If you find your way to this post — and you’re the one — then you will know these words are for you — my biological mother. And if you’re not her — well that’s okay too. Perhaps some of what I share will intrigue or inspire you.
On some level it might seem like a strange thing to write a post like this on my business website. Yet — the reality is this — for as long as I can remember — everything I’ve ever done in my career has been about and for children and families. And that’s because I believe that children and families are really, really so very important. With that in mind, there doesn’t seem to be a better place than this place for me to be both personal and vulnerable. After all — in the words of Dr. Brené Brown:
Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.
For me — being adopted — I learned early on about the importance of family. And I also learned that owning my truth is what has enabled me to be the best possible version of myself. After-all — there is nothing more powerful than owning one’s truth. It’s both freeing and grounding. Plus — when you mix truth with courage and generosity, magic can unfold.
And so having said all of that — let’s take a little walk down the memory lane called Jane.
This is me — on the exact day I became Jane. I was 5 weeks old.
You see — it was on this day that I became the adoptive daughter of my parents Mary and Harry. Without question, I was their gift. And unequivocally they were my gift too.
For the 5 weeks that unfolded before the day this picture was taken, I was Justine Carlotta M. And while I became Jane Morna Hargreaves on this day, the truth is that today I’m as much Justine as I am Jane. In reality — we are no less than one.
Over the years, I have written about my adoption in various ways and in different moments. Today’s post is not the first sort of writing I’ve done about my story — or perhaps more accurately — our story. For example, in 2014, I wrote this public letter to you.
A letter to my unknown mother……
Once upon a time, there was you and there was me. You were you and I was me. We were together for no longer than necessary. You – to enable me to be. Me – to leave you. Ever since that moment, I’ve been on my way to the next place. Yes, there has been family. There has been love. There has been everything. There still is. I have been able to be me and you have gone on to be you. Without me. Ever since my departure from you, there has been the never-ending need to keep on moving – to the next space and place. To get to the different, the unique. To be me – all on my own.
Of course, don’t get me wrong – there have been many moments of being in the right place and space. They were there when they needed to be. They still are. Yet at the same time – the truth is, that there never really has been home. Not completely. Not totally. Not ever.
You see, when you enter the world belonging to nobody, I don’t think you build a world where you strive to belong to anybody, anywhere. You simply live your life to be the person you are meant to be. You strive to be good to everyone, everywhere. This is because from the earliest of moments; you really only have yourself to count on. You learn to give – rather than receive – because that’s what you needed to do – from the very beginning. So – you never really belong. Not completely. Not really. Not ever. You just focus on being.
Crazy as it sounds, change is what creates stability in my world. Knowing that there’s always something else around the corner. Another place. Another space. Another project. Another moment. Another opportunity. This is what I do. It’s who I am. It’s the closest I ever get to home. Here’s what I have come to know – this constant need for change is what makes me exceptional at the the things that I’m exceptional at. It’s also what makes me understand and respect individuality more than most. Yet, truth be told…this same need for the new, the different, the next – is also what make being me challenging. Incredibly challenging. Both for me – and for those who know and love me best. I understand this. I respect it. I manage it. I live it.
Perhaps never really belonging anywhere or to anyone is why I’m truly a misfit. Perhaps it’s what makes me as grounded as I am. Perhaps it’s why I know that being intentional is what really matters. Perhaps it’s why I understand that it’s better to give than receive. Always. Every single time. Whatever it is, I trust it, I live it. I know it. It’s who I am.
So – wherever you are. Whoever you have gone on to be – know this much: because of you and what you did; I am me. And I’m okay. In fact, I’m more than okay. Your goodbye is what gave me the the ability to be ready for whatever is coming next. Always. It’s also what made me know that life starts with giving – each and every time. Generosity is what makes the world go round.
So thank you. You did good. I hope you know that.
And then in 2017, when my adoptive dad died, I wrote the words below. As you will see — despite the reality that you and I have lived separate lives — the truth is that my adoption and you — truly became part of me and my story — thanks to the courage of my adoptive parents.
It’s one week since my dad left this earth.
And in this moment I am reminded that he has not left my heart for even one second.
This past week was a tough one. The weeks and months prior were even tougher. It is so very hard to watch someone you love struggle with chronic illness. And to then have to finally say goodbye. It’s more than heartbreaking.
Yet — as hard as all of this is — and was — I am at peace knowing my dad is now at peace.
