Paddling Perspective: Educate against hate

I push the paddle to the side and let my kayak float for a few moments to consider the real reasons why we want our schools to be the incubators of both free thought and inclusive practices. I ponder how we have expected education to get us to new places.

Bigger thoughts, new horizons, and innovative spirits, they all are the utopian goal of learning.

But here I sit in a little green boat and think why we keep pressing our educators to give our children and our aspiring minds what it seems adults absolve themselves from in mainstream society.

Do we always believe it is someone else’s responsibility to dismantle systemic woes or elevate people beyond any type of plight they may encounter? Are we all hands on deck for all learners all the time? Are we ready shift mindsets so that structural constraints can be dismantled?

Educators don’t shy away from these questions, but I wonder if society does. Perhaps we educate so a new generation carries the torch of love and life more boldly than we have.

Educators think about their work, their lesson plans, and their students so very often. We are always navigating the mine fields of untapped potential. We employ best practices so that student engagement overturns the temptation for disorder and resistance to learning.

We look in the eyes of 11 year olds and need to evidence our belief that all students can learn and succeed even if their surroundings or the stats might indicate otherwise.

We have to believe, not the unbelievable, but the unpopular.

We have to believe that relationships and nonverbals communicate as much as test scores and AP course enrollment numbers.

We need to not shy away from the data. We need to hold the student’s home life and action choices in class as just parts of the puzzle, doing our best to not let stereotypes dismiss the possibilities for the young girl in front of us.

We need to take the young man and show him worth and dignity in a land that shows up with hate and distaste to his race, national heritage, and ethnicity.

We are in the business of rewriting narratives so that divisiveness is not multiplied.

We get to believe that every minute, every tone chosen, every eye contact made is part of the pathway to our society’s freedom to hope, instead of despair.

I believe we get to educate against hate and it starts with the students in front of us. Teach on, teachers! Be ever encouraged, educators! Our work matters. Monday morning is near.

Paddling Perspective: Finding Me

Sometimes I kayak.

I kayak because there is freedom to think, to be, to become. There is both movement and stillness.

Perhaps it is the blue heron that sets a-flight only to perch again or the bald eagle which soars only to sit moments later, high nested and majestically regal. Perhaps it is movement forward after floating stillness that captures me so.

Today I kayaked and I heard echos of rough tones and got bombarded with memories which have entrenched negative self-talk within me. Around the bend in the lake from wind-swept waters and frustrated recounting of things gone by there was a cove of courage.

There, a stroke at a time, I saw a piece of me that doesn’t hold hands with trauma or disdain, a me who isn’t dismantled by circumstances or conversations.

I paddled into perspective that I am a warm light that glows best when living local and loving strong.

Calculations of “whys” within childhood, career, creativity, or calling fracture the light and bend it away from the forward. Maybe less corrective aims and more conviction-filled steps will be the betterment of me. Less trying to make everything around me seem right or be successful and more of do what I know and learn what I don’t. It’s not about yesterday anymore; it’s about today, likely even more about tomorrow.

The lake curved me back around to my starting spot. As I walked ashore, I knew that paddling today had surfaced the joy in living, the love of little ones, the longing for meeting hope and dancing once again. Today I paddled towards me and it was freeing.

Do what frees you today. In the strain or stress of present realities, whether you are just surviving or currently strength-knowing, lean for a moment into life. Dare even to chase a little hope with me. Find you. Be you. Bless on.

From Valentine Lake, in the state with 10,000 lakes,

-Nasreen

Adoption. Part 3: It is me.

I can not untie from the term, the title, or the truth of being adopted.

It is me.

It is lifelong.  It is experiences which are real.  It is a wish of education and advocacy of potential parents, current parents, and adults throughout the world touched by adoption; adoptees need trauma acknowledged and triggers to be mindfully navigated.

It is belonging,

searching,

pain,

and beauty all at the same time.

It unfolds in quiet moments when no one could guess it is on my heart. It uncovers layers publicly when I write, interact with adoptive families, or traverse the race and culture conversation.

It shapes my understanding of family and contributes to my confusion of what family is simultaneously.   It guides my interactions with my children as we talk about the world and we consider what our family make-up may look like someday.

It is in songs.  It is in art.  It is in loss.  It is in joy.  It is stitched to me like sexuality, spirituality, and physicality.

I am never without it, how it helped, and how it hurts.

