From the Corner of a Bookstore Cafe

I sit at a table that’s too tall for me to relax and gives me a vantage of the room, my back to two walls.  A defensible spot.  Nearby eight woman my age and older are gathered, chatting as friends do, and I envy them.  Its ridiculous, this envy.  I know nothing of any of them.  I know nothing of their lives or their problems.  It’s the rare woman who has reached middle age without accruing some worries and pain.  But they laugh, and I wish I knew them well enough to join in.

I miss laughing.  It’s not that I never laugh.  It’s just that the laughter is often forced, or forgotten so quickly because I’m living life on this high chair in the corner, my back to two walls, defensive.

I am working on this.  On myself, because it’s finally dawning on me that I can’t really work on anyone else.  No matter how much I want to.  So now I’m learning mindfulness.  I’m training my brain to Be Still.  God has directed me to find stillness for over thirty years, I suppose its time I look at a freaking map.  Yesterday during my ten minute mindfulness exercise the nice man with the British accent told me to think about my motivation for wanting to be mindful.  Anxiety I thought.  Or more accurately, to stop feeling anxious all the time.  Nice British Voice told me to think of my loved ones and how my ten minutes of mindfulness would benefit them.  So I won’t make them anxious I answered in my mind.  It felt like grasping.  It felt like reacting, the way I always do.  The way I walk into a room and L’s voice is raised and Husband’s voice is taking the “talking to a crazy person” tone and my heart starts racing and I know that walking into the room will not make things better and will likely make things worse because now my own anxiety will be added to the mix.  But I’m even more afraid of not walking in, because when things escalate things can get scary, fast.  And I’m the mom.  It’s my job to walk in even when I don’t want to.  But this morning I was reading yet another book on how to discipline your child from a place of love and trust and the authors said that if your child does not see you as safe, they will not learn what you are trying to teach through discipline.  In fact, you will make things worse.  So as we were driving into town this morning I revised my motivation statement for the Nice British Voice.  I want to be her safe place.  That sounds so nice, doesn’t it?  To be my child’s safe place?  To be the harbor in her storms of life?  Except, I can’t be that for her.  Not now, at fifteen, and not even when she was three and it seemed like I could be that.  Because I’m a person with flaws and limits and her whole job is to separate from me and become her own person.  Only God can be that her.  But she refuses to see that right now.  That’s between the two of them, I cannot force it.  So I can’t be Her safe place.  But, I can be A safe place.  Which is to say I cannot be a refuge in any kind of “the answer to all your problems” kind of way, but I could be a person who exudes a calm presence, a sense of peace and faith regardless of what storms are blowing.

Now, if you know me in real life, you may be laughing at the very idea, because words like “calm” are never used to describe me.  Passionate, Vivacious, Fiery…  those are the nice ways to describe me.  Sometimes those traits are good, but these days, they’re not working for me.  So I need to expand the definition of me.  I will try.  And I will ask God to do a work in me.  And maybe the day will come where I don’t seek out the high chair in the corner that backs to two walls.  Maybe I will even laugh, and really mean it.


5 thoughts on “From the Corner of a Bookstore Cafe

    1. I’m sitting here looking for a “like” button… thanks N, it so helps to know others understand. It is rather suffocating at times, isn’t it? I look at parents of little ones now and I’m just like “oh you have no idea what’s coming” – when did I become so cynical??

  1. Reading this I was thinking “mid teens/adoptee angst” and then I read this: “at fifteen”. If it’s any consolation, it gets better, the mindfulness should help, being the safe space should help, calm should help while also being there to defend if needed. Have you ever told her your goal for her in life is: for her to be happy, whatever that means to her? That was dad’s goal for me, he was also the one who was calm. Adoptee angst is really hard, especially with no answers. Wishing you peace and to remember that deep breathing makes it better.

    1. Thanks so much Tao! Your perspective is absolutely invaluable to me. It is so hard to know what is “adoptee” vs. all the other diagnoses she’s been given – and I know really there’s no way to pull those apart, she’s one person with complex thoughts and feelings. But it helps to know that there is real hope for it getting better. I’m sure I have told her I want her to be happy, but I’m not sure I make that very clear day to day. (it’s too easy to get caught up in “I’d just really like for you to do the thing you are supposed to be doing right now…”)
      Thanks again, and praying you have peace too.

      1. I think this differs by the kid and their issues and triggers. I know I can’t stress things like happiness or any other specific goal to A. Any outside expectation – be it happiness or peace or trying her best or whatever – causes a lot of stress and anxiety over here because it’s perceived as yet another goal she’s not entirely in control of, that someone else thrust upon her, that she’s afraid of failing. I don’t have a teen adoptee. Maybe reassurance of such basic hopes as happiness become more realistic during the teen years. I sure hope so.

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