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Adoption Blog: Man Up!

The Secret to Happiness? Learning to Live in the Moment

Pictured: Manu, Captured in the Moment

As I get older, I find myself reflecting on the past, looking back on my younger days, filled with friends and family that I have lost touch with and experiences, which, in their time, seemed would last forever, but are now blurred, jumbled pieces of memories. Through the innovations of the Internet, recently I have become reacquainted with part of that past. People about whom I haven’t thought in years are brilliant in my mind as though it was only yesterday that we said goodbye, or simply lost touch. With the click of a button, I am 17 again, having the time of my life, and the dreams of my youth are once again alive in my head: I was to be an independently wealthy world traveler, or a great composer of classical music, or a famous author making Hemingway read like a hack blog-writer in comparison. But as exciting as it is to reconnect, I start to wonder how I let it all slip away. As time marches on we take for granted that what we have today, we will have tomorrow. But few things, if any, are forever. Each chapter of life is a transition into another, and there is no going back, only reminiscing and then moving on.

Graduation day froze forever in my head those old friends. Though I must have known that twenty years would have changed them, in my subconscious mind they were still the same kids with which I grew up. Seeing their faces again, more mature, and reading stories of their children and the lives they have made for themselves since school, led me to realize that I had missed out on the life experiences that made them who they are today.

Sometimes I feel that way about our son, Manu.

Looking back on the more recent history of our adoption, I can see a personal pattern of either trying to move ahead in time or to stay in the past, soaking up the memories, rather than living in the moment - enjoying each new development.

Wanting to Speed Up the Adoption Process

The adoption process is all-consuming, and has a way of pulling prospective parents out of their normal lives, and into a surreal world in which every aspect of life is examined closely to determine if you are indeed “good enough” to raise a child, and where every free moment is spent wondering when “the call” might finally come. I remember how frustrated we felt as we waded through piles of paperwork, underwent multiple background checks, and opened our bank account almost daily for the seemingly endless stream of fees for home studies, background checks, agency fees, and to anyone else who had their hand out. Then there would be months at a time where we wouldn’t hear any news at all. We felt lost in the infinite wait for a referral, and wanted desperately for it to be over.

When it began to look like we were making progress, other setbacks further dampened our enthusiasm to a point to which we started to wonder if we could handle the adoption process any more—after all, we had just spent the last year and a half on a trying-and-failing-to-conceive treadmill.

It became such a routine that it was sometimes difficult for me to remember that at the end of it all was a child, and not simply another “goal” to achieve. I found myself wishing away part of my life, the part that I know now is what stood between me and my son, Manu; the part that ultimately taught me more about myself than I had learned in the many years that preceded our adoption journey; how I could be more patient than I ever thought possible, or how I could bounce back from disappointments and setbacks, or that I could want a child so dearly that I would put aside all other aspects of my life to make it happen. I wish I could have appreciated that time more, as it was all necessary to bring my son home, and any change along the way would have altered the outcome, and perhaps the family I have today.

Reliving the International Adoption Trip…Well Into the Early Stages of Parenting

Even after we returned home from India with Manu in tow, it was hard to separate our new life from our “waiting to adopt” life, and to accept that the process was really over. I found that rather than talking to people about what Manu might have done that day, I was more likely to recall something he did, or an experience we had, in India. I also spent a lot of time on message boards and websites trying to cling to that life, by living it again through others.

I can still remember vividly how I felt when I first locked eyes with Manu; I thought I could see forever in those eyes. I can still hear his little laugh and cry in my mind, too. We went on to spend two more weeks in India; my wife and I wanted to soak up the culture so that in some small way we could convey it to our son in years to come. We amassed hundreds of pictures, dozens of trinkets, several new recipes, and thousands of memories, all of which remind us of what was one of the happiest times of our lives.  While it’s fun to relive our trip through them, dwelling on them won’t bring back the past; they could never adequately describe it for him anyway; and they could make us miss out on the present.

Accepting the Here and Now

One day, after picking Manu up from daycare, I turned around in the kitchen to see him taking his first steps on his own; because I had been too busy focusing on another time in my life I almost missed an important one in his. I took that as a sign. From then on, I became determined not to let keeping an eye on the past make miss what was happening right in front of me.

Just as I wouldn’t wish away the time before we became the family we are today, I don’t want to dwell in the past to the point where I miss out on living in the present. We’ve had such an exciting past couple of years, but they’ve passed so quickly (in hindsight), and now I want things to slow down a bit so I can enjoy more time with my family as it is today. Manu is becoming such a little man now; he’s changing every day. He’s drinking from adult cups, using utensils, and beginning to speak in sentences. He’s learning to do things for himself that he once depended on us to do for him. Before you know it he’ll be out of diapers, shaving, and dating! Although I still see that little baby boy when I look at him, I marvel at the changes in him and the progress he’s made. Manu is even more special to me now than he was on that first day we met, and I don’t want to miss out on any part of his childhood, so I try to fondly remember the past, and stay focused in the moment.

That, I think, is the secret to happiness: Realizing that right now you are in a place to which you’ll wish you could return later in your life.

Enjoy it, and make today the best day that it can be.

P.S. Life has turned out nothing like that 17-year-old me imagined it would.  It’s fun to remember what once was, and sometimes I wonder where I would be if I had done this or that differently, but then I have to consider the cost; what would I give up now to have what I thought I might have wanted years ago? That’s an easy one; nothing!

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