Jan 312012
 

 

Dearest New Monkees,

The original Monkees would explain that you can’t really understand the Meltons without reading our adoption stories. Our journey’s not over yet – or maybe it is, who on Earth knows.

Here you go. Love you. Really, really mean it.

*******

2007 was a tough year for the Meltons. Chase and Tish were 4 and 1, and Craig and I spent our days and evenings on the phone, interweb, and each others’ nerves trying to realize our adoption dream. We were trying to adopt internationally and each time we got close, the dreaded background check would come, and agency after agency would reject us because…well, by now you know I choose to describe my past as festive.

Side note- in the past decade- I have been diagnosed with addictive personality, incompetent cervix, and suspicious blood. My self started to get its feelings hurt. I think words are important, so I have made some minor semantics adjustments. I now describe myself to doctors as having an “excited” personality, “laid-back cervix” and “creative” blood. This feels better.

Anyway, I laugh now, but I wasn’t laughing back in 2007. I cried myself to sleep lots of nights, while Craig squeezed me tight and prayed that God would either open an adoption door or take away the desperation in my heart. Then I’d wake up early and start the whole obsessive process over. During one interview, as the social worker asked us questions about the past and we answered them honestly, we could actually hear her voice becoming more distant and cold. When we got off the phone I said “I don’t think she’s going to give us a baby, do you?” Craig responded by admitting that he wanted to stop doing interviews altogether because he was afraid they’d decide to take away the two kids we already had. As Krystal’s family would say, it really, really sipped.

In August of 2007, we found some hope at an agency that facilitated adoptions from Guatemala. The social worker told us that they would find a way to bring a baby home to us, from their orphanage where toddlers and babies were abandoned because their parents couldn’t feed them. They sent us packets and pictures of the orphanage and the orphans and I fell in love. Hard.

While our paperwork was being processed, I spent my days mentally planning and preparing and daydreaming. I knew our baby would be a little girl, and I knew her name would be Maria. I have no idea where this information originated, so I assumed it was from God. I never told anyone that I knew she would be Maria, because people can only be expected to take so much. But I knew it. There was a country song out at the time called “My Maria” and I would drive around, belting out the lyrics and fantasizing about how Craig, Chase, Tish, Maria, and I would dance to “My Maria” in front of our family and friends at Maria’s coming home party. I am quite sure I planned my outfit. These daydreams are probably why I get lost almost every single time I get in my car. I never really had an explanation for that frustrating phenomenon until this moment.

At the end of September, we got a phone call from the agency. Craig took the call and then he told me gently that the agency had decided we were too much of a risk. The door to Guatemala was officially closed. I sat on the couch and cried and cried, because how can you feel something so certainly and then turn around and accept that it wasn’t meant to be? I remember hearing Chase walk in while I was crying and asking Craig “Why?” and Craig said, “She’s just sad, honey. Mommy’s just sad.”

Two months passed and I pulled myself together reasonably enough. You can read about what happened during those two months here. It was a magical and painful time.

Christmas morning came, and after the flurry of excitement and gifts everybody got tired, as people do on Christmas morning. We all rested into the day. Bubba fell asleep on the couch, and Sister and Tisha slid into the kitchen to start breakfast for the kids. I sat on the couch and congratulated myself for pulling off another Christmas. Craig snuggled next to me on the couch and handed me one last gift that he had hidden away. I smiled and opened it, and when all of the paper was removed: this is what I saw in my lap.

 

 

 

After we found out we wouldn’t be allowed to bring a baby home from Guatemala, Craig called the agency and asked if he could “sponsor” a child there, in honor of me and of our dream. The woman at the orphanage said they had just the little girl for us. Her name was Maria, she said. She sent Craig pictures of Maria and her orphanage home, and Craig put them together in a scrapbook for me. So on Christmas morning, I’d have something to hold.

