Sunday, November 23, 2014

Thanksgiving Thoughts ... #flipthescript on holidays and adoptees



What happens when families separated at birth come back together later in life? Well, it makes for confusing holidays. 

My holidays are traditional. My mom is up from Florida, we're taking her and the kids to my mother-in-law's house for Thanksgiving dinner. My husband's mom is going to make the turkey and stuffing, we're going to make the pies. This, after all, is my family.

My birth-families are there in the backdrop, not quite a part of things. It's not that I intentionally leave them out, it's more that I don't understand how to fit them in. They have their families, their traditions, their lives. I have mine. 

At other times of the year, our reunited life can feel normal-ish - a summer barbecue, for example, where we're all together feels simply ... easy. But, during the holidays, there is a spotlight on the