What I Learned When James Went on Retreat

My partner, James goes on silent retreat every year.  This year he went for a 10-day monastic stay at Spirit Rock. While he was gone I learned a few things about myself.

1. I *missed* him.  We’ve been together for several years, and I hadn’t felt this way before! In the past he’d come home and ask, “Did you miss me?”  Or I’d go away and come back and he’d ask, “Did you miss me?” Often the answer was, “Um, well, I really enjoyed being on my own… and yeah, I did.” But this time the placement of the heart strings must have been different because I missed, and I felt how much I love to share my home with him, intertwine my life with his, be greeted by his enthusiasm, play with his theatrical humor, soak up the nutrients of being held by him, and feel the steady concentration of his yoga or meditation practice.James making funny faces

2. I *trust* him.  Teachers tell us trust is the thing a man wants from his woman. J and I argue about this sometimes, because in my zeal to be efficient, effective, and capable, sometimes my personality doesn’t leave much room for someone else to step in. It’s not that appealing for a man to feel like his woman doesn’t need anything or doesn’t trust him. My learning edge has softening, resting, leaving room for someone else, trusting; these are my opportunities for deeper relationship.

James in handstandWe also have different definitions of trust.  I trust that if someone has shown a particular behavior, that they will continue to show that behavior until they don’t. It’s practical.  If I wish for that behavior to be different, I don’t call that trust, i.e. trusting that he’ll do something he hasn’t done before, that I wish he would do. We disagree on this one. So sometimes it appears that I don’t trust.

When he was gone I noticed I trust his judgment, particularly about setting sane and healthy expectations for my mercurial self.  I was anxious one morning because I had offered to lead a ritual in my yoga community, and stepping forward in spiritual leadership stirs excitement and nervousness.  I could not make up my mind about the plan for my day: “Do I drive or take the bus? Do I leave work early or stay late? Do I take all my things with me or come home to get them?” I hadn’t felt this crazy in awhile, and I realized I rely on James to help me make decisions. I would have asked him what to do, he would have given me a reflection, probably something like, “It sounds like you’re trying to be a lot of places at once; how about you come home before the ceremony.” That would settle it, and my anxiety would quiet.

3. Food tastes better when he’s home. I like to cook a lot, and bringing healthy home-cooked food with me to the office makes me feel rich. So sometimes I prepare food and feel a greedy hopefulness that I’ll get all the leftovers. I thought I’d love to have all the portions to myself, but I cooked a whole chicken and was sad because he wasn’t coming home to enjoy it. It didn’t taste as good without the delight of feeding my love.

4. I didn’t like living alone.  I used to relish living alone, but this time it was like a classic old outfit I’d kept in my closet, and when I put it on again it didn’t suit me anymore. The first day I felt spaced-out and apathetic. After another day of telling myself, “If it’s hard it must be good for you,” I accepted that I enjoy living with people, and I invited a former housemate and friend to join me. I didn’t need to socialize; I just like to share my home with another sweet soul, and I was glad to let my heart have that. We had a good time.

Thanks to a change of routine to open up insight.

Welcome home, James!


Blessing the Wait to Become an Adoptive Parent

Last week was the week before my 44th birthday. I had hoped to become a mom this year. A year ago James and I signed on with the Independent Adoption Center, and it’s nine months since we leaped through the hoops required for us to go into circulation and begin waiting to bring a baby into our family through open adoption. Last week also a baby was born to a Berkeley couple that contacted us in November when they for a few moments considered adoption. (I was especially tickled at the synchronicity of their due date, nine months from when we went into circulation. But after we met them, they decided to parent.)

The arrival and passing of these milestones created rough interior weather for me. I realized I needed to let go of the expectations and hopes that we would be different: we wouldn’t wait long; that a baby would come in nine months and before my next birthday. One night I went to bed inexplicably sad and woke up the next morning feeling exactly the same way. Grateful to connect with a good friend, I tried to articulate what motivated so many tears:

“Sometimes I want to give up; I’m afraid it will never happen. It’s like if it wasn’t in nine months it might not be for three years… I want to know people are with me… I want a ritual… I want reassurance… like when women come together to create a Blessing Way, nourishing an expectant mama on her way to birthing and motherhood… I want a blessing… Oh, it will be a Blessing Wait!”

A wave of calm washed into me, and then happiness and excitement. Soon after I hung up the phone, I poured out my vision into an invitation:

“You are invited to my Blessing Wait… Why: because we are still waiting for a baby… It takes courage, self-love, and fortitude sometimes to keep wanting and believing in it… Please join me to celebrate longing and faith.”

Fortunately I circle with women in several spirit-filled communities, and twenty people responded to my call.

They came and circled me last night on my birthday. We danced to create sacred space and call in the four directions as allies. I shared with them my dream, having written and created a collage to depict my vision of harmonious relationship and joyful motherhood.

picture of collage

Collage dreamboard for “Joyful Motherhood”

I asked for their help: “How do you long for something you really want, and not go into fear or despair? What helps you keep your faith strong?” They gave their insights and so much love. They wrote their prayers to add to mine, for a bundle of reassurance on my altar.

We passed a ball of yarn around the circle, forming a web as each woman wrapped a loop around her wrist (or ankle) and shared what she, as part of my network, offers to me. And, like a ritual often done at Blessing Ways, each woman cut her loop free from the web and tied off a bracelet to wear in support of my dream, until Baby safely arrives. We sat together in meditation, each imagining and holding that the dream had already come true: the longing was sweet, my faith strong, and a baby come to us in right timing, for the good of all involved.

photo of blue thread on wrists
Women sporting blue wrist and ankle bands from the ceremony.

We released the circle and celebrated with sweet fruits and an amazing chocolate cake. I, in my wait, was thoroughly blessed – infused with hope, faith, trust, and care! I couldn’t be more moved or grateful.

Have you heard of the “red thread of destiny?” Typically the yarn used at a Blessing Way is red, but for my ceremony I saw blue. Then I read on The Next Family blog about the legend in Chinese and Japanese culture of a matchmaking god who ties a red thread around the ankles (or fingers) of those who are meant to meet or help each other in some way. In adoption community this reference is used to explain the quality of connection adoptive families feel once they find each other.

I understood: the red thread is for my baby.

Cindy McPherson and James Ryder are prospective adoptive parents who live in Berkeley. Learn more about them (and tell everyone you know that they are waiting to adopt!) at http://www.iheartadoption.org/users/cindyjames or Facebook.