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Posted on July 29, 2016

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About a year ago, my husband and I adopted our youngest son.

I’ve waited to write about the adoption for many reasons but, mostly, because taking care of an infant is all-consuming and I just didn’t have the time. I also felt that I needed to fully process the experience before sharing it on my blog.

But now I’m ready to discuss at least part of what I’ve learned this past year, which is, in short, that it’s okay to and.

By that I mean it’s okay to live in limbo and to have uncertainty and to not have everything solidly figured out. It’s okay to feel a bunch of different, almost conflicting emotions all at one time. It’s okay to realize that relationships are not black and white and very often our existence with other people lives in the gray.

I can’t find a suitable definition in the English language for this feeling. Each time I think I’ve found a word that encompasses this, I realize it’s not quite right. Ambivalence is the closest word I can find, but it only allows for two differing emotions, at odds with each other, like a love-hate relationship. I think the feeling I’m describing is a bit more complex than this and not as extreme.

It’s weird that we don’t have a word for it because it’s such an essential part of being human.

The whole process of an adoption is living in a state of feeling many different emotions. Sometimes all at one time. And now, looking back, I realize it is because this is such an essential aspect of being human that when others want you to commit to just one emotion, it feels like they are asking you to deny all of the other essential parts of who you are and what you are going through. 

When G. and I found out we had been chosen by birth parents (for the third time), our adoption counselor called us.

“I have some very exciting news!” she said, as if we had never been down this road before, “You have been chosen by birth parents for an adoption!”

As you can imagine, we were a little hesitant about busting out the champagne just that very moment. We asked a bunch of questions-about the birth parents, about the baby- questions that were indicative of being careful about not getting ahead of ourselves. Like I said, this had happened two times previously and neither situation ended up working out.

But somewhere near the middle of this 15 minute call, I remember the counselor asking, “Well, now, but aren’t you both excited?!”

And the truth was that yes, we were excited. A new baby! The placement we had been waiting for! Another kid! A little brother to my oldest! Of course, yes, there was excitement.

AND.

And I was nervous. And I was hesitant. And I was worried. And I was happy. And I was relieved. And I was anxious. And I felt a sense of sacred peace, of divine rightness.

And I felt a lot of other things, too.

Not just excited.

As the adoption process continued, after we flew into a different time zone to meet with the birth parents, after I coached my son’s birth mother through a 24 hour labor, after I held my newborn baby for the first time, after the birth father and I shared a long heart-to-heart conversation over Whataburgers, after  I heard the woman who gave birth to my son sobbing in the bathroom the day we were to take him home, there were a lot of other feelings. Many of them were not of excitement.

But if I admitted any other feelings,  I was treated as if I was feeling something I shouldn’t feel.

“Well, now, but aren’t you both excited!?” was a question G. and I got in one form or another from the adoption counselors, our well-meaning friends and family and even, once, from our birth mother before she had our youngest son.

Which is why, now, almost a year later, I’d like to talk about the AND.

The AND is the place most of us actually live in. I know, it’s inconvenient. It’s not simple and it’s not always clear and it can’t be wrapped up in 140 characters or less. But it’s real.

Think of the people in your life. The older sister who both elicits your admiration and annoyance, the colleague at work you abhor and pity, the friend you both envy and deeply love.

Think of the situations in your life. At the starting line of a 10K, nervous and excited and ready to compete and filled with a little bit of dread. At a big presentation at work, anxious for it to begin and determined and focused and anxious for it to end. On a first, or second date, hopeful and cautious and flirty.

To feel pressured to reduce our human experience, in any situation or capacity, to one emotion is a futile and shallow exercise. I think most of us, at least intellectually, would agree.

And yet.

The other day a friend of mine was on Facebook, urging her democratic friends who were upset about Clinton’s nomination to put those feelings aside and ‘be excited’ because a woman was nominated for the presidency.

“I AM excited,” I retorted, “But I’m also disappointed. And yes, I can have more than one emotion at a time.”

Then there’s this divided country, with its Team #BlueLivesMatter vs. Team #BlackLivesMatter.

Like you have to pick a fucking team.

Like you can’t just be terribly upset about innocent people being killed, that you have to decide whether you’re more upset about those who are being murdered because of their uniform or more upset about those that are using their uniform to get away with murder.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve grown tired of the pressure to put myself into a neat little box or to only articulate one feeling because to do otherwise makes other people uncomfortable. I’ve got news for you, people-I’m not here to make you feel comfortable.

You are allowed to feel more than one emotion about something. You are allowed to color with more than one crayon. You are allowed to embrace all of your feelings because you are human and you are living a human life.

And a human life is messy and disorganized and full of love and full of hurt and…

AND.

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