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Next Life, NO Kids: May 2017

May 30, 2017

I'm So Glad I Was Wrong - A letter to my daughter

I used to rock you in my arms when you were a baby, and imagine the woman you’d become. You would be popular, but not too popular. You’d be smart, witty, independent, and funny. You would be a natural leader. I knew you’d always be beautiful. 

You would be everything I wasn’t; everything I never had the chance or courage to be. You would be perfectly unlike me in every way. You would be better than me... like a hybrid version.

As you know, I have made a lot of mistakes in my life. I had no doubt I was the perfect person to raise you to make better choices, and suffer less. I had foolproof plans to help you identify and maneuver yourself around the potholes I fell into. 

 I was going to help ensure your happiness and success!

I'm So Glad I Was Wrong - A letter to my daughter #Motherhood #Teenagers

I had no doubt you would let me help you.

What I didn’t count on was how much you would grow up to be just like me. I was ill prepared for confrontation with my own brand of stubbornness and sarcasm. I didn't expect to have to fight so hard for the right to help you through some of life’s difficult moments. I didn’t envision rejection in response to my selfless offers to guide you; to mold you into that amazing woman I knew you could be - the woman I wanted you to be. 

I couldn’t see how selfish and closed minded those ideas were. I thought I was trying to help you. I didn’t think of the possibility that you were better equipped to make the right choices I didn't at your age.

And so I yelled.

Honestly, I didn’t know what else to do. I knew you weren’t listening to me - to reason - and I was afraid you’d ruin that beautiful picture I had for your future; that selfish picture I never actually factored you into. So, instead of trying to support the decisions I didn’t agree with, I tried to force my will into the situation.  When you held your ground, I yelled some more.

I yelled because I was terrified. The more you pushed against boundaries, the more fearful I became.

There were many times I over-identified with what you were facing. I swear it wasn’t on purpose or to take away from your feelings, but I know it did. I thought if I could just convince you that I knew, that I understood you, that you would trust me more and fight me less. Having had some time to reflect, I understand now how that might have minimized your feelings and individuality. I swear to you, I didn’t see it.

Now that I do, I don’t blame you for pushing me away. 

I know there were times you believe I failed as your mother. I've worried about that possibility every day since you were born. Being a mom is hard...and sometimes beyond terrifying. There’s no manual or script to follow. I often parented by Braille; just feeling my way around for answers to questions I didn’t know how to ask. The frustration and fear I felt, not always knowing what you needed and/or how to help you, left me feeling useless. Some nights, I heard myself screaming things at you I could not believe were coming out of my mouth. 

I know there were times you hated me. The truth is, there were times I hated you, too. Not because I didn’t love you, but because I loved you too much. No one in my life has ever challenged me the ways you have. I wasn't prepared to look at some of the things, in myself, you mirrored back at me. I didn’t realize that your becoming like me wasn’t the worst thing that could happen. I haven’t always valued myself - the choices I've made - the woman I’ve become, and I struggled with the irony.

The last five years of our relationship have tested my patience, beliefs, boundaries, and sanity. There were days – months even – I was certain as soon as you turned eighteen, you would leave this house and never speak to me again. Some days I thought I would want that.

I'm so glad I was wrong.

I always thought being a good mother meant it was my job to shape you into a good person; to make sure you took the right path. I think that idea made it impossible for me to let go; to accept your choices when I didn't agree. I got scared when you became the independent person I always wanted you to be, and I let my fear keep me from celebrating that independence and trusting your judgment.  That is where I failed you.

I wish I had listened more – like, really listened - for what you were trying to say, instead of translating it into how I could help you.

I'm So Glad I Was Wrong - A letter to my daughter #Motherhood #TeenagersI wish I had trusted in both of us more; in our abilities to handle situations, no matter how baffling, because we were always stronger than I thought.

I want you to know how proud I am of the person you've become despite, and in spite of, some of my best efforts to guide you. You are the strong woman I used to imagine you'd become...and so much more than I ever imagined. I want you to know that being your mom has made me a better person. 

I always thought it was my job to teach you about life, but I fear you may not have learned as much from me as I have from you.

I promise to never try to take credit for your accomplishments. 

I will however pray that someday, you will tell me there was something in your life you couldn’t have done without me.  

I won't mind if you lie. 

Love Always, 


*This post was originally published on this blog in February of 2015.

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May 23, 2017

Perhaps The Thought Will Count

Depression delights in isolation, and I'm a social butterfly. Depression clips my wings and blames me for failed attempts to get up -- to fly away -- to feel free. 

It begs the question, "What if only I was stronger?" 

Depression speaks poorly of me and of everything I've ever accomplished. It whispers that I'm nothing; a meaningless existence. 

On days I have the slightest amount of energy to argue, I can't find my voice. Depression knows me so well. It is, by far, the most abusive partner I've ever shared my bed and secrets with. 

The despair feeds the desperation in ways I'm not meant to understand, but feel obligated to accommodate.

