
“We’re going to let you send us an e-mail.
We’ll cut and paste and remove all identifying information
and pass it along to Amanda.”

Amanda.  I’m hearing her name and it’s music and mountains
and everything I’ve missed.
I hold it like a gift that I’ve been given.

And so I’m swept once more to the wide nursery window where I’d last stood 29 years ago
watching someone else hold and rock and feed my baby girl
while I pressed my face against the cold hard of the glass,
tracing her tiny features with my eyes until I could know
and store them away.

This is how it came to be that, eight Octobers ago,  I again pressed my heart up firm against the glass
and began to write through the window….

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I’m taking this Summer to share a story long in the living
because it’s shame and hope and grace and love and we all dance with these,
and it’s only in the lonesome that the shame gets it’s teeth.
I’ve written a smidge of back story….you can find it here.
I’ll fill in the spaces as the courage comes.

Be back with a fresh one next week.  Thanks for sharing the road
and for your patience as I wobble through:)

“Shame hates it when we reach out and tell our story.
It hates having words wrapped around it – it can’t stand being shared.
Shame loves secrecy.  When we bury our story,  the shame metastisizes.”
– Brene Brown

Can’t wrap it up pretty with a bow….

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I’ve been flummoxed,  wanting to offer you a fresh bouquet
from the gardens I’ve been tending,
about watery melons and milk thistle tea,
wildflower honey and coppertone on a breeze.
It meets some sort of primal need in me to create beauty with words
and pictures,  to share the light streaming in from my window
and lean my shoulder playful into yours,
grinning “look!”

To be glad about it together….this is joy to me.
But there’s sludge in my soul from holding quiet so long
a story i’m living
that feels so swollen inside that my voice has gotten heavy
and i feel it’s time to try and tell it true,
to free what needs to flow on through me
because there is nothing more lonely than secrets that metastisize
until you’re silent where your heart used to sing.

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I wrestled with starting a new blog,  just for the telling.
So no one could watch.
Maybe slide this story out there faceless
because,  I tell you,  the shame that washes over me still,
even after doing the work for what seems like forever,
fighting to hold onto the truth when my ground is hard shaken,
well it can roll me until I’m thrashing for air.

But I’m taking the Summer to share.
Week by week.  One deep breath at a time.
Because it’s the garden that I’ve got.
And real life is the most beautiful thing that I know.
Even when you can’t wrap it up tidy and sweet:)

If you’re feeling it,  come back to share the road.
If you’d rather not,  i so understand.
Either way I wish you beauty,  bounty and breakthrough
in all of your ways.

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“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
Maya Angelou

Listen how they shine…..

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Hey, tenderheart.
I noticed you there and felt it to pass you this note.
If it fits,  feel free to wear it;  if not,  toss and hear how beautiful I think you are:)

You know that little breath you hold?
The one you kind of save back for when you’ll finally feel permission
to relax into your place
at the big table.

That breath you suck in tense
until the someday when you’ll actually be enough
where you’re still feeling rather less than.

Can I whisper into that place?

There is something quietly and genuinely significant about you
already.
There’d be a sad, dark hole in this living canvas
without you.
You’re a custom fit,
particular and priceless by design.

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Walk outside and look up at the stars tonight;
listen how they shine,
winking and nodding and noticing you back,
the whole inky blackness of the vast night sky rolled out in welcome
for,  yes,  that would be you,

the universe extended generous to affirm you
just exactly where and how
you are,
each of the beats of your beautiful heart
prized by the lover of all wild things.

What if you let this love name your value
and let that breath go.
Stand beneath the great wide sky,  all small and mighty and cherished,
and breathe all the way down,
past the dregs of your fear,
and embrace it,  your fit and flow.

I totally dare you:)

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“We begin to find and become ourselves when we notice how we are already found,
already truly, entirely, wildly, messily, marvelously
who we were born to be.”
– Anne Lamott

I’ll be sending a little love bomb to Robin of Gotham Girl this week.
Another care package in the drawing for this week.
With big joy:)

 (This is an older write;  I’ve re-worked it and am putting it on the menu again
with some freshly sweetened hope.  Let me know if it speaks)

Cry baby cry…..

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I’ve had my heart broken,
the air knocked out of my voice
so it’s been quiet here for a little while,
giving myself instead to the work of breathing in and back out
and then repeating all over again.
And I’ve given myself over to the tears which
seem to flow unchecked and without warning.

I’m wildly grateful for the sunglasses I get to work behind,
the way my work lets me wander and wobble without fanfare,
and for the spilling-over-healing wonder of the tears themselves,
as if the sea finds me exactly where I am
and strokes my cheek with salty fingers
in the spacious,  windy way that I love.

I’ve given myself permission to let the sad be,
to let the tears rain down comfort,
let the petals be crushed
and the kleenex disappear extravagently.

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And as I’ve cried it out,  not pulling away from the pain
but letting it say it’s part in this story still unfolding,
I’ve been reminded to stretch wide my other wing,  too,
the one that lets beauty sing her grateful joy
until they’re both unfurled,  these powerful wings,
both joy and pain in harmony,
making music that pulls me deeper into life.

Life.  My God,  how I love it.
Raw and unscripted and teeming with things that scare and scald
and heal and delight and stretch and surprise and shave our rough edges smooth.
Life lived bare with the soundtrack unplugged
and the feeling turned up strong.

Tears unhindered,
smiles unforced,
heart unguarded
and freckles wet and nourished with saltwater peace.
Life not false.

Unblocked.
Unsunk.
But unbroken?
Hardly.

And my hope and I are okay with that:)

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I want to share a tool I’ve been using,
something offered by  Mandy Bird,  the gifted and compassionate grief counselor
I’ve been working with.  You can recieve her wise, intuitive care,
along with her collaborator, Chris Saade,
in their DVD series The Model of Heart-Centered Grief .
It’s a tall glass of hope and help for the hurting.
I so recommend.  Worth every
shiny penny.

“Our efforts to disconnect ourselves from our own suffering
end up disconnecting our suffering from God’s suffering for us.
The way out of our loss and hurt is in and through.” -Henry Nouwen

I’ll be drawing a name from comments to send a care package from my heart to yours. For the love:)