Saturday, June 4, 2016

Clown For A Day

For more than 10 years I have been dressing up as a clown for the 4th of July.  I’ve skipped, hopped and cartwheeled my way up and down Broadway more times than I can count, handing out event fliers and flags during the biggest little parade you could ever see: so short, in fact, that after it goes by it turns around at the end of the street to return for a second pass.  And I’ve worn the same costume every year: a pretty, girly, brightly colored polka-dotted and alternately striped, big hoop-bottomed dress, with a bright orange wig, big fuzzy bunny slippers and a Barbie umbrella.  

Kids from 0-2, often afraid of clowns, like me because, aside from my bright red nose, I’m not scary at all.  The 3-6 year olds shyly ask about my bunny slippers or Barbie umbrella while posing for pictures next to me.  Those 6 and up think I’m silly and smile at my antics.  And the adults, well, let me just saythat I’ve had my photo taken with way more adults than children while clowning around Skagway. 

Dressing up as a clown has given me something nothing else in my life ever has: unfettered joy.  When I put that costume on I am immediately transformed.  I’m no longer afraid or self-conscious or judgmental.  I’m not worried about work or what other people think.  I can be silly and goofy.  And, for those of you who don’t know me, I am not, without this super suit, a silly or goofy person.

However, this past week, I ordered a new clown costume.  Here’s why.

Just prior to the parade is the annual Skagway News Run Around, a 5k race covering the distance from one end of town to the other.  They give out awards for the fastest runners in several categories, which I’ve yet to win.  They also give out one award for best costume, so it’s the only race I’ve ever won an award in!  Before the race I stand at the starting line over-exaggerating my pre-race routine. Long slow stretches with my hooped-skirt exposing my white ruffled bottom and high loping strides while warming up next to the “real runners.” Just before the start I nose my bunny-slippered foot as close to the starting line as possible while crouching in anticipation for the starting gun.  My efforts elicit laughter and smiles from spectators and participants alike.

In 2013 it was during this pre-race performance that Tom approached, face stormy and stride purposeful.  He gently but firmly grabbed my arm and said “Let’s go.”  He said he had something to tell me, just not right there.  So I started walking with him, back towards the house, a mere two blocks away, thinking something bad must have happened at work.  His stride was brisk, his countenance stoic, and I’m thinking it’s got to be really bad.  As we walk just around the corner I see my friend and colleague walking briskly towards me too.  In a panic I turn to look at my husband who, realizing he can’t wait any longer, says “Michael passed.”

And as I crumble to the ground, unable to breathe, I float away.  And what I see as I hover above is a sad, horrible picture of a woman who has just lost her child, again, dressed in a pretty, girly, brightly colored polka-dotted and alternately striped, big hoop-bottom clown costume, with a bright orange wig, big fuzzy bunny slippers and a Barbie umbrella.  And this image is burned in my brain, and no matter what I do I can’t seem to shake it. 

I’ve tried. 

The past two years during the months leading up to the 4th, I have cringed at the thought of having to don that costume.  In the end I convinced myself to put it on and parade down Broadway.  I cartwheeled and skipped and took photos with kids and adults alike, but behind those enormous sunglasses with the big red nose, I’ve hidden tears and sadness.  I smiled at times too, but I still couldn’t get that image out of my head.

So, I’m retiring the clown costume.  I finally decided it’s just easier to put it away, if that’s the image that keeps coming back.  I’m doing it to ease the pain but I’m also doing it because I know he would have loved that I’m a clown.  He would have loved the joy and smiles brought to so many people, not the least of all myself.  I even like to think that one day, had he lived, he would have joined me in skipping, hopping and cartwheeling down the street.  And that’s what I want to come to mind when I become a clown for the day… and I want to find my way back to that fearlessness and silliness and unfettered joy.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Regret

I said it, for the first time, out loud, in conversation.  A conversation about my son.

REGRET.

