The Stories We Tell Ourselves

Our lives are made up of stories. Stories that are written in the now on the blank pages that once were future. Remembering is mentally flipping back through the chapters to that “one time when…” So of course, it follows that these stories are important…they help shape who we are and the choices we make. They create the dots that we connect when looking back on how we arrived at a certain destination.

In preparation for and then after becoming a birthmother when I gave my first son up for adoption, I repeatedly told myself the same story to help me be strong in my choice. This story was essentially that I had made the best possible decision for everyone concerned under the circumstances. My son would be loved and raised by two parents who were better prepared for such a huge responsibility. I still believe this story is true, but it is only now, almost 22 years later, that I am recognizing the undercurrent of that story I have been telling myself.

People who know of the adoption imagine that I must be a strong person. I have heard that I am incredibly generous, self-sacrificing, and brave. These adjectives that they weave into my story make me uncomfortable. I do not believe any of those things about me. Paging back in my book, I see a scared and powerless girl. I see, feel, taste, and smell failure. She failed her choice in husband, she failed her parent’s dreams for her, she failed her daughter’s opportunity to grow up with her biological brother, she failed at raising her son at all…she failed herself. This is the flip side of making the “best possible decision” for my son. I chose better for him because I was not good enough.

Periodically during the first five or six years of his childhood, I was able to place notes and still-photos sent from his parents. The images of his beautiful smiling face and the stories of his charming disposition were a comfort to my heart. How could I regret his happy life? The updates peppered the pages like a scrap-book, spreading further apart until the day the letters stopped completely. The following years were just blank pages…

Something has been bothering me lately. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was until I realized that I am grieving. The candy coating has cracked and is falling away. I have raised a daughter and son and we have a complete encyclopedia of experiences together. I have passed familial stories down to them in both words and actions like supplements to DNA. I didn’t realize how important the merging of these stories with life experiences would be to me. I am grieving all that I missed and all that I could not give him. I am grieving the blank pages in between his adoption and our reunion.

I would not change the choices I have made because to do so would change the very person I am today. I rather like her, and the life that I have written is full of many blessings and much happiness. However, this is another reason why I grieve this loss. Because even though I believe the words I just wrote, every once in a while I can’t help going down the “what if” road. I wonder about the stories we might have written together. If I can claim that I wouldn’t change the many disappointments and heartaches that I have suffered through just to be the person I am today, then I am convinced that this alternative life is also full of many blessings and much happiness and the same convictions of not changing a thing.

My story as a birthmother is complex. I made the right decision, but I didn’t. I don’t regret my choice, but I do. I wouldn’t change a thing, except for the things I’d change if I could. It may seem contradictory, but this is my emotional ballast. After all, who would I be if I never missed my son? I’m not as much of a failure after all.

When I started writing this post, I was not sure if I would have the courage to hit the “Publish” button and send my story out to the world-wide-web. Writing is often a therapeutic exercise for me and though my intention when sitting down was to write for the blog, I grew reluctant over fear my words may cause unintentional pain to others involved (if they were to read it). I decided to publish in part because I believe “Elizabeth Said So” needs to be real. Through writing, I am discovering things that I have hidden away from judgment (yours and mine) as we all tend to do, and in doing so, I am experiencing much-needed personal growth. The other part is that this is me continuing to reclaim my role as birthmother; a role I hid from most people for many years. I locked my emotions away with my stories and as the saying goes, “Feelings buried alive, don’t die.” I picked up this particular shovel with my blog post, What Kind of Person Am I?, and continued digging away while writing a memoir for my son about his birth story (soon to be self-published!). The work continues…

Thanks for listening.

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Sending Out an S.O.S!

I stepped into the shower this morning, and as per usual, allowed my thoughts to wander. My mind settled on the issue of the moment…I’ve started writing again…so now what??? I had nothing. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a flash of movement scurry across the glass door and settle on the corner of the floor. I let out an involuntary *small* scream as I noted it was a big hairy spider. It wasn’t moving anymore, so I just kept a watchful eye on it every moment or two. My mind now centered on the current theme of the morning…fear. I had just finished watching the TED Talk by Sting, “How I started writing again” about his long struggle with writer’s block.  (If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. Quite a powerful story, and his song Message in a Bottle is now a more poignant and vivid story in my mind because of it.) So, yes…I was afraid that the spider was going to do…something, but more than that I was afraid that my ideas of things to write about had dried up. After all, if it can happen to an artist like Sting, than who am I to be confident?

I have been reading a LOT of self -improvement and personal growth books and listening to speakers on Hay House radio in the past several months, so of course I recognized my “ego” starting up the same old drama and negative self-talk. So many different methods at improving oneself but they can be distilled into basics – the first step is to recognize your symptoms as they occur and counteract them. Reduce negativity. Emphasize the positive. Incorporate healthy habits for spiritual, physical, emotional, and mental aspects of your life. How you get there is what is different for everyone. My fear of running out of ideas was untested – it was just a figment of my imagination and not based on reality at all.  So as I talked my fear down and turned off the water, my attention focused back to the spider. Was it still alive? Was it going to jump at me if I tried to step over it?

