Facing the mess as me

–by Laura Dennis, originally published on the author’s own blog, Les Pensées du chat noir

[This is not the ATN post of the week, but rather an explanation of why it isn’t (yet) here. And after last week’s post on caregiver stress, I thought this could maybe be of help to some.]

We all have so much we mean to do.

I, for example, mean to put up a new post on the ATN blog every Tuesday night. Last spring, I started to hit my rhythm, and last summer, I was really getting it done. I felt productive and accomplished. Things were good.

Then the school year started.

Day 1 was good.

Day 2 was good.

Days 3, 4, and an unspecified number after that, not so much.

My oldest found out apartment living isn’t the cakewalk to independence she thought it would be.

My middle suffered a compound dislocation in “the small finger” of her dominant hand. In case you didn’t know (I didn’t), compound dislocation, sans fracture, is a thing.

My youngest struggled mightily with the transition to high school, and in one of his verbal assaults, said all he could to hurt me. It worked.

I’m seeing those closest to me suffer from cancer, injury, heartache. I used to live in Houston. I have friends in Puerto Rico. And can we talk for a minute about India, the place where 75% of my household was born? In the midst of all the horror here, this was largely missed:

Bringing things back – literally – to the home front, this marks the first time since August that we’ve had three homemade meals in a week. Yes, we are lucky to be eating at all. And yes, plenty of families eat but never cook. It might seem like no big thing, but for us, not cooking and eating at home is a big, fat, hairy deal. (Garfield anyone?)


So here we are, Wednesday night. Still no ATN blog. Yes, the bloggers do the writing, but the managing, the editing, the layout? That takes time. Time I feel like I don’t have. I’m behind on another deadline, this one fixed, and I have three more looming just after that. Combine all that with work stress, and just a few hours ago, I only wanted to go fetal and cry. That or run away to the beach.

Going fetal and crying, though, that’s not much like me. There’s nothing wrong with them, mind you. They’re just not me. Escaping to the beach is me, but there’s these pesky little obstacles in the way–I think they’re called mountains. If I was going to find me, I was going to have to look here at home. So I sent a few rather sassy texts to my closest friends. That helped. I rustled up ingredients and cooked tonight’s meal. That helped a little more. As we ate, we chatted and watched our kitten play. That definitely helped. By the time we opened the M&Ms, I felt like someone I could recognize as me. So much so that I opened my laptop to write.

Are the deadlines still there? Yep. The struggles of a working, single mom of 3? Likewise. All the disease and disaster, pain and death? Check, check, check, and check. None of that is likely to go away any time soon. And yet. For the way I’ve spent this evening, my regrets are exactly none. The bad stuff is going to come. At least this way, I can face it all as me.

I am a solo mother of three, all adopted as older children from India, all of whom have been affected by early childhood trauma, particularly my youngest, who was diagnosed at age six with RAD, ADHD, and ODD. We had struggled along as best we could for more than two years before that, whereupon I started learning all I could about trauma and attachment. It has changed our lives for the better. Not only has it set my son on a path that could –maybe– lead to eventual healing, it taught me the type of help my eldest would need as she dealt with her own past en route to young adulthood. Perhaps best of all, it led me to ATN, who not only helped our family, but also gave me the chance to pay it forward by helping families like ours find the support they need. In my “real” job, I am a World Languages professor and department chair at a private liberal arts college in the Appalachian mountains. I have found a way to merge my passions by researching the depiction of intercountry adoption in world literature and film and guest-lecturing for education classes about diversity, inclusion, and trauma-informed instruction. In what passes for my free time, I enjoy long walks, reading, writing, playing piano, and caring for our dog and cats.