Adoption, it is me.  As I make sense of my own stories and hundreds, thousands, also do the same in self-development and actualization, I yearn to feel one thing, that I am loved. In this, I am human.  Differences in my story and yours fade a bit and we find that the hunger for home and connection is a commonality we all share.

20140314-014046.jpg

I sent an email to my adoptive parents last week so they could brace for the post of how adoption hurts me . I read your comments and private messages with slight guarding for when I met someone wrong with my words. I cringed to think of the Sisters of the Holy Cross, who cared for me in my birth country, thinking I was discouraging adoption or ungrateful for their role in my story.  I cowered at the kick-back from adoptive parents, including my own, for reaching into the tough conversations without a long list of resources, cited research, or consideration for the timeliness of the topic in America’s spectrum of thought on how and when to keep families together.   I crumpled a bit considering that I may portray a victim-mentality when I hold more of the forged resilience and hope for humanity end of mind-sight.   I could not cover all my basis and I did not give disclaimers or view of other adoptees’ stories.

But I ask for grace. I can stand in the affirmations the post last week and the series have received.  I do not have the perspective of an adoptive parent, yet.  But, I learned more in sharing a part of my heart than I could have known on my own.  So many of you are wise and thoughtful.  My fears were silenced and I now know that writing was the correct choice. My childhood has its layers of trauma, hurt, and inescapable consequences that ripple into my present day…

But a step at a time, in claiming adoption, in knowing it is me, I find new truths and edges of healing. 

I have submitted my story to the National Council for Adoption and will continue to find places to contribute to resources and join forces with others who are learning and living near the touch of adoption.  Thank you to all who have commented, liked on social media, shared with others, and engaged with me over the last few weeks… it is emboldening and important.  Keep letting me know you are here.

Adoption has beauty, so continue on, all of us– lead with love and also follow with knowledge, informed stances, tender compassion, and constant belief that we do belong, however wide the definition of family is.

Allow me to conclude with this:

My adoptive mother, I invited her to contribute to this post.  Her voice should not be absent from this space, yet sharing takes some courage.  I don’t get to choose her words, her claims, her joys, or her sorrows.   I do get to acknowledge that I am only one perspective.  She is another.  We need adoption.  My heart feels much to know things could have or would have been done differently.  But we, she in her way, and me in mine, get to find ways to encourage and educate about adoption now.

Will you, too?  Will you contribute to hope in the imperfect and hard places, very personally, how you can?

Adoption matters, lead with love.

“Adoption is a commitment that is entered somewhat blindly, but is no different than adding a child by birth, but instead granted by desire.

I often thought of the tragedy the mothers of my adopted kids must have endured, and have been humbled and honored to call them mine. Looking forward to your post tomorrow. I was so grieved to read again of your hurts in your adoption.

If I knew then what I know now, I would have done things differently.

As imperfect as adoption can be, this sinful, broken world needs adoption more now than ever.

So glad your are using your voice and words to encourage and educate about all the different sides of adoption.”   

the one I call mom

Within the Shadow of Suicide

An article, link included below and also on my Fynewever Consulting Page, has the full magazine article I wrote in 2015. I repost it now. For the media covering famous people, for the truth in lesser known names, to the honest tell of my own battle.

I reprint it in portion here… because I don’t have new words to write at this time, but I will not stay silent.

Text 741-741.

Call the crisis hotline.

Make one more appointment and stick to it.

Drive over to a friend’s house and ask for a couch to crash on.

Call someone who you trust or you know has been vulnerable and scared before, too.

The overwhelm is huge, but we got to remember we are not alone.

Within the Shadow of Suicide

by Nasreen Fynewever, M.ED

For C’est La Vie Magazine

https://issuu.com/cestlaviethemagazine/docs/cestlavie_issue2_jan2016_final/23

The room fell to a hush. Truth was, it was never too loud to begin with. But today the shuffle of feet and the sliding of book bags felt especially clamoring in the absence of words. Within this there was noise enough that an unsteadied voice whispering, “Dear creatives” was enough to halt movement and volume both. The voice was mine and the room, it held grief, fear, and wonder for all. A blending of eyes wide with expectancy for life and wisdom from their teacher and the grief which simultaneously lowered their gaze to the clenched hands on their laps swirled dramatically in the room.

