SEARCHING FOR SEOUL: Sister Theresa

She is a girl playing dress-up in a nun’s habit. A rainbow-tailed unicorn, disguised as a workhorse.

She runs toward me with her arms outstretched and I am four, five, and six–my stubby legs propelling me forward until I am swathed in the dove-grey of her skirt, a child with her heart broken, a lost thing without a mom or dad. (Read the FULL STORY) at Hanahawley.com

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Photo by me, Daegu, South Korea at White Lily Baby Home

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SEARCHING FOR SEOUL: CHOPSTICKS

On my blog: Searching for Seoul, I talk about being an orphan, an adopted child, and a woman, seeking her identity. Last week, I went to Korea for the first time since I was seven years-old to meet the woman responsible for helping me find my birth dad last summer. Here is a short intro. You can read the FULL STORY at HanaHawley.com

The night I met Sister Theresa for the first time, she took me and Josiah to eat a traditional Korean meal at her friend’s restaurant. I felt spoiled, and loved, and slightly sad. I let my imagination run away from me. A glimpse into what goes on in my head sometimes, in this post called “Chopsticks.”

“Her eyes seep sadness. They sting like old wounds reopened–wide and gaping. I imagine for a moment that she sees her own abandoned daughter–a hint of the child she once knew in the shape of my face.”jakub-kapusnak-296881.jpg

(photo by Jacob Kapusnak for unsplash)

Searching for Seoul- Foreigner

 

Stepped onto Korean soil for the first time in thirty-years this week. The last time I was in Korea, I was just seven years-old.

Excerpt from my post:

I study the quiet and sleepy faces around me in the “foreigner” immigration line. We shuffle along as the “resident” line across the way from us empties. It feels a little strange to be in the line with foreigners because technically, I am coming home…Read the Full Story at http://www.hanahawley.com on Searching for Seoul. 

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Photo by Sean Kong

CH 3 AIRPORT LIMO

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photo by Jason Ortego

Without him, she would probably become a recluse; wear afghans around the house, order everything she needed online, live her life through social media, raise three dogs she would dress-up and treat like her children–too afraid to interact with the outside world for fear of failure or rejection. (Read More at HanaHawley.com)

Searching for Seoul- Post 2

hangul_familyI’ve never looked around the supper table and wondered why I didn’t resemble my parents.  I never had another sibling tell me that I was “adopted” with a snicker and cruel tilt of the lip.  I’ve always known I was a choice my parents made.

People are usually amazed when they realize that I was just a couple of months shy of my seventh birthday when I came to America from South Korea.  I was so “old” to have been adopted.  Didn’t being older make it rougher for me to adjust?  Make it more difficult to assimilate into a comprehensively strange new world?  Didn’t my parents have a more challenging time raising me? One would think I’d have more emotional baggage than a baby orphaned at birth.  A blank canvas would be easier to embrace than one with seven years-worth of impressions from another world; impressions which might be better off erased.

I see now that I had the advantage of understanding that my circumstances were improving when I was finally adopted, while being young enough to unreservedly shut-up the memories which may have interfered with my ability to fit-in with my new family, in my new country.  My subconscious stepped-in and pushed me toward survival and because of this, I’ve never intentionally walked through my life as a victim of tragic circumstance.

But time can change a perspective, plant different desires.   I’m older now and standing at the threshold of my past, asking my seven year-old self to let me in, to give me a glimpse of what it is that I do not know.

The closer I become to my best self, the more I realize how important those lost years are to my continued growth as a human being.  I can acknowledge now that there are deep wounds rooted in that initial act of abandonment by my birth parents that have caused fractures in the apparently smooth surface of my life.  I want to understand the damage it’s done so I don’t inadvertently wound the relationships I care about or pass those same hurts onto my future children.

So I’m writing the story I’ve always told myself I’d write in the hope of understanding my story better and engaging with people like me who’ve never quite felt like they’ve belonged anywhere despite their best efforts and their beautiful lives.

I’m not that girl from the Beach Body DVDs…

“I can’t,” I say, loud enough for him to hear but hoping the girls won’t.

“I can’t do it.”

“You can,” he says, equally quiet.  “Just try it.”

I shake my head, taking in the sight of the other girls, their tight abs, their perfectly round backsides.  Their shapely legs pull in unison against the ropes, their bodies bent in two like the legs of a shiny metal compass completing measurements.  I’m flanked by them- out, in, out, in.  Their tight bodies strain against the effort but the girls still manage to look like they’re filming a Beach Body DVD.

That would make me the –you can do it too person sweating in the background while the pros glisten and glow up front near the instructor.  The sweat from my effort on the treadmill ten minutes ago is still evaporating from my skin and surrounded by these girls who can, I find myself choking on the humiliations of the past.

I see grade school me, shoulders slumped in defeat, eyes cast down and boring holes into my white Reeboks as I toe the blue tape of the shiny gym floor.   I’m overwhelmed by a sense of ineptitude, of invisibility.  I listen despondently as names are yelled enthusiastically from the team captains standing before me.  Will they remember my name this time or will I be the last one called, my name then becoming irrelevant?

Then, as expected, the voices calling the names take on another tone. They deign to divvy up the lesser of the less.  I can hear them roll their eyes and sympathize with each other on having to take that girl who plays violin and doesn’t play sports.

I try to lift my body in a similar fashion but land on my hands and knees.  I feel as though the Beach Body girls are judging me from the corner of their eyes, already deciding to pick me last.

Before the grade school me becomes paralyzed on the gym floor I pick myself up and leave.  I feel bad for the kids facing team captains all over the world but I’m not trapped in those situations anymore.  My worth isn’t based on the number of people I can hit with a dodge ball.  So I go, marveling that wounds from the past could still hurt in new ways.

Afraid to Live…

I lean back in the passenger side of the car as the traffic lights flash through the windshield.  We’re  almost home.  The time glows digital green from the dashboard of the car.  We’ll make it back just in time to watch our new must-see Sunday night show, “Believe.”

I want to say something a loud to J but I hesitate.  If I say it, that implied meaning it.  Did I mean it or was I compelled because I always felt inspired when I left Mosaic?  Well, mostly inspired, sometimes discouraged by the comparisons I drew between the lives I heard about and my own.

“I feel like I’m trying to preserve my life” I say a loud, like I mean it.  “What am I saving myself for? ”

If I were a pre-recorded message my themes would consist of these phrases:

“Be. SAFE.”

“That. Is. Full. Of. Germs.”

“That. Could. Kill. You.”

“Do. Ing. That. Is. Sue.I.Cide.”

I am apparently saving myself for some great cause and it’s a necessity for me to be without a physical or emotional scratch when the cause reveals itself.

When I ask my questions a loud, I realize that I’ve been aware of the cause most of my life.  I may not have always been old enough, independent enough, or resourceful enough…but those are not excuses I can lean on now.

I connect the dots that have led to it- my cause; my birth in a foreign land, my adoption into a forever family, what I’ve seen as random skill sets accumulated over a decade of careers that just didn’t stick and the people who did.

As we pull up to our house and bring the car to a stop, my cause light goes from yellow to green.

I’ve been afraid to live.  Afraid to get hurt, get dirty, or be unable to find myself home again, safe and sound.

I’d still like to avoid getting hurt and getting dirty but not at the cost of losing my life because I focused so hard on saving it.