It is August 11, 2013. One year ago today I got on the first of several planes on my way to Uganda, to meet Fortunate as his mother. I was so nervous, excited and full of anxiety but not scared at all. Not scared to journey to a third world country on the other side of the planet, by myself as a white woman. Not scared to see the boy whom I had only met once before and felt in my heart should be my son, and to take him home with me forever. Not scared to risk heart ache and hurt. I don’t know why I wasn’t afraid of those things. I had some deep sense of security, of doing the right thing, of making the only choice.
I recently saw this quote by Mark Twain:
“Life is short, break the rules, forgive quickly, kiss slowly, love truly, laugh uncontrollably, and never regret anything that made you smile. Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
It resonates with me. I have always felt this inside me, although not so eloquently phrased. I am always seeking that next project, looking for things that make me satisfied and fulfilled. I would rather do too much than not for fear I would regret it someday. I constantly yearn for more. I tend to exhaust myself, get emotional, and wonder why I cannot be everything I want to be at the same moment. I have had to teach myself that I can do anything I want, but not necessarily at the same time. And now, I have had to teach myself that I have reached my limit. I cannot spin anymore plates in the air simultaneously. They are dropping left and right. I have to buckle down, focus on what is most important and love what I have and who I am.
In practical terms, this means the very deep and heartbreaking knowledge that we cannot adopt another child. It is kind of absurd that we would consider it, and I don’t know that we ever really thought we would. But the possibility lay there, the way all roads lie open and enticing to you when you are young. But knowing this and saying the words -that we cannot adopt another- is the brutal truth. Brutal because I know deep down that any child would do better being with us than staying in an orphanage or in a foster home. But I have had to acknowledge my limits, and realize what I need. Taking in another child would not be good for me. I have found the edges of my abilities. I have been aged by this process, of taking in this abandoned boy and disrupting our easy family flow. Our children have gained so much this year, but I have been worn down. I know that I need to do things for myself outside of the kids. I am not someone who finds herself completed by being a mother. Being a mother is incredibly satisfying, but I need other things too. I have put aside parts of myself to do this thing – this raising children thing- in the best way I know how. And now I am burned out, and I need to find those things to help redefine who I am today.
I was back in New York City this month, with all four kids. There is nothing like going away to make you appreciate your own home and life. I love my life, my strange little Midwestern suburban stay-at-home mom thing that is so entirely opposite of the glamorous life I remember having in Manhattan. And being back there reminded me all too well of the tedium, the difficulty, the constant churning machine that is city living. And here, even with four kids, it is so easy. Even with all the continual demands of motherhood, life in Ohio is centered. We have a life that I think is so important for the kids, and even for me. I don’t regret leaving show business or New York for a minute. I am so proud of all we have accomplished – these children we are still neck deep in raising. This commitment we have made to the world to raise a son that almost was lost. To have a house where loud is good, standing on the furniture is allowed, and “go play outside” is a happy refrain. I have satisfaction in knowing that what I have been doing is important and I was good at it. And soon, as the kids all go back to school, I can begin to return to myself, to rediscover and renew. To have the solitude I crave, which I so ironically avoided when I was younger.
A year has gone by. A chaotic, difficult, exhausting, humbling and deeply and profoundly changing year. I feel the next chapter is on the horizon. I can’t do everything at the same time, but I can do anything. It is time for me to see what that will be.