Friday, August 27, 2010

The Woman In The Mirror


"I'm Starting With The Man In the Mirror.
I'm Asking Him To Change his Ways.
And No Message Could Have Been Any Clearer.
If You Wanna Make The World A Better Place
(If You Wanna Make The World A Better Place)
Take A Look At Yourself And Then Make A Change
(Take A Look At Yourself AndThen Make A Change)" ~Michael Jackson/Man In The Mirror"

I received quite a few private responses to my post about Stockholm Syndrome. One of the most profound and moving was from a woman who has experienced this from both ends, as an adoptee and as a mother whose firstborn was taken for adoption. Things are dicey on both counts for her and she is seeking answers.

I was in bed with my laptop, reading, when I got her message. I sent a reply but felt it was so inadequate. When your mother is fearful and your adult child is distant, with what are you left?

Well, we are left with what we all have...ourselves. My parents are dead. My children, raised and surrendered,  live 600 miles away. My oldest just ended a 17-year reunion and my reunion with my second surrendered child is a hit-or-miss proposition. I live with my husband, my little dog and ME.

The past 25 years or so have been both the best and the most trying of my life. There has been divorce, remarriage, reunions, tragedy, joy and sorrow...the mixed bag that is life. But, for the past two and a half decades, something has been happening to me that makes it all worthwhile. Every day, it seems, I discover more of who and what I am. It's a journey, not a destination, but I am happy with what I have found, so far. The imperfection of a decent human being is no longer a cause for ashes and sackcloth. I no longer depend on others to define me.

And I have learned that whatever happens to my children, my family, or my friends is NOT ABOUT ME. Sometimes I think the years of this journey have been a steady chipping away at ego and replacing it with self-esteem. It is not something that is done overnight, although I had an epiphany of sorts that started me on my way. In fact, there have been a number of epiphanies that have kept me moving forward rather than resting on my fat, smug self-satisfaction.

My raised daughter was having some serious gynecological problems that landed her in the hospital and she was scheduled for a laparoscopy. I was in the doldrums, worried about what the outcome might mean to her and shared my mother's angst at a group session I attended each week. Afterwards, the group leader came up to me and said, "Robin, I'm not going to tell you that IT will be all right. But YOU will be all right." It dawned on me that this was not about me, it was about my daughter and that I needed to take my angst and shove it and be there for her, strong and without panic or pressure. I did no one any good by taking their problems on myself, crying, beating my breast and intensifying the drama.

Wow...what a wake-up call! This wasn't my first epiphany and I hope, not my last. But what I have learned from that is that my happiness, peace of mind and self-esteem are all inside me. I cannot let other people decide my state of mind or my self-image. And, should any of my loved ones turn away from me, I have to let that be their choice and their problem. As long as my love for them remains constant, I am the one who gains. You just can't stay sad 24/7 or you have a major problem. I've been down that road and it went no where.

While I was never a great fan, I loved Michael Jackson's "Man In The Mirror." The song is a lesson in the fact that the only thing we can change is ourselves. We can help "effect change" in laws and government policy if we are persistent. But changing other people is not possible nor is it healthy to attempt it. The biggest crime is making other people responsible for our emotional welfare and self-image. Adopters do this without even realizing that they are doing it. That child is supposed to take away their pain of infertility. Big job for a little one, huh? The more we depend on others for our happiness, the more disappointed we are going to be. And, we have no one to blame for that but the face in the mirror.


It has been helpful for me to learn from adopted people the things that help me understand my own adult children. But understanding the person does not change them...just me. That leaves me with what I am going to do with the understanding and that is where my responsibility to myself comes into the picture. What am I willing to do for the relationship and what am I unwilling to do? When it approaches the territory of changing my persona or my deepest held values to meet the needs of someone else, I call a halt. Sometimes the answer is "Love and let go."

Abraham Lincoln opined that most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be. Having looked within, I have discovered that he was very right. My children, my husband, my family, my friends..they are all off the hook. My happiness is my own package to wrap.

Dearest Ones, you are the icing on the cake...but I am the cake.

5 comments:

Lori said...

AWESOME - Thank you!

Carlynne said...

Wonderful post Robin, thank you.

Sandy Young said...

Oh, crap, now what will I do? LOL

Great post, Robin. I am facing some drama right now, too, and this was a good thing to read this morning. Thanks.

Chris said...

""It has been helpful for me to learn from adopted people the things that help me understand my own adult children. But understanding the person does not change them...just me. That leaves me with what I am going to do with the understanding and that is where my responsibility to myself comes into the picture. What am I willing to do for the relationship and what am I unwilling to do? When it approaches the territory of changing my persona or my deepest held values to meet the needs of someone else, I call a halt. Sometimes the answer is "Love and let go."""

Your words above, as of late, have been my deepest and most honest thoughts as well. Thank you.

Liz said...

The fact that we are all responsible for our own happiness, is a lesson I learn over and over in my life.

When my son and daughter came back into my life with reunion, then decided to end all contact after three and a half years; I am re-learning the lesson once again.

Before reunion, I believed that if I ever had the chance to have G & J back in my life, I would make sure that they knew how much they were missed and loved so that we would never be apart again in this lifetime. I neglected to figure in the fact that I can't control what G & J choose, and as it turns out, they choose not to remain connected "in this lifetime." It never occured to me that they would not feel the same way, and want to make sure we never lost each other again.

This realization devastated me and I felt certain that I would lose my mind or die of a broken heart as it dawned on me that things were falling apart, and there was nothing I could do about it. After all, I had tied my whole happiness on keeping these relationships with G & J intact, no matter the cost to me, but in the end, I could not.

So now here I am, again, learning the lesson that G & J's choice to end contact with me, doesn't define me either. Thankfully, I am living and still sane most days, and although I experience cycles of grief, I am happy; because I choose happiness. I am responsible for my life choices, and that is a freedom I enjoy more with each passing year.