Onward

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” – Steve Jobs

My New Year’s post is a little belated this year. The past few weeks have been an emotional roller coaster for me…marked by the tragedy in Newtown, the holidays, the sad news about the Russian adoption ban, attending a close friend’s mother’s funeral, and then the excitement of attending the Notre Dame/Alabama National Championship game. The game (painful as it was to watch), gave me some ideas of how to articulate my thoughts and feelings about the start of 2013, and where I am in my own personal journey.

The day after the game, the University of Notre Dame posted this on their Facebook page: “Thanks to Notre Dame Football for an outstanding season. It’s been quite a ride. Onward.” That summed up exactly how I feel – about the game, and about my life. Of course I was disappointed at how Notre Dame played, and I had wished for a different outcome. But, overall, I appreciated how amazing the season was, appreciated feeling the excitement building each week, and appreciated the opportunity to be at the Championship game, win or loss. At the end of this crazy season, despite the whooping by Alabama, Notre Dame football is better off than they were a year ago, and that is “forward progress.”

I love this concept of the “forward progress” rule in football. My loose definition is this: no matter how far the runner or receiver is pushed back by his defenders, forward progress means the ball is placed at the best possible spot – the furthest point he was able to make it before going down or out of bounds. Even if he is pushed back 10 – even 20+ yards…WAY behind the line of scrimmage, the refs pick that ball up and put it back down at the best possible spot, and the next play begins.

Now this is where I get serious…because this post in NOT about Notre Dame football. I want my life to work like the forward progress rule! And I think it can if only I can see it that way. As a concept, forward progress sounds so much better to me than the idea of “starting over.” Who wants to go all the way back to the beginning just to cover all of the same ground again? How exhausting. Not me – I want to KEEP MOVING, to figure out what I need to learn from what just happened by healing, learning, making my adjustments, and moving forward.

A few weeks ago, I was devastated by the news that Russian President Putin signed an adoption ban, no longer allowing US residents to adopt children from Russia. You see, after a long discernment process of over a year, adopting a 2-3 year old from Russia had become my “plan”. I had completed my home study this fall, and was ready to submit my application to US Immigration, only to find out a few days after Christmas that this was no longer going to be an option for me. My heart literally ached (and still does) for the 650,000 children in orphanages or foster care in Russia, and every day I pray for the 50+ families that have already been placed with their children, that they are able to complete their adoptions and take their children home. That said, I have been thinking nonstop about what happened, and trying to figure out what to do and how to move forward without having to start over from the beginning.

I don’t make decisions like this easily or quickly, and when first hearing the news about the ban, I truly felt like I had wasted over a year of my life. I felt emotionally drained, feeling like I had to go back to be the start. I felt lost and overwhelmed. Remember how mad you would get playing Chutes and Ladders or Candy Land (or Uncle Wiggly for the board game fanatics out there that can remember that one)? The end of the game is in sight, and on the last roll, you end up on that awful spot that makes you have to move back all the way back to the start.

Well, I felt like that but a whole lot worse. Life is a lot more complicated and emotional than a board game. Once again, I had to give up on the vision I made in my mind of what I had expected to happen. I had to process the loss I was feeling. I had to admit that despite every effort I had been making to have control over the process, I actually had no control. Having children, like life in general, is not geometry – there is no such thing as a straight line being the shortest distance between two points. That is not how life works.

In our own ways, we are trying our best to move the ball forward, to get to the goal line whatever that may be. We all have incredibly squiggly lines on our journeys, don’t we? At this point, my path has zigged and zagged all over the place. There are so many obstacles in our way – and sometimes we have to run out of bounds to avoid getting clobbered. Sometimes we actually get clobbered, and have to get back up, wounded and sore, take time to heal, breathe deep, and get back on the field. We take our lessons learned with us. We take the memories of those that we lost with us. We cope, heal, and start to realize that we are better people because of those lessons learned, and because we were loved by the ones we have lost.

This is my most recent picture of the Notre Dame Grotto, one of the most beautiful, peaceful places on Earth.
This is my most recent picture of the Notre Dame Grotto, one of the most beautiful, peaceful places on Earth. The Grotto gives me a great deal of comfort at times like these.

