The Day Of

I’ve been getting let down quite a bit recently, so going into the birth mom experience, I just tried to keep all expectations at a minimum. I don’t do well with disappointment, so whenever I can avoid that specific experience, I do whatever necessary even if that means blocking out emotions. When people ask if my trip was everything I dreamed it was going to be, I don’t really have an answer. I tried to ignore any dream for so long that it’s impossible to say if the reunion met expectations.

The day of, my nerves were very evident. If there’s one thing I can say for certain involving the first meeting with my biological mother, nerves and adrenaline were involved. I spent several hours the morning of June 28th sitting at a table in front of a coffee shop in downtown Bellingham, Washington attempting to write down everything that was going through my head at the time. I knew that with the stress my mind was under, I would be unable to recall my thoughts after that first contact. This is a small excerpt from those hours:

“It’s today. In fact, it’s in a few hours. It is so soon. So unbelievable. So many questions will be answered and I don’t really know how to approach it at this point. It’s like my brain is frozen on the emotional front, and I want to figure out my feelings so badly without any idea on how to unfreeze everything.

Everyone I come across is asking if I’m excited. If I’m nervous. I should probably have an answer, but I don’t. I don’t know if I’m excited and/or nervous at this point. I guess I’m getting both of those emotions flooding in now thinking about it, which is why I haven’t really been making it a point to think about it.”

At this point, I had a minor emotional breakdown. There’s something to be said for journaling. If nothing else, it allows you to really access feeling and emotions that you are subconsciously suppressing, and it breaks down those walls you’ve put up. I’m lucky enough to have a friend who has been giving me any and all emotional support possible, so I called her as soon as the floodwaters started in my eyes. Honestly, I don’t know if I would have made it through last weekend without her. After asking her to just distract me, I got a handle on my nerves again and was able to continue writing a bit more.

Eventually, even writing was an emotional drain, so I packed up all of my stuff (three to four journals and countless pens, mostly) and walked back to my weekend home. At this point, all I wanted was a complete distraction from the day- a way to escape my mind. I tried to nap, that didn’t work, so I turned to the best option around: netflix.

I don’t remember the fifteen minute walk from my place to the restaurant much. In fact, I just remember small flashes of that walk. What I do remember is almost walking away from the restaurant as soon as I got to the door. My typical response is to run whenever things get uncomfortable, and there was nothing I wanted more than to bolt and forget the whole thing. However, I fought the urge and went inside.

That initial face to face look is something that I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to properly put into words. It was one of those moments that would have been put into slow motion with dramatic music on in the background if it had been in a movie. And then I blurted out “I’m really not sure what I’m supposed to do here” which I suppose broke the ice, but it was just because I felt awkward and wasn’t sure if I was supposed to be comfortable enough for a hug, or just go in for a wave or handshake. I had never thought about what to do after walking in, so I just ended up being my usual awkward self and luckily it worked out.

The dinner went really well. I didn’t really know what to talk about or how to act or even what to do with my hands. I remember running to the bathroom at one point because I needed a breath of fresh air. I think I was pretty successful at keeping the look of overwhelmed panic off of my face, but my whole insides were all twisted up. It wasn’t that I was regretful of making the decision to meet her, but it’s just such a bizarre situation to be in that I was numb and a tangle of electric uncertainty all at once. Thankfully, we only spent a couple hours together mostly listening to my birth mom’s son talk about their trip driving from Idaho to Washington (yes, I technically have a half-brother which is incredible) and then we went our separate ways for the rest of the night.

I walked home in a fog. There are a few hours where I’m not completely sure what I was saying or where I was wandering around, but I ended up at home completely intact, so I didn’t get into too much trouble. I stayed up for a bit just sitting and thinking. I wish I had thought to break out my journal for that night, but I was in mental-processing mode and didn’t think to do much of anything.

I spent the whole next day with my birth mom and her son which was very rewarding and was much more comfortable than the previous night. I’ll hopefully get all of that written down in the next adoption post, but there’s still so much to think through. Overall, I’m so thankful I was able to have this experience. I’m proud of myself (which is something I never say) that I was strong and stubborn enough to do this trip on my own without any full-blown panic attacks. It was a giant leap in the right direction, and it’s something I’ll always be able to look back on with a new sense of calm in my heart.

Whatcom Falls National Park in Bellingham, Washington - June 2015
Whatcom Falls National Park in Bellingham, Washington – June 2015

listening to: Helen Stellar

Fight or Flight

When faced with confrontation, people tend to fall into one of two categories. They either run from it or they stay and fight.

I’m a runner.

I run from fights. I run from people. I run from lies. I run from any uncomfortable situation imaginable when given the chance.

I’m not here to say that either way is right or wrong. I think both reactions can be better for certain situations, but it’s a very rare instance that I’ll stay and fight when I have the chance to escape.