I sat on the couch and cried till I couldn’t see. Bubba woke up and became alarmed. Everyone stared. I didn’t care. I have never in my life felt the presence of God more strongly than I did at that moment, sitting on the couch, with that scrapbook in my lap and my husband beside me. I actually felt God saying, “I was watching, and I was speaking. You were right, there is a Maria for you. Here she is.”

Since I couldn’t speak, I left my family and walked into my bedroom, found my journal and brought it back to the family room. I opened it to page after page where I’d doodled “Maria Melton” like a lovesick teenager. Craig was shocked, and he cried with me.

We fell more deeply in love with Maria during the next year. We sent her gifts and letters that Tisha translated into Spanish for us. We told her that God loved her very much and so did we and we explained that we prayed for her and for her friends every night. We asked Chase’s birthday party guests to donate money instead of gifts and we sent the money to Maria so that she could throw a birthday party for herself that year. The orphanage told us that the money went so far that Maria was able to invite another orphanage to her party too, and that they all played with piñatas and balloons for the first time in their lives. All I have to do to make myself cry, to this day, is to say to myself, “I hope she felt special that day.”

We got a letter last year announcing that Maria had finally been adopted by a family in the states. The odds had been against her. The previous year we had been told that the likelihood that Maria would find a forever home were slim to none.

But we know that with God, nothing is impossible.

 

 

Jan 292012
 

 

The earth shakes when the doctor places your firstborn in your arms. Your love for him is colored by terror because you are positive that he is going to die with each passing minute. You bring him home understanding that the Universe has made a mistake, that someone more qualified, more motherly will show up to retrieve him soon. So while you wait, you play house for awhile. You hold him with trembling, clutching, sweaty hands. You still do. You do not trust that he will be able to navigate his world. You eye his doctors, his playmates, his teachers, even his grandparents with great suspicion. Will they be gentle enough with him? He is so sensitive.

 

What you really mean is: I am so sensitive. I’m like Lazarus, fresh from the tomb, eyes burning from the sun’s brightness. I can’t handle the ferocity and fragility of this new love. Please be careful with us.

 

You think if you just hold his hand tight enough, read the right books, choose the right foods, choose the right schools…if you just hold your breath forever…it’ll be okay. You’re not sure what okay is anymore. Maybe okay means you’ll succeed at keeping him and the world apart forever. Maybe okay just means that you’ll both survive this love, this love so intense it threatens to consume you both like a fire.

 

Holding your second, you become human again. You are elated and concerned. Your firstborn is replaced. You can’t look at or listen to both of your babies at the same time. So you look at your baby while talking about your firstborn. You say, hold on honey far too many times. Your guilt is relentless. How will you convince them both that they are the center of your universe? This new angel seems like a stranger at first, and then your firstborn does. Suddenly he appears to be a giant. You wonder when he’ll start pulling his weight already. You are worried you’ll never find your balance. What is the right division of time, love, attention, fear, worry? And then, for the first time, you become concerned with how the juggling act you’re attempting to perform looks to the world. Am I doing it right? Am I saying the right things? Am I buying the right diaper bag, house, car, invitations? Are they wearing the right clothes? Am I? Do I appear to be enjoying motherhood enough???

 

But then again, you have your moments, don’t you? When they smile at each other, when he retrieves her toy, touches her hair, tickles her feet. When you hear two giggles coming from the family room for the first time. When you and your husband look at the two of them on the floor and exhange a glance that means – look at what we did. We’re doing it. We’re making a family.

 

 

Then the third arrives. And as you hold her for the first time, you notice that your hands are steady. The all consuming fire is gone. Love is just . . . love. You don’t feel threatened anymore by her or the world. Because all of a sudden you see in her teeny little face that she is the world, no need to protect her from herself. And you understand now that you’re not her protector anyway, she has One of Those. You’re just her teacher. You’re just borrowing her for a little while. You decide not to spend so much of your precious time begging God to protect her from the world. Seems silly, all of a sudden. Because She, God, the world, they are all mixed up together inside that pink skin. They are one in the same.

