The Value of Flying
If you give me something valuable, chances are good I’m either going to sell it, lose it, or give it away. My last ex-husband gave me two engagement rings and I sold them both. The second wasn’t as big as the first, so he had learned what was at stake by giving me a diamond, but he couldn’t help himself: he still had hope I’d be able to hold on.
I felt I had to sell the rings because I needed the money. I didn’t have enough. I could have gotten a full-time job and made more money and filled the enough that way, but I didn’t. Why? Well, my ex-husband made a good salary and he’d told me I didn’t have to work, so there was that. There also was the question of skills. I have a loud laugh and I’m nice a lot of the time and encouraging, but I don’t have the body to be a cheerleader, and I’m not that nice.
I had taught introductory composition classes at the university level for almost twenty years, but those skills, working for little pay and knowing how to engage a class full of simultaneously over- and under-stimulated students, don’t get you a full-time job unless you also have a Ph.D. and have published and are willing to move to Ohio.
And then there was the issue of my brain. I couldn’t have a job because the ship of Anne was always rocking. It’s been like this pretty much my whole life, and I was like a hopeful person standing on the beach, waiting out the clouds because I was convinced that any minute there would be blue skies and everything would be alright and I’d be able to embark on the life of normal, heading to some office with my briefcase and positive attitude.
I didn’t accept the full weather of myself until last year when I realized the struggles I have had with succeeding and focusing were connected to the fact I was adopted.
But back to the idea of not enough. What was it that I needed, anyway? Why did I have to sell two diamond rings? Why have I sold almost everything of value I have ever owned?
When you are a sinking ship, you are a drowning person, and you grab whatever is closest to you to keep yourself alive. This means bars of soap, bicycles, statues of elephants, computers, DVDs, framed pictures, shoes, airplane tickets. You buy to feel empowered. You buy to feel real. You buy to give yourself a jolt of pleasure. You buy because it’s the last thing you should be doing, and you are desperate.
And so, in this way, I kept myself afloat. But I also felt fettered and lost.
The truest picture of me was taken by my best friend at the time, Erin Sugrue, the person who also happened to have created this blog for me, the person who gave this blog to me as a gift because she read my book and saw I could use some help. The person I have only seen once in the last fifteen years because we live so far apart. That person.
Anyway, she took a picture of me when we were driving cross country. We stopped in Denver, or maybe it was Boulder. I was standing on a stone wall wearing my favorite blue jacket. All my clothes were soft and sleepable. My hair was uncombed and I was very happy. My arms were opened wide. It looks like I’m ready to fly. I think that image most mirrors the person I feel I am in my heart.
What happened instead is that I went to California, struggled with low self-esteem and with being so far from family, got an eating disorder, dropped out of school, moved in with a man, moved out after emptying his wallet, and drove back home alone crossing from L.A. to Boston in four days.
So much for flying. That was more like running.
I’m in Denver again now, and I’ll be flying out later this afternoon, after I interview Pam Dixon Krioske for her podcast, Indiana Adoptee Network, from some quiet corner of the airport. I came here to teach a Write or Die workshop and to meet Lori Holden and Reshma McClintock, two people whose writing and work in the adoption world has deeply influenced and informed my own thinking and writing.
I had dinner with some friends of friends one of the nights I was here, and after a couple of drinks, the man said to me, “You have to let go of your past.” I knew what he was talking about. It’s adoption, adoption, adoption with me. And that’s fine, but I also don’t want to be an adopted child anymore. I want to be Anne. I told him that if I knew how to let it go, I would. But all I knew was how to be the way I was used to being.
“Let yourself be big,” he said. “Let yourself be successful.”
I told him I’d heard that before. I told him I needed him to be more specific. His girlfriend looked at him as she’d heard this lecture before, but she just smiled at him, nodded.
He ticked off on his fingers: 1. Don’t be afraid you will succeed as soon as you release the baggage of the past. 2. Don’t be afraid whether you deserve the success or not. You do! 3. Don’t be afraid of what success will bring you. 4. Don’t be afraid of people looking up to you as successful. 5. Don’t be afraid the success will continue on, in project after project. 6. Don’t be afraid.
“Yeah, but,” I said, “I was taught when I learned NLP that my brain doesn’t hear ‘not’, so you just told me to be afraid.”
The man shook his head at me and called me a pain in the ass. “You know what I mean,” he said. “Don’t be a baby about it.”
We all laughed. We knew he had given me a gift. I knew he had given me a gift. I had choices. I could choose not to be afraid. I could choose to be successful.
When I brought my first diamond ring to the buyer, he pried opened the prongs and pulled out the stone. He looked at it under his glass and told me the diamond was dirty. He cleaned it and looked at it again. “It’s not a very good cut,” he said. My husband at the time had gone to a lot of trouble to find what he felt was the most beautiful ring for me, the best stone he could buy. I took a check for a third of the stone’s value and I went to Whole Foods. I bought a bag of groceries. I bought some essential oil, lavender and sage. I bought some body lotion. I wanted to feel safe. I wanted to know I wouldn’t go hungry. I ate my tofu salad in the car and thought about where to go next to buy what I most needed.
Things have finally changed. I came to Denver this time because I'd written about adoption and had something to give. I had found my voice and now had a purpose. I bought nothing but the essentials on this trip, and so I will be flying light this afternoon. I collected friends, experiences, bits of dialogue. I am going to walk by the river now and take pictures.
I wish us all the greatest happiness in life. I wish us freedom and self-acceptance. If I can get there, anyone can.