Adoption. Part 2: It Hurts Me

It did not rub off. The “dirty” skin I was teased for just a few steps away from my favorite spot on the monkey bars, this dark skin felt permanent. Frustrated and glaring at skin and soul both, my childhood heart detached from part of my identity. I did not return to recover it again until my mid-thirties. Nearly three decades after the dismissal of pride and the onset of shame, I started to be free again to live vibrantly as me. Only recently have I been okay with not being white.

My skin does not make me less than or make me smaller than others as I was taught that grade school day. Now I know it clarifies my uniqueness in some communities. My skin crosses bridges to people, to humanity, to trauma, and to belonging. This dark skin coupled with a tender spirit dilutes grudges and fears and helps those who have been systemically and institutionally oppressed or oppressive. I get to speak truth as a dark skinned person in ways that oppressed feel heard and oppressors see aggressions.But before I arrived at claiming ownership of my skin and its beauty, I endured the detachment and the ugliness of self-loathing. In order to free myself from shame, I had to learn my life experiences and heart could help others find their path to freedom.

The color of my skin has always been linked with my adoption into a white family and white community. Inferiority and identity angst as the rescued brown girl lapped over the edges of my thoughts for decades. I want to share more about adoption. Yet, I always stop myself. I assume others do not think like me or my words would come off as ungrateful…

 

Today, invited to write more than usual of how adoption hurt me, I share some of the cost of being a transracial adoptee.. Read the full post by clicking here to read my contribution to the The Mudroom Blogseries on Race and Culture.

http://mudroomblog.com/the-cost-of-being-a-trans-racial-adoptee/

Please also check out Part 1 of this series and stay tuned for the third and final part. I am willing to speak of hurt, but to those who loved me, those who are waiting to adopt, and those in the years of navigating a multi-race family, please take heart. Adoption has beauty; let love lead.

Forgiven, Forgive me, too? The Love Strong Chronicles VII

20140425-010724.jpg

Dear Hurtful Ones,

To the one who abandoned me… To the trauma without words in my infancy and in the months to follow which can still cause my body to reel in yet my mind has few memories and my voice no utterance…

…I don’t know who you are or what the circumstances were. I wonder if you think of me. I shorten my breath when I consider how early death or misfortune may have stricken your days. I do not search for you, the distance and details make such a journey futile and my wonder released that years ago. But today, in the thump thump of a heart trying to heal, know this.

It is true. You hurt me.

I forgive you.

Once and with finality. I forgive you. Giving up a child should not hold shame, but rather imperativeness to the world and to the arms of love to scoop up the orphans. I have been gifted much and in this know that mercy hunts us down and can cover all actions. Those who leave and those who are left, remember because forgiveness stands, love wins.

To the ones of my youth… To the ones in my home, in my daily happenings, and circle of influence that speared my innocence and grappled with attachment to me as I trampled opportunities for love… To the ones who caused angst and tears, touch and trust to become ideas that made me tremor and escape from…

…Know I have learned from those who teach me that each generation does the best with what they can and how they know. I agree. It will be true of my generation, too. There is much we would all do differently if we were granted hindsight in the moment. Today, without intricacies blasted from the rooftops because there is no need for that and in the slow inhale that brings oxygen to my muscles and girds my loins, know this.

It is true. You hurt me.

I forgive you.

Slowly, repeatedly, engaging in the process of allowing layers of me be rebuilt, I rise. Understanding that not all is redeemed and may never be this side of Heaven, but gathering freedom and releasing grace in waves that my human ways mirror heaven’s endless pour out. I use life and loving, writing and wrestling, speaking and silence to fill the gaps of what was lost in me and pray your empty spaces find in-pour, too.

Because we survived and forgiveness has been whispered, believe with me that love wins.

To the ones of recent… To the ones who misunderstood my character and defamed my name… To the ones who claw at my worth by diminishing the good I do, the beautiful I am… And those, those who love in messy human ways that cause my core to feel cold or actions to be reevaluated…

…Don’t withhold your hearts from me, I have a wind of warmth that breezes through day after day, circumstance after circumstance; I am held. So today, in the chase of hope that my spirit finds the forward in, know this.

It is true. You hurt me.

I forgive you.

