Friday, May 11, 2007

On waiting

Dear Sam and Sophie,

The Dalai Lama, whom Tibetan Buddhists believe is the reincarnation of the Buddha, made a visit to Chicago last week to give a public talk on “Finding Inner Peace in Turmoil.” A friend was kind of enough to get us tickets to the sold-out event. That morning your Dad and I packed our blanket, lawn chairs, and some snacks and headed downtown, arriving early enough, we thought, to enjoy a picnic lunch before hearing the revered religious leader speak. We arrived at Grant Park to find extremely long lines snaking around the Millennium Park “bean” sculpture before winding down to Michigan Avenue. Apparently the organizers were requiring each person to go through metal detectors and have each bag searched.

After about fifteen minutes, we had moved a total of twenty feet. So I sent your Dad to see if he could find a shorter line. No luck. By this time the lawn chairs were getting heavy and I was getting hungry. I started to complain about how poorly managed the event was—then felt guilty since that wasn’t a very go-with-the-flow Buddhist attitude. Still, while your Dad chatted with the colorfully dressed Tibetan immigrants behind us, I decided to follow the line to the front to see just how long it was. Then I did the math: We had already been in line almost an hour, and at the rate we were moving, it would be another couple hours before we entered the park.

It wasn’t that hard to decide to give up. It was one of the first beautiful spring days in Chicago and neither of us wanted to spend it in line. We called our friends who had already made it inside (they arrived much earlier) and told them not to save us a spot. As we walked away from the line, I saw an Asian man taking a photo of his infant son, and I lost it.

I burst into tears, aching for the little boy from Vietnam we have been waiting for, overwhelmed with sadness and frustrated with all the waits in my life. Your Dad helped me sit down on the curb and gave me a big hug. “Let’s just go find a nice spot and enjoy our picnic,” he suggested. I agreed, saying we might as well make the best of a bad situation. We’re getting good at that.

Acceptance. Surrender. Moving on.

So we took our lawn chairs, found a shady spot just outside of the ampitheater area, and sat down under a big tree. We ate our chips and salsa, read the paper, and listened to the music that opened the event. A number of people without tickets had the same idea, but the little community that had formed there was quiet and respectful.

After an hour or so, I got up to find a restroom and discovered that the line was down to almost nothing. I convinced your Dad that we should try to get in. We grabbed our stuff, made it through the security checkpoint, and found one of the last grassy spots on the lawn. As we got situated, a man introduced the Dalai Lama.

“I believe life is meant for happiness,” he told us. But that happiness doesn’t have to come from our external situation. “If one were to try to control the entire environment in which one lives, it’s impossible. However, by taking care of one’s own mental state, one can deal with hostility in one’s environment.”

By training your mind to have compassion for others, including your enemies, and controlling anger, he said, we can find the inner peace that surpasses our circumstances, whether they are years in a Chinese prison or the suffering involved with waiting for our adopted children.

“Too much impatience!” he scolded light-heartedly. Our world has become used to instant gratification and constant distraction. If he gets delayed for several hours at the airport, or finds he can’t sleep one night, he gratefully considers the time an opportunity for meditation. “Good! Sit and think! It’s useful.”

Although I have spent a good part of our now 19-month wait for you numb, depressed, complaining, crying, and trying to distract myself from the pain and frustration, I recently was given the opportunity to reflect spiritually on it. A publisher has asked me to write a book of spiritual reflections for in-process adoptive parents.

I'm about a third of the way done, and already the process has been so beneficial and healing. I'm using our delay to sit and think, as the Dalia Lama instructed, and already I'm finding the compassion I need to surpass these external circumstances.

I sign the contract next week, but the book won't be out until next year. My plan is to finish it before Sam comes home. I've given the publisher a deadline for the manuscript of July 1. I hope to share more of my insights in the next month or so, but mostly I'll be busy writing the book. It's a distraction, but a deeper one. I can't wait to share it with all of you when it's done.


Karen said...

Sounds great! I cannot wait to read your book! Can I get an autograph? You just might find yourself famous!

Rev. Linda said...

Don't know how I found your blog but thanks for sharing your process. I'm a mom of 3 - many miscarriages - 2 birth children one adopted. The wait seemed endless. In the Christian faith (which I am part of) I have always appreciated our 2 seasons of waiting - 40 days before Easter (Lent) and 4 weeks before Christmas (Advent). These are times of "intentional waiting" and people fight it the whole way i.e. "Why can't we sing "Joy to the World' today (day after Tgiving" I find waiting a challenge, but rich in depth - especially when accompanied by knitting...that's probably how I found your blog - from a knitter's link!
Blessings on your writing adventure,

Heidi said...

It's ironic that the Dalai Lama would speak about waiting because you had to wait to get in to see him! Even though it didn't go as you had initially planned, you still got to eat your picnic in peace, you didn't have to wait in the monster line, and you were still able to go see the Dalai Lama speak! It sounds like it all worked out in the end.

Congratulations on the book deal! I'm sure that there will be many other adoptive parents out there who will be grateful to read about your experiences. Even though this has been a time of trials for you and your DH, you will be able to bless the lives of others because of your increased compassion and experience. How wonderful!

LaLa said...

It is interesting that you and hubby decided to just relax and enjoy the moment and in the end it was for the best. I hope you can enjoy ( I know..sounds silly) these waiting moments. Can't wait to read my autographed copy!

Nicki said...

I'm incredibly jealous. He was here in Houston too a few weeks back and we coudln't get tickets. How wonderful that the event unfolded exactly how it did. I can not WAIT to read your book, I want an autographed copy. It is a much-needed area of adoption literature. No one talks about how hard it can be and no one talks about ways to make it easier and find inner peace through the process. I'm really excited!

tocspaw said...

I'm very anxious to read your book - it must be such a cathartic experience to put all the struggles into words that might help other adoptive families...

Anonymous said...

Isn't it wonderful when you find order in the universe? I found you through a comment you left Manda's blog, where you mentioned your adoption wait.
My husband and I are also waiting the seemingly endless wait for our daughter from China. We are two mid-westerners currently living in SW Oklahoma, and we're at almost a year since our lid.
Good luck with your writing. I hope the wait moves along for your children.

Christina said...

What an incredible opportunity, to write a book about your wait - and what a great way to make a little lemonade out of the lemons life has handed you. The waiting is very hard... I know that first-hand. And I know the frustration of seeing others get "ahead" while I continued to wait. But I just wanted to encourage you... your day will come; hopefully sooner than it feels like right now.

Rebecca said...

First off ***HUGS*** to you. I know your waiting has been so long. I'm so happy for you and the book deal! I can't wait to read it. I love the idea of patience, I wish I had more of it. I think it's a grand goal for all of us to strive for.

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