Thursday, 29 October 2015

Looking For You

I'm in the mood for haunting.
The places I once went.
A bench. A room. A street...
Rubbing hands together in the cold night air.
Turning the coat collar up.
Dressing all in black.

I'm in the mood for contemplating
Blazing lights from pretty windows
Up and down the boulevard.
Faces at the glass
That stare blank into the night.
Reminding me how we stare
Blankly past others
Treat them as if they were ghosts
Invisible in the wake of our own light.

I'm in the mood for pretending
I am
Rootless and forgotten.
A faint trace of something that is lacking.
Left holding the fort alone.
I want to tell you
My heart might be pure but
Do not invite me in.

I'm in the mood for wandering.
Back and forth and lost.
In the mood for wishing and a million sunlit smiles.

But the night is dark and dangerous.
There is no helpless laughter.
No joyful creasing eyes...
Where are you?
Where did you go?
Are you on the bench?  Are you at the window?
Are you blazing light?  Are you insubstantial?
Am I just looking past you?  Are you all alone?

Thursday, 22 October 2015

5 Things That We Didn't Expect When Adopting Internationally

Aside from the long-awaited referral call, for many families that choose to adopt internationally, the journey to another country to meet and legally adopt their new addition is one of the most exciting parts of the entire adoption journey.

It certainly was for us.  It's a thrilling, dizzying time of preparations made at breakneck speed. It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of traveling to an exotic destination and the joyful anticipation of finally meeting the new baby or child.

In many cases, the adoptive family doesn't have much time between the Big Call and the Big Trip.  In our first adoption, we traveled to Sri Lanka a mere two weeks after getting the call that told us the sex and age of our child.  It's easy to get carried away with planning for the upcoming journey because throughout the whole adoption process, adoptive parents are left with little control.  All the control we imagine we have over our lives, in terms of privacy, finances, timing, is stripped away until we realize somewhat painfully, that we are powerless, dependent.  Then along comes this trip.  Once again we have control.  We can buy tickets, get vaccinations, give notice at work, pack our bags, decorate a nursery, celebrate with family and friends because for the first time in years, we have something concrete in our lives!

It is thrilling and breath-taking and wonderfully exciting, don't get me wrong.  It's an adventure.  Like any adventure however, on our journeys to meet our children, we didn't really know what to expect and surprise of all surprises, we didn't really have any control.

Here are five things we didn't expect (but perhaps should have) when we traveled to our children's birth countries to adopt.

1)  That it's not a vacation.

My husband and I are travelers at heart and normally would have tried to soak up all we could in these fascinating, vibrant places, but these trips were not vacations and we weren't tourists.   We were there for a reason and that reason was so all encompassing that it blocked out almost everything else for us.  This isn't to say we didn't have some amazing experiences like riding elephants, visiting beautiful temples, and eating altogether too much incredible fish curry and fresh mango.  We did have the chance to do some things that our guide suggested but the whole focus of our trip, the uncertainty of whether we would actually be allowed to adopt the baby we were visiting every day and coming to love, put our minds into "one track" mode.  That mode was basic survival mode, catching moments of wonder where we could but mainly concentrating on the task at hand, adoption.

2) That it's tough.

We were overwhelmed.  Our days were a mixture of stomach churning stress and mindless vegging out.  The two kind of balanced each other out.  We started almost every morning by smiling at each other over breakfast, squeezing each others hands and saying "We can get through this, remember, we've been through worse."  This wasn't because we had bad attitudes, rather the opposite.  We were positively acknowledging that this was tough and draining but we knew with all our hearts, it was also worth it.   We usually ended our days collapsed on the hotel bed, ordering room service with good Sri Lankan beer.  We were happy but we were exhausted.

3) That we were traveling to a country in recovery.

Many of the countries people adopt from are recovering in some way from some form of trauma.  We knew that Sri Lanka's 30 year civil war had ended only four months before our arrival but knowing it intellectually and seeing the evidence of it before our eyes was a different experience for us.  We were unprepared for the guards with machine guns outside the hotel or for check points or for having our taxi driver point out bullet holes in the wall where people had been executed as though it was just another sight to see.

4) That we would love it so intensely.

We weren't prepared for the intensity of the feelings we experienced for our children's birth countries.  We feel that these places are a part of us, that they are knitted into our souls. The pride and love we feel for these countries is as strong as what we feel for our own lands.

