‘What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men …… That is what love looks like.’ - St. Augustine

Monday, May 28, 2012

Rise Above The Storm

(Title credit to Marge!)

There is a deep peace that comes with knowing who you are. Don't let the world shake you. If you hold yourself accountable to your own integrity and truth, then nothing that another could say or think can really harm you. We live on this planet with billions of other souls where the chance for conflict, misunderstanding, and misalignment is phenomenally huge. Monumentally, outrageously huge. You are not being singled out by God for punishment when these things happen, you are simply experiencing life as we know it on this planet full of struggling, complicated and often very confused human beings. It's not always your job to set people straight if they misunderstand you or are angry with you. Sometimes you just need to trust that 'the truth will out,' even if that 'out' won't happen in your lifetime.

Why am I saying this? Because I experienced a catastrophic misunderstanding this month. It was so out of proportion that it started looking to me like the people involved might possibly be dealing with mental illness. It was like a loosed wild animal. The whole experience was stunning in its' ferocity. I literally remained speechless for a number of days while I tried to wrap my head around the experience. In the end, I couldn't. It simply was something out of my control and I had to step away.

The crux of the matter involved someone accusing me of lying and intentionally hurting a group of people, and yet when I offered physical proof that this was not the case, the person continued, and still continues, to misalign me, gossip about me and generally act like a junior high school bully. It's so far beyond my ability to comprehend it, that I nearly wrote this person to offer to meet her in person so she could exorcise her anger face to face and, maybe, resolve whatever is going on in her head. Friends smartly advised against this. Why engage a spitting cat? It won't work. When people are angry, they cannot hear. And when people are so entrenched in their own version of the truth, wild horses couldn't pull them in the other direction. They are stuck in their belief, and there they'll stay.

The whole experience has been a deeply painful but powerful lesson, however. It came on the heels of my finally setting some important boundaries in my life. Although it honestly took a health scare to shock me into setting such limits, it was inevitable. My life could no longer run the way it was if I planned on staying in human form for much longer. Sorry to be cryptic -- I'll tell a more detailed account of this when the adoption is complete! For now, you all know the drill -- pre-adoptive parents (like me) are forced to keep a tight lid on everything but the mundane. Apologies for that.

Anyway, back to the lesson: I've always had a very hard time dealing with any anger directed my way. It's common for anyone who had a childhood that involved an active alcoholic. Anger brings out the fight or flight response. I think I've spent more energy in my life keeping others happy than I have in attaining any other measurable goal. It was my life's work -- and I was good at it.

But there comes a point when you either decide it's time to take care of yourself or, as in my case, a time when your health or life circumstances demand it. And when you finally do what you should have done decades earlier, well, people don't like it so much. You've changed. People like the OLD you. They have no use for this NEW you. And then the world around you shifts, because people are rebelling against this change you have made. Ah well, you must just breathe and keep your eye on the prize. Because in the end, of course, there is no one you can change but yourself.

In the past week, fate has brought several people to my door who are struggling with similar things. It's been such a gift to share my journey with them and help them to look at the bigger picture. The bigger picture is that nothing matters so much as Love. But Love takes many forms, and sometimes the most loving thing you can do is take care of yourself and trust that others will be taken care of without your meddling. Sometimes love involves letting go, as we've all heard so many times. Sometimes love involves keeping silent when others rage and rant about you, or accuse you falsely or send you hate mail. Yes, silence can often be the most loving response of all.

Buddha said to love, forgive and let go of that which you cannot change. Jesus said to turn the other cheek. The Dalai Lama was recently asked how he handled hatred and anger directed at him, and he explained that patience and compassion are the only helpful responses. He also reminds his listeners of the intimate connection between compassion and humility, when dealing with hatred: 'Humility involves having the capacity to retaliate, yet deliberately deciding not to do so.'