Without hesitation. It comes swiftly because love covers a multitude of grievances. Without end. We walk the road into who we are and who we will become.  We grapple with truths and grow in what is real. I could not stand again until I forgave. The world of our hearts gets turned upside down in forgiveness. It walks life back into afflicted strands and in this life, know I am still for you. I can not be deterred from caring because love has won.

Right now, all those who hurt me, knowing or unknowingly, actual or perceived, understanding and remorseful or still wielding bludgeoning weapons, know this:

It is true. I hurt you, too. I hurt others. I stand in need of forgiveness.
I can not demand it of you or convince that it is vital to both of us.

But for the times I distorted the radiance of the Life gifted to us, I am sorry.

I am sorry. Proffer what you will to me.

Grace is ours bathe in, hope is ours to chase, forgiveness is the ignitor of life anew.

And to the nun that opened my willingness to write the Love Strong Chronicles out loud, thank you.

To the arena full of women who share stories and asked for mine, thank you.

To the students and parents who affirmed that in educating, we all learn and find places to grow roots, thank you.

To the loved ones near in actuality and in spirit, I am indebted to what you teach me to feel, to be, and to hope for; thank you.

To the One who has forgiven me and raised me from the ashes of hurt, an unending thank you.

Forgive others with me today, in the next week, when your heart can.

We do not get to think the world is stacked against us and be victims when victory can heal. Life is hard, and it may not get easier. There is no spring flower that blossoms in the freeze of winter’s cold, so let the seasons be, but when summer draws us in, go with it to the noonday sun and be better, love stronger.

Friends, for all that you enjoy and for that which you endure, now is the time to forgive and let the strength of love outdistance, to allow the grace to go further, so much further than the hurt. I am cheering for you, more than you know.

Serve.Weep.Love.Hope.FORGIVE.

nasreen

john 16:33

What We Don’t Know: The Love Strong Chronicles Part V

I didn’t know adopted parents would scan my words looking for glimpses of how to love their little ones or teenagers better.

I didn’t know adoptees would write of their fears and failures experienced through life and their climb for meaning in letters to me.

I didn’t know those struggling in faith and wondering of worth would slow down to take in my words and tell their stories too.

I didn’t know that so many hopefuls and those hurting would gather here on Friday and then send texts, emails, FB shares and comment in public.

But they have. They have read and reflected. They have traveled into my heart and then looked at their own.

They have.

You have.

I invited you and you have come along. You have passed along the links and said prayers on my behalf.

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Ernest Hemingway

You have understood that this takes courage and you keep spurring me on to write more, wounds and all.

You and I, we are learning what loving strong looks like together.

And I rejoice.
Then want to stuff my words in the ground.

I am honored.
Then get the urge to delete or quit.

I feel the privilege of touching lives.
And then cower and lose the guts to stand by my determined hope.

The battle rages in my psyche and the peace settles into my soul in a torrent of unpredictable waves. The UNKNOWN is frightening.

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Maya Angelou

Frightening. But so is deadening to that which beats within me.

I believe that in telling my story, something sets free. I am convinced that asking you to look at your own has merit and momentum waiting to be tapped.

20140410-220254.jpg
photo by Marie Elzinga

The Nun, The Teacher (The story starts HERE, if you missed Parts I – IV.)

I didn’t know she was a teacher. I had always assumed she worked at the orphanage as one would who had taken on a full-time job.

But she was a teacher.

These Catholic Sisters spent time in Bangladesh as nurses and teachers. Lives devoted to service in a land far different from their childhood homes.

Life stretched out before these nuns to be caregivers and educators.

And they did it.

They didn’t know what was ahead of them when they took their vows and charged the world with their meek and mindful love.

They changed the world.

They recounted instances of their professions within their telling of lives lived well. They spoke with surety that their work and service left others better.

An educator, by training and by passion, I found myself beaming to be in conversation with other teachers. To hear of their students and the people the children grew up to become, I got it. I knew of this pride and expectant joy.

But my nun.
The one that held me. The one who loved when she didn’t have to and didn’t know what my future held. She was a teacher.

She was the teacher who walked a student home to talk to his mother.

She was the teacher who didn’t know what the home would reveal about the little boy who soaked up her lessons. She was the person who wanted more of the story, to learn of his life.

And in this, she was the one who saw a dirty rat run across the belly of his baby sister who laid on a dirt floor.

