Late one night, as I sat around a high-top table for a snack after a long flight, a co-worker told me about his relative, a history teacher in Russia. “He’s had to re-learn history a few times,” he said.
“Huh?” I replied. “What do you mean “re-learn history?”
“Well, each time some new guy comes to power, they change the history books.”
Don’t be naive, Angela, I hear you saying. This can’t possibly be all that surprising, can it?
“Don’t go looking for trouble;” Sookie Stackhouse, heroine of The Southern Vampire Series often says, quoting her wise grandmother (who in turn was paraphrasing Proverbs 11:27), “it’s already looking for you.” Fyodor Dostoyevsky, author and philosopher, offers a different but related perspective, “Man only likes to count his troubles; he doesn’t calculate his happiness.” Even if you aren’t a fan of either Sookie or Dostoyevsky, it’s difficult to deny there’s truth here: Trouble is looking for us whether we like it or not, and we tend to focus on it, even when we’re trying not to.
But, trouble is neither all bad, nor all encompassing. At least, it doesn’t have to be. We can follow a different path. One highlighted by poet Mary Oliver in her poem Sometimes:
I am adopted. This is a phrase I have said hundreds of times in my life. When I’m at a new doctor and they want my family history: I am adopted. When my kid’s doctor wants a family history on his maternal side: I don’t know. I’m adopted. When someone comments on how I look nothing like my little sister: It’s because I’m adopted.
Don’t get me wrong–I love talking about it, I love telling people my story. It’s just my way of life. These simple words have opened up so many different conversations and connections and pathways for me. There has never been a time in my life when I didn’t know I was adopted, that I was chosen.
I was a two-year-old preparing for the most important role of my life: Best Big Sister Ever. My parents told me it was my job to take good care of my little sister because she would look up to me, which is a big responsibility.
I relished responsibility. I loved to show off how great I was at doing jobs for my parents, like fetching my dad’s sandals for him, or helping my mom break the ends off string beans . . . taking care of a little sister was just another job that I could get pats on the head and praise for. I read stories with my mom like this one extolling the virtues of sharing, and practiced taking care of a baby with my dolls. As much as I rehearsed for my role, when baby Jenny came into the world, I was wholly unprepared for one thing – how much I would absolutely adore her. Continue reading “Wanted: Best Big Sister Ever”
“Bye. I love you.” My stomach dropped. My brain didn’t consciously plan to say it, but there it was. Out there. These three little words, reserved for more than thirty years for only close family and romantic partners, had slipped through my lips. My friend Jenn laughed, “Ang, I love you too.”
Why did it take me decades to tell a dear friend I loved her? Short answer: I was afraid. I feared the vulnerability of such a declaration. I reserved my “I love you’s” as if the words, and the emotions behind them, were rare gems, meant to be precious and few. But love, in its many forms, needn’t be scarce. Science and philosophy agree: love is a renewable resource with exponential return on investment. Continue reading “I Want Your Love Letters”