We must do our best, strive to our highest selves, even when we are dealing with the worst in others -- especially when dealing with the worst in others. We, each one of us, is on an arduous journey and we can have no real knowledge of how difficult that journey is for another at any given time. We do right by ourselves most when we rise above the storm and keep calm. We do right by God when we choose humility and patience over fear or retaliation. We do right by others when we do right by ourselves and God. Here's to all those brave human warriors out there, courageously choosing humility over hate and calm acceptance over fear. It will pay off, my brave friends. It always does.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Your Existence Gives Me Hope

A long while ago an online friend sent me this photo in a thank you email. I hadn't done much -- just lent an ear during a very trying time she was struggling through. I saved the email, because the kindness expressed in it was so heartfelt. I was grateful I had made a difference, however small, in this faraway friend's life.

Today I ran across this photo again, and it made me think of all the people I have never met who have bettered my life and whose existence on this earth give me hope. There are so many - Christie M, Annie K, Ashley - my kindred spirit way up North, Margie, Rosemary, sweet Alysa, MariaG, 'Saint' Debora U, Blessed, MagicFaerie,...

I couldn't possibly list them all.

And I thought, how wonderful. How wonderful that we can reach across miles and oceans and be there for one another. How wonderful that we can make friends through 'the ethers', not just through common routes. A larger world of kindred spirits and dear hearts is open to us in a way it never was before. It's easy to give the internet a bad rap; it is so abused by so many. But wonderful kinships can form this way..I've experienced it myself.

So I want to thank all the readers who have been there to offer hope when I've felt hopeless, prayers when I've felt unable to pray myself, an ear when I've needed one, a gentle word when I've ached for one, and even a cheer and a 'bravo' when I've shared a rare victory. You are sooo appreciated. You are gratefully and soulfully acknowledged. You matter.

These past few months, as you know, have been some of the most difficult of my life. I haven't even been able to share details for fear of causing problems with my adoption. But some of you know because you've emailed, written or even called. I'll share everything once I can do so without fear, though that may be a good six months from now! I just wanted to say I am humbled and grateful beyond words to so many of you. Even though I have been silent, I have been thinking of you and sending my gratitude up to the heavens. I hope you feel it raining down on you when you are most in need.

Remember, you matter.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Post I Never Wanted to Write

I've avoided this subject in my life, and hence, in my blog, for thirty years. Shame does that to you. It is so insidious, so powerful and so lethal that I can hold a person hostage their whole lives. 

And it shouldn't be that way. 

I am writing this post as part of my need to heal a horrific wound I carry. I thought I had it bandaged up enough that I never had to look at it again, ever. But this month I have experienced such profound despair, and I could not get deep enough to discover the reason. I held the pain in, but it got worse and worse. I cried out to God, and He seemed to turn a cold shoulder. I tried to run away from it, but it wouldnt go away.

When I was fifteen years old, I was raped. And not once. But multiple times.  It was someone I knew. I can't give any details about where or when, because there are people in my life that knew this person and would be devastated to know their family member did this to me. He is deceased now, and it wont serve any purpose to 'out' him. So forgive me for being cryptic about the details.

But let me put the experience into perspective for you. I was a very naive girl. I had never even kissed a boy. I was at a point in my life where I was inwardly trying to decide between becoming a nun or 'saving myself' for a future husband. I knew next to nothing about sex. In fact, even as a teen, I thought that every sexual encounter led to pregnancy. If you had sex, you were pregnant. Naive I know, but my irish-catholic parents never told me anything different, and there was no sex education at school. Anything you learned, you learned from gossip on the playground and lunchroom.

So I entered this experience at a huge disadvantage -- not that anyone could possibly be prepared for the experience of rape, but lets just say I could not have been less prepared. 

In the seconds before it ocurred, I saw clearly what was about to happen, and I screamed inside my head for God to stop it. I begged and begged as this person climbed on top of me. I knew God would save me from this experience. There wasn't a doubt in my mind. He'd come to my rescue. He'd know what to do

But then the hand that smelled of sweat went over my mouth, and in that dark room I felt the weight of his huge frame on my body, I fought as he removed my clothing, and then a piercing pain that made me think I was being ripped in two. No going back. This was happening to me. God had abandoned me in my deepest need. I felt my soul slip out of my body and a blanket of numbness settle across my skin. My first sexual experience of any kind -- a psychic tearing of my very soul. I felt the blood pool under me, and more than anything in the world I wanted to die. I just wanted to die. My world had changed in an instant. 

