Ever since I met QQ, and even before, when I first saw her photos, and the joyous personality that radiated from them, I've been trying to find a word or phrase for what QQ has that makes her who she is. "Self-confidence" was the obvious one, but it's almost too obvious. Self-confidence is a very common term. She has it in spades, no doubt about that. But she has something else. Recently, I've hit upon "self-possession" as the most accurate term so far that describes her.
My only hesitation about the term is that "self-possession" has a hint of reserve to it, and QQ is anything but reserved. She is not, for instance, "self-contained" - because she contains nothing. She lets it all hang out. She hides nothing, and never dissimulates. She is also definitely not a loner. She thrives on others, without "needing" any one person to use as a crutch. She uses the people who love her as fuel for her fire, rather than as security blankets.
She is self-possessed because she owns herself 150%. She has no apologies, and no doubts. If she stumbles and falls, she gets right back up without embarrassment or shame. She owns who she is, and she's proud of it. If she is hurt - really hurt (because a slight fall is no cause for alarm in her world) - she rages briefly, and then moves on. If she shows any sign of resentment against her lot, it is a brief flame of righteous anger against whatever it was that hurt her so badly. If she falls hard while running, and cracks her head on something hard, she is briefly furious at the object which she hit. If she finds she is unhurt, she just shrugs, brushes herself off, and tries again.
This is part of her thick skin, part of her resilience, and also part of her grace. There is grace in self-possession. There is beauty in the ability to trust onesself entirely, and to give the benefit of the doubt to the world around. This kind of certainty and "lightness of being" is a rare skill.
There are plenty of other qualities in her, of course, most of which play into her self-possession. She is happy by nature, which lightens everything else in her environment. There is also the ability not to take herself too seriously (this lessens the propensity for shame). There is an innate sense of humor (which is one of the things I value the most in any human being). There is a genuine affection for the human race in general, and for loved ones in particular.
All of these qualities are things that she had even before she met us, so we cannot take credit. I do believe that we have reinforced these qualities in her, because daily and weekly (even now, a year after her adoption) she grows happier, more joyful, and more affectionate.
But all of these things are also what made her the person who shone out at us through that beatific smile in the photos we first received from China, and which created the person we first met during a hot and humid July in Easter China last year.
As strange and surreal, as shocking and arduous were our first days with her in China, I was able to be astonished and humbled by how well she took it. If it was difficult and bizarre for us, it must have been twice as difficult for her. She didn't have the intellectual understanding of what was happening to her. She hadn't made the conscious decision to be adopted. She hadn't read the books on adoption and attachment. She hadn't taken the classes, or been briefed by her peers. It must have been for her (and I've used this metaphor before) like an alien abduction. Terrifying. Disorienting. Strange and shocking and shattering.
And yet this tiny girl, not even a year old, was bulletproof even then. She didn't sob or lash out or languish. She was a little in shock, for sure, as were we. But she took it like a prizefighter. She stayed wide open to the new experiences. She gave us the benefit of the doubt. She looked at us with limpid eyes wide open, and took us in, rationally and kindly. She never turned away or tried to hide. She didn't oversleep or sob in the night. By day, she was a bit dazed, but ready and willing to giggle and smile with us when she found us amenable.
How many of us are able to be so open, so brave, and so in love with life that we can make the best of even the most devastating of circumstances? That said, she's no Pollyanna. She makes the best of things, but she's no ones patsy. She's gutsy and forceful and knows exactly who she is. She's fearless and loving and confident. She lets everyone know exactly what she wants, and when, and how, but she also gives everyone something back in return.
If I was ever in awe of a person, I am in awe of this child.