In much of my professional career, I spend time talking about dialectical tensions or the idea of moments in life being products of opposing tensions. For example, that friendship that allows you to define you who are also prevents you from reaching your full potential or that place that safe place that helps you find your voice prevents you from speaking out because you don’t want to threaten the safety of the space. Baxter and Montgomery’s (1996) dialectical tensions isn’t just interesting to talk about, I find it particularly useful in much of the research that I conduct.
The thing though about dialectical tensions is that they explain strains occurring within a singular moment in life.
On January 19th I experienced something very different and continue to do so. I woke up and was probably complaining about something that I thought was very important in life; most likely not having everything ready for the start of the semester or laundry done or something petty and menial like that. I went to an appointment, when I left that appointment my husband was waiting in the parking lot for me. I’ll never forget that moment, seeing him standing against my car. I knew it was a something and the something wasn’t good. I remember thinking if I don’t walk over to him he can’t tell him but my feet kept moving anyway and sooner than I would have liked he was delivering the news that my father was gone from this world. I had no idea it was possible to feel so numb and yet so much pain at the same time.
Then an hour later we got a phone call that our LSC/LOA had formally been accepted. *For those that don’t speak adoption, this means that our formal paperwork and our little girl’s formal paperwork had finally been matched and approved by both governments. It is a huge step in the international adoption world and usually signals an over-the-moon reaction. To put this in perspective our little girl has a genetic condition that traditionally means shunning in orphanages. We’ve heard many cases where children as old at 10 or 11 years old are still receiving bottles so that no one has to interact with them to feed them; we have no idea if this is our daughter’s case because no one has adopted from her orphanage for about a year but it is possible and getting her home is incredibly important for this and so many more reasons.
This isn’t and wasn’t a singular moment but instead parallel moments causing and continuing to cause a continuum of tension between grief and celebration and tears of sadness and tears of joy.
It’s like being kidnapped, blindfolded, and being placed on a roller coaster with no idea which way is up and which way is down. One email or telephone call brings reminders of things that have to be “taken care of” to “finalize” this or that account that needs “placed” in my name and then another email or telephone call reminds us to update immunizations, has us picking out hotels, and finds me on Amazon looking for a lovey that our visually impaired darling can call her own. Some days my heart, head, and stomach aren’t even speaking to one another they are on such different emotional planes and I’ve given up on answering the innocently asked question how are you because the question literally depends on which parallel you are referring to. If you are asking about my dad, the answer is lousy. If you are asking about my daughter, the answer is can’t wait. I don’t know how to reconcile those answers and I certainly don’t know how to feel nor demonstrate those at the same time. It’s kinda like this whole parenting, special needs gig, I didn’t get a manual. I’m making it up as I go and I’m really looking around hoping the real adult shows up something soon.
Until then I’m going to keep on keepin’ on and hope that eventually I can find a new normal where grief and happiness can coexist in a way that allows it to be okay to just be okay without any explanation.