I hate that word.  HATE.  It creates a thunderstorm in my body.  Pressure builds behind my eyes, inside my head, my throat, my gut.  And I want to throw it up, but it just sits there and churns and boils and it feeds on itself.  In my mind it is the single most horrible thing I can feel.  It’s worse than anger and sadness and jealously.  And fear.  I can accept, and even embrace, being angry and sad.  And although I find jealously and fear a bit more difficult, those too I can acknowledge with grudging acceptance.  But not regret.  Because regret, in my mind, means I was wrong.  It means I made the wrong choice.  And, oh, how I hate being wrong.  And worse yet, the fact that it has appeared here, in this space I have always so adamantly maintained was a place where it did not belong…

So, what do I regret?
I regret not reaching out to him more.
I regret not sending him letters every single chance I had.
I regret not pushing for more contact after we were reunited.
I regret not trying harder.




Then, in the midst of writing this this, I decided to look up the actual definition.  Rather eye opening.

From Merriam-Webster.com:

·     Regret: to feel sad or sorry about (something that you did or did not do): to have regrets about (something)

-used formally and in writing to express sad feelings about something that is disappointing or unpleasant.


This is so very much better than my definition.  This definition does not limit regret to wrong vs right, one thing over the other.  It does not enforce a dichotomy.  Instead it allows for an inclusiveness I have been lacking.  It enables me to say something I have NEVER uttered before:

I regret placing my son for adoption. 

And under this new-found definition I can regret placing him for adoption while still maintaining it was the right choice.  Because I desperately need to continue to believe it was the right choice.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

"Adoption Talks" Link Up

I’m participating in a blog link up entitled “Adoption Talks.”  Since I haven’t been writing as much as I’d like too, this gives me an incentive. And since I'm coming to the table a bit late, I'm going to keep it short and sweet.

My name is Candace.

I’m a birth mom.  I placed my newborn son for adoption in 1990.  We were reunited when he turned 18.  He passed away 5 years later.  Here’s the link to My Story. 

I’m married to my best friend.  We have a dog, but no children.

I’m a runner and general outdoor enthusiast.  As I age I’m becoming more comfortable in my own skin and more capable of getting it to do what I want (yay).

I’m a musician.  I sing, play guitar, saxophone, banjo, bass and dabble with violin.

I’m a metal smith, working primarily in silver and other precious metals.

I have celiac disease, which has enabled me to become superb cook.  I love to eat.

I like a good inexpensive red wine, cab preferably, but I’m not too picky.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Outside-the-box


It’s really hard to develop an intimate relationship with someone after they’re gone.  And as a birthmother, even one with a strong sense of self-esteem, I can’t help but question my “right” to want this relationship.  I have to pointedly talk myself through, again and again, the entire decision making process. 

I have to do this all the time, lately it's been almost daily.

And it’s tiring, by the way.


 













Since he turned 18, and we were first reunited, I’ve tried to glean a sense of who my son is.  Early on social media was the main source of information, and since his death I’ve been fortunate to have access to his family and friends too.

Here’s what I’ve come away with: 

the image of a young man with a tendency to think-outside-the-box; 
not just an ability to do so, 
but an inclination to do so. 

The ability to think outside the box is prized and encouraged, while those who prefer to live life outside it can be viewed in less favorable light.  I imagine, as a result, that some people were not so sure he had it all together or perhaps thought that he was a bit “out there.”  But I also believe he had to have some of the BEST friends a person could ever ask for.  Friends who embraced his individuality and who encouraged his imagination, and even friends who took up residence outside the box with him from time to time.

There’s power in owning ones’ uniqueness, and I think it takes most of us a long time to figure that out (yep, still working on it over here), but I think he “got it” early.  I think he figured out that there’s a lot more space to move and “be” outside the box than in it, and he made the conscious decision to go there. 

Is this who he was?  How his mind worked?  I don’t know.  I may be just making things up.  Again, it’s really hard develop a relationship with someone once they’re gone.  But this image I’m developing of him, in my head, is beautiful.  And in my head, I can embrace him and hold him, and if he did indeed live and think outside the box, then I can believe he would embrace me back, without hesitation and without judgments.
 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Default Setting


The busy season is upon me, with spring and change in the air.  I seem to be spending almost as much time trying to pull my thoughts together as I am getting any work done, but at the end of the day I can see progress – thanks to well thought out to-do lists.
 
