I had another day kind of like this last week, and I began to reflect a bit on the similarities between my and my son Kai's journeys....both with trauma of sorts.
The words which kept coming to mind were I'm tired, and I hurt. Not tired in the sleep-deprived sense....but tired in the emotional sense. Everything seems to take more emotional, spiritual and physical energy when the body is somehow compromised. Sheer force of will is kind of like applying sandbags to a river.... you can resist the water's flow but it is only a temporary fix. That's kind of how distraction and activity works for me....damn pain is always around the corner though. It sucks and I'm still trying to learn this new dance.
Last week I met with an wise old friend of mine...someone who my family has known since I was a kid. She asked me to explain my miracle story to another friend of hers, starting with the adoption of our kids. (Of course I was thinking...what miracle??? It is more like an almost losing-my-mind story!) So on I went....sharing our experience of adopting our kiddos, which segwayed into my climbing fall.
(I'll digress a bit here...)
In a nutshell, our lives took a dramatic turn when Kai entered our lives in February of '09. Not walking, no real language (other than crying), no instinctive desire to participate in life...at all, Kai was an extremely difficult child. Many days I was a basket-case-of-a-parent. The metaphor I would use to explain our son was that, energy-wise he was like a black hole. This kind of dynamic happens when children are "cribbed" in orphanages and horribly abused and/or neglected. Likewise, learning how to parent such a child is nearly as devastating. Trying to teach trust to a child who has lost all hope is kind of like trying to explain color to someone who is blind. In fact, I remember e-mailing folks from China about our experience of dealing with Kai and his behaviors in the first weeks....using the metaphor of Annie Sullivan to explain what it was like to deal with him.
I also remember telling people that Kai's "mental muscle" had not been accustomed to functioning due to being cribbed at his orphanage. In all likelihood, he languished there...on a daily basis, wasting away. I know, tough to think about. But it happened.
I think of Kai in his first few years with us....learning to flex his mental muscle, with his little brain thinking...but I'm so tired and I hurt. And I, in my stubborn "Annie-Sullivanesque" way, would not let him go. I would not let him quit. (He still has the tendency to resist putting effort into things and sabbotage efforts before he even begins them. Sigh...we may never outgrow those quirks.) Somehow I refused to believe that he would not or could not grow to be a happy, well-adjusted child. I likened his exercising of his "mental muscle" to folks doing physical therapy for an injured body part (obviously having no foresight). It is a lot of work, and sometimes it really hurts!
However, now I understand....that trauma fundamentally CHANGES people. In the same way my orthopaedic surgeon has banned me from seeing a chiropractor because spinal alignment is not possible due to the change in my spinal anatomy, Kai's emotional, mental and spiritual alignment has been altered because of his early experience of trauma and neglect. I HATE the fact that this is the case, but it simply IS. He'll always be a quirky kid and he may always have issues with trusting people. But I know that I cannot emotionally bulldoze the trauma out of him (I used to think if I smothered him with love, or provided enough consequences, or....(insert control-related verb here) he would all-of-a-sudden "get" it. Truth is, we don't have as much control over the "how" or "when" things happen, or even IF they happen. Sigh....
The good thing about catching up with friends who have known you forever is the fact that they can challenge you. My friend said, Chris....get out a pen and write this down (implied....because it applies to you. Damn I hate that!): "Your organic self has no strategy for deception." Wow. Pain (emotional or physical) cannot be ignored, or channeled, or bulldozed over. Aw shit.
I guess this is something that my little kiddo intuitively knows to some degree. The first year or so with us, Kai had an eternal scowl on his face. Thankfully this has changed and he has developed an infectious laugh and amazing smile. Don't get me wrong, he still is an emotionally labile little character and tears continue to be his default mode. But he has learned to enjoy life, Thank God.
"Looking back, would you have done anything differently with your son?" my friend asked. "Not really..." I responded. "He has come farther than I would have ever imagined and is becoming a pretty cool kid. I almost lost myself along the way though..." I said. "These years have been tough."
....and oddly, as I reflect upon the past eight months (since my accident) I am amazed at how Kai has grown. Despite all of the upheaval in our house, he has continued to show amazing strength. And...I think I have learned a little something from him. He has prevailed in spite of his pain (okay, with an occasional kick in the butt from time to time....but don't we all need that sometimes?)
At the end of his school year, Kai's class put together a booklet using the words of a song entitled May There Always Be Sunshine. Lots of kids created cute pictures....may there always be: ice cream, baseball, flowers, etc. This was Kai's pic: