I once used my computer time as a way to avoid my reality and immerse myself into an entirely different one. Now, all that I want is my reality – my real, limited, fantastically beautiful and relentless life. Instead of using my computer time as a relief, I now see it as work, and I want to finish as quickly and efficiently as possible.
So – how do I nurture myself? I know I am on the right track when these things are happening: I take care of myself. I eat foods that are good for me. I take care of my home and I don’t let small tasks pile up. I cook healthy meals for my children and send them to school with homemade lunches. I spend quality time with my family exploring nature and trying new things. I allow time for spontaneous delight.
I see my husband. I see my oldest son. Perhaps you would believe I see them less clearly than you. But I know better. I know that for every flaw you might notice and assume I ignore, I see that flaw and notice what you do not, or cannot. Perhaps loving someone so deeply is not a flaw of insight, but an illumination. In Dakota I see not only his actions, but the accumulation of his choices and actions since birth. I see the events that led to his decisions, the emotions that he went through to arrive at a choice, the attempts unobserved by the outside world, the growth, the small and soft layers of texture that are invisible to all but those who looked most carefully. Without context we cannot judge. Without love we do not have human context.
Of course, that anticipation is also an emotional roller coaster! The other day I read on Mama K’s blog about the day they got custody of their daughter. The day she came to their hotel with all her earthly possessions. The social worker said little S had not slept well the night before, because she knew what was coming. Yeah. NO KIDDING. I can’t even type that sentence without crying. And when I think about the night this comes for Asher, I breakdown every time. I know in my head that we are doing the right thing, and that time after time these toddlers heal from the trauma, but I cannot in my earthly mind comprehend what that would be like for a child to be told by their "mom" (even if it is a foster mom–they don’t know the difference) that tomorrow I’m giving you to those strangers you met yesterday and you will never come back here. This is the last night you will ever sleep next to me. It causes me physical pain to even imagine how our son will be feeling. How will we even begin to help him through that? How will I keep myself together emotionally and not be on the ground in the fetal, crying with him? Maybe if I cry for the next 44 days I’ll have it out of my system. Probably not.
After the initial euphoria, though, Facebook started to feel like real life. In real life, managing your interactions with people can be sort of a drag. Initially lured by the fancy promises of nonstop communication with the people I loved most in life, my Facebook experience eventually turned into a sea of blocking, hiding, and otherwise ignoring everyone except for the five people I already talk to regularly. It wasn’t that I didn’t like people; I was just starting to realize that I sort of didn’t have a lot to say to most of them.
In fact, I spend almost all of my consciousness thinking about you and your happiness in this life. I worry a lot about making sure you eat the right kinds of foods to make your little bodies strong, and I think a lot about you making friends at school so you’re not alone on the playground. But mostly I think about how I want you to learn how to be good, kind little humans. And no matter what, I want you to learn to be happy. Now, and especially when you grow up. I want you to be whatever you want to be, as long as it makes you feel completely awesome about getting out of bed every day.
What this kind of new interpretation offers is a critically necessary social safety net within Muslim society. As a single Muslim mother to an only child—my son Shibli, age 9—I have investigated adoption possibilities in a Muslim country, such as Afghanistan, where so many orphans suffer, and have been sadly discouraged, as have many Muslim couples and single Muslim women, about the possibilities of lifting children out of orphanages into stable, loving homes. Most Muslim majority countries adopt the interpretation of Islam that makes it illegal to adopt a child; some allow fostercare or guardianship, known as kafala.
One thing men and women do agree on, however, is that their standards for a live-in partner are lower than they are for a spouse.
Sliding into cohabitation wouldn’t be a problem if sliding out were as easy. But it isn’t. Too often, young adults enter into what they imagine will be low-cost, low-risk living situations only to find themselves unable to get out months, even years, later. It’s like signing up for a credit card with 0 percent interest. At the end of 12 months when the interest goes up to 23 percent you feel stuck because your balance is too high to pay off. In fact, cohabitation can be exactly like that. In behavioral economics, it’s called consumer lock-in.
Our baby, who we will call Elvie, is 8 weeks old and is waiting for us in Ethiopia. She has a major birth defect that affects the lower half of her body and so we’re fast tracking all her paperwork and working together with the Ethiopian authorities and US Embassy to get her home as soon as possible, hopefully in June or early July. The medical evaluations that were done in Ethiopia were inconclusive, so we need to get her into the US as soon as we can have the magnitude of her need assessed. We do know that she will need at least one major surgery. I am trying not to dwell on that too much, as it scares me to bits to think of my tiny baby in surgery.
As people sitting in our cozy homes in America, it’s difficult for us to understand why these women don’t just run away. It’s unfathomable for us to imagine being hunted down like an animal by a pimp who feels that he has ownership over you. It’s unimaginable that we would be forced to perform sexual acts (many to the detriment of our health) while our own children played on the floor next to us because there was nowhere else for them to go. We can’t wrap our brains around the fact that in exchange for our very personhood we are barely given enough money to survive and to keep our children alive.
She took Papa’s hand. Beaming. She led the way because she knew just where we were going. The room, where the children who have Mamas and Papas go to play. The room where she must have seen so many friends go before being adopted, off-limits to the others. Now, after almost six years of waiting….it was her turn to go in, with Mama and Papa by her side.