Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Just Who Do I Think I Am?

Medication allows me to function with depression, but it will never make me thrive. That I will have to do on my own. I've always had the notion that I would be a writer someday. I have a recurring dream in which I am in New York, doing the morning show circuit, talking about something I've written. There are two parts of the dream that never change: I always do the Today show; and I always leave the NBC studios in a Town Car, which is stocked with spicy peanuts and freshly brewed iced tea.  But, there was a long stretch during which my depression was being managed, and I was not writing. I would write here and there, and I always thought about it but, like with exercise, if you don't do it most days, you are not "writing". Going for a walk once a month is not going to change your health (disclaimer: I am not a doctor. This may not be true. Always consult your physician before beginning any exercise routine). I finally took the step I knew had to be the next one - I went to a psychologist.

The first psychologist I saw asked me, "What would you need to be doing to feel successful?"


"Okay. Next time I see you, I want for you to have written something."

Right. Fuck you.

This women is employed!  I'll give her the benefit of the doubt. There are probably people for whom she is a good match. I am not one of those people. It took awhile, but eventually I made an appointment with another psychologist. She fixed me up in a few short months. We talked some about writing, enough that she knew that's what I wanted to do, but mostly she worked on getting me to acknowledge my strengths.

One time, after I had seen her long enough that I trusted that she really knew me, and would know that I wasn't bragging, I said to her, "I don't know. I mean, I guess I think I'm too smart for any job I've ever had, including staying at home with my kids."

"Well, yeah. Of course you are. And it's not bragging to say that. I know you don't want to sound cocky, but there's nothing wrong with knowing what you are capable of. You're smart, have a sharp wit. You see things not everyone sees. That's just what you are, that's your strength, your skill; what you have to offer. And everyone who knows you, knows that. You were the last to find out."

I started this blog shortly after that, because I allowed myself to believe her. She created a monster. A monster that is focused on the Today show and the Town Car. A monster who is willing to be patient, but would love to not have to be.

A couple of days ago a fellow blogger who also dreams of bigger things told me about a blog written by a single dad. The blog is followed by thousands of people- read by who knows how many more. And it is only a few months old. A couple of the posts have gone viral (dear mother-in-law, that means they have spread across the Internet like a virus, but in a good way: they've become hugely popular overnight). It is a funny blog, those viral posts are good: one implores people to be "real", to be unashamed of their imperfections, because everyone has them; the other is about adoption, about things not to say to an adoptive parent, which he is. But it is not that good. I mean, it is not hundreds of times better than mine. So what gives? What can I learn from his blog?

First, he does a much better job of promoting his writing, and of asking others to do the same. Secondly, I have to admit that my writing may not lend itself to mass appeal. I've inferred many times that people should not be ashamed of who they are, that we should drop pretenses and deal with each other on a real, human level. But I've never simply said exactly that. Inference doesn't resonate, apparently.  And, of course, I, too, am an adoptive father. I could list all the things you could say that could offend an adoptive parent:  How much did your child cost?  Where is his "real" father/mother? blah, blah, blah. In his blog, the single dad argues that adoptive parents are not buying their kids. We are simply paying placement fees, agency fees, legal fees, etc in the same way that biological parents pay doctor and hospital bills. People seem to like those kinds of blogs. But I'm not going to write that adoption is just like birth. Adoption is different. A biological child is probably going to come anyway, with or without doctors and hospitals. Adoptive parents are paying fees and getting a baby. That's not bad; we're not in an alley somewhere giving a woman money and leaving with her baby. It's just the way it is. 

Because I have adopted I have stories that biological parents do not. I will never forget sitting with my wife on a bed in a hotel room in Guatemala, dressed up, waiting for the phone to ring.


"Mr. Morgan?", asked the woman.

"Yes,"  My breathing stopped.

"My name is Carla. I am downstairs with your baby."

"We'll be right down." I gulped.

I will always remember the look on my wife's face when I put the phone down. She stood up. I hugged her; one last hug before our lovely duet changed forever.

"Let's go get our daughter."

The hotel lobby was open all the way to the ceiling, 10 floors up. The hotel's elevators were glass so that one could see the lobby below from them. When we stepped in on the seventh floor, I fumbled to press the button for the lobby, and hustled to the back to join my wife, who was already looking down at the couches below. I stood next to her and saw our daughter immediately, could see she was wearing the yellow headband she had worn in several of the pictures we had been sent. It was a priceless moment, of course, but it was not free, and couldn't be.

The business about being offended when people say "real parent" is, to me, kind of silly. I can't imagine people mean harm when they say it; it is simply awkward wording from someone who doesn't know the term "biological parent." I will say that if I were the type to take offense, the thing that would bother me is being told that I am lucky I have good kids. Every parent is lucky when their child is born healthy. After that, it's hard work, plain and simple. Yes, I have mellow kids. Is anyone who knows me surprised by that? But, those things don't offend me. I, and more importantly my kids, know who their "real" parents are. What other people think is a reflection on them, not on us. When my daughter says, "Thank you for being my daddy, daddy," she is talking to me.

I will probably continue to use my writing to encourage people to lighten up. Instead of telling my readers how to avoid causing offense, I will encourage you to not take offense when people say regrettable things. Still, I may try to sprinkle in what I hope may be more popular posts. There is a Town Car waiting.

Sorry for the rant. But what are you going to do? Wait for a better post and then recommend my blog to your friends and family?  Fine, do it. See if I care.

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