I leaned over to discover my fear was a hair ball. How appropriate.

Have a great day everyone. Be Fearless!

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Revival of the Fittest

Ah well…what do they say about good intentions? Here it is – about 18 months since the last post…and what I have I written and accomplished since then?

Obviously I failed miserably at updating this blog. Also, I still do not speak Spanish. Perhaps I have learned (again) that I shouldn’t make a promise that I’m not sure I can keep. We’ll see. Image

I did check a few things off the list. I finished writing my book and did publish a copy for my son. I have been putting off publishing it for the public because when I really think about it, the prospect is a bit scary. I am coming to terms with it now, so efforts will go forward again to do a few edits and set it up in CreateSpace rather than Blurb so it can be easily available on Amazon.

I also completed my associates degree in business administration. With a 4.0 average, no less. I’m not using it though. I guess you could call it my backup plan but I am spending my time getting my passion work business off the ground.

I successfully became a grandma (Whew! That was hard!) to the cutest and sweetest little boy, but I am not able to visit often enough as his parents live in a different state.

Speaking of different states…my husband accepted a job position in the south. During this past summer he moved down to Georgia while I stayed in Minnesota to finish my semester in school and sell the house. Our son graduated from high school and decided to stay put, but he did help me pack up the moving truck when I followed Bob to the land of sunny skies and peach trees on every corner. We found and bought another house. Our first empty nest. I think I’m done moving for a while now, please and thank you. Some things you just can’t foresee happening though, right?

This Is The Year I _______.

Well, first of all, it should be the year I “say more” on this site! I allowed myself to drop the habit of blogging before it had even begun. I vow here and now to do better in 2013.

I’ve been told that if you really want to be great at something, you need to have continuous practice. So, not only do I promise to write more here, but I have a new blog that will be focused on writing memoirs – the lessons, tips, and struggles that I found and learned on my own writing journey. This may be my defining year as a writer, as I intend to complete my birthmother story that was sparked in part by my blog post, What Kind of Person Am I?  This project did not get as much attention as it needed last year, but I have set a firm goal to have it finished by August 2013. Its original purpose started as a gift for my oldest son, who was adopted at birth, but I have had requests to make it available to a wider audience and the story has grown to be so much more than I imagined, and so…this is the year I become a self-published author.

I also plan on completing the next segment of my college education this year. I enrolled in a local college this past fall and completed 15 credit hours toward a business degree. I have another 15 credit hours to go of core business classes for the spring semester. After that, I will decide if it is worth taking General Statistics and an ethics/philosophy class next fall in order to earn a piece of paper with the words “Associates of Business Degree” printed in a fancy font on it. It may be a choice between that and my sanity. I don’t have to think about that right this minute, but no matter what I choose to do…this is the year I become more educated in business.

Just for fun, this is the year I am going to (attempt to) learn to speak Spanish. Muy bien, si?

Even more fun, this is the year I become a grandma. This one will be the most exciting and easiest goal to accomplish (for me)! 🙂

How will you finish the sentence?  This is the year I _____.

WWMMD (What Would Mary Magdalene Do)?

Demeaning females and the subjugation of women is nothing new.  We appear to be in the midst of another wave with the so-called “war on women;” this time started by politicians who wish to start taking back some of their control over the female gender by way of legislature.  Oh, if they could just turn back the clocks to when women were more silent in the roles our patriarchal society determined for them, and they were complacent despite their own needs because “Father Knows Best.”

I don’t like the label of “war” on the current struggle going on. War implies violence, death, destruction.  I wonder if sensationalizing in this way was intentional, to somehow make it easier to minimize the actual struggle that is taking place.  As if to say, “She exaggerates everything; it’s all about the drama.”

This is not war.  It’s reclamation.

In ancient times, archeological findings have shown that the female form was most revered and considered divine.  The Goddess belief system from humanity’s past survived for tens of thousands of years in egalitarian societies, many without weapons of war or protections against the possibility of an invasion.  Christianity and other patriarchal religions have ruled modern-day societies for only about two thousand years, and with it they have negated the role of the female as a male’s equal.

It’s not hard to interpret words to bend to a belief system that one wishes to propagate.  Even the Holy Bible has been revised (edited/interpreted/changed) many times since its beginning.  The retraction of obviously erroneous interpretations, however, can be harder to accomplish.  When the portrayal of Mary Magdalene as a prostitute, a rumor started by Pope Gregory the Great in the year 591, was reversed in 1969 by the Vatican, hardly anyone took note, and the myth is continuously perpetuated to this day.

