Paralyzed by Avoidance

"It is well known that "problem avoidance" is an important part of problem solving. Instead of solving the problem you go upstream and alter the system so that the problem does not occur in the first place.” – Edward du Buono

The days are counting down to my daughters birthday and graduation and I still haven’t mailed a thing to her.

Oh, I could cite my busy days with the house sale and resulting move. You might even believe me.

But you shouldn’t.

I realized today I am being totally avoidant. I am bordering on paralysis. I just cannot get myself to get the package together and mail it. In years past I shop early, pack early and put a great deal of time in every little bow and piece of wrapping paper. My gifts were thoughtful and sent with intent and meaning.

I cannot do it this time. Each time I go to do it I find myself frozen, paralyzed, distracted, unable to just get it done.

I bought a gift that I was going to have her brothers decorate (they did). I have not done anything with it. It now rests in one of my kitchen cabinets.

I bought a card this weekend. I usually spend a great deal of time finding the right card. Not too mushy, not too forward but with enough emotion. I just grabbed one off the rack this weekend. It too rests in a kitchen cabinet.

A few weeks ago I bought a gift card to a bookstore. Who gives a book store gift card for graduation? Dunno. Me I guess. It is in my wallet.

I have another idea planned that requires some writing and some creative wrapping. I cannot get myself to do it.

It is all so inherently blatantly wrong.

Who knows that their child is graduating college but doesn’t go or is not invited?

Who knows that their child is graduating college but has no idea where that child will go upon graduation?

Who sends a stupid card or a book store gift card for a graduation gift?

The situation is causing one big huge owie in my heart.

For me, to send the gift seems to somehow condone the situation. It seems like it would be saying "Its okay that you are graduating, haven’t shared a single thought about it with me, wont tell me what you are doing after graduation. In fact, its wonderful. Here, have a cheesy card and stupid gift to celebrate it"

The other side of the coin is that for me, this is likely the last gift I can ever send my daughter. Unless she writes me and tells me where she is going, where I can continue to communicate with her, I will never be able to send her something again. She hasn’t written me in almost a year so I have very little hope she will write me now.

And still another painful piece of the puzzle. When she was at college, I knew where she was. Even if I could not see her, I knew where she was. I knew, in a pinch, an emergency, if I really had to, I could drive an hour west and there she would be. After 19 years of agonizing over where in the world my child was, dead or alive, I finally knew where she was. I could breathe easier.

I wont know anymore.

She will be gone again. Disappeared into the stratosphere.

I just cannot get myself to send a gift that pretends this is all okay.  I cannot find it in myself to put on a happy smiley face and say I am cool with things.

I am not.

I need to reframe this somehow.

I need to find a way to make it okay.

I need to find a way to make it hurt less.

13 Thoughts.

  1. Rather than sending a gift that may or may not mean something, how about sending a heartfelt letter that describes exactly how you are feeling? What you said above? I think if anything has the power to move her, it would be those words. Or maybe it won’t move her at all but it might help you hurt less to express what is true for you.

  2. PS. I, of course, have sent dozens of such heartfelt letters to no avail, but one never knows the cumulative effect of sending them.

  3. Just a question to hopefully help you reframe things a little. given that you have seemingly busted your rear to move things along with the relationship for so long (at least since I’ve been reading you!), and you really don’t know where she’ll literally BE after this, if you don’t send a gift, or one that “matters”, will you be able to live with it that you let your “last chance” get by wihtout a fight?
    If you can, then let things lie. If you don’t think so, then perhaps you need to do this, and soon.
    As always, I wish you the very best with this–I know how important it is!

  4. Suz: This heartbreak and sorrow is such a heavy load for anyone.
    I am not the greatest thinker of times or a great problem solver. There are two paragraphs you write that make me think you are right. What can you possibly send that would make any impact at all. Since your communications thusfar havent worked and no response. You have no open invitation and you worry that this graduation is final in any communications or whereabouts in the future. So, me thinking! I always reverse the situation when I hit a crossroad.
    1. A Scrapbook Album. First page pictures of you various ages and then the boys. An open invitation to contact you. And of course, the usual congratulations to the college grad. Perhaps you might have a pic of her to add into that album.
    I hope I am not far off with this. But I think you have cried enough and regardless of what may lie ahead you can do no more.
    What are the odds of someone returning such a gift? I wonder!

  5. Another idea is a bound version of this blog. (they do such a thing at
    When you’re at the end and feeling what is there to lose…
    I feel that if she really knew you, like the readers of your blog know you, and all you have gone through and endured, well, it would take a pretty cold heart to not respond.

  6. (((Suz)))
    You don’t have much to go on, do you.
    I need to ask these questions. Pardon me if they are too forward.
    Was her last correspondence open ended?
    Has she said anything about gifts in the past and how she feels about receiving them?
    Has she given you any feedback whatsoever?
    I hate email relationships. They can be so one-sided. I can see how you are left feeling bewildered and confused. I know that I would be.
    I don’t have any answers here but I am thinking of you.

  7. My recently reunited son told me that something I said to him struck a chord with him, I sent him an e-mail which said “you grew in my belly for 9 and a half months, you have grown in my heart every single moment since.” He told me it allowed him to see the continum of my love, that it didn’t stop when I left the hospital without him and resume upon reunion, that it had been there growing and flourishing for all 18 and a half years since we parted. It was important to him to know that.I think it is important for adopted chilren to know that all the people who should love you, do love you. Sooner or later it just clicks that you have never, ever been emotionally apart, just physically. And the time has come to have the physically part back too.
    I know that if you let it just come to you, you will know what the perfect gift to send her will be. Look for signs Suz, they are everywhere, as painful as some of them may be.
    Be well,

  8. Suz, I think you’ve got some good ideas here, which I am thankful for because reading your post just made me mad. To lose knowing where she is, again, is horrible… Since it is your “one last chance” to contact her, and she’s bound to keep growing and maturing, to give her that one last gift of contact as a reference may be really useful. This next year, post graduation, may be just what she needs– Maybe. I hope so.

  9. This breaks my heart, Suz. I know the feeling well. I too am paralyzed right now. One thing I agree with from other commenters: DO SOMETHING. Because you might later regret not doing it, if you don’t know where she is. It doesn’t have to be ideal, huge, meaningful. Just a reminder that you are still here and always will be. Besides which, you want her to have your new phone number and address. You never know when these things turn around.
    Hugs and snugs. D.

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