Journey for Pure Life

That we may be overwhelmed by the wonder and beauty of it all.

Tag: Kinship care

Because post-court can be hard hard hard.

I was asked the other day, before the court day that changed everything just enough again…just enough to change my normal, to make hard harder…if I would consider leading a yoga-type class for local foster parents. A time to exhale alongside one another, those walking that similar roller coaster, that often heavy path, sometimes with little respite for ourselves in the midst of a growing number of needs, behavioral problems, family issues, etc.

Because this foster parenting/kinship caring thing we’re doing, it just might be one of the hardest things of all.

Deep Creek 17

A few days after that, and a few days after the court date, I had some conversation or another with my husband about the tough stuff of this life and as I reflected on the counseling sessions prescribed to many involved in the case, I made the half-joking remark that I don’t need therapy.

“I don’t need therapy. I know how to…self-therap.”

(It completely sounds like a legitimate verb to me.)

(And by my making that statement, I meant that if I didn’t  know how to do such a thing, I’d be in big trouble.)

And just now, while pulling weeds in my horridly overgrown garden, letting my mind talk and talk and talk as it does in the silence, I thought about the past 48 hours. The quiet of only three children since that risky court decision. The quiet and time and freedom but also…the grief and the loss. And I thought, perhaps there should  be a support for foster parents, especially after these moments. Because while every feeling, compassionate person wants to see a child with its parent, the truth is that when you have raised that child (or three) everyday for one year and two days, it’s still a loss when the care comes to an end.  And even when it moves toward a possible end. When that child wants to be with someone else.

Dock 3

As much as all that I am wants to see families whole and unified and together, it’s still a loss to the caregiver, the “mama” who isn’t at all and shouldn’t have been but did find herself there and so…what is temporary and shifting and unknown and hard suddenly feels a lot like loss. And grief.

We can’t take those very real, perhaps intense, feelings away from the foster parents  and the family members who’ve given their whole hearts, changed up their lives, loved to that hurt point.

There is recommended therapy for the drug user and the abuser. For the child in limbo.

Ma (my grandma/hero/best friend) wasn’t offered therapy after her husband died unexpectedly at 28-years-old and their almost-adopted baby girl was subsequently removed from her home, back in 1969. My, how deep the grief must have been.

There is no therapy for the aunt/grandma/foster mom who sang a child to sleep for 365 days, who made one meal for eight, cleaned it all up to begin prep on the next meal, who rubbed backs for weeks while children cried themselves to sleep after the people they were given failed to live and fight for them, who taught them to ride bikes and skateboards and how to swim and that they are safer and greater than their fears.

That the whole world is for them to enjoy. To move confidently in.

There is no therapy for the moment you know they could lose all that. When they ask you to give a child away to great risk and everyone knows it.

But thank goodness, somehow, some God way, us foster parents/kinship caregivers…some sympathetic God taught us how to…self-therap.

Taught us to trust even when we don’t feel.

That good can still conquer.

That it wasn’t in vain.

That they will remember.

That the fight was the most worthy one.

That His children, those wee ones, they’re always worth the need for some self-theraping. Always.

“Trust me.” –God

Anger, because love.

If we’re honest, it’s anger now.

And if I’m raw and still honest, it’s what I want to feel.

Dock 6

Some months ago I’d had a friend call me upset and angry, to vent about life, the life she thought she’d planned out and been perfectly happy with. That life had its own plans. Took her in a direction she simply didn’t want, but could do little about. I gave her my best words. On deaf ears they fell.

I hung up the phone and realized…that  girl didn’t want to feel better and move past it. Not yet. She wanted to experience the anger that she had every right to. I looked at the trajectory of her life, the loss of control and helplessness she felt…the only thing she probably felt in control of at that moment were her own emotions. And she was going to choose them. That day, she chose to shed the happy, shiny surface layer and feel  all that was not happy or shiny. In the safety of a trusted friend. Without hurting another soul. Good for her.

Pool 1

Today, just for a time, though the sun is shining down gorgeously in my favorite backyard spots, though the birds are singing their early morning summer songs, though there are six healthy kids still sleeping and there is so much to warm a heart….I kind of, little bit, just want to sit in it, the anger.  I want to be allowed it, is all.

Pool 2

For all these months that we’ve stepped into the life that is kinship care, I’ve tried so hard, prayed so hard, to love, rise, strengthen from the inside, real deep down. Right where I needed to love, rise and strengthen. But it’s hard work for someone as imperfect and damaged as myself. And amidst all the loving, and maybe, because of  that intense loving, other feelings come…

Dock 5

The anger comes, nearly a year deep in, when…..

…doing the right thing so often feels like the wrong thing.