Their breathing met an edge of fear of the unknown or worry of blame. I recoiled internally with my own fear of speaking of a student suicide. This was not the first time in my teaching tenure that a young life was shortened by the dark grip of hopelessness. I needed enough poise to get through the day and yet enough real to show the raw wound was placed upon my heart as well.

I rarely get nerves to jilt and jolt for the anticipation of speaking. I find energy in speaking words aloud to move messages and missions forward, calling for lives to hold the vibrancy and honesty they can. This moment, however, seared through my typical calm and left the tense chill of fear. We all dreaded the conversation, but this was the opportunity laid before me to state that uncomfortable and painful conversations should not be cowered away from.

I had wanted this very conversation when I was in high school. I had wanted this conversation a month earlier when my own mental health invited worthlessness and death to be bedfellows with my spirit. We needed this conversation to happen a week earlier, a real person willing to voice the plea for life to win.

In this thought, my resolve stumbled about. I slipped out of the present tragedy and let my mind traverse the past the faces of youth who had sat in front of me in class, at speeches I had given, or passed by me in the hallway. Their images held power and conviction. One young lady was blurry in my mind, she was from a school I did not teach at. I had spoken to the student body about being hope chaser. But the setting not intimate enough to see her eyes or carry any of the weight of her journey. The news of her sharp death met me while I reflected in a car outside another school several states away. My energy dropped out and my mind saw the message I was going to deliver as weak and lacking meaning, it would not return life to the girl gone too soon. How was I supposed to walk into another auditorium full of youth and ask them to fight for life?

A student walked in late to the class I was standing in and my mind returned to the room abruptly. Announcing, with a quiet voice, what was known to almost all those seated before me, that a young man had taken his own life over the weekend and the tragic loss for his family had to be felt by us all, whether we knew him or not.

I did know him. I was one of the last adults to speak with him that day. I looked into his eyes, I noticed his wide-smile, I felt our time was too swift and chided myself for letting responsibility push me past the person who stood with words to say. I had been that teenager. I had been that adult. Feeling far too different from those around me. Feeling smothered by the limited ways out of depression. Feeling sorrow for not belonging when I craved a place to stand with pride. I had words to say half my life ago. I had words to say as an adult. And yet I believed that speaking of wanting to die could not meet the air and ears of a real conversation.

This should not be so. I believe we need to hold the ridiculously uncomfortable conversations before people stumble to despair and I believe we need to speak pointedly, even in moments of grief, that suicide is not the answer. We must not let one another believe that we can become so very alone that no one would reach a hand towards us if we spoke. We must learn to listen to the words, uttered and those silent, but screaming out from eyes and actions.

I have resolved to move through the following steps to help those, in the shadow of suicide, to keep light present and accessible.

Ask

  • Do you value life?
  • What makes you answer that way?
  • Do you have someone you can turn to or ask for help?
  • Do you feel like you are seen/known
  • Do you know that myself and _____________ are options? We care for you.
  • Is it okay if I connect you with ________________

Listen

  • Listen for the overt asks/cries for help
  • Listen for the story they want to tell, there are hints as their eyes meet mine for a moment or their speech pattern quickens
  • Listen for the non-verbals of body posture, work ethic, day-to-day choices, and air of loneliness

Tell

  • Tell students they matter
  • Tell people they are seen and heard
  • Tell friends they are goodness
  • Tell struggling women that they hold beauty and purpose
  • Tell them of the professionals and resources which connect to their need
  • Tell people I will check back in a few days (and do so) for accountability and to quietly confirm whether their stability
  • Tell others of my the vulnerable corners of my life that are filled with shadows.

Believe

  • That things can better
  • The current situations are not the sole thing that define us, we get to live into the person we are becoming
  • The hope of faith and the promise of how healing can occur

Can I or those whom I encourage to do this perfectly, can we follow this prescriptively? No.

But there is space to let more grace, mental illness awareness, and movement towards the light to be a goal of classroom conversations, late night coffees, carefully penned emails, timely blog comments, quiet letters, dynamic small group meetings, and our daily lives.

Releasing the fear of discomfort for the opportunity to move away from death and into life shared together is worth every ounce of nerves, time, conviction.

Chase hope and light with me–one shadow at a time to reduce suicide one conversation at a time. Reach out your hand for others. Grip some one else’s if you need it. #life

 

 

Asa Nasreen

Adoption. Part 1: It Helped Me

I was adopted. For hundreds of you reading this, this is not news to you. I have written of it. I claim it. It is acknowledged in my tattoos and evident in family photos.

