Email, photos, music, poems, and artwork were pouring in from Sam, Jeannie, and their families faster than I could digest. Two weeks have passed, and I’m still trying to keep it together—at least on the outside. During the day, I’d make silly jokes to colleagues and friends about how absurd my life has become. Everyone was impressed at how well I seem to be taking it all in. However, when I’d get home, I’d release my irritation, frustration, and confusion. And at night, I cried—after my children went to bed. I hadn’t told them yet. That task was another stressor on my list of things to do. My mind was drained, my heart was troubled, yet my soul was fluttered about its freedom. Needless to say, my nights were restless. I’d go to bed at 10 p.m., and then I’d wake at 3 or 4 in the morning pacing, writing, crying, or whimpering in a pillow. After a few nights of this, I decided it was best that I’d to camp out on the sofa because I kept distracting my husband.
I felt really awful for the way I was around my husband. I couldn’t keep it together. I’d become emotionally needy and look to him to somehow save me from my new reality. One night I begged him to take the boys and leave me because I was so fractured. “No one deserves a broken wife or Mother!” I cried. “Please leave me. You didn’t sign up for this!” I pleaded. But instead, he held me tight and told me he was here to stay no matter what I was going through. He had agreed that I was a mess, but encouraged me to keep it together, take my time through the process, and to set boundaries with everyone. And that’s precisely what I did. I began to reach out to all of the MVPs, my mother, Jeannie, and Sam.
The next morning, I called my mom. I was hoping that she would provide me with encouragement or understanding, but my request for “space” was a challenging request for her. She didn’t want things between us to change.
“Mom, I need some space! I can’t believe you and Dad never told me. I need time to think and sort out my emotions.”
“You’re MY child! Remember that!” she said.
“Mom, I don’t belong to anyone. I am God’s child.”
My statement scared her because her voice began to shake. She cried, “Please don’t leave me.”
Leave her! I laughed hysterically.
“Mom, at this age in my life, where do you think I’m going to go?”
“Janeen, please don’t leave me. I love you. I’m your mother.”
Every time she begged me not to leave, I’d grind teeth, and my throat tightened.
“Please don’t be mad at me. Your father and I were GOOD parents who loved and still love you.”
“You don’t get it.” I sighed. “It’s no longer about you. It’s now my turn.”
I told her I loved her and that I’d get back to her in a few days. I hated all of this.
BING! Another email from Sam.
9:37:58 AM PDT, email@example.com wrote:
I’m just in from cutting firewood out on the farm (I’m a farmer, mostly retired now… but I’ve had many “careers”). So, I’m back at the computer with a steaming cup of Earl Grey Tea. It’s a gorgeous spring day here in the mountains… flowers, birds & butterflies. There’s a forest fire, or controlled burn, just over the Blue Ridge, so the air is tinged with aromatic smoke.
As I looked over what I’d written to you earlier this morning, I noticed that I began my first sentence with “I’ll” when I meant “I’ve”. That’s not unusual for me. I’m quite intelligent, but I’m left-handed, a terrible speller (as was Dr. King by the way), and moderately dyslexic, and I didn’t learn to read, functionally, until about age 10.
So you asked, where did I get your baby picture? I’ll take a quick plunge back 46 years and take some deep breaths before I go down deep. Deep breath, and here I go…
As I said in my first email to you, “within a year, I left that “Sour land Mountain Home,” with a hole in my heart that could only be filled by “My Baby” who was you…” About 9 months after you were born, got a job in a machine shop in Trenton, NJ, and I moved into a low rent rooming house in the black section of Princeton, NJ. Although it was a very rough neighborhood, I could afford the rent, and it was the only place I knew to “take shelter.” It was part of the Black community, and I felt I belonged… I was “white on the outside but black on the inside”, and it was very painful for me to be around “white folks”… (Tears are coming to my eyes as I write this…it was hard times for “that boy” who was me)
I stayed in high school, and after living alone in Princeton for several months, my head and heart began to clear, and I felt just a bit more free from all the pain of losing you, your birth mom, and her family. That’s when I realized that I needed a photo of you and wrote your birth mom, Jeannie, a letter requesting your picture. She sent me one, and I’ve kept it with me ever since!