I love the idea of picking up the ball and placing in at the best spot, and NOT going back to the start. Instead of starting over at square one in my journey to motherhood, I realize now that I have gathered a great deal of knowledge about adoption that I didn’t have a year ago. I have met some amazing people, have made new connections, and have been “practicing” my risk taking abilities. I know myself better. I am continuing to try to embrace vulnerability as a strength, not as a weakness. I have dipped my toe into the “arena” (remember my reference Teddy Roosevelt’s Man in the Arena speech from my post “One Year Later), and now realize I am ready to step in with both feet firmly on the ground.

I have the courage to tell the “world” out there my story, not just my closest friends. I did NOT have that a year ago. That is forward progress.

Onward 2013.

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9 thoughts on “Onward

  1. Another great post. You have learned so much in this past year. We always are learning, so long as we are aware of it. I see you as having moved closer to adoption because now you know what the pitfalls can be AND you have developed the muscles to pull yourself out of them. I ache for those children in Russia as well… and there are so many others who are waiting to be taken into your love. And now you’re that many days closer to finding them.

  2. Thanks for this post Laurie, it certainly resonated with me. To provide some (perhaps cold) comfort, in my experience and from the folks Ive met along the way, the road to adoption is always a tough one, filled with obstacles and heartache. As you know, we adopted two children almost 2 years ago, but not before we had many, many setbacks along the way culminating in one failed adoption 2 weeks after we had taken the little girls into our home.

    Your analogy of moving the ball forward is such an excellent one. Like all things in life (especially adoption!) there are hurdles to overcome everyday and you have to learn to roll with the punches, pick yourself up and move on……OK, perhaps a sports metaphor too far.

    Thank you for your honesty, the world needs to know more about adoption and the valuable place it has in our world, irrespective of the challenges and heartaches endured along the way.

  3. Thanks for this post Laurie, it certainly resonated with me. To provide some (perhaps cold) comfort, in my experience and from the folks Ive met along the way, the road to adoption is always a tough one, filled with obstacles and heartache. As you know, we adopted two children almost 2 years ago, but not before we had many, many setbacks along the way culminating in one failed adoption 2 weeks after we had taken the little girl into our home.

    Your analogy of moving the ball forward is such an excellent one. Like all things in life (especially adoption!) there are hurdles to overcome everyday and you have to learn to roll with the punches, pick yourself up and move on……OK, perhaps a sports metaphor too far.

    Thank you for your honesty, the world needs to know more about adoption and the valuable place it has in our world, irrespective of the challenges and heartaches endured along the way.

  4. Laurie, you are wonderful. I so admire your compassion and strength of character. How blessed I am to have you as a friend. Whenever I’ve had setbacks or disappointments, I think about this story and it helps me. It reminds me that, although sometimes painful and frustrating, nothing in life is random or purpose-less. In his love and wisdom, God is involved in every aspect of our lives.

    “There once was a village that had a very wise old man who gave the people answers to their problems. One day a farmer came to him and said: “Wise man, my donkey has died and I have no animal to help me in the fields. This is the worst thing that has happened to me.” The wise old man answered: “Maybe. Maybe not.”

    The next day, the farmer found a strong horse wandering close by his farm, so he caught it to replace his dead donkey. His new horse was actually a much better worker than his old donkey! The farmer was very happy and went back to tell the wise man. “You were right, wise man! Losing my donkey was not the worst thing that happened to me. I never would have caught my new horse if my donkey had not died. This is definitely the best thing that has happened to me!” The wise man answered: “Maybe. Maybe not.” The farmer was a bit irritated and thought not again! What is this wise man thinking?

    A few days later, the farmer’s son was thrown off the new horse. The son broke his leg and could not help his father work on their farm. The farmer thought, “Now we’ll starve to death!” So he went back to the wise man and said: “How did you know that catching my horse was not a good thing? This time I’m sure that this is the worst thing that could happen to me!” But again, in a kind voice, the wise man answered: “Maybe. Maybe not.” The farmer was very angry at the wise man for his same foolish answer.

    The next day, a war broke out. And the army came to take every healthy young man to fight as a soldier in the war. But the farmer’s son was the only young man in the village who did not have to go fight, because of his broken leg. The farmer’s son would live!”

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