…justice isn’t served.

…others walk away, and there you are, hands full of the pieces, broken.

…the pieces broken from the lives of others. But carry them you do. And carry them you must. (Are called to?)

And the pieces, can they ever fit back together?  Can the kid-sized pieces be mended?

And with furrowed brow you focus laser on those kid-sized pieces, sorting them out, trying your best to fit them together (which may not be good enough)…then, a familiar, but louder this time, shatter from above.

Sinking in your stomach pit. You look up, adult-sized pieces smashing down on you, all around you. Again. Overflowing the open hands. Crumbling the kid-pieces into bits.

You there, unable to stop the shattering. Unable to fix it.

After the sadness, the anger comes.

Dock 4

And it comes when….

….it isn’t your life decisions you’re living anymore. It’s the paying for someone else’s. And it’s endless.

…you have the sickening realization that some will continue to hurt, the there-in-plain-sight hurt.  And you just can’t make it stop.

….you know the source of the hurt, right where a child only sees a glorified mirage.  Maybe right where an adult does too.

….you cry with them, pray for them, love with them, right where your inclination is, instead, to curse. But only in your dark, private, subconscious dreams do you curse.

….you know the truth, feel the truth with every ounce of your being…but you’re the only one.

…you empty yourself everyday, from early morning hours until bedtime reading, only to feel like the bad guy when you drop into bed.

…you hear people say they care. Knowing that genuine care is a daily act, a daily love sacrifice, a daily selflessness.

….to others it seems a game, participation based on whether they’re winning or losing.

Dock 2

…everyday you can see God’s work, your own transformation, your own healing process, from something that was once so ugly and messed up and long ago abandoned…and still they tear you down, make you question what you shouldn’t.

…you are mocked for the deeply personal, core things that make you who you are, those things that are more you than anything else, those things that see you through it all, always have.

…your sensitivity causes you to feel every hurt, even when it’s not your own to feel.

It comes when…

…people hurt children. Children. And some of us have to look at that hurt. Everyday.

…people make light of those children. And carry on with  seemingly charmed lives, higher priorities. And some of us continue to look at that hurt, witness the full circle of damage. Everyday.

…you do the most thankless thing you’ve ever done. And you know, there was never any other option. Because love.

…you know that however it ends up, whichever road you walk, will be the hardest one.

…you remember how you always said the hardest roads are the best ones to be on…but seriously, can you just chill off the road and on a Puerto Rican beach for one sec?

…some people tell you that your life screams Jesus…while others tell you that what you need to do is find more Jesus.

…you realize that life doesn’t hand out rewards. It even snatches away the hard-earned ones.

…you blame a mean God for all this. The unjust.

…but mostly, you blame yourself, for not being better. And for, sometimes, feeling your worst self seep out of your pores and into the air around you just when you thought that self was gone forever.

And I just want to feel it for a minute. All that is not warm and fuzzy. Here in my safe space.

But for all this anger…all this ugly….there’s this glimmer….

One recent night two young girls and I lay in the hammocks as the sun went down and the fireflies began to light up the backyard. As the sky darkened, the upcoming celebration of Father’s Day was mentioned and the conversation shifted. Shifted to a little baby girl whose father moved away from her and now she’s a grown-up woman with no real dad and Father’s Day for her can be awkward and it can sting and so she focuses on her husband, the father of her children. And in that night, one little girl discovered that Aunt Amanda has hurts too. Most of us do. Sometimes the hurts can cause us anger. Sometimes tears.

Sometimes, if we’re lucky and open, those hurts lead us to deeper connection, trust, safety with those people, those moments, that life we do have.

Dock 7

“I like having conversations with you at night. I can’t go to sleep unless we have conversations.”

And then, as we watched the sky turn dark…

“Can I sleep with you?”

A question never, ever asked by her before. Words never, ever said by her before, this one who internalizes most all she feels, all she has seen and lived. This one who guards her heart carefully, unsure of what’s real, who to trust. There under the pines, reclined in hammocks, “firefly!” interjected among the hard topics, underlying sadness and vulnerability.

Dock 8

“Can I sleep with you?”

Somehow the talk, the real one with the unshiny stuff, with a child who maybe understood it better than I would wish for her to…somehow it comforted.

She wanted the discussion, the nearness, the shared truth to continue into the night.

Now it’s clear. When we love hard, we feel hard.  And not just the nice feels.

When we love people, our people, children, we feel when life is unfair to them. And that’s ok. It spurs us to love action.

Dock 1

Thank God for the feelings. For the talks. For what is real, for a life imperfect. Mostly, for healing and for love.

Every day I breathe is not for the anger. That shall pass. Everyday I breathe, it’s for better love.