Depression does not bother itself with insignificant details of my actual life or reality -- these facts are irrelevant. 

It's pathetic how much of my worth and confidence can be drained in half a day, ever-so convincing they were never real at all, but rather mirages I've been hiding behind to mask this feeling - all of these feelings - and the emptiness in my chest. 

What if Depression is right about me? 

Without a sense of self, or time, or obligation, the numbness folds itself into the spaces I can't reach. I forget that I have power here. 

I wake up exhausted and Overwhelm finds me brushing my teeth or making actual plans to leave the house. Anxiety arrives moments later and battles with the darkness; leaving me to suffer the agony of defeat as that last step over the threshold becomes too much to withstand and I give up. 

Maybe tomorrow I'll try again. 
Maybe tomorrow I'll feel better. 

Because there's so much joy here. There's so much love. Even if I can't always connect with it; even if I never do. And even if they never understand how desperately I want to be present -- truly present -- for all the things, perhaps the thought will count. 


May 03, 2017

Identity Is A Prison You Can Never Escape

A while back someone added me to a support group for Black adoptees. I have been struggling with membership and participation, mostly for one very obviously reason -- I'm White. I do not feel I have any right to space in there. Yesterday I spoke up about my feelings after an admin posted asking our feelings about the tagline, "Identity is a prison you can never escape[...]"  

Personally, I love this quote, and all the feels I get when I say it out loud. It's empowering and it's real. It tells me that this will be a life-long battle, but also assures me it's one I can win.

My struggle to share in the group and seek support stems from this feeling of imprisonment. 

I have lived my whole life as a privileged White person, and learned only at age 37 that I am almost a quarter African. This information has been difficult to swallow, and I've had trouble voicing these feelings without the assumption that it's due to disappointment in my African roots. 

This process has landed me on the receiving end of racist remarks and jokes, and has taught me, time and again, how unsafe it is to discuss certain things with certain people in my life. 

There hasn't been a safe place to process any of it, and I cannot express the amount of process necessary. I have so many questions that may never be answered. There are so many variables and possibilities. 

I wrote: 

I've actually been torn in posting here, because of this very thing. 

Last year, I had a DNA test done and found out that I'm 21% African. I was also matched to many blood relatives who are African American/Black.

This has floored me in ways I cannot put into words. This has torn at my identity in ways I don't know if I'll ever fully understand, and I have NO WHERE and NO ONE to go to with this process. 

I am surrounded by many "well-intentioned" racists, and I have yet to share this incredibly amazing yet difficult information with anyone without hearing some back-handed racist "joke." I understand my friends and family don't know how to respond. What do you tell your very white friend who just found out 37 YEARS INTO HER LIFE that she's 21% African? How do you help her process the feelings of anger and disappointment regarding the fact that it was kept completely out of her file? How do you help her process the very real fear that if only her parents had known, they would not have gone through with her adoption? 

I was added to this group because I shared this privately with one of you, and I appreciate this space so much. I just don't feel like I've earned the right to be here. I don't feel like as a white person with privilege I get to claim any of this space or feel sorry for myself because of any of this. 

So yes, "identity is a prison you can never escape," speaks to me. Not in a good way, but in a real way. 

I feel like a poor little white girl whining. 

I can't claim the social or political identity either. How can I?

I feel like I should sit down and shut up. I feel like an imposter. I feel like I have NO right to interrupt this or any other space with my luxury problems while so many others are fighting for the right to life and freedoms that I get to take for granted every day. 

How do I ask people to spare time for this?

Do I belong here?

I was so nervous for the replies. I worried about all the possible ways I could be shamed for having these feelings or mis-communicating my feelings and offending someone. Maybe I hadn't used the right term and I would be blasted for my obvious ignorance.

And much like most of the things I spend time worrying about, I was wrong. The first response was from the admin who had posed the question:

Julie, that's why I asked the question. Black people are not homogenous. Phenotype is different than genotype (How we look vs. our genes). That's why the United States enacted a "one-drop" (of black blood) rule. What an amazing story you have to tell... 

You deserve to be here and discover all the parts that are you!

And then this one: 

 Julie Maida, first of all welcome to this group. We are glad that you are here. Feel your feelings. They are valid. Except for the one that you blame yourself and consider yourself unworthy for this space. If it only was for your benefit that the space exists, It's worth it. 

Someone somewhere along the line decided to conceal Part of Yourself and I suspect it must have been to make sure that you were adoptable. But that's only my opinion. That is your journey to discover should you choose to do so. Please know that if there is any issues any questions you want to ask please feel free to do it here. There's no judgement and this is a safe space.

And then I felt like I was home, because they were speaking my love language.

I look forward to using this incredible group to break out of my prison and learn more about all the ways I am me. 

Perhaps I will never fully know who I am or where I came from, but I'm confident at this point that I can take the information from my past and the amazing words of Jay-Z, try to understand it, and use it as a foundation to grow.