My faith up-bringing gives much laud to adoption; it is an imagery bringer of the faith family and heirs to earthly and heavenly inheritance. However, I find ancient adoption to be far different than modern day adoption in my studies and learnings. Ancient adoption often was reserved for older youth, even adults, who had proved worthy of responsibility, inheritance, or family pride. After assessment, not necessarily love leading, people could be welcomed into a “bloodline” with a mere legal status shift.

Modern day adoption focuses on infants, youth, and often keeps performance off the table. Today adoption lofts love and family whole-making, deep meaning and belonging as promises. Adoptions in either era are prone to human faults and yet we know of and see also the extraordinary success stories.

Adoption has social justice out-workings and even social popularity peaks if one were to survey the last several decades.

But cultural and societal contexts aside,

it is personal…

…for each family,

each child,

every time.

It helped me.

Adoption helped me gain a family. Adoption helped me learn that the world was big, my birth country always a globe spin away from where I lived. Adoption taught me of race with constant submersion from having a Korean brother and a Dutch American brother.

I have never been the majority race or ethnicity in my family or communities, which gives me rich experience as I strive for inclusivity everywhere and equity in education. I never assumed I was right or that there was only one way to look at something, which as an adult, I think this is a win from adoption’s ripple effect.

Adoption taught me to look for people and see hearts. I knew from elementary age that people had stories far beyond what their family presented, their clothes could tell, and their words chose to reveal. I am proud of this fabric within my spirit.

Adoption, in pictures and instruction, exposed me to a profession that I would follow for my own. Adoption gifted me an upbringing that had education, although, I fully know now, that I would have learned much in the schools of the nuns back in Bangladesh. However, for 30+ years, I did not know that. In the unknowing, my diligence in education always felt like a responsibility back to someone or some choice somewhere.

Adoption gave me memories. There are good childhood memories, there are friends and family, there is a faith community, and also a certain exploration of nature and exercise which came only through being raised on this continent. I am thankful.

Adoption surrounds me with a natural heritage, a sisterhood of nuns, and Stateside family, all which comprise to give me complexity and worlds to explore still.

Adoption taught me that we can belong, even in the oddest of connections and beyond tradition. It is hard to believe this and it took decades to grasp it, but I do know it now.

I am a child of adoption, a grown woman of many of the positives. I believe in it. Not the way I once did, convinced I would adopt a whole gaggle of babies or little kids to pay it back into the universe what had been given me. Now I lean more, with the blessing and shared vision with my husband of how foster care and older teen adoption is more our heart-wiring…

Adoptions helps.

It helps kids.

It helps people with love to offer.

It helps keep family as a leading society-keeper.

It helps teach compassion and diversity.

It helps many.

It hurts, too. But that idea, dear readers, is a post for next week. Interestingly enough, it will be published by the The Mudroom on my “gotcha day”, June 14… something I have never celebrated, since the practice surfaced after my childhood and the idea was less needed as an adult. Honored to be invited into the space and intentionally start here with this post.

Circle back here if the next post gets heavy or hard. I aim to return to broader topics in due time, but in the now, thanks for cracking open the door on adoption as it has been years since I wrote about it publicly in the Love Strong Chronicles.

I am blessed.

I am grateful.

As my own birth-country faces 50,000+ babies to be born in the Rohingya refugee camps alone in 2018, not to mention throughout the densely populated metropolis and scattered jungle villages, adoption of young and welcome of all is always on my heart…

I know for me,

for my story,

adoption mattered,

adoption helped.

I am no longer an orphan.

How has adoption touched your life? Tell me? Tell us?

Chasing hope and choosing peace, Nasreen

First Name: Nasreen (adoption paperwork name, was imagined to be an Ellen or an Ella until my adoptive parents read my name enough that they chose to keep it. )

Middle name: Sue (adoptive mother’s middle name)

Poet Pen name: Asa Nasreen

Asa (Bangla word for hope)

Nasreen (infancy name, Bangla word for Wild Rose)

Legal name: Nasreen S. Fynewever

Grateful for the journey, greater for the journey. #touchedbyAdoption

The calm people

One truth about beautiful people, I mean those soulful beautiful people who have a vibrancy and magnetic pull with their personalities and presence– they are often a calm people.

I thought about those I admire deeply and of moments that usher great respect for people around me and I noticed a theme. What repeats across beauty in introverts and extroverts, internal and external processors, men and women alike, it is a calmness thread. This thread pulls a through-line even when excitement, anxiety, struggle, or strain arrive.