She cried a small cry as she told me.
The kind of cry that doesn’t let the tears fall or the chest heave. The kind that many miss because it is tempered with control. But it, like most small cries, was screaming with emotion.

She told me she didn’t know what she could do to change enough for the little boy and the rat infested house, but she knew that the unknown couldn’t stop her from trying.

So the teacher became a “home for women and children” dreamer.
So the teacher became a hostel founder.
So the teacher gave her time and her arms to holding babies whom others had discarded. So the teacher became the love of my infancy as my life intersected with hers decades ago.

So the teacher, with academics known and vows spoken, stayed in the story of a little boy and his baby sister. She didn’t know where it would bring her, but she has no regrets.

And as for me?

I don’t know what should be in the blog posts and what should stay in my journal. I don’t know why this is the time to uncover this story and why you keep reading.

But the nun.

She told me to come soon and in doing so, I heard of bravery..

I won’t be the same again.

I likely don’t know even the breadth of her swath of love, but I know she loved strong even when it was difficult.
So yes, I believe that in telling my story something gets set free.

I am convinced that in asking you to look at your own story that you will tap merit and momentum.

We don’t always know what, but like the nun, the unknown, it must not stop us.

We must be willing to try to love strong in the stories of our lives.

Be it clear, this is not easy.

I have grown weary and cold in moments directly after the hours I have told parts of my story .

I have distanced from people because my intensity is often uncorraled and I am tired of apologizing and explaining.

I have even set up a therapy appointment to tell someone with an outside perspective of life trauma and ask of childhood attachment wonders.

Doing what I don’t know is risky business, but it let’s me practice strong love.

I don’t get to keep the picture perfect life as my story gets told, rather I get to imperfectly finally live.

In all of this, the chronicles still stand. It’s a commitment to consistency even if my growing and learning paints the canvas with more shapes of dysfunction than shades of perfection, so be it.

I have hope.

I am learning to love me.
You get to learn to love you.

Stay in the story longer, both your own and the ones of those around you. This is what changes the world.

Love strong.

Then the art of our lives becomes a song and the notes that keep the melody are tuned to redemption.

Love strong.

Then even if the music that wraps around our chorus has strains of discord and human fragility, it tempos our songs, our stories, and make us human.

The notes of the last verse, oh how we might wish to erase, but they help us now shed the masks and reach for real. They curl in fragrance to worship and pull Heaven to earth when we can’t find our way. Heaven holds, guides, and surprises us.

20140410-230035.jpg

Stay here.
Stay in the love.
Get drenched in grace.
Even if you don’t know how thick the forest or the bends of the river.

Stay in your story.

You matter.

Learn of stories from the world over.

It is a big place.

Stay in the love; no length of winter and no vile rodent, nothing is too much for love. Hate, misfortune, injustice, mistakes, unbelief, death, abuse, fear, futures, and the unknown—love can out distance. Not all will be redeemed this side of Heaven, but we don’t know what will be, so love strong and live well.

For all that you enjoy and for that which you endure, stay, even if you don’t know, this is living, this is brave hope chasing.

nasreen

Gasping for Air: The Love Strong Chronicles Part II

Gasping for air.

There have been moments the past few months I have been gasping for air.

I had not run too far.
Smoke had not met my lungs.
The walls did not actually cave in.

But oxygen escaped rapidly.

When my lack of belonging and my questioned purpose lifted breath out of me and prevented it from returning to fill my chest, I felt lost.

A teacher without a classroom.
A writer without a book.
A speaker without a message.
A sojourner without a destination.

An orphan without a home.

But how dare I feel that.

How in the facts of being granted a family and chance at life in the States, with adoptive parents who sacrificed much and got a run for their money in my rebellion, could I say I was an orphan without a home?

Might I have any claim to be without destination when I have been blessed with two towns that have welcomed me and embraced what I had to offer? When I profess a faith that keeps its eyes not on this world alone, but in the promise of more?

And of the message, the hope chaser, the one who believes that in loving strong we truly become alive and when we do good work, activate in our potential, we can grow ourselves, communities and the world. Of this message, did it fall mute on my own ears when death stole from those I care for or did it lose strength when people stood on the fringes of faith?

Write on and remember it as such. No book defines the writer, rather words scribbled on paper or across the heart, splattered on the computer screen or spoken into the open. This inflicting thought reared false too. Surely the ink has dried to reality.

