Summer can be a difficult time here in the desert. It feels relentless and unforgiving. We took our first San Diego beach vacation with the girls at the end of June, and it was a break from the heat and real life. But, in that small beach house with no errands to distract me and concentrated doses of family time, I came face to face with who I had become and just how outside of myself I had been for the past few months. It was a struggle to relax, a struggle to enjoy what I wanted be able to. At this point we were waiting on a decision on the birth parents' appeal to terminate parental rights, and assuming we wouldn't know anything until late in the year. But then we got an email from our lawyer that the birth parents' second appeal had been thrown out. I cried in relief at the leopard shark tank at Sea World when Jeremiah showed it to me on his phone, unable to even believe that this agonizing part of the process was over. There would be no more chances, no more appeals, and now the adoption could truly move forward.
My parents came to visit about a week after we got back. During their visit, we heard about another potential bump in the road, and I lost it completely. I was at my end and could not handle another unexpected complication. I couldn't see the good anymore. I felt wrung out and cried alone in my room leaving my parents and Jeremiah at a loss as to how to comfort me. I was just done. The potential complication ended up being a non-issue, but I remember feeling profoundly that I had let this whole process steal the joy of being a family from me completely. I read my parents this quote from a fellow mom who had adopted from foster care. For the first time, someone had accurately captured how I was feeling and how this process had deeply affected me:
"I cannot sugar-coat it. The process was very difficult for me personally. I don’t know that I can ever adequately describe what it was like to raise (him) as my own son for three years and wonder every night as I put him to sleep if he would stay in our family. It was an extremely painful and stressful time in our lives. As a new mom, that cloud of worry affected how I learned to parent, and caused me to detach in many ways. I am still working hard to overcome some of the parenting habits I developed during that season in order to cope with my fear of loss. Adopting in this way was not hard out of inconvenience. It was so much more than annoying social workers and intrusive home inspections. It was emotionally traumatizing."
When I should have been relieved, I was hanging on to the hurt, the fear, the relentless nature of this adoption process, and it was time to put it to rest. We were moving forward. We would be able to actually adopt our girls for sure, and I needed to move forward too - out of the guarded state of limbo and into my best self as a mother, wife, person.
Autumn always feels like a fresh start to me. This fall was no exception. As school supply aisles filled with fresh notebooks and football returned, I felt invigorated to set some new goals and take control in a new way as we entered my favorite time of year. As soon as the temperatures dip ever so slightly it's time to put summer to rest - to trade blazing long days for cozy predictability and a fresh perspective.
Fall is beautiful, but the crazy thing about the gorgeous colors is they are literally only visible because the leaves are essentially dying. The bright green chlorophyll fades away, and we get to see the bright golds, oranges, and reds that were there all along; unbelievable beauty made from dying leaves. Autumn embraces the fact that there's not enough water or sunlight to thrive and turns it into something amazing. It embraces dormancy and reminds us there's even a time for brittle brown leaves to be beautiful. You can be breaking down and still vibrant. It's ok to show up and be your most brilliant self, not in spite of your brokenness, but because of it. Like a tree, you just keep living until you're alive again. It is time to put the unrelenting heat of summer to rest. It is time to see the beauty, and love things just as they are in all their bright, brisk imperfection.