Being calm doesn’t require one to be completely collected, minimalistic in enthusiasm, or passive in response. The precariously impulsive, the extenders of contagious excitement, and the active activators all still hold a calm cool that draws me in.

Perhaps in calmness they evidence their wisdom. Maybe this is what truly draws me.

A calm conviction

A calm confidence

A calm ability to listen

A calm capability to convey heart

A calm energy

Something in beautiful people allows them to holster their identity in the steady belief that they offer the world uniqueness and a glimmer of the Divine.

So to all I encourage to carry on, do so, but keep your calm. It is in the forward that your calm highlights the resilience and dreams within you. I learn much from all of you.

Shalom-carriers, though waves surge and winds sway, the calm within wins the day.

Chasing hope with you and seeking peace always…

Asa Nasreen

A new month, a new tattoo, and that movie LION

It never seemed quite right…

Life.

I felt like an outsider.  The skin was dark, my anger was big, and a family fused together through adoption seemed mysterious and inaccurate to me.

They wanted something for me–my adoptive parents. They also wanted something from me. And they took it.  They rounded out their family the way they wanted and paid the price not only for the adoption, but for a frustrated kid who knew trauma and brought discord.  It could be painted as a glory story, but I found it to be unsettling and convinced throughout much of life that there was noplace on earth okay for me to be.

Adoption has beauty; it also has a hellish hurt. For multiple people and sides of the reality, it can hurt in the actualization or in the decades to come.

Is that okay to write?

Isn’t easier and more safe to watch the turmoil of adoption from theater seats, cry our tears from limited view, and smile with the hopeful spirit of Lion on the big screen around our nation?

I recommend the movie, truly.

I just also know it is easier to watch from the fifth row up than to be okay with someone in our own lives who is seemingly lost when she should feel found.

I have been recommended to read the A Long Way Home memoir the movie was based on a few times, but I always wonder why when I live with my own taunt and displacement.

Suicidal thoughts kept at bay for most of life.

Finding connections in certain seasons with family and friends allows me to believe I can attach to others.

Depression was chased by exercise at-large and medication a time or two.

Vows and covenants keep bonds that might otherwise be broken.

Jobs held, success had, lives touched, strengths found–and yet none of these fill the hollow or empty the overhwelm.

Life will always have a heaviness.

I have found peace in my faith journey and chaos in my existence.

It is a both/and.  Always.

But I rise to face three little ones and hundreds of teens.  In this, I own my grief just as I declare my hope.

I will find a way through the resurfacing of memories. I will manage the angst of not having white skin as a child and even now as an adult.  I will breathe on despite those who have passed away before me.

And maybe, just maybe, home is growing from within instead of out there somewhere.

Fight for hope with me.

Acknowledge grief with me.

They are not enemies, they are people-shapers.  They comprise our stories and make us who we are.

Hope and grief… welcome to February, we got some life to live.

Join me? Where ever you are, whatever your story… breathe again and live life.


I only tattoo upon my body that which has been etched upon my heart for a lifetime.  

gravis: Latin word for heavy, weighted, grief. 

Semicolon replacement for the i: semicolons are used when a sentence could end, but the author chooses to continue the sentence.  It has become the one of the symbols for breaking the stigma of mental illnesses.  It allows people like myself to take a visible stance to claim life when suicide could have ended it. 

(My previous wrist tattto is the Bangla word for hope. I have the same tattoo on my ankle.  Wherever I go, whatever I do, I am marked by Hope.) 

Another day, suicide and life

It dropped lower and lower.  The weight of my forehead nearly rested upon the cushion as my body caved in around the tender air. I was sitting no more and found all of me in a curled cower.

The pressure pushed against my chest and both fatigue and failure inhaled without respite for exhale.

I was choking on life.

This is what it meant to finish another day. He opened the hours before me, so timidly unpacking a minute at a time,  I parceled out my energy to see others, to meet requirements, to do right by a career and family, friends and a future.

After all, in breathing came life, in doing I proved I was alive.

But depression clung to my every step.  It seeped into my pores and criss-crossed my face leaving hollow eyes and an unrelenting somber sheen.  Life did not wait for me; no, it created a tide of expectations and a current of must dos.

The formula for joy alluded me and the season of sadness seared itself to my shoulders.  My smile real enough to some and the shallow clear to others.

