Strange coincidence, April 14 2009 marks 10 years since the baby girl I gave up for adoption was born. When I look back at my life in those 10 years, I see times of desperation, of despair, of depression, of hate (acutal hatred), of change, of rejuvenation, of joy, of peace, of love. I don't remember a time of hopelessness; in my moments of despair I gave in to sorrow but only briefly. I always carried within me the faith that I would pull through, that things would get better and that I would define what that meant and make it happen. I don't remember feeling unbalanced like Gilbert felt, or lost - isolated, confused, overwhelmed, yes, but not lost to myself. Maybe I'm lucky in that respect, but I think I'm just a strong person: the difference between fate and free will. What I mean when I say that I defined what "things getting better meant" and that I made it happen is this... I didn't just hope for things to "get better". I always had a clear idea in my mind of what I wanted to change, what I wanted to happen, and where I wanted to be in life. I also knew that it was up to me to make those things happen, and those times when I did hesitate were because I was unsure of how to proceed, not because I was unsure of where I wanted to go or unsure if I could make it. And I believe(d) that, along the way, fate's interventions would be manageable - or at least not devastating. And that is my definition of faith: I have been very lucky in the fate department that my faith has always yet been proven true, but I believe fate favors the optimistic and the prepared.
I see parallels in this, my faith, with Gilbert's story. Her analogy at the end of the book, about the acorn and the oak tree of herself, is so beautiful and so true (in every sense of the word true). I can identify with that: in my moments of difficulty, I have always pictured myself in the future, the place and time and circumstance that I want to make happen, that I was working towards. That future me always made me smile and kept me going, I never doubted it. I've been back in college for 7 years now, and the day dream I have never gotten tired of was picturing myself walking across the stage at graduation. The daydream changed from walking across with my 4 year old son, to now walking with my 9 year old son and the baby, or by myself. The audience members cheering for me has changed, expanded, gotten louder.
I also identify with the moments of solitude she wrestles with in the book. I have always embraced solitude and silence, I am comfortable being alone with myself and my thoughts. but there are some things that are hard to face, for example giving my daughter up for adoption. Some people say "Only God can judge me", but I disagree, Only I can judge me. And I do, but I will never, no matter what the conviction, hand down a life sentence. I have faith in myself that nothing I can/will do is that unforgiveable; it's a matter of allowing that judgement, living with it, coming to terms with your decisions/mistakes, and then forgiving yourself. It's a process and a journey, just like everything else in life.
On a side note Devin, my baby boy, is also 6 months old today. So the story she tells about the baby girl's 6 month old ceremony with Ketut was also very touching to me. I can def. understand the the Balian belief behind this ritual. There's some kind of saying that a new baby still smells like God, the idea being that they have just come from Heaven and they are still very much heavenly. New babies are indifferent, removed from life, their eyes don't focus, they don't often respond to people or stimulus around them. For a baby with hiccups, scaring them to get rid of the hiccups is not an option - babies just don't get scared like that. But around 6 months is when they begin to smile, laugh, coo, watch, listen, and all this new attention and activity is directed at you, at the people and the things going on around them. So I can definitely understand the joy of feeling like your baby is finally joining you in life, in humanity. And for my children, I don't wish for a protected life of constant happiness. Bad things, hard times, sorrow, and pain are necessary to creating character and making us better people, and that's where Fate comes in. What I want for my children, what I want to teach them, is to have faith in themselves, in their Free Will and to put their actions (the living of their life, if you will) behind that faith.