Without question my dad was loved. And he loved us. He has left a legacy — in me, with us and for many. It’s a legacy that can’t ever be taken away from any of us.
As I think about my dad tonight I realize that he gave me so much. You see — he taught me the value of relationships, of generosity and of believing in others.
Of course — guess what? My dad was human. There were many moments that he made me frustrated and crazy too. Times that I felt he was a little too critical of me or more than tricky to communicate with.
Yet — I know this: My dad loved me.
Some of you may recall my being adopted. More than a few times I have written about this part of my life. I’ve been pretty open about it here in the online space. And like all stories — there’s also a back story.
This one is mine.
From the earliest of days my dad told me a “story” about how “I chose” he and my mom to be my adoptive parents. Of course — there was no truth to this in reality. But for me — growing up — this was very much the truth I understood about my life.
The story he told me went something like this —
One day, he and my mom got a call from the adoption agency to go and choose a new baby. So off they went to the hospital. When they got there they were allowed into a room that was full of tiny babies who were in cribs. As they looked at all the babies in that room they were thinking which baby they would choose to take home. Of course it was a hard choice. Suddenly my dad saw me looking right at him. And I winked.
The story goes that my wink — in that exact moment — told my dad that I was the baby for them. That I had chosen he and my mom to be my parents. And so he knew that I was THE baby that was to go home with them.
We were a family from that moment forward.
I grew up believing that story for a great many years. That my wink to my dad was what made them decide to bring me home and make me their little girl — that they were honouring my choice.
Really — when you think about it — it’s quite the story for an adopted child to grow up with.
Over the years I have experienced many mixed emotions about my adoption. I’ve never really been able to explain why this is so. And then tonight — as I’ve reflected and thought about this simple story I have realized something . . .
My dad gave me a true gift in making that story the very first narrative of my life.
You see — from the get go my dad empowered me to believe that I was in total control of MY life. That I was the one in charge of my choices and decisions.
Now if you ask me — there really is no better gift that could be given to a child who had just been given up for adoption. Something they had absolutely NO control over.
Hindsight is 20/20.
It took my dad leaving this world for me to understand how important this story was and is. And what a role it has played in my life.
It’s a story that has made me stronger, more grounded and actually in complete control of my life.
I haven’t always understood this. And yet now I see it as clear as day.
My dad gave me this control of my life — from the very beginning. And he gave it to me at a time when he could have made it all about he and my mom. Instead — he made it all about me. And the choice I made.
He made my life my story.
Wow — was I ever fortunate.
My dad was a very intelligent man and he constantly encouraged me to think about things more broadly. To believe that people are here to help others. That everyone deserves a chance. And that giving to others is always good and right.
My dad also taught me a love of the written word. To this day I still have memories of reading my very first book. It was early one morning and I was stretched out on the floor on his side of the bed. It was long before he and my mom were awake. I vividly remember the magic of the moment when I realized I could actually READ the words on the page. I just could’t wait to wake him up so that I could read to him — my dad.
Over the years my dad often told me that he didn’t care what I read — a book, the newspaper or the back of cereal box — so long as I was reading he was happy. And so I read. Anything and everything.
As a grew up my dad encouraged me to expand from reading to writing. He saved many of my earliest stories. Tiny pages of messy words written in faint HB pencil. My stories mattered to him because they were my words and thoughts. And — because my dad saw value in my words and thoughts — I saw value in continuing to write.
As I worked to get better at writing, my dad was always available to edit my work. Even when he would be traveling for work, I would fax my writing to him. From wherever he was, my dad would edit my words and then fax them back to me. It was our version of google docs — just in fax format. This kind of support of my writing went on into my mid twenties. And then one day, quite suddenly, my dad told me I no longer needed to send him my work. He said simply “You are a better writer than I could ever hope to be. You don’t need me to edit your work anymore.”
From that day forward, I never sent my dad any more of my words. Of course, he told many people the story of my writing in the years that followed. My being a better writer than he was indeed something he was very proud of.
Yes — hindsight is very much 20/20.
My dad telling me that he no longer needed to edit my words actually had very little to do with my writing skills. The reality is that he was actually telling me how much he believed in me. That I was ready to go fourth and put my words and the person I had become out into the world.
I didn’t see this then — but I see it now — with more clarity than I ever have before.
A week ago, my dad was looking at me and winking. He did this over and over — right up until twelve hours before died.
We had come full circle.
I used to think that I write because of how much I love writing. Of course this is true — but — there’s more. . .
