8/16/09

Self-possession


Ever since I met QQ, and even before, when I first saw her photos, and the joyous personality that radiated from them, I've been trying to find a word or phrase for what QQ has that makes her who she is. "Self-confidence" was the obvious one, but it's almost too obvious. Self-confidence is a very common term. She has it in spades, no doubt about that. But she has something else. Recently, I've hit upon "self-possession" as the most accurate term so far that describes her.

My only hesitation about the term is that "self-possession" has a hint of reserve to it, and QQ is anything but reserved. She is not, for instance, "self-contained" - because she contains nothing. She lets it all hang out. She hides nothing, and never dissimulates. She is also definitely not a loner. She thrives on others, without "needing" any one person to use as a crutch. She uses the people who love her as fuel for her fire, rather than as security blankets.

She is self-possessed because she owns herself 150%. She has no apologies, and no doubts. If she stumbles and falls, she gets right back up without embarrassment or shame. She owns who she is, and she's proud of it. If she is hurt - really hurt (because a slight fall is no cause for alarm in her world) - she rages briefly, and then moves on. If she shows any sign of resentment against her lot, it is a brief flame of righteous anger against whatever it was that hurt her so badly. If she falls hard while running, and cracks her head on something hard, she is briefly furious at the object which she hit. If she finds she is unhurt, she just shrugs, brushes herself off, and tries again.

This is part of her thick skin, part of her resilience, and also part of her grace. There is grace in self-possession. There is beauty in the ability to trust onesself entirely, and to give the benefit of the doubt to the world around. This kind of certainty and "lightness of being" is a rare skill.

There are plenty of other qualities in her, of course, most of which play into her self-possession. She is happy by nature, which lightens everything else in her environment. There is also the ability not to take herself too seriously (this lessens the propensity for shame). There is an innate sense of humor (which is one of the things I value the most in any human being). There is a genuine affection for the human race in general, and for loved ones in particular.

All of these qualities are things that she had even before she met us, so we cannot take credit. I do believe that we have reinforced these qualities in her, because daily and weekly (even now, a year after her adoption) she grows happier, more joyful, and more affectionate.

But all of these things are also what made her the person who shone out at us through that beatific smile in the photos we first received from China, and which created the person we first met during a hot and humid July in Easter China last year.

As strange and surreal, as shocking and arduous were our first days with her in China, I was able to be astonished and humbled by how well she took it. If it was difficult and bizarre for us, it must have been twice as difficult for her. She didn't have the intellectual understanding of what was happening to her. She hadn't made the conscious decision to be adopted. She hadn't read the books on adoption and attachment. She hadn't taken the classes, or been briefed by her peers. It must have been for her (and I've used this metaphor before) like an alien abduction. Terrifying. Disorienting. Strange and shocking and shattering.

And yet this tiny girl, not even a year old, was bulletproof even then. She didn't sob or lash out or languish. She was a little in shock, for sure, as were we. But she took it like a prizefighter. She stayed wide open to the new experiences. She gave us the benefit of the doubt. She looked at us with limpid eyes wide open, and took us in, rationally and kindly. She never turned away or tried to hide. She didn't oversleep or sob in the night. By day, she was a bit dazed, but ready and willing to giggle and smile with us when she found us amenable.

How many of us are able to be so open, so brave, and so in love with life that we can make the best of even the most devastating of circumstances? That said, she's no Pollyanna. She makes the best of things, but she's no ones patsy. She's gutsy and forceful and knows exactly who she is. She's fearless and loving and confident. She lets everyone know exactly what she wants, and when, and how, but she also gives everyone something back in return.

If I was ever in awe of a person, I am in awe of this child.

5 comments:

Cavatica said...

First of all, that is the perfect picture for that post. Secondly, I could say the same about our BB, except a few fears are coming through as she is getting older. A little shyness upon initial greetings now, but it fades quickly. Then there's that darned toilet. Scary as all get out. But we had the same China transition experience. I have admired her toughness from day one. This girl, my daughter (wow!) has so much to teach me, as I am nothing like that. It is truly awesome. I'm so glad you are able to write it so nicely, as I cannot.

Yoli said...

Children as a whole have this capacity due to their age but also due to the way their parents react to them and their environment. She had a great start. She had parents well informed, sensitive and forgiving. I hope one day you will be able to ad a sibling to Q, simply because she would make a great big sister. She is an extraordinary child that is for certain. Through her mother's eloquence we have gotten to know her and love her. Beautiful post Maia.

Jan said...

Beautifully "Self-Possessed"!!! Good for you, QQ!!!

Kris said...

I've been in awe of her since day one Maia. Still am. I could learn so much from her and wish I could somehow draw on her courage and strength as I feel I need it, right now. She amazes me. What a blessing she is. I am so glad to know her through you, through your writing- at this distance. I hope one day I can look her in the eyes and smile back at them :O)

Jenifer said...

It is truly awesome. I'm so glad you are able to write it so nicely..
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Jenifer
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