 

Then, as you count her impossibly tiny fingers with yours, you check your heart and find no guilt there. Because you understand that you are about to present your older children with the greatest gift of their lives. Who else but a sister travels with you from the start of Life’s path to the bitter end? And you know, now, that if the olders spend the next few months relearning that They’re Not the Center of the Universe…well, good then. It’s an important thing to know, and it’s a lesson best learned early. So there’s another gift to them, courtesy of you, and this new littlest one.

And by now, you understand that things will get tougher when she comes home. You will sweat even more at the grocery store. You will have less money to buy her the right things. You will look far less graceful at play dates. But you will care less. Because by now you have listened to and spoken to enough honest mothers to understand that we’re all in this together. That there is no prize for most composed.  So you’ve decided to stop making motherhood harder by pretending it’s not hard.

 

Then you look down at her…your third… and you think: what’s so different about you? But before you’ve even finished asking the question, you know the answer. And your heart says to hers - Oh. You’re not different than the other two...I’m different. I am learning how to love without so much fear. How to relax a bit, in this brutiful world. How to let go and trust. You are helping me breathe easier, you three. One at a time, and together.

Amma, you came to me and you said: It’s okay, Mama. We’re all going to be okay.

 

I didn’t know that before you told me, baby girl. I really didn’t know.

 

I love you, Amanda Nicole.

 

 

Jan 272012
 

 

 

I think that life done right is one long recovery process. We’re all recovering from something. Maybe for you it’s not food or booze addiction like it is for me . . . maybe it’s an addiction to selfishness or pride or anger or isolation (which it also is for me). But The Truth is that we’re all recovering jerks. The only other possibility is that we’re active jerks, and refusing to recover. Anyway, nobody recovers alone. We are in this together.

 

This letter is for the seven Monkees who wrote to me last night.  For the Monkees who decided last night to try to swim.

 

Dearest Drunken Monkee Friend,

 

I have been where you are this morning. I’ve lived through this day. This day when you wake up terrified. When you open your eyes and it hits you . . . the jig is up. When you lie paralyzed in bed and shake from the horrifying realization that life as you know it is over. Quickly you consider that perhaps that’s okay, because life as you know it totally blows. Even so, you can’t get out of bed because the thing is that you don’t know how. You don’t know how to live, how to interact, how to cope, how to function without a drink or at least the hope of a future drink. You never learned. You dropped out before all the lessons. So who will teach you how to live? Listen to me, because I am you.

You are shaking from withdrawal and fear and panic this morning, so you cannot see clearly. You are very, very confused right now. You think that this is the worst day of your life, but you are wrong. This is the best day of your life, friend. Things, right now, are very, very good. Better than they have ever been in your entire life. Your angels are dancing. Because you have been offered freedom from the prison of secrets. You have been offered the gift of crisis.

Kathleen Norris reminded me last night that the Greek root of the word crisis is “to sift.” As in to shake out the excesses and leave only what’s important. That’s what crises do. They shake things up until we are forced to decide and hold onto what matters most. And what matters most right now is that you are sober. You owe the world nothing else. And so you will not worry about whether the real you will be brave or smart or funny or beautiful or responsible enough. Because the only thing you have to be is sober. You owe the world absolutely nothing but sobriety. If you are sober, you are enough. Even if you are shaking and cursing and boring and terrified. You are enough.

But becoming sober, becoming real, will be hard and painful. A lot of good things are.

Becoming sober is like recovering from frostbite.

The process of defrosting is excruciatingly painful. You have been so numb for so long. And as feeling comes back to your soul, you start to tingle, and it’s uncomfortable and strange. But then the tingles start feeling like daggers. Sadness, loss, fear, anger, all of these things that you have been numbing with the booze . . . you start to FEEL them for the first time. And it’s horrific at first, to tell you the damn truth. But feeling the pain, refusing to escape from it, is the only way to recovery. You can’t go around it, you can’t go over it, you have to go through it. There is no other option, except for amputation. And if you allow the defrosting process to take place, if you trust that it will work, if you can stand the pain, one day you will get your soul back. If you can feel, it means there has been no amputation. If you can feel, you can hope. If you can feel, you are not too late.

