Tell me the story you’ve been telling to yourself about your life this far. Is it everything you dreamed it would be when you were very young? Or does it go through the darkest of places with your brain demanding frequent visits to replay the most painful of your memories?
For more of a chunk of my life than I care to admit, it has been the latter. During my intensive work over the past year (deeper work than I’ve ever explored), I’ve learned that we humans come by this honestly. Our brains want a good story with villains and danger, grief and despair. The more drama, the better. If we are victims of our circumstances or the people we encounter along the way, then we can hardly be expected to do the hard work that it takes to change the way we perceive everything and everyone around us.
Even better, our sad stories can also morph into a narrative of all of the shitty things we’ve overcome. Or a really good excuse not to take another risk ever for fear of being hurt. Again.
For many years, whenever I met a new friend, I found that the stories I shared leaned toward the dark places and the drama. In hindsight, I consider I may have been semi-aware of this, but for reasons unknown to me then, they just seemed more interesting.
There was the one about how I felt my parents didn’t love me, especially my mother. As the eldest, more was expected of me and it wasn’t fair. There was the divorce of my parents when I was a teenager, the family separation, and the strained relationships that followed. The devastating loss of my dad. There were the two failed relationships over the course of fifteen years. Those men didn’t love me either, they simply enjoyed combining domination with neglect and verbal abuse. There was the loss of my paternal grandmother and the total breakdown of that part of my family as a result. There was the time that I became a complete outcast with my work tribe and I experienced a loneliness and isolation that I was certain I could never overcome, so I ran away from opportunity. Those were the stories that defined me.
Still none of those things hurt as deeply as the one about my journey to become a mother myself. The first ectopic pregnancy was caught early enough for me to have emergency surgery the day of my first ultrasound. Years later, the second one nearly killed me, because it wasn’t caught as early and my tube ruptured. The only tube remaining. I remember the ER doctor telling my husband he’d never seen a person with that much blood in the abdominal cavity (2 liters) live to tell about it.
That story is the one that really cut into the depths of my inadequacy as a human being and especially as a woman. You see, I had come to believe that I was just as entitled as every other woman to share the joyous news of pregnancy, to have a baby shower, to have the extended family visits, and yes, to experience “the miracle of child birth.”
I know, I was an idiot.
It’s just the story that I told myself for so very long. Honestly, for as long as I could remember, my girlfriends and I (still children ourselves) would dream and scheme about the number of children we would have and even pick out names. That’s just how it works.
So after a sufficient period of self-loathing, questioning my very existence, and more than enough therapy, we decided to try a round of in vitro. When that failed, I crashed harder than I ever had before. Harder than with any of the adversity I’d already faced and lived through. Harder than I had crashed after facing near death.
That’s it. I’m a complete failure as a human. That was my story.
Now, I could have held on to that story for even longer. On some level, I was even prepared to do just that. Many of us do. We are presented with a failure so devastating that we don’t ever want to make ourselves vulnerable again to that level of pain. So we lock up that part of our heart and go into into full on protective mode, allowing our brains to say, ‘nope – not going down that road again, thank you very much.’
Except I just wasn’t quite ready to throw in the towel. Because there was still a small spark of hope that glowed deep inside of my psyche that countered the thought that I was unworthy of being a parent. That spark prompted me to research an option I’d always been aware of but was too afraid to explore. Afraid of failing at that too. Afraid of taking the risk. Afraid of having my heart shattered into a million pieces. Terrified, in fact.
I don’t know exactly what the final thought was that brought my husband and I to a local adoption agency, but I definitely recall thinking, ‘I don’t need to give birth to be an amazing parent.’
And so we put all of our money and hope on the table for the riskiest option of all: domestic adoption. Risky because the laws vary from state to state with the amount of time birth parents have to change their minds about relinquishing their rights. And if they do change their minds, well, sorry about your luck. You should have put your chips on a different number. Want to play another round? It’s the primary reason that would be parents choose the more expensive international route. The outcome is guaranteed. The timeline is longer, but it’s fully defined for each country. There is literally a written process to follow.
With domestic, there is no guarantee, no timeline, no guide, and the selection process is completely different. It’s not where you are in the queue with your paperwork, but the story you tell about who you are as a couple, what your life is like, and all the ways that you’ll be amazing parents that may mean you are chosen. We even put a book together complete with photographs of all of the mundane things that really do matter in the end. Not the tragedies. Not the dark places. The simple, boring parts of life that actually really matter. A lot. That part was truly a fun exercise.
We completed our home study in April 2008, met with our first potential birth parents in September of the same year, and brought our son home from the hospital in October. BOOM! After all that we had been through, taking the hardest, most vulnerable path made us parents in less time than if we’d had our own full term pregnancy. It was insane. It was wonderful, and beautiful, and the most perfect experience possible. It was meant for all of us.
I’ll share more of the adoption story itself in a future post. For now, I want to focus on the fact (and I do believe this to be absolute fact) that our brains will keep us in those negative and painful thought loops for as long as we allow it. Those thoughts in our heads telling us that we aren’t good enough, there’s no point in trying, we’ll just be hurt if we do are the ones that keep us stuck in the same dark places we say we don’t want to live in anymore. Ultimately, the primitive mind that tries to keep us safe from the danger of being hurt is the very one that keeps us stuck in a different kind of hurt that is loneliness and emptiness. Either way, we get to play the victim role. The role of failure or the role of having not even tried. Both are victim mentality.
You may not want to see it for what it is, but I do believe that when you allow yourself to see it, you can start doing the hard work that is required to make massive changes in your life and enjoy the ride.
Did you notice how I provided a string of negative stories that ‘shaped’ me in this life, topped with a very positive one? Did you catch that it was my choice to see it that way?
Did my parents and former lovers not truly love me? Did my work tribe abandon me? Were relationships so strained as to be irrecoverable? No. All of those were thoughts that I had that over time were molded into stories in my mind that I (and I alone) pinned the badge of low self-worth to.
I could have chosen to feel bitter and angry about all of the hoops I had to jump through in the adoption process. And though I’d be lying if I didn’t say those emotions did not appear they were fleeting. The overriding emotion that I felt through that process was gratitude. I was grateful for the ability to participate in that experience and I always will be. Having that mindset was probably the most powerful lesson in manifesting dreams into reality that I’ve had the honor of witnessing. That’s why it yielded such a positive outcome that I couldn’t have scripted better.
I have learned that the universe does indeed respond in kind to your vibrations.
You don’t have to tell the same sad stories from your past. You don’t have to let that broken record continue to play in your mind. And sometimes the riskiest of all decisions are the right ones to make.
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