“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” – Steve Jobs

My New Year’s post is a little belated this year. The past few weeks have been an emotional roller coaster for me…marked by the tragedy in Newtown, the holidays, the sad news about the Russian adoption ban, attending a close friend’s mother’s funeral, and then the excitement of attending the Notre Dame/Alabama National Championship game. The game (painful as it was to watch), gave me some ideas of how to articulate my thoughts and feelings about the start of 2013, and where I am in my own personal journey.

The day after the game, the University of Notre Dame posted this on their Facebook page: “Thanks to Notre Dame Football for an outstanding season. It’s been quite a ride. Onward.” That summed up exactly how I feel – about the game, and about my life. Of course I was disappointed at how Notre Dame played, and I had wished for a different outcome. But, overall, I appreciated how amazing the season was, appreciated feeling the excitement building each week, and appreciated the opportunity to be at the Championship game, win or loss. At the end of this crazy season, despite the whooping by Alabama, Notre Dame football is better off than they were a year ago, and that is “forward progress.”

I love this concept of the “forward progress” rule in football. My loose definition is this: no matter how far the runner or receiver is pushed back by his defenders, forward progress means the ball is placed at the best possible spot – the furthest point he was able to make it before going down or out of bounds. Even if he is pushed back 10 – even 20+ yards…WAY behind the line of scrimmage, the refs pick that ball up and put it back down at the best possible spot, and the next play begins.

Now this is where I get serious…because this post in NOT about Notre Dame football. I want my life to work like the forward progress rule! And I think it can if only I can see it that way. As a concept, forward progress sounds so much better to me than the idea of “starting over.” Who wants to go all the way back to the beginning just to cover all of the same ground again? How exhausting. Not me – I want to KEEP MOVING, to figure out what I need to learn from what just happened by healing, learning, making my adjustments, and moving forward.

A few weeks ago, I was devastated by the news that Russian President Putin signed an adoption ban, no longer allowing US residents to adopt children from Russia. You see, after a long discernment process of over a year, adopting a 2-3 year old from Russia had become my “plan”. I had completed my home study this fall, and was ready to submit my application to US Immigration, only to find out a few days after Christmas that this was no longer going to be an option for me. My heart literally ached (and still does) for the 650,000 children in orphanages or foster care in Russia, and every day I pray for the 50+ families that have already been placed with their children, that they are able to complete their adoptions and take their children home. That said, I have been thinking nonstop about what happened, and trying to figure out what to do and how to move forward without having to start over from the beginning.

I don’t make decisions like this easily or quickly, and when first hearing the news about the ban, I truly felt like I had wasted over a year of my life. I felt emotionally drained, feeling like I had to go back to be the start. I felt lost and overwhelmed. Remember how mad you would get playing Chutes and Ladders or Candy Land (or Uncle Wiggly for the board game fanatics out there that can remember that one)? The end of the game is in sight, and on the last roll, you end up on that awful spot that makes you have to move back all the way back to the start.

Well, I felt like that but a whole lot worse. Life is a lot more complicated and emotional than a board game. Once again, I had to give up on the vision I made in my mind of what I had expected to happen. I had to process the loss I was feeling. I had to admit that despite every effort I had been making to have control over the process, I actually had no control. Having children, like life in general, is not geometry – there is no such thing as a straight line being the shortest distance between two points. That is not how life works.

In our own ways, we are trying our best to move the ball forward, to get to the goal line whatever that may be. We all have incredibly squiggly lines on our journeys, don’t we? At this point, my path has zigged and zagged all over the place. There are so many obstacles in our way – and sometimes we have to run out of bounds to avoid getting clobbered. Sometimes we actually get clobbered, and have to get back up, wounded and sore, take time to heal, breathe deep, and get back on the field. We take our lessons learned with us. We take the memories of those that we lost with us. We cope, heal, and start to realize that we are better people because of those lessons learned, and because we were loved by the ones we have lost.

This is my most recent picture of the Notre Dame Grotto, one of the most beautiful, peaceful places on Earth.
This is my most recent picture of the Notre Dame Grotto, one of the most beautiful, peaceful places on Earth. The Grotto gives me a great deal of comfort at times like these.

I love the idea of picking up the ball and placing in at the best spot, and NOT going back to the start. Instead of starting over at square one in my journey to motherhood, I realize now that I have gathered a great deal of knowledge about adoption that I didn’t have a year ago. I have met some amazing people, have made new connections, and have been “practicing” my risk taking abilities. I know myself better. I am continuing to try to embrace vulnerability as a strength, not as a weakness. I have dipped my toe into the “arena” (remember my reference Teddy Roosevelt’s Man in the Arena speech from my post “One Year Later), and now realize I am ready to step in with both feet firmly on the ground.

I have the courage to tell the “world” out there my story, not just my closest friends. I did NOT have that a year ago. That is forward progress.

Onward 2013.