I’ve written lately about some of the struggles I’ve been facing, but I think a big part of my tiredness is just a sense of restlessness. A feeling of containment and loss of adventure. I don’t want to say it’s still a culture shock type of thing, because I’ve been back in the states for four and a half months, but I think it’s more of a “I’m back in this massive country and the sense of newness and exploration has disappeared.” I know that’s probably not a very healthy way of looking at life, but more than just wanting to see new places, it’s become a craving. It’s becoming this way to quench a thirst in my soul.

Maybe it’s just a coincidence, maybe it’s perfect timing, or maybe it’s just because I have some friends who can relate to this feeling more than most, but I recently got offered a chance to go on a week-long trip. This family that I grew up with in Alaska offered to take me with them on a cruise that will make stops in three different countries next week.

Of course I accepted the offer. How could I not accept an offer like that? It’s one of the most selfless gifts I can remember being given in recent history. It gives me a chance to breathe, to relax, to emotionally and mentally recover from whatever I’ve been pushing myself through lately. Most importantly, it’ll give me quite a lot of down time without outside distractions to write and meditate and get back into my right mind.

Back to the fight vs flight conundrum. I feel like this cruise might be a bit of a way for me to escape and avoid some of the conflicts that have been building up or have already happened. If I’m being completely honest, I’m looking forward to the running away. I’m eager to escape from my reality for eight short days. I want a chance to block out all responsibility and accountability that seems to be consistently beating down my door. I want to get back to being fully me without any of the nonsense I’ve been bringing on myself lately.

Obviously, I know that running away for a week doesn’t fix the major problems. I know that running forever doesn’t fix anything in the long run. This is why I’ve stopped permanently escaping for the most part. I do face things and deal with problems now when absolutely necessary.

However, I wait. I breathe. I think. I recover. And then I deal.

Lago di Lugano- Paridiso, Lugano, Switzerland
Lago di Lugano- Paridiso, Lugano, Switzerland

listening to: Mat Kearney, Hushpuppies

The Shoes

I have these shoes. They’re easily my most prized item of clothing. It’s not that they’re worth a lot of money or are from a top designer. Rather, it’s the fact that they represent a beautiful story.

I got them the week after Thanksgiving last year. This was a particularly difficult time for me emotionally. I had just informed my now ex-husband that I was filing for divorce three weeks prior, and we spent Thanksgiving dinner together at a Golden Corral because we had no family to visit and no kitchen to eat in. I very vividly remember getting a bowl of macaroni and cheese and a salad and eating maybe two bites before everything tasted like cardboard. That night, a friend and I left to spend the weekend in Dallas. We went to a concert, ate and drank far more than any two people should, and did copious amounts of shopping. The shoes were my big purchase of the trip.

About two weeks later, my aunt passed away after an extremely long and difficult battle with multiple sclerosis. My shoes accompanied me to the gravesite as my family said their final goodbyes. The wind was sharp and cold, and the only part of my body that had any sort of warmth and comfort were my feet. It seems silly to think about that now and write the words down, but when you’re in the midst of difficulties, the strangest thoughts pop into your head, even thoughts about how it’s nice that at least your feet are warm.

I spent the next five weeks in Texas with family and friends. There was a four day period where I stayed with some friends and we took a mental vacation with hours upon hours spent playing video games with short breaks only for sleep and food. I would reach down and tie the laces of my shoes so often without looking that they almost seemed to tie themselves.

Soon after that, I took the biggest leap out of my comfort zone yet and moved to Frankfurt. The shoes accompanied me through bag checks, security lines, and customs. I wore them for countless walks around the small village of Kelsterbach with an infant that quickly stole my heart. They kept my feet comfortable and warm through rainy days back and forth from the middle of the city picking up the greatest little girl I’ve ever known from preschool every day.

They were the only shoes I brought with me when I went to Israel a month later for work with the family I lived with. It was during one of the days wandering through the maze of streets that make up the old city of Jerusalem when the left shoe acquired an inky black mark on the toe. I still have no idea what it is, but I don’t think I really care to know.

I walked around the streets of Paris wearing the shoes even though they had started to show a little bit of wear and tear. They accompanied me to Lugano in the south of Switzerland. They were the only shoes I brought when I visited a friend in Aarau, Switzerland, so when I rode on the back of his motorcycle from his flat back to the train station in Basil in the rain for an hour, my shoes were drenched and didn’t end up drying out for two days. When I finally got back to the states, I wore the shoes walking around the city of New York, and they supported me through the hours I spent on my feet at the Warsaw bar in Brooklyn during the Damien Rice show, which is arguably in the top 5 moments of my life thus far.

When I was talking to a friend last night about writing this post, I told him that it felt a bit superficial to be writing an entire blog post about a pair of shoes. However, this point in all of this is that these shoes have become a physical symbol of the changes I’ve been through this year. They might be a bit beat up and worn down, but I am absolutely in love with the character that the dirt and water have added. There are stories behind every little mark, and that’s the beauty of it.

shoes

listening to: Glen Hansard

Transition Time

It’s already been three weeks since I left Germany, and I can’t believe the weeks have gone by so quickly. I’ve been so busy that all of this writing has kinda taken a back seat, but I’m trying to figure out a way to schedule my time better to get all of my thoughts out.

