Saturday, July 3, 2010

Weekly Reflection (week 25): Strength versus weakness

(Don't forget to read Friday's post with my first Painting with a Purpose giveaway and your chance to win our Friendship Fish painting! Comments close on Monday, so don't wait!)

What strengths do I bring to my family?

This was the closing question in the parents session of HeArt Talks at Heritage Camp, a forum for participants to discussion their emotions and experiences around adoption, using art as a means to access deeper feelings. I had read the literature before camp regarding the subject matter of Cowgirl's session and was preparing myself for her questions or reactions but I had given little thought to how the session would impact me.

The parent's meeting was held at the very end of camp. Having had a rough morning with Cowgirl, my emotions were pretty much right under the surface and ready to spill out over me and anyone unfortunate enough to be in close proximity. I knew Cowgirl was physically tired, over stimulated, excited and overwhelmed but I had paid little attention to myself. Until that moment of walking into the parent's room.

As I pulled my plastic chair over to the circle of adults already seated in the room, I was painfully aware of my immense vulnerability and raw emotional state. It had been thrilling to witness the children bonding, celebrating their Chinese heritage and just goofing around as kids do, climbing all over the adult counselors like a pack of playful puppies. But a sadness was settling around me as the reality of their bond - their shared history of loss of birth family and heritage - presents a more difficult history to explain never mind grasp with one's heart.

So I sat down in a group of strangers feeling rather helpless and overwhelmed. If I was having a hard time processing things, how could I hope to help Cowgirl move through her feelings? I think parenting in general makes everyone feel incompetent at some point or another - at least for anyone who really wants to do the job right. And make no mistake - this is a job. The hardest job I'll ever love. A job with mandatory overtime, no sick or personal days and certainly no holidays. A job I cannot quit, walk away from, or fail at. A job with the best benefits ever, but there are tolls to be paid.

The session itself was pretty loose and open; just a time to talk about whatever feelings or concerns were coming up for us. As each person shared a bit of their story, what I sensed - or maybe projected onto others - was everyone scrambling to keep far away from a deep well of fear. Myself included. Most were willing to share pieces of their story and their struggles, but no one dared admit what I was stewing in at that moment: fear of failure. And yet that fear lurks at the edges of all that I do as a parent: I gather as much information as I can, I put myself out there even when I want to run and hide, I get up every day for the joy and the challenge of raising my daughter and I push pass this fear that nips at my heels, trying to trip me up. I do all that I can, I love my daughter as best as I am able but still there is a fear that I will not be enough: I will not know enough, say enough, try hard enough to usher her through the challenges that lie ahead.

As I type this, I sigh with recognition of that thorny phrase "I am not enough." I was definitely feeling this way as the session wore on. Then the counselor directed us to go pick up a magazine picture that represented the strength we brought to our family and then to share with the group.

I wish I could say in those final moments of sharing, I found my strength and discovered myself to be equal to the task.

Instead I left that room more confused and uncertain. But I also left resolved to fight for answers and for support. My job is not to heal Cowgirl but to provide her with the tools and understanding to heal herself. By finding my strength, by acknowledging it, I hope I can show her how to dig down deep to uncover her core of strength. And goodness. Because that is what I believe: that we are all born whole and good but for some reason we lose sight of that truth. However we come into our families, whatever trials life serves up to us, I firmly believe our task is to healed ourselves and in the process come to know ourselves as good and whole.

So the strengths I bring to my family are determination, faith and hopefulness. I chose a picture of a woman who reminded me of the goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of the Arts and learning. She represents to me the tools I am using to heal myself: Art and Yoga. I hope that my daughter can use these tools to understand and heal herself.

To appreciate my strengths, I have to face my fears and understand my perceived weakness. I may have left that session feeling overwhelmed and incapable but growing in me is a conviction that I have to be enough. I cannot allow myself to believe anything less because my Cowgirl depends upon me being more than enough. In order to support her in her journey to wholeness, I must first heal myself.
That I believe this possible may be the greatest strength I bring to my family. I cannot settle for anything less; my girl depends upon me to be strong in the face of our fears and to lead us towards understanding and healing. In her eyes, I am enough and I am slowly learning to live up to that belief.

Celebrate your strengths today. Share them and in the process strengthen them. Do this for yourself and for all those that you love.


  1. Oh, Lis, your reflection is so honest and compelling. At times we all feel overwhelmed as parents and wonder if we do enough, or maybe too much. But I think being a parent forces us to dig deep and find our best selves. Each stage has its challenges--as a parent of adult daughters I find myself grappling with how to create new relationships that are healthy and supportive. It's a growth experience for us all, isn't it?

  2. thankyou for sharing this vulnerability.

    yes, we must heal ourselves to be there for our children. not, be better parents, not try harder, just heal within.

    i had a childhood where i was made to feel never enough, a burden. but as a mother, i've had her at a time when i had healed those wounds. i know i am enough.

    i believe our children choose us, when they are still souls. it is a deep knowing choice that we can never fathom. but in that choice, we are the perfect parent for them... and they the perfect child for us.

    you bring such wonderful strengths to your family, and the vulnerabilites are gifts too. cowgirl will know that being strong is an aspect, and being vulnerable, not weak, is okay too.

  3. Such a beautiful & inspiring post! Thank you so much for sharing your heart with us.

    I struggle with the fear of not being enough for my family. None of us can be perfect and even doing my best I know I can't be everything for my daughter. I can't always be there to protect, encourage and support her but I'm hoping that my love and belief in her will help to carry her through life's hard times. My number 1 goal as a Mom is to help her build a strong sense of self esteem & a solid spiritual/creative life to feed her soul.

    When I'm feeling 'not enough' I'll come back here and reread this. Thank you!

  4. beautiful post, lis. you've hit on what i believe every mother struggles with...having that belief that we have inside us everything we need to give our children...that we are, in fact, more than enough...and that with a little patience with ourselves, we WILL bring to the table everything that we need to help our children thrive. you have it.

  5. Dear Lis-you are so right-oh, the struggles we age within ourselves!! I think that you are a great mother, an amazing parent! You are so right-our job as parents are to equip our children to not need us one day, to take care of themselves as they make their way in this world. I think it's also amazing that you chose the Goddess Lakshmi-she is actually the goddess of wealth. Not just material wealth but spiritual, mental and emotional wealth. All of which you have in such great abundance dear Lis-just look within you, and the treasures that will unfold!!
    Tim has been here for the 4th of July-he leaves tomorrow and the time just flew by! We had such a great visit-I hope that you all had a great 4th of July. How are you feeling after Flying Lessons? It was such an amazing experience and all the people we met...I am glad that I was cutting and pasting the class info though! I really couldn't get through it all! Thanks for all your wonderful comments of support and encouragement Lis-and let me know how your plans re yoga and art are unfolding. Big hugs xxx

  6. My beloved Lis... in your writing you give voice to so much that sits unsaid in our guts... parenting makes each and all of us vulnerable.. and your honesty about Cowgirl's unique experience as your child makes my heart ache and sing simultaneously.

    Yesterday I had the experience of Emma coming to my defense when she thought someone was "being mean" to me. It was such a beautiful moment and helped me to "get her" in a different way than I have over the past 12 almost 13 years of knowing her.

    How I love that child.

    How I love you, and reading of your life with your child.

    What a blessing and privilege.

    The birth of my chapbooks.