I hated myself from that very moment on.

And so, when this person came for me again, and again in the days and nights that followed, I did not scream. I did not run to get away. I did not fight. I pulled that blanket of numbness over me. I went someplace far far away in my head. My body was not mine anymore. I left it there, with the thief who took it. And I went someplace where he couldnt get me.

I felt a small grain of power, that I was in this other place and he didnt even know it. You think you are raping a person? Haha....joke's on you.....I'm not even THERE.

When after two weeks of this horror the monster moved away, and I was free of his physical presence, I did not tell. I was damaged goods. I was worthless. I cared so little for myself that I remember making a conscious decision to stop brushing my teeth. Wierd, I know. But I had lost all sense of normalcy along with my virginity. And so, in this new place, in this world of self-loathing, I thought 'why brush my teeth when I'm nothing?' And so started the slow decline into the black abyss of self-hate. The rapes may have been over, but the self-abuse had just begun.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Seven Years

Seven years ago tonight at about 10:20pm eastern standard time (9:20am on May 16th in Russia) Nastia and I became mother and daughter, when a Kemerovo judge came back with her verdict. In many ways it seems like yesterday, but watching the videos of that time today made me realize how very far we've come -- a seven year journey to now. Amazing.

I'll try to post the video here. The first is the moment after we left the court room. The other is Nastia talking to my Dad on the phone. My Dad died three weeks later, so it really comforts me to see that he at least heard her voice. Nastia did most of the videotaping, so be prepared for motion sickness..lol.

and this...

and this....where she attempts to teach us to count...

and, of course, this (written a year after she'd been home.)

So grateful for my girl. I don't have much to say lately and haven't posted much, but today warrants a word, a remembrance of that day.

I love you more than words can wield the matter, my girl. You are my greatest joy!

Friday, May 04, 2012

Two Beautiful Surprises

I was doing a google search on Anya (in Russian) tonight when this came up. It is the very first news story about the girls finding one another. It appeared on Russian television in December 2005, just a few weeks after we first spoke to her. She looks and sounds so very young! And Alex C, one of our heros, appears in the clip..long before we met him. What I wouldn't give to go back in time and find a way to  bring her home while she was still this little girl. I'm pretty sure that if I knew then what I know now, I could have done it. I was so naive then. I believed what the powers-that-be told me. Not anymore.

And our other beautiful surprise: I want to thank the sweet soul who sent Nastia and I flowers today. I am pretty sure, by what was written in the note, that it was one of my blog readers. There was no name. I can't tell you what joy you brought to us today. Nastia had just gotten home from school and was so delighted to see her name on the note, too, she couldn't help but smile. "I can't believe they put my name, too." She said. They are absolutely beautiful. And when we find the cord that connects my camera to this computer, we'll upload a photo for you!

God bless you, whoever you are, for such a beautiful and unexpected gift. We truly felt loved today:)

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Valentin's Miracle

This post made my day and encouraged me in a way I can't express in words. you just need to read it yourself. If you don't know about Valentin and his story, go back and read earlier posts on Jamie's blog. I was praying for Valentin when he first appeared on Reece's Rainbow, before he found a family, and I honestly felt scared it would never happen for him. I'm usually not one to let the doubts in for these kids, but his future seemed so bleak. After experiencing so many failures with Anya, it was easy to imagine the worst for such a vulnerable little boy.

The video Jamie included in this post had me crying my eyes out. And her faith in the midst of such obvious sorrow and loneliness? It spoke to me.

Although I cannot write openly about all that is going on in my life right now, due especially to our pending adoption, I will say I doubt I have ever been in a darker or more hopeless place spiritually. Jamie's words were a balm to my very hurting soul. I want that kind of faith.

I haven't asked this in awhile, but I would humbly ask anyone reading this to offer up a prayer for me and my family. I have not heard God's voice or felt his presence in many many months. Nastia and I both are going through several personal trials that have us confused and overwhelmed, and feeling quite abandoned by many of the people that usually support us. We may not have the support we need nearby, but I know we have it in little pockets across the world, through this blog. I'm grateful for any prayers you can offer that might bring us peace and even healing.

Valentin ( photo from Reeces Rainbow)