I think that the time period of adjusting back to a way of living you were once accustomed to, but had changed, is a very interesting one. I’ve picked habits and behaviors back up without really being aware of why I’m doing them. The way I eat, sleeping routines, and my attitude all had slight shifts while I was in Germany, and part of me is almost worried that those changes I made will disappear completely if I don’t make a very conscious effort to keep them around.

A little rundown of what all has happened in the past three weeks is probably a good way to continue this post. I find that when I stop writing for a while, the first thing I hit “publish” on can be a little robotic and awkward in the sense that I’m trying to rediscover my voice.

I flew back into the states on October 15. I only spent a little over 12 hours outside of the airport because the next morning, I flew from Texas to New York to see Damien Rice on the end of his American tour for his new album. I’ve never flown anywhere for a concert before, so that by itself was an exciting experience, but the fact that I got to go with one of my closest friends from high school and stay with another friend while we were up there put the trip at an entirely different level. We only spent two nights in the city and flew back to Texas on Saturday morning, but it was a trip I’m not likely to forget anytime soon. Shameless plug: if you want to see some of the photos I took while up there, make sure to be following my InstagramWe did the entire trip very cheaply, because cheap trips are quickly becoming my speciality, so I’ll be trying to break down everything like I did for my Paris trip.

I had one day at home with my parents before my mom and I drove eight hours west on I-20 through Texas to visit her side of the family. It had been almost a year since I had seen all of them, and my grandmother hasn’t been in the best state of health this year, so it was really important to visit while I had some free time. There were multiple choir concerts attended, hugs for days, and even an incident involving my mom and aunt embarrassing me by having me sing an impromptu song at the nursing home for my grandmother. It was a fun trip, and I think what I needed to help with the adjustment process of living in Texas again.

Coming back to Texas meant one major thing: finding a job was the necessary next step. Lucky for me, I have plenty of friends still in the area and two days after spending time with some of those friends, I got hired to be a server at one of the local hibachi restaurants in town. I’ve never worked as a server or really in any sort of food service job, unless you count my first summer job at a snow cone stand, so it’s been an interesting transition into this kind of work. The hours are the complete opposite of what I’ve spent the last 10 months working, but the late nights suit me much better than early mornings. I keep telling myself that there are all sorts of lessons and experiences to be learned from a serving job, so it’ll be interesting to reflect on those once I’ve had a little more exposure in this field.

Cotton fields and wind turbines- West Texas
Cotton fields and wind turbines- West Texas

Home Is Where the Heart Is

Last week, I got back from spending twelve days in my happiest of all places: Alaska. I stated before I left that Alaska has a way of getting into your soul, and it couldn’t be more true. I’ve visited three times since moving away, and I feel like every time I’ve left, I’ve also left a bit of me there. I think part of it (for me) is also that being born and adopted there means that there’s still some connection waiting for me there. When you spend your entire life feeling like there’s part of you missing because you know next to nothing about your biological history, there’s a tendency to cling to whatever connection you do know of. For me, that’s Alaska. That’s the hospital I was born in, the apartment my biological mother lived in, the lives that my other family members created for themselves up there. There are unknown places and faces left for me to uncover and just being in the same area code soothes that wondering a bit more.

I digress. These are the thoughts and emotions that are constantly milling around in my mind. Today was meant to be lighthearted- an overview of my time up there.

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I had a list of about ten things and people I wanted to see while I was up there for this visit. Due to some transportation issues, a few of those places I wanted to visit had to be put off until my next visit. I did get to catch up with several more old friends that I originally had anticipated, so that was a nice surprise. However, one of the most exciting days has to be the day that I got to see my old house. I had already gotten to wander around my elementary school where I spent far more time in than necessary thanks to being the daughter of a teacher, so the day had already been completely successful. I have this (not so secret anymore) dream of getting to live in the house I was raised in, so the friend I was with agreed to drive me by the house. We pulled up next to the front yard and sat idling on the side of the street while I pointed out several different parts visible from the outside. We must have looked a little suspicious, because the man who lived there came out to check who we were. I jumped out of the car, explained what we were doing, and soon we were getting invited into the house to look around! This surpassed anything I thought would happen, and I was overjoyed to see that everything was exactly as I remembered. I didn’t make it upstairs to see my old room and the addition that my mom designed because the stairs were torn up due to a remodel, but even seeing part of the house was a dream come true.

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While I was there, I also got to catch up with several friends from elementary school and a couple friends from the church I went to in Anchorage. The friend I was staying with took me out to the zoo, which had completely grown and expanded, and we did some outdoor exploration surrounded by views that no camera can truly capture. I caught myself thinking at least twice daily that if I had the opportunity, I would move back there in a heartbeat. There truly is nothing better than getting the chance to live in Alaska.

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listening to: The Civil Wars