But the teacher. The teacher without a classroom is perhaps the most absurd. Are we not all teachers? And one of curriculum and academics, desks and pupils, shall not the lessons ring evermore in new venues and mediums if the passion and training did not exit?

Why then did my chest concave?

Was this fear?
Was this hurt?
Was this hunger?

I chased air.

I needed answers.

I chased.
I needed.
I craved just enough to get in a car with a dear friend and meet the unknown with urgency unqualified and my momentum uncategorized.

Yes, two weeks ago I talked to a nun who held my abandoned, rejected self and who had set out to care until I was gifted a future. The phone had been pressed to my ear and my beating heart nearly muffling the song her voice was to me.

My lungs burned to expand again.

I heard her words.

My husband and boys gave me space and I listened. I listened to the nun.

She told me to come soon. (Read Part I HERE)

And I did.

The next day.

Her words fought against my buckling from suffocation and landed me in South Bend, Indiana.

This, the visit to the Sisters of the Holy Cross to see the nun, who with others, would finish out the days of her vows at the Mother House. Each with decades spent abroad serving with their nursing and teaching skills, with their hands of love, I went to visit.

There we sat.
Holding hands like we had loved for a lifetime.

The nun held my hand with a quiet strength.

Her eyes bounced around her memory and then shifted to take me in.

I was one of her babies.

Warmth found my chilled skin.

Belonging danced with acceptance in my soul.

The chairs around me filled with angels as if the great cloud of witnesses came to affirm this aging nun that she had done good work.

The unfaltering smile on her face hastened me to believe that the trip to the convent was well-placed.

The demons of my insecurities would not find welcome here. Peace drew close and wonders piled in, but with calm, they filled the couch space to my left.

My mouth parted open but nothing met sound. It turned to a nervous smile and the nun swiftly let her other hand reach to tap my face.

A hush little baby lullaby floated through my head and the slam of a creaky door outside the room brought the finale to my minds’ wander.

The tap tap, as if a secret handshake between her years gone by and my cheek.

My body leaned in.

Had I felt this before?
Her gentle constant.
Had she really never stopped loving me?

The final tap lingered and turned to one of the purest strokes my being has been witness in.

Gasping for air. Again. Here.
This was not fear.
This was not hurt.
This was not hunger.

This was being overwhelmed in the gift of time. The eight hour drive exclaimed confirmation of time well spent.

I was nearly not able to bend to grab the scrapbook that sat near my feet. She thought I was leaving and she clutched tightly until I spoke of pictures I had brought. Pictures sent with letters during the long wait for my arrival 30 years ago.

She took in the pictures.

20140321-010633.jpg

She told me of laundry.
She remembered the hostel she founded.
She recounted the hours she spent after teaching to help babies eat and be safe.
She spoke with fervor as she spilled details about the group of 19 Precious Jewels she brought to America.

And then she said it.


I can hardly breathe.


One of my babies is here!
You came all this way, I sure hope I’m worth it.

The nun.
The one who told me to come soon.
She gasped for air, too.

She wrestled worth just as I do.

And then she stopped.

Swept back to the joy, she began to soften her shoulders and moved back towards me.

She stretched her heart and life’s work out like the table in front of us. The years had smoothed out the mountains and valleys and her spirit had peace.

I soaked her in.

I listened as she continued recalling snippets of a life I had once been a part of.

I vaulted it. The hurt of my story was certainly going to arrive, but not there in the visitor’s house lounge.

Not then.

Hours later it would, but in that moment, I belonged. I had a right to teach others of their belonging even if I question mine.

She, the nun who ascribed worth to little dejected children, she questioned her own and then stopped…

….to start breathing again.

20140321-010748.jpg

There is more.
But this Friday bids us pause.

Tell me of you.

Feel the air with me.
With her.

We are allowed to breathe.

Best of all is it to preserve everything in a pure, still heart, and let there be for every pulse a thanksgiving, and for every breath a song. ~Konrad von Gesner, scientist, theologian, writer

For all that you enjoy and for that which you endure, chase hope, breathe deep, and when you gasp, remember you belong.

nasreen

The hurt and healing of meeting a nun– The Love Strong Chronicles Part I

Last Friday.
A week ago.
I spoke with a Sister.
A Sister of the Holy Cross.

