Dear Universe, Here's Why I Want Billions of Dollars for Those Who Lost Their Mothers
I’d like a bunch of millions or maybe a billion dollars. Maybe two billion now that I start scrolling numbers. If I could find out how many adopted people and people who were or are in some form of foster care there are in the world, I could have a slightly better handle on the math, but as it is this is a major case of winging it. Let’s say three billion dollars. Maybe four. Trump probably has that buried under his desk, so you could just start digging for it now if you felt like it. You're the universe. You can do whatever you want.
I had an experience that I want all adopted people and people who were or are in the foster care system to have, and since it cost me money, I know it’s going to cost them. Okay. Wait. Now that I think about how much it cost me to write my book (time not working, time spent promoting said book, lying on the floor for a year or three afterwards, recovering from having put something so private into the world. Sending out “free copies”—free to others, not to me. Etc.) So let’s say it cost me $70,000 to write that book. (Really I want to tell you, sweet reader, it cost me at least twice that, but I don’t want to scare you from endeavoring to write your own book. I bet you could do it for twenty bucks if you are frugal. Maybe even less.)
Anyway. You get my point. My dream costs money.
Here’s what happened:
I decided to record my book for Audible, having no idea what this entailed. I googled “recording studios and Boston” and looked for one with stellar ratings. Cybersound is on Newbury Street, one of my favorite places in Boston, and the next thing I knew, I was in a brick-walled recording studio, sitting in a leather chair, headphones on, reading into the microphone while also peripherally looking at the back of Justin’s head through the window as he sat at the control panel and made sure I got every word right.
I’d been a worried about my voice. I’d had next to no vocal training and so my voice is often gravelly as it comes from my throat instead of the larger cavern of my upper body. I wasn’t sure how long it would take it to go from raspy to a growl, but I figured I’d give it a shot and see what happened. What I found is that reading out loud is a different experience when you have headphones firmly covering your ears. My voice was so close. I didn’t have the strange upset of that doesn’t sound like me I normally feel when I hear myself on a podcast interview or when I record a phone greeting. With those headphones on, my voice filled my head and my body—I was my voice—and this made me feel I could read from a softer place inside of me, one that required almost no push. I felt as though I were snuggled up to my daughter back when she was small, back when I would read quietly to her so that, with the lullaby of voice, I could gentle her to sleep.
I read the book to her for hours in that recording studio.
But I also read it to me.
Dear Universe, there are so many people in the world who would like to feel better heard, better loved. There are so many people who carry a story like a jagged rock inside their guts or heart, a weight they feel unable to push into the light. Children who lost their mothers or families often have even more jagged stories inside of them, and these stories hum or talk or shout inside the body and cause all sorts of mayhem. How can you focus on 2+2=4 when you have a muted stone in your heart?
How can you stay married or focus on your work or get to church on time when you have something that is so heavy inside of you that just getting up the stairs requires almost more energy than you have?
It was one thing to write my book. It was another to read it to be recorded for eternity. In some ways, writing it was like getting my secrets on paper and then sliding them under a door. I didn’t have to look at them again. I was writing notes, shoving them in a bottle, and hurling them out to sea.
My mother was not good at staying in the room when angry. I learned from her to yell my fury and then to run out the door. In some ways, writing my story was like this. Writing can be an act of stealth. No one has to know it even happened, and by the time a person reads your words, you can be well out of the room. Well out of town. It’s like breaking up with someone via text or email. The move of a person not owning her right to take up space. (And for that, please, know I am sorry. I could not look at you and say goodbye I am still learning.)
When a person finishes college it’s often like, Holy shit. I did it. That was so much work, and I have grown so much! They feel so old, so full of knowledge. Thirty years later they look back and college seems like recess. I feel a little like that when it comes to the 93 days I spent writing my book three years ago. At the time, it felt amazing and sickening and sexy and easy and sparkly and impossible. It was as if all my adult like I’d been staring at Mt. Everest off in the distance and then one day I found myself actually out on it, carving out an epic path of my own to the top. I got to walk around New York City like I owned that place because I was a writer. One night, coming home from a dinner date, I got lost and I was walking the empty streets of Manhattan alone, past midnight, and I knew I should have been afraid, but I wasn’t. No one could hurt me because I was doing the one thing I’d wanted to do since I was 18 years old: I was writing a book. I was invincible. I had taken what felt like a fragmented life and turned it into a story that had a beginning and an end.
That euphoria wore off a bit when I came back down to the world of after you publish a book and had to reckon with the debt I’d gotten myself into and the fact that there was a very private document out for purchase by anyone who had fourteen dollars and access to Amazon. I’d done it. I’d realized my dream, and yet my life was in so many ways a mess. What was I going to do next?
I was going to work my ass off to get my ducks in order. I had to find a way to make money (hello, Write or Die). I had to find a place to live (hello, kind friends). I had to find a way to deal with strangers knowing things I had never told anyone before (hello, thicker skin). I had to figure out what to do when I’d checked off all my major boxes (have a daughter, check; write a movie and see it get made, check; write a book about adoption, check). Granted, the box about having a successful romantic relationship wasn’t checked, except that I was beginning to realize that perhaps that meant a lifetime of dating myself, and if that were true I was on my way to a big fat check there, too.
Dear Universe, I want money so that every adopted person and every person who is or was in foster care can have the experience of feeling they scaled the highest mountain in the world. I want their brains to stop spinning, to stop trying to figure out how to tell a story that is full of holes or questions or uncertainties, a story that perhaps feels it belongs more to others than to oneself. I want the experience of reaching the highest peak for people who lost their mothers before they could parent themselves in a healthy and appropriate manner.
But I also want more for them. Writing my book was really, really amazing. But it was college. I also want these people to go to graduate school: I want them to be able to record the book they wrote, too. I want them to be in a room with the sound of their own voice and to live in their ability to stay. I want to have coupon books full of free sessions at Cybersound, because how cool would it be to have a home base for orphans, a wailing wall, a flying flag, a studio with a soulful owner, a studio with big windows and stories all its own and a taco truck across the street that cooks up amazing food? When you read your book to be recorded for all time, your brain thinks you are reading words of gold, and you sound like a song to yourself, like music, and you fall in love with your words, your voice, and you see that it is good, that you are good, that the words you wrote are good, that your desire to communicate with the world is good, and so you keep reading, and you are thankful, and so you keep reading, and when you make a mistake, you stop, you take a breath, you take a sip of water, and you start again because you want to get it right, you want to hear it just the way you wrote it because, finally, you understand deep in your soul your story really matters and that even if you lost your mother, you found your voice and yourself and your people and your place in the world and, and, and, and it is so good.
To book a recording session: http://www.cybersoundmusic.com.