I write because I grew up with a father who not only believed in the brilliance of the words I put on the page — but who unequivocally believed in me from the very moment we first met.
Did I ever make the right choice when I winked at my dad on that day way back when. Because of that choice — he became my dad and my mom became my mom. And we became a family.
What a lucky girl I am.
At least that’s the story I’m going to keep on telling myself — because it’s the truth. And it’s my story.
Thanks dad. I love you.
And then this past weekend, I wrote these exact words for you — because it just seemed time that they be said.
Your baby girl
Once upon a time you were together.
You as her mama and she as your baby girl.
And then there was goodbye.
Goodbye for the moment you were in and for the moments that were yet to come.
Goodbye because that was the choice.
The choice that was for the best.
The choice that was right — for you — for others — and for the universal laws that often matter the most.
But perhaps most likely — because there just was no other choice.
Your baby girl had no idea what was coming — and she had every idea.
She said goodbye to you too, in her own way.
She knew that what you were doing took your everything.
And that you gave her the only gift you had to give.
One can only imagine what you felt.
The sadness mixed with relief.
The pain eased by courage.
And the emptiness filled with love.
Those feelings and more must have all been there.
Every single one of them.
For hours, days, weeks and months.
And then — perhaps — maybe even for years — in some small, silent and invisible way.
Your baby girl sensed all of this.
In fact, she quite simply knew as much as there was to know — first intuitively — later factually.
In time, your baby girl came to live with many of those feelings too.
It wasn’t horrible and it wasn’t wonderful — it just was.
You were somewhere.
And your baby girl was somewhere else.
Of course you weren’t together, but you also weren’t quite apart either.
Somehow, the magic of the 4th of July became the invisible thread that kept you connected.
And so your baby girl went on to be okay.
In fact, she was more than okay — she was cared for and she was loved — without question or hesitation.
And that love was honest enough to tell your baby girl the truth that she already knew.
That you were off being you — somehow, somewhere — and that was okay too.
Now — just in case you ever wondered —
Yes, your baby girl thought of you — and she silently hoped you thought of her too.
Yes, your baby girl wished for you — and she quietly hoped that you wished for her too.
Yes, your baby girl spoke of you — and she hoped that you sometimes spoke of her too.
51 years later — your baby girl — now a long-time mama herself — decided it was officially time to look for you.
She wanted to look for you because not looking seemed no less than right and also not quite wrong.
She wanted to look for you because something told her that just perhaps you needed to be found.
Found — if only — to know that you mattered enough to be looked for — and that you had never been forgotten.
Now the honest truth is this — your baby girl had actually been looking for you almost her entire life.
She had first looked for you in faces of strangers that passed by and then later in stores and on buses and even on television too.
She also looked for you in classified ads on her birthday, facebook profiles and then through the Ancestry website.
Eventually your baby girl made the decision to see if you could be found through the magic of a DNA match.
She looked for you because she wanted to say thank you.
And because she had nothing but admiration for the choice that had you made all those years ago.
She looked for you because she wanted you to know that your generosity then was part of who she had become.
And because your strength had carried forward in her heart, more than you might have ever imagined.
And so one day — not that long ago — your baby girl found you — thanks to a true DNA match.
In fact, she found you ever so close by — you were in the exact place she had always known, through love and intuition.
And none of it came as a surprise.
Not at all.
Your baby girl went from looking to knowing.
Knowing your exact name.
Knowing your exact address and telephone number too.
And to knowing that hardly anyone had ever come to know about your baby girl — except she and you.
And so you are there — in the place your baby girl had always sensed.
And just like the majority of her life your baby girl is still somewhere else too.
Except now it’s different — you know that your baby girl knows — just as — your baby girl knows that you know.
Knowing has become the new invisible thread that connects you and your baby girl together.
Perhaps it’s not too early and it’s not too late.
In fact, perhaps it’s just the right time.
Time for you to finally say hello to your baby girl.
And for your baby girl to finally say hello to you too.
And with this last bit of writing, I’ve come to realize that the time has come for me to share this entire post here on my website. Intuition tells me that all of these words will find you sooner rather than later.
Perhaps, the ultimate question is this — should we lean into this newfound place of vulnerability with one another? Well — I’ll borrow a little more of the wisdom Dr. Brené Brown to answer that:
Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.
And so if you’re the one — I’d love to have the opportunity to say hello. Here’s how you can reach me.
I promise I have no agenda other than to buy you a cup of coffee and thank you for being you.