A nun who had held me in a country.
A country torn from a war, measurably impoverished, and yet with fertile ground from the five rivers and beauty in its people. A land with vibrant religions and heritage, and yet a place that couldn’t find it’s footing as little ones sat without families.

Babies.

I was one such child.

20140314-001001.jpg

The nun.
I had met her before.

I met her when I was a child, a child without questions to ask because play and friends running about took my time.

I saw her as an adult, with others around, and heard of the few babies who had grown up, returned to Bangladesh, and were struck with survivor’s guilt and more questions than they had before going.

But last Friday, a week ago, I heard her voice on the phone. She had written to me from the convent on the grounds of Notre Dame. She said I could call. So I called last Friday.

She told me to come soon.

Soon was already pulsating through my heart.

I had stood on a rooftop in a small village in the Dominican Republic just weeks before and felt the pang of not knowing where I had come from. In seeing a village with little comparable to the life I live in Minneapolis but much to the place of my birth, my mind knew I had been afforded much in my adoption, but my heart couldn’t stop racing.

Something tripped a reaction.

A reaction that was willing to explore who I am before I keep writing of hope chasers, of loving strong, of belonging, of aloneness, of freedom. But the reaction was a zig zag of intensity.

And so I hung up.

The intensity of emotions had plowed right back to my core.

I hung up on the nun first.
My own baby lay in my arms.
The youngest of our boys.
He sleeping his three year old fatigue away.
The day.
He had played hard with a houseful of friends.

I looked at him.
I knew his story.
He had survived premature birth and a brush with infection.
He had thrived in our home from the moment we took him away from his month stay in the neonatal ICU.
He lights up our life.
He will likely change the world.

20140314-003107.jpg

But of mine.
I knew less of my story.
I haven’t been engaged with the country or given the chance to fall for the people.

I have not ventured into the emotions out loud of being abandoned. I have not testified in my teaching or writing that who I have become is because I took adversity and survived. I have only briefly exclaimed that I have been adopted for a reason, that I have a story to share of hope and hurt, loss and love.

But now it is time.
It is time to own all of it.
To journey forward with you, and encourage others to be in the know that we are all held.

Will you join in?

Not to just hear of my story, but in it to hear of yours.

Not to just be consumed with the past but to be alive, doing good work now.

Not to just talk and hear tough conversations but to become people of compassionate action and strong, strong love.

Not to focus on the shame and unworthiness our lives teach us, but to know we are never alone and freed to serve, weep, love, and hope.

Last Friday.
A week ago.
I decided to visit the nun.
The nun that told me to come soon.

20140314-010514.jpg

Last Friday.
A week ago.
I spoke with a Sister.
She told me to come soon.
So Friday led to Saturday.

The trip.
A drive from Minneapolis, MN to South Bend, IN.

A nun.
A convent full of women who had peace for lives spent loving.

It exploded my heart.
It gave love to the hunger.
It gave glimpses of God to my blindness.
It gave history to my parched tongue.
It gave perspective to my wandering soul.

It doesn’t do my wash, or finish my work, it doesn’t rock me to sleep or prepare food for the family table, my life still clips along.

But the Saturday following the Friday phone call, it gifted much.

It gave miles and a friend, a husband’s blessing and Providence. A well of questions and an ocean of just wanting to soak in and learn of the people.

I posted to Facebook.
My adoption wonderings became public.

My zest for a life lived well, real, raw, and fully present started to blossom before winter had fully thawed.

And truth is, my visit to the nun, it is an uncovering of the fullness of all my years. Of what has broken me and what has made me, of both what life has offered me and what I can now offer the world.

20140314-010941.jpg

Last Saturday.

It hurt.

It healed.

It plays on repeat in my head and has not found words yet in my heart.

But it will.
It has to.
I need to know you are with me to write in this space.
I can write this quietly.
I can save it all for a book.

Or we can do it together.
Here.
Sign up on the right hand side to email subscribe. Push like. Tell me you are here. I won’t post daily, perhaps just Fridays. But when I open my heart, I invite you in.

Be with me in this and know that I will continue to cheer for you; for all that you enjoy and for that which you endure, chase hope with me.
The Love Strong Chronicles

20140314-014046.jpg

Other places I will speak of reclaiming our worth and that our stories are to be shared:

The Winsome Retreat April 4-6, 2014.


The (in)RL Conference by (in)courage April 25 – 26, 2014.