Earlier that day I shifted from flourescent lights to the crisp cold of the outdoors. I beheld a new ceiling, a canopy of heaven stretched over the snowy floor. I witnessed the creator kneel to kiss the earth. The sky wrenched itself into showing the sun. Colors and splays of nature beautiful enveloped me. Gasping in the frigid air, I stored life in my veins and could reflect hope for another moment in time.


Yet what about the time suicide asked me to play? When time took these three decades and reduced them to a single story of unworth which wrecked me as a kid and could dismantle me as an adult.  Why did it look so alluring and okay? Why couldn’t I stop the lie it offered?

What about the time abuse took what was not to be detached from me? Each grievance never looking back and I was left to make sense of fighting my way to health and whole.  Could I ever be healed from the shredding?

What about those who removed their love or favor when my presence clouded with something other than ease and light-hearted life? Why don’t  I make sense to others and why does it always matter so much to me?

This week could not outdistance memories.

This week could not unhinge from the present.

This week a colleague laid his beloved wife to rest after a torment of days and a life journey with the demon of mental illness.  This week a student could not stay where bridges were built and allies found.  This week my husband had to carry the home and  children grow up faster than innocence would ask. This week my friend could not conjour words from myself, a writer, when my own death attempt danced as memory and marker.

Yes, it dropped lower and lower. The weight of my forehead nearly rested upon the cushion as my body caved in around the tender air. I was sitting no more and found all of me in a curledcower.

In the choke of life, I felt removed from all I offer the community around me.  Depression robs me.  It thieves from many. Yet this I know, when strangle felt close, my lungs still filled.  One more breath, one more day.

I can not do all of life the way I wish or take away others’ pain. I can not belong in all the ways an orphan girl is supposed to once adopted. I can not change the color of my skin or how I fit into people’s constructs. I can not unlearn my trauma or forget my twisting of perception.

But as sorrow lies near–I live

To love.

To teach.

To lead.

To write.

To whisper.

I do not know who will follow or who will listen, but my steady foundation of faith and the formation of friends and family remind me: be me to the world.

Who I am, whether small and in a ball, tired from the day or I am strong and tall knowing my purpose, I am alive.

LIVE with me.

One more day, friends. To tasks and talents, give what you can.  Allow others to lend you hope when yours is low and depression is real.

Another day, yes, the light still shines.

——

With respect and deep sorrow for those near and far, recent and years gone by, who have lost a loved one to the grips of mental illness’ lying voice.  

—–

A song by VERIDIA shared to me by a friend–raw art https://youtu.be/hymuOXYAuwk 

—-

Find someone to text or talk to if you need it. If you feel alone:

CRISIS TEXT LINE: 741741, text GO any time, for free, and trained professionals will interact with you during your rough hours. 

CRISIS PHONE LINE: Call 1-800-273-8255.

January hurts to the core.

How could a month that holds both the fortunous reputation of a clean slate and a month that holds my beautiful wedding anniversary be the toughest one of the year?


Simple stories include that I often get sick.  This week, case and point.  I missed the first two days of work post an extended change of pace during winter break due to illness.

Another is I am not one for the holiday busy, it clutters my mind and whaps my center of gravity out a bit.  I have theories as to why, but this torch has burned for decades and so it rarely surprises me that I start the year with a disheveled heart.

A deeper layer reveals that it is also my birthday month.  However, in hearing stories and recallings of my youth, it is suspected I am a December birthday. This unanchors me.  To know one’s birthday seems woven into being human, being known, being worth celebration.

I do not know mine.

I have an assigned birthday by dear catholic sisters and a gracious adoption paperwork system, but it is false and that has always mattered to me.  I used to loathe the phrase and mention of the day.  I have grown to appreciate the sentiment and the reality that I have a day, like others–inaccurate, but still mine. I look forward to intentional extensions of love in January due to my “birthday” now as a grown adult, but the little girl in me will always falter a bit when the month rolls around.

Foundational imprints of the month have history and hurt.  Statements said, recovery from pain gone ary, and cloudiness of memories and moments that have both shaped and stripped from me–they edge the month with grief.

Stark streaks also invade the month.  Life lived through that I now have to coach my mind in. My mind must believe these wounds can connect to my call to others for their courage despite trauma.

