Where are my fellow Swifties at? Is her new Midnights album awesome or is it awesome? My favorite is of course “Anti-Hero”. If you are unfamiliar, here are some of the lyrics:

“I have this thing where I get older but just never wiser | Midnights become my afternoons | When my depression works the graveyard shift | All of the people I’ve ghosted stand there in the room | I should not be left to my own devices | They come with prices and vices | I end up in crisis (tale as old as time) | I wake up screaming from dreaming | One day I’ll watch as you’re leaving | ‘Cause you got tired of my scheming | (For the last time) | It’s me, hi, I’m the problem, it’s me | At tea time, everybody agrees | I’ll stare directly at the sun but never in the mirror | It must be exhausting always rooting for the anti-hero”

It resonates with me in a way that most of her music does. There’s something about That first line that just grabs onto me and doesn’t let go till the end of the song. It’s not that every part of it is applicable to my life, but I do wonder if this is part of my story. Perhaps my withdrawal is seen as ghosting, and perhaps my openness appears like I’m trying to manipulate. My depression most certainly works the graveyard shift. And I almost certainly have gotten older but probably not much wiser. If anything, I’ve learned to mask better. 

What does any of this have to do with our adoption journey? Only everything. There is so much in my life that I would love to pin onto others and stay blind to my own flaws. Except maybe I am a little bit wiser now. I’m trying to heal and help others to heal and the only path is honesty if that is going to happen. 

Yes, my kids can be difficult. Yes, they are excellent manipulators, and they are incredibly good at pushing my buttons. Even buttons I could not have told you ten years ago even existed. But also, there is part of our relationship, a large part in fact, that is me. It is my responses, my attitude, and my self-protective, shell-turned-porcupine-quills that hurt others. In my attempt to keep my squishy heart safe, I hurt and keep out the very people who want to be in my life. Meanwhile, I’m left wondering why I feel no one loves me or wants to be near me. 

I may be a bit self-flagellating. There is a distinct possibility in my effort to course correct I have once again swung full tilt into open-hearted hemorrhaging. I know that there is somewhere in between, where I don’t expose my soft insides to predators, but I also don’t allow myself to catch on fire so others stay warm. It’s a work in progress. 

The first step, however, in getting help, in healing, is recognizing there is a problem to start with. For a long time, I wanted to acknowledge everyone else’s problems while ignoring my own–like a box turtle retreating into its shell to avoid being seen. It is exhausting, this journey of healing and maturing. Frankly, it was much easier to be less self-aware and more righteously indignant. It is easier to stand in a crowd shouting about injustice than to take steps to correct that same injustice. 

I look at my past, from kindergarten till now, and find myself cringing. I want to forgive past me her flaws and faults the same way I am trying to forgive others. It’s embarrassing, some of the beliefs I held, the things I said, the clothes I wore.

My kids are all adopted from foster care. Our relationship is hard fought for and easily broken. I find myself needing to ask for forgiveness for my missteps all the time. And because I am me, and I can probably count on one hand the number of times I remember receiving forgiveness, this is difficult. It is also sometimes done begrudgingly to save face in front of my spouse more than it is to actually ask forgiveness from my child. It’s embarrassing to admit that, but there it is. 

It helps, though. By modeling forgiveness, and by modeling apology, I’m helping them rewrite their stories. They are learning it is okay to make mistakes, but it’s our job to go back and clean up the mess we’ve made. We’re also learning together that forgiving isn’t forgetting and that’s okay. We’re learning that love is what matters and if that’s true, holding onto a grudge is pointless. 

Where this becomes the most difficult for me is not even so much with my kids but with their pasts. They each experienced abuse and neglect in ways I can’t and don’t care to imagine. Worse, they didn’t understand it was abuse at the time. 

Those people, however angry I am or was at them, can’t undo what has already been done. And probably they did what they did because they experienced it and didn’t realize it was abuse either. And so almost against my will, compassion slips in and makes me feel guilty for my thoughts. I would be lying if I said I didn’t ever think angry thoughts, but I’m getting better. I can hate the things they did, but I can’t hate the people. 

And so we’re back to the beginning. I’m the problem. I’m not the whole problem, but I’m the part of the equation I have any control. And so I’m doing my part to change. It may be the fault of abuse that my child struggles with correction. It is absolutely my own fault for letting my own frustration take the reins of my emotions and I let myself get angry at my child for something none of us had control of. And when I let that monster out, the one that was woven together of rage, sadness, and fear entangled, I hurt others instead of heal, even if that monster is only attacking me. And so I’m learning to recognize that. I am learning to see how my actions, words, and emotions affect the people around me who are trying to heal and grow. And I am learning how to sincerely apologize and try to correct my behavior. 

There is something massively cathartic about my 7-year-old who had been screaming hate at me moments before wrapping her arms around me in a tight hug and saying she forgives me. I can see where my actions triggered hers and instead of trying to negotiate with her or find another solution, I jumped to trying to control the situation. By wrenching control from her, I made her feel unsafe. When she felt unsafe, she lashed out (like many of us do). And so, when we are both calm, and I have had time to think, I go back and apologize for my part, my problem–no qualifiers, no buts. So hopefully, I can be a little bit less of a problem.