I have an ugly confession to make. The wait is getting to me. And I don’t just mean mentally. I’m starting to exhibit symptoms. Symptoms I’m not happy about.
I was very proud of myself for the past year. I was doing well - living in the moment. I had things going on. I was in my groove.
And to tell you the truth, the wait has done good things for me. For both of us, actually. It’s been a busy time for us, a time of hard work and of fruition. It has done good things for our relationship. Two years ago, we were a couple of carefree kids. OK, we’re sorta middle-aged, by traditional standards. But we were living “the life”. We were in Vail. We hiked every day, skied, snowboarded, biked, and did a lot of road tripping. We traveled. We ate well. We experienced the world. We weren’t wealthy, but we had what we needed.
But since starting our adoption journey some 13 months ago, we have evolved into something much better, stronger and more profound than what we were before. We have become adults, and good citizens of the world. We have learned to think like parents, and partners, and responsible citizens of humanity. And to our tremendous surprise, we have greatly enjoyed the transition.
Our decision to adopt coincided (not entirely coincidentally) with our decision to move to the Front Range, buy an actual house (as opposed to the condo that was all we could manage in “resort country”), and get serious about our careers. And that has worked out for us. More than that, it has worked out beyond our expectations. M landed a terrific job with the wonderful health insurance that allowed us to enter the Special Needs adoption program. He was also ambitious enough to take on grad school in his “spare time”, and has pretty much rocked out his business school classes ever since. He’s learned to not only deal with the high-stress lifestyle, but to make it work for him.
Meanwhile, I’ve dived headfirst into my freelance career. While in Vail, I more or less drifted, taking the jobs I could get in either journalism or illustration, not really pushing for more than what I could survive on. Since moving to a more urban environment, I promised myself that I would take full advantage of the larger career opportunities and make something of a real name for myself. I’m not sure that I was really convinced I could do it. I was not, after all, the consummate career woman. But diligence and a 7-day work week have paid off for me.
This year, I have completed my first illustration of a children’s book (release slated for May 2008). That was my goal at the time I left Vail. I really don’t think I believed I would achieve it in under two years. And it gets even better. Recently, I’ve won some illustration jobs that I not only needed but very much wanted, allowing me the ultimate luxury of actually doing what I most love to do...for a living! I’ve also maintained a sideline of portraiture that has both honed my skills and nourished my love of painting children, as well as allowing me to create beautiful things for people who have become my friends.
Through all the ups and downs of the adoption journey, I’ve learned to work through stress and emotional turmoil. I’ve even learned to feed off of it, and to compartmentalize like nobody’s business. The day I had to take my beloved Sam to the vet for what I fully believed would be his last physical exam, I managed to put in a 12-hour work day, and a very successful one at that. These are good lessons to learn. These are lesson which, I sincerely hope, will serve me well once we have Flynn at home with us, and our family life takes on a whole new dimension.
All this is to say that the adoption journey, as long and nerve-wracking as it inevitably is, has served us well. We have learned and grown by leaps and bounds. And it has added tremendously to our overall joy in life.
That said, it is now weighing on me more than it ever has. As we approach our anticipated referral time, every day makes me more anxious. I no longer have the luxury of being immune to all the random rumors that come down the pike. Now, each nervous rumor runs down my nerve paths like a shock wave. I mentally mark off each day on the calendar, and each morning when I wake up I immediately check the adoption lounges and our agency website for any hint of a new list.
I am not a fan of this new über-awareness. I’m not a person who thrives on nervous energy. I prefer serenity. I prefer to live in the moment, rather than in the past or in the future. I prefer to let life follow its own path. These days, I’m troublesomely detail-oriented. I note the date and the time. I pay attention to averages and referral histories. I worry about our dossier. I register time passed.
I noticed, for instance, when it was the 11th of March, exactly two months following our first failed referral. I haven’t spoken about that referral on my blog, for many reasons. It was nobody’s fault. It was one of those things that happens in the adoption world. It was sad, and it was traumatic, and it was difficult for us. That first referral was unexpected, and came earlier than our anticipated refferal timeframe. The child that was referred to us appeared to have a very minor condition, but turned out to have very major health issues, issues so bad that she turned out to be unadoptable. As I said, it was nobody’s fault. It was an extremely rare genetic condition (less than 1 in 10,000) that few doctors would have caught. But it happened, it was dreadfully sad for the child, and it affected M & I both very profoundly.
Eventually, I comforted myself with the idea that it would be approximately another two months before we could expect another referral. When it became clear that the next list would take longer than expected to arrive, my mind began to rebel against me. And , yes, I started to lose my cool.
Since then, I have experienced the expected mental effects: anxiousness, nervousness, a klieg-light glare focused on the corner of my mind that deals with our adoption proceedings.
I also have a weakness that I’m not proud of. I have a system of weights and measures in my mind that leads me to hold the secret belief that I have to give up certain things in order to enjoy other things in my life. I have a private suspicion that I simply cannot “have it all”. It doesn’t seem right, after all, that I should have so much when others in this world have so little. So I balance it out in my mind. By this system of reasoning, a part of me thinks that because I am achieving success and personal fulfillment in my career, and because I have been fortunate enough to have such a wonderful married life, it’s possible that I might not have the same success in my adoption journey. A small, paranoid part of my mind believes that I have to choose between those things.
Now, rationally, I know that this shouldn’t be the case. I have been working hard and diligently at my career. I have also been working hard and well at my home life. There is no reason why this should prevent me from achieving my dream of becoming a mother. Still, some part of me thinks, “Well, if I have to choose...then take away the success I’m having with my work, and give me my Flynn instead. I will deal with the consequences.”
The problem is, that choice is not mine to make. I have been doing my best. I’ve been doing all that I believe is right. I can no more take back the hard work I’ve been doing in my career than I can reverse the success I’ve been handed. And when it comes down to it, I have not been “spoiled” by life. I’m no Paris Hilton. I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth, and I haven’t been handed success on a silver platter. So where is all this guilt coming from? Why do I feel that I have to give up some of my fortune in order to have the right to raise a child?
And I also know that childrearing is no picnic. It’s not a lottery prize. My life will not be a bowl of cherries once I have that much longed-for child to raise. In fact, I will have a whole new set of challenges, a whole slew of new fears to overcome. And work? Well, if I think I’m working hard now, I have another think coming. So, once again, why the guilt complex?
I don’t know. I chalk it all up to nerves. And along with the protracted concept of time, I’ve also been experiencing physical manifestations. A twitch under one of my eyelids. Skin problems that I was never prone to in my youth. Troubled sleep. A temperamental stomach. And the worst problem of all: panic attacks while driving. I can't thank Rony enough for telling me that these stress issues are not unheard-of during the wait. Were it not for her brave post, I might have really thought I was losing my mind. But panic while driving? Really there is no worse fate than that for me, the traveler, the road-tripper, the wanderers’ daughter.
So, there it is. I’m admitting to you, dear readers, my weakest moments. For many months I watched my fellow “waiters” grow antsy, then anxious, then stressed, then angry..and all along I thought, “Hey, chill out! Enjoy your life. It’ll happen when it’s meant to happen.”
So this is me, eating my words.
Hugs to all my friends and fellow waiters. May your road be fruitfull.