Tightrope Walking the Line of Integrity

tightropeSo I went “back to work” (in quotes because I’ve been nothing if not working since our daughter was born).  I went back to the kind of work where you leave the house in clothes that aren’t stained and sit in front of a computer ostensibly producing something of value that, in the end, turns out not to matter very much because…DUH…everything that matters is about 34.5 inches tall, 25 months old, obsessed with popsicles and in love with a stuffed giraffe named Girard. (Girard is actually the one who wants a popsicle at every meal; he also wants to sleep with mommy in the “big bed,” doesn’t need naps, and runs around in circles yelling “Hooray for Hat!” at the top of his voice.)

But this post is not about work. Or Girard. Or the talkative toddler who loves him. (Unfortunately, because THAT would be a lot more fun to write.)

integrityThis post is about trying to live in integrity.

Mostly this blog is a place where I try to figure stuff out. I write about it, and in writing and hearing your comments, parts of my confusion and clarity separate like oil and water, and I’m able to suss out the source of unease, despair or longing. Thank you for that.

This evening I’m uneasy because I’m starting to notice that in some ways, my behavior is driven by a desire to “do the right thing” rather than my own internal need, want, desire. I perceive this disconnect as signaling that I am “out of integrity” in some areas of my life.

I would be lying if I said I don’t care what people think about me. I care very much. I want them to think that I’m kind, loving, responsible, respectful, passionate, talented, and fun.

I want to be a good mom, and I want others to see me as a good mom. (I’m happy to jettison those who judge me not to be, as long as I net a few in my corner.)

But often I don’t really want to do the good mom things. I want to do the lazy-tired-go-away-I’m-grumpy mom things. And – here’s the rub – I STILL want to get the gold star.

For example, I am planning a celebration with my lovely wife (since we can now legally get married in our home state), and what I feel is: I want to do the right thing with our daughter’s extended birth family AND our daughter’s extended adoptive family AND my wife’s birth family, but I don’t want to hurt so-and-so’s feelings and so-and-so’s feelings and really I just want to shout: GET ALONG, GROW UP, STOP MAKING IT SO DIFFICULT FOR ME. This is MY day.

On the other hand, I’m hyper-aware of how an adoptive mom in our extended family is defensively proud of her “open” relationship with us…a relationship that lately has been heaping full of  closed doors, hurtful accusations, lies and denials. (But I think I’m confusing “open” with “honest”…maybe they aren’t the same thing.)

What if “openness” is just another “good mom” badge? Like the little medals that boy scouts accumulate on their sash. What if “open” adoptive moms and dads don’t really mean it, as I suspect is the case for many people?

Here is where my usual fallback of “we are all doing the best we can, we mothers, and everyone is okay” completely breaks down. Because we are NOT all doing okay. Some of us are hurting others, maybe unconsciously, or because we are wounded, or whatever.

I, as an adoptive mom, DO really mean it. I want to be loving and respectful, but sometimes I don’t honor my own boundaries.

Because this adoption relationship is imbalanced when it comes to power, I feel something akin to guilt: As an adoptive parent, I’m the dominant party. I can’t abdicate my power and privilege, so I need to use it to break the system. This makes it very difficult.

I am so aware of how it feels to be afraid to say anything that might cause us to lose the (little shred of possible) access we have as a birth family. This means that, as an adoptive mom, it is challenging to be honest when my feelings are hurt…because I deeply know how painful it is to be so afraid.

Thinking about this, I can feel that deep down, what I really want and NEED is to be real. (I think being an abuse survivor wires you this way…denial is the death knell of healing.)

Just like the “real dear birth mother letter” that I posted long ago, I want to be honest about everything that troubles me with the extended family in our life. But as the wife of a birth mom, I can’t take that risk. And as an adoptive mom, I don’t want to hurt others. Openness isn’t a badge to me.

Which makes me wonder: is it even possible to be honest in a relationship where the power imbalance is so great? When it comes to open adoption, I doubt it, and that is part of why I believe we need to change the system.

So I’m uneasy. There must be a balance between being respectful and being honest.

What do you think: Is it ethically wrong to stay silent in order to keep something that you aren’t willing to lose?

If you don’t have any thoughts about that, tell me about your child’s best soft friend (we call ‘stuffed animals’ soft friends in our house, it sounds so much nicer). Distraction from the hard questions is always welcomed.

3 thoughts on “Tightrope Walking the Line of Integrity

  1. Little C just noticed soft friends for the first time this week. The ones he likes are the ones that are sentimental to me…the ones I played with as a child, the one I made for a lost baby, the one I made for a baby that never arrived. I don’t know why, but so far he likes the soft friends that I love.

    As for the more important question…I looked at that little Venn diagram you shared up there and there was a little “ooof” sound in my soul. I’m not managing that. I will send you my best vibes on your journey to manage it…I’m in no position to give advice.

  2. Denial is a blanket. It is a defense, a survival device, a coping behavior, and at times, almost my undoing. It has been both a friend and an enemy. When I was a child, I used denial to protect myself. I protected myself from seeing things too painful to see and feelings too overwhelming to feel. The negative aspect of using denial was that I lost touch with myself and my feelings. I was able to tolerate a great deal of pain and abuse without the foggiest notion it was abnormal.

    Denial protected me from pain, but it also rendered me blind to my feelings, needs, and myself. It was like a thick blanket that covered me and smothered me. Eventually, I began to recover. I had a glimpse of awareness about my pain, my feelings, my behaviors. I began to see myself, and the world, as we were. I needed to embrace insights, remembrances, awareness, and healing gently, gradually. The blanket could not be ripped from off me entirely or I think I would have died from the shock of exposure.

    I have !earned what healthy boundaries are and how to set them. I was never taught that boundaries are God given. He sets them Himself and wants us to set them too. I’ve gained a healthy respect for our use of denial as a blanket to wrap ourselves in when we become too cold. Sometimes I feel ashamed about how long it takes me to struggle through to acceptance of reality. I feel embarrassed when I find myself again clouded by the fog of denial.

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