Friend, we need you. The world has suffered while you’ve been hiding. You are already forgiven. You are loved. All there is to do now it to step into your life. What does that mean? What the hell does that mean? This is what it means. These are the steps you take. They are plain as mud.

Get out of bed. Don’t lie there and think - thinking is the kiss of death for us - just move. Take a shower. Sing while you’re in there. MAKE YOURSELF SING. The stupider you feel, the better. Giggle at yourself, alone. Joy for its own sake . . . Joy just for you, created by you – it’s the best. Find yourself amusing.

Put on some make-up. Blow dry your hair. Wear something nice, something that makes you feel grown up. If you have nothing, go buy something. Today’s not the day to worry too much about money. Invest in some good coffee, caffeinated and decaf. Decaf after eleven o’clock. Read your daughter a story. Don’t think about other things while you’re reading, actually pay attention to the words. Then braid your girl’s hair. Clean the sink. Keep good books within reach. Start with Traveling Mercies. David Sedaris is good, too. If you don’t have any good books, go to the library. If you don’t have a library card, apply for one. This will stress you out. You will worry that the librarian will sense that you are a disaster and reject you. But listen, they don’t know and they don’t care. They gave me a card, and I’ve got a rap sheet as long as your arm. When practicing re-entering society and risking rejection, the library is a good place to start. They have low expectations. I love the library. Also church. Both have to take you in.

Alternate two prayers – “Help” and “Thank you.” That’s all the spirituality you’ll need for a while. Go to meetings. Any meeting will do. Don’t worry if the other addicts there are “enough like you.” Face it – we are all the same – be humble.

Get Out Of The House. If you have nowhere to go, take a walk outside. Do not excuse yourself from walks because it’s cold. Bundle up. The sky will remind you of how big God is, and if you’re not down with God, then the oxygen will help. Same thing. Call one friend a day. Do not start the conversation by telling her how you are. Ask how she is. Really listen to her response, and offer your love. You will discover that you can help a friend just by listening, and this discovery will remind you that you are powerful and worthy.

Get a yoga DVD and a pretty mat. Practice yoga after your daughter goes to bed. The evenings are dangerous times, so have a plan. Yoga is good for people like us, it teaches us to breathe and that solitude is a gift. Learn to keep yourself company.

*When you start to feel . . . do. For example – when you start to feel scared because you don’t have enough money….find someone to give a little money to. When you start to feel like you don’t have enough love. . . find someone to offer love. When you feel unappreciated, unacknowledged . . . appreciate and acknowledge someone in your life in a concrete way. When you feel unlucky, order yourself to consider a blessing or two. And then find a tangible way to make today somebody else’s lucky day. This strategy helps me sidestep wallowing every day.

Don’t worry about whether you like doing these things or not. You’re going to hate everything for a long while. And the fact is that you don’t even know what you like or hate yet. Just Do These Things Regardless of How You Feel About Doing These Things. Because these little things, done over and over again, eventually add up to a life. A good one.

 

 

Friend, I am sober this morning. Thank God Almighty, I’m sober this morning. I’m here, friend. Last week,  my son turned nine. Which means that I haven’t had a drink for nine years and nine months. Lots of beautiful and horrible things have happened to me during the past nine years and nine months. And I have more or less handled my business day in and day out without booze. GOD, I ROCK.

And today, I’m a wife and a mother and a daughter and friend and a writer and a dreamer and a Sister to one and a “sister” to thousands of monkees… and I wasn’t any of those things when I was a drunk.


And I absolutely love being a recovering alcoholic, friend. I am more proud of the “recovering” badge I wear than any other.


What will you be,  friend? What will you be when you become yourself? We would love to find out with you.

 

Love,

G



When Jesus saw her lying there and knew that she had been there for a long time, he said to her, “Do you want to be made well? . . . Then pick up your mat, and walk.” – John 5:6-8