5) That Not Everyone Will Approve Of International Adoption

Our instinct was to excitedly tell people we met that we were spending time in their country because we were adopting a child.  We learned fairly quickly however not to announce that this in casual conversation.  While many people had positive reactions, some people did not and the idea of a child being taken out of his or her country by foreigners upset them.

Everyone will have their own unique experiences with this.  This is simply ours.  The two trips we have taken to bring our children home have been the most exciting we've experienced.  So if you are preparing for an adoption journey, God speed.  It is worth every hurdle and challenge!

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

The Closing of October

I walked by an old house today.
The yard was full of trees.
The trees were full of birds.
Singing.  Glorious.  Chaotic.
And I thought how strange
That they should sing
With so much soul
So much relish
At the closing of October.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Shadow Places

Sometimes I don't want to tell you big things.
I want to drown
In the comfortable, the known, the light.
I want to shut my eyes and hide in plain sight.
I've been a ghost
And I've felt at ease in the lull.  The silence.  The no-man's land of pain.
I've gone outside and no one has seen me.
I've knocked on the glass and waited to be let in.
I've smiled and spoken
And passed through time
Lingered all the places
You once saw me.
You have a memory of a girl with a scribbled in guidebook.
A tired girl sitting on a bench along the Rhine on a cool September night.
A shadowy glimpse of a girl walking away feeling as light as the air.

Sometimes I dream of time moving backward
To city fountains and light reflecting on black water and smoky night cafes.

Forward to all the things we would never have expected in a million years.
To spirits outside the doors and in the water and black heavy skies and sudden flashes of brilliance.
Destruction and radiance all over the place.

What happened?  What went right for you?  What went wrong?

Sometimes I have nothing to say.  Nothing to tell you or anyone.

Then sometimes I want to only tell you the big things.
I lose all patience with the little things.
I want loss.

I want to overthrow all the gods of falseness and the little white lies we worship.
I want to leave their temples in ruins
And forget them forever.

I want to tell you something.
I've had enough of being someone
I just barely recognize.

I am going to sit and stare at the stars,
Stand on sand and listen to the ocean,
Lie on the grass like I did when I was a child
Until I recall who I am.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

The Cringe Worthy Poet

Oh dear.  You see, I've been writing poetry and creative prose since I was around 13.  I can't imagine who my influences were at the time aside from the flowery, romantic British poets we learned about in English class.  I often used slightly old fashioned, ornamented phrasing  in my poems and bizarre rhyme schemes that made sense only in my head.  But I took myself and my writing quite seriously.  If you had asked me at 14 what I wanted to be I would have said a writer.  Actually I would have said a penniless writer because that is just how seriously I took it.  I didn't just want to write, I wasn't going to be a writer unless I could be some tragic obscure figure, suffering and starving for my art.  It just wouldn't be worth it otherwise.

At the age of 14, I went off to a Catholic girls boarding school and wore a uniform every day and I met writer friends.  We purposely did things that proved we were writers like dye our hair fiery red or cut it very short or wear old man's pants we found for a couple of dollars at second hand shops.  Of course these pants we only wore after school hours when it wasn't necessary to wear our navy blue kilts and crisp white shirts.  Once we even had a weekend away from the school and daringly went to a poetry reading in a smoky cafe.  We liked obscure artsy things.  To be fair though, we also did write.

This is on my mind now because I hadn't really looked at my earlier writing for years and recently decided to pull them all out and give all that brilliance a dust off.  I don't keep much but I had kept binders and journals and scribblers full of words.  In my mind, they were quite good.  In reality, as I read, I found myself blushing, cringing and laughing to myself in a mildly embarrassed way, eyes darting nervously around the room to make sure no one was there.  My first instinct was to rid my life of the evidence.  Throwing it away would be dangerous...burning it perhaps would be wiser.  But then rather fondly, I began to think what if I had never written these things at all?  There is no doubt they were very poor pieces but we have to start somewhere.  If I would never have written them then maybe I would simply have never written at all.

My point is, we need to write bad things we think are worthy and decent at the time.  They are the stepping stones that lead us forward, into the practice of writing something halfway decent, something that doesn't embarrass us and then lastly after a very long time, perhaps if we grow and learn and stretch, we write something we are truly proud of.  Nobody starts off excellent and as much as writing is a talent, it is an extremely difficult discipline as well.

So here's to hundreds of crappy poems.  They were intensely felt but poorly executed.  They have their place in my life too. 

(I am not saying I am past the cringe worthy stage anytime soon, but I am giving it a go at least!) :)