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)
I’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 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.
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:
“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.
I met a college Senior from Beaumont, Texas this week who knows a thing or two about that! Read and be inspired! What’s a small risk you can take this week to choose the extraordinary?
I can still feel the soft, feathery tickle of her ears against my face and the way her little paws felt dwarfed by my suddenly over-sized hand.
Jane was hit by a car almost two years ago which means she’s been dead, longer than she’s been alive and I’ve lived without her more years than I’ve actually had her in my life.
But that doesn’t change things.
Until Jane bounded into my life I silently snickered at people who considered their pets a “part of the family.” Sure they were cute, but “family”? These people most certainly lacked significant relationships with others.
And then Jane needed a home.
I fed her salmon from a can to reduce her allergies, invented toys to keep her occupied and got immeasurable pleasure from knowing she loved digging up sand on the beach.
She taught me to say “hello” to neighbors as we passed each other on the sidewalk. She urged me to live my life at home, even though my husband was living halfway around the world without me.
I became one of those people who read Cesar Millan and when Jane died, someone who knew without a doubt that all dogs go to heaven.
I’ll never forget the way she lay lifeless on the grass beside the road or the look of the brake-lights that didn’t flash red, even for a moment.
But I’ll also never forget the shape of the car that did stop and the neighbors who came running to offer their aid and their dismay.
Show me someone who truly loves their dog and I’ll introduce you to someone who knows what it means to be a good friend, spouse and adventurer through life.
When life starts looking like a dead end everywhere you look, consider taking one small risk toward who you’ve always wanted to be! Read my guest post at Spark Good.