The controversial gnostic gospels portray a very different description of Mary Magdalene.  She is depicted as Jesus’s favorite disciple, not as one of the women who fawned over him and the disciples as a star-crazed groupie.  She is the one who was his closest confidant — the one who understood him above all others.  Many discount these gospels, but there can be no denying that even the books of the bible that do remain have shown Jesus to be a feminist.  Yes, Jesus looked upon women as equals, and this is in the Bible as it is written today.

A couple of years ago, I participated in a study group that focused on feminist theology.  During the topic of Mary Magdalene and her story, I remembered the teachings of my childhood church on Mary, and they were along the lines of the prostitute story.  When “Jesus Christ Superstar” came out, my parents bought the album and I listened to the tracks many times.  My favorite was “I Don’t Know How to Love Him,” sung by the character of Mary Magdalene.  As I revisited the song with my new-found knowledge, I got a little angry.  It has such a beautiful melody, but the misogynist lyrics had ruined it for me.  And so, I decided to reclaim it.  I asked myself:  What Would Mary Magdalene Do?  And this is what she said:

Ode of Mary Magdalene (by ElizabethSaidSo)

 I don’t know how this happened
How the facts have been altered
I’ve been changed, yes really changed
In this modern world’s tale of me
I seem like someone else.
 
I don’t know how to take this
Why desire to discount me
Just because I am a girl
There is no need to be afraid
There’s wisdom in His love
I am His love.
 
Should I laugh out loud?
Should I scream and shout?
Should I speak of love?
Let the wisdom out?
 
I never thought it’d come to this
What’s it all about?
 
Don’t you think it’s rather scary?
That such a thing can even happen
The truth was lost and altered such
That I would be a prostitute!
Not worthy of the Life
It’s just not so.
 
I never thought It’d come to this
What’s it all about?
 
Let me set the record straight
We are love.  We are worthy.
That’s the truth. The Gospel truth.
My Jesus taught us how to love
He wants us all to know
I am his love.
 
You are His love.
We are His love.

A Lesson from Legos

The unwelcome sound of paper tearing filled the small bathroom. I was kneeling on the cold tiles, the willing and only witness for my brother, Chris. At almost 6 years of age, his fingers were not patient or gentle enough to ease the tape from the fragile paper unharmed. It was still days before Christmas, so after gazing at the box for long moments, he reluctantly returned it to the blue paper covering. We re-taped the paper as best we could, hoping no one would notice, but both excited for his good fortune.

As for me, I have always enjoyed the surprise factor. Mine, yours, anyone’s. There is a Christmas photo of me perched on a chair, looking over my sister Alex opening a Madame Alexander doll. According to the picture, I am more excited than she is with my mouth open wide in a squeal of delight. It was the same for Chris. To be witness to any joyous surprise, even in secret behind the locked bathroom door, is what I crave.

I distinctly remember shaking a present one year, and instantly knew it contained Legos. Rather than being excited, I experienced a complete sense of disappointment. Trying to guess was part of the game, but I didn’t want to win it.

The impact of that Christmas let-down evolved as I got older. It became a goal to try to ensure that the gifts I gave were not guess-able. I remember feeling absolute glee as a friend, shaking his present, tried hopelessly to guess what it contained. I don’t remember what the present was, but I do know the 3 marbles I added to the box made sure he wouldn’t know either until he got to open it.

Many years ago, I gave my husband, Bob, an Intel 486 upgrade chip for his computer. It seemed so small and insignificant, so I wrapped it in progressively bigger boxes, adding little trinkets for a noise factor. Our daughter, Nikole, was only about 3 at the time, so the joy was exponential, as she giggled right alongside me when Bob opened yet another box to find…a wrapped box.

These memories have nurtured and rewarded me more than the actual gifts that I have given or received, and I owe it in part to an obvious box of Legos.

You Are Who I Am…Thanks!

It’s hard to believe Thanksgiving is in less than a week! Several of my friends on Facebook have been posting a daily gratitude, making the entire month a time of thanks-giving.  I have enjoyed reading the messages, but I thought I would write my own here.

First of all, I want to thank the United States taxpayers – especially the ones in the early 1990s.  Without your support, I would not have had the food stamps and WIC vouchers that fed me and my daughter.  I would not have had the $132 a month to buy diapers, yard sale/thrift store clothing, and the odd toy for Nikole.  I would not have been able to take her to the doctor for her well check visits or when she was sick.  I very much appreciate the hand up when I needed it so badly, and I am proud that I have been able to work and contribute my own tax dollars to the till in the years since.

I want to thank every person who has stolen my belongings, injured my body, and taken advantage of my good will.  Even though I doubt any of them will ever read these words, I am grateful to them.  They have been my greatest teachers.  I have learned so much and my spirit has grown taller because of those lessons.

I want to thank each and every friendly face (or note) I have ever had the chance to meet.  You enrich my daily existence and give me sustainable hope.  You are the vitamins for my soul and the icing on my cake!  My heart is so full, and I love you for it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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