But how I wish the cavernous  wounds away.  The loss of our first child in our first miscarriage in 2007 was anguish.  Standing amid 70,000 mourners and respect-givers as the late President Gerald R. Ford was driven through my hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan, I stood there when I could not stand in front of my classroom of 10th graders. My body reeling from the physiolocigal  truth of the miscarriage–I stood there wondering what the little life could have done in the world as this hometown boy gone President was laid to rest.  My heart asunder in lies that I was a failure in yet another way.

Not even a decade later from that life lost, I found my mind hurtled into the chaos of depression from re-exposure to abandonment and trauma.

The dark felt insurmountable and I became a shell of myself. A suicide attempt tore through my own story and consequentially the lives of those close to me. I may never like the month because of this unforgiving blemish on my action record.  I beg many, each week, to know their worth and turn towards help… It does not lessen my shame, but it is what I can offer their hurting place.

January has fallen to a place of remembering and always questioning if my rise from the grips of ugliness is true and trustworthy.

But hope wins.

Not as a strategy.

Not as a method.

Not as a privilege or a luxury.

But as a Truth.

Students need to know this. Grieving parents need to know this. Trauma victims, homeless, and struggling people need to know this.  It is not swift and it is not mess free, but life — whether gone too soon or grappling for another day, it is comprised of hope and breath.

For all of us still standing, breathedeep, this month and every month.  If you have extra air, lend it in your service, your faith, your extra hand, your benevolent spirit, your career, your neighborhood, your people. Lend hope to those who need to be fought for.

I will.

Join me.

I Should Have Died: The Love Strong Chronicles Part III

Survivor’s guilt.

It was first coined around the Holocaust and has become an observed reality for military who suffer with PTSD.

It encapsulates a range of emotions stemming in the guilt of being alive when others near oneself did not survive the same environment. Be it a catastrophe, a tragedy, a battle, or a great social injustice.

People are often thrust into circumstances beyond their control and when death plays into it all, to come out the other side with life when others are stripped is an intense grip.

Survivors can gain a renewed sense of gratefulness, but can also be burdened, even debilitated at the life in front of them.

The nun.

The one who gasped for air with me.

She told me to come soon to the convent. She has also told me not to go to Bangladesh. She doesn’t want me plagued with Survivor’s Guilt.

She has spoken of the good life here in the United States. Of the relative wealth of the American families that adopted little ones from a 3rd world country.

She has spoken of her home, a land I do not know, that is filled with a people who share my skin tone, my deep brown eyes, my ethnic traits and culture that could have been mine.

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Her recollection was painting pictures in her own mind of that which I was rescued from.

I still see her eyes light with a fervent fire when she said that if we babies went looking for ourselves, we would surely be disappointed.

She begged that the present life would be the only reality our hearts would know.

So I resigned myself to only visit Bangladesh if there was a greater purpose than myself.

I often thought as a child that I should have just died, left to the jungle or the road side and never scooped up by nuns and an adoption agency.

I have apologized in the dark corners of my childhood bedroom for being alive.

I have come a long way from agony of surviving when others did not, from believing the world would be better off without me. I have laid claim to the fact that I was adopted for reason.

This confidence does not undo the stark truth that I am likely not strong enough to see death and poverty in Bangladesh on my own. To visit a country that did not hold my years without people who will catch my falling heart, without an organization, or without a purpose that keeps my eyes peeled–peeled to a bigger world than solely my story of grace and grit, abandonment and rescue, love and hate–going there without perspective would surely wreck me.

The Sister’s words.
Some healed.
Some opened fragile wounds.

But this I know, she could not trumpet loud enough her conviction that my life has purpose.

I did not speak of my fears and guilt that had riddled my mind for years. I took her love, soaked it up, and stay in the air of life.

———————-

Will you too? Will you soak up life?

Not a one of us can say the world would be better off without us. Not even myself.

We are precious.
We survived, all of us, and in this our call to life abundant. The demand on our spirits to chase hope.

We all have stories.

For those gone too soon and the years and places of the past, our hearts slow to cherish and process, celebrate and grieve.

We live.
We breathe.
We hope.

My energy low for the ugliness a post like this can dance in my mind. I will continue the chronicles here again next Friday.

These are more than blog posts or details about a country, these are fragments of my exploded heart. Hold it gently, please.

I didn’t die.
I am alive.

And for all that you enjoy and for that which you endure, I am convinced you belong and have purpose too.

nasreen

Before Collapse: Bangladeshi Lessons for My Heart