I’ve been incorporating meditation into my daily life, with over a solid month of 10 minutes or more per day.  I like it, and I like that I’m doing it.  Is it making a difference?  I don’t know, but I feel a bit less anxious, or more precisely, more at ease.   

But tonight, my mind and emotions are in a bit of a flux, and I’m feeling discontented.

There is such an ebb and flow to how I feel and think about my son, waves of intensity.  Some days I find myself walking by his picture and lightly touching the image, so grateful for the connections we had.  Other days I sit and doubt… everything.  The moments of gratefulness I embrace as much as I can, and the others, well, sometimes I give them airtime.  I’m trying to learn to hear the chorus of critics in my head without necessarily listening to them; learning to acknowledge the fears without letting them take control. 


When it comes to my son I never knew how to tell people that I wanted to talk about him.  That even though it usually made me cry I still wanted to and to find ways to acknowledge his existence.  Now, as I continue to learn how to share him, and I tell people I want to be open about him, I find myself resorting back to my old default when they do bring him up: clamming up and shutting down – it’s so frustrating!  I don’t want to do that anymore.

My oldest sister spoke of my son fairly often, more so after we were reunited.  She wanted to know if I’d heard from him or talked to him.  It’s one of the many things I’ve always loved about her – that she never seemed afraid to bring him up in conversation.  She always made me feel as though he was a normal part of my life, our lives, and she never once doubted he would find me one day.   
For that I am so very grateful.  

My oldest brother and his wife have their own very personal relationship with adoption: they adopted two beautiful boys.  When they began their adoption journey, we talked about my experience and what I looked for in perspective parents; I think they were hoping to get the inside story – I’m not sure I was ever really helpful, but I hope so.  Our conversations, no matter how seemingly insignificant, were precious to me.

The youngest siblings, my baby sister and baby brother, were only 9 and 11 when I had my son.  I can’t even tell you what they thought about all of it, what their feelings were.  We never talked about it then, and haven’t really since, but I hope to learn someday how they felt and what their experiences were, if they are willing.

My son expressed an interest in meeting them all; especially my brothers, since his adopted family was heavily populated with girls.  One of the few times all of us siblings were together we talked with anticipation and excitement about when and where and who would be there (we didn’t think it would be wise for all of us to be present - we were a bit afraid to overwhelm him with the full force of our combined craziness).   
We talked and laughed and dreamt about what it will be like… would be like...

We just never had the chance.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Cherish Everything







Lately, I’ve been able to think about him without crying, even talk about him without crying.
Well, sometimes…

It amazes me: the tears seem to be self-replicating.  They just never seem to run out.  However, they are less insistent.  Less like a waterfall, more like a softly rolling river.  At times I find myself floating along, carried by the current, at other times I rest in an eddy, seemingly content to be idle.  I have come to the point, finally, where I’m less likely to judge my feelings and instead just acknowledge, accept and sit with them. 
It’s a good place to be.

I’ve been thinking more about what I’m missing and less of what I missed.
Neither holds any joy, however.   
So, I try to turn my attention to what I did have: to the memory of seeing his face for the first time, and his perfect little features; his ruddy cheeks, tiny fingers and downy hair.  And to the memory of his face again, after 19 years, and having it feel like it was the first time.  How it felt to have his grown-up, man-like frame engulf me in a hug.  His eyes, his beautiful eyes that looked so like my own.  I look lovingly at the pictures from our one precious face-to-face meeting.  Him and I, arm in arm, with smiling faces and glowing eyes.  I’m so grateful to have them, so grateful.



Here’s an odd confession: I’ve actually come to value the flush of my face and the heaviness in my chest that happens immediately before the tears start to flow, because, in reality, I want to cherish everything I can that has anything to do him whatsoever.