That was a long-winded answer to a simple question…. but I’ve “come back up from the dive,” and I’m okay!
I’ll go practice my guitar now… my mentors and people such as Elizabeth Cotten, and Etta Baker. Try googling them.
And by the way, feel free to check on me in any way you like. My life is an open book to you.
Whew! That was a lot. Glassy eyed, I stared at the screen. I couldn’t even begin to process what I had just read. I am left-handed—the only one in my family. My Dad told me I was a “southpaw” because of his Dad, my “grandfather.” I, too, am an undiagnosed dyslexic. That explains my reading comprehension issues. Speaking of comprehension, I didn’t even have the mental space to comprehend the black man/white man’s statement. When I read San’s email, the first people that came to my mind were Rachel Dolezal, the white woman who was the NAACP president in Seattle who proclaimed she was a Black woman, and Steve Martin in the movie The Jerk. This isn’t because of what I had thought about Sam but because these were my only references to white people and internal race identity/color confusion.
I wanted/needed a break, but I also wanted to know more about these unusual people who gave me life. As I mentioned earlier, Sam began to send me artwork–watercolors he’d created throughout his life, paintings his family cat, a barn, a self-portrait… However, the image that caught my heart was his watercolor of a dragonfly.
According to my online research, the dragonfly symbolizes change, transformation, adaptability, and self-realization. The dragonfly’s scurrying flight across water represents an act of going beyond what’s on the surface and looking into the more profound implications and aspects of life, and it moves with elegance and grace. Dragonflies are iridescent on its wings and body and show itself in different colors depending on the angle and how the light falls on it. Iridescence is associated with discovering one’s own abilities by unmasking the real self and removing the doubts one cast on their own sense of identity.
The dragonfly usually lives most of its life in an immature stage as a dragonfly nymph and flies only for a fraction of its life. This symbolizes and exemplifies the virtue of living in the moment and living life to the fullest. By living in the moment, you are aware of who you are, where you are, what you are doing, what you want, what you don’t, and to make informed changes. The eyes of the dragonfly symbolize the uninhibited vision of the mind and the ability to see beyond the human self’s limitations.
Dragonflies symbolize moving past self-created illusions that limit our growth and ability to change and represents happiness, new beginnings, and change. The dragonfly means hope, change, and love. <<
Yes! I am the dragonfly! I printed out the watercolor and hung it on my bulletin board in my office.
As bizarre as my weeks have been, my spirit wanted to meet them. I needed time to think about this. So, I reached out to both Sam and Jeannie and let them know that I needed space to think and digest. I was going off the grid for a while to take it all in.
> How do you cope when you’re overwhelmed with life?
> Do you have a spirit animal? If so, tell me about it!
> What are your thoughts about race identity confusion?
Watch this clip of Girlfriends season 2, episode 13. “Lynn’s white adoptive sister Tanya comes to town for the anniversary of Lynn’s adoption, and her adoration of Black culture has the girlfriends confused.” Note that I’m showing this clip as an example. I’m not in anyway stating that my birth father, Sam, acts in this way.
By the way, you can watch full uncut episode on Netflix.
4 thoughts on “Dragonfly”
Janeen you are an incredible writer!! You do an amazing job of coalescing different threads. Makes me think of Maria Popova ‘s Brain Pickings blog.
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When I’m overwhelmed I retreat. Sleep a lot, sit in meditation, may talk to a friend who listens well and who’s opinion I respect.
I have been told that my spirit animal is the raven.
As far as race confusion, it’s usually the observer rather than the person who is confused about what race Someone is. You’re a mixed chick.
Wow, a raven!
The ravens’ sign symbolizes wisdom, affection, healing powers, longevity, death, and fertility. It’s jet black color represents the night, the great void, and even the Earth.
As for “race confusion” I wasn’t referring to me. I’m confident in my Blackness. Haven’t cared in decades what someone thought/thinks I am (including my children…that’s another post 😅). When I mentioned “race confusion” I was referring to white people who identify with Blackness—like Rachel Dolezal or more recently Jessica Krug the white professor at George Washington University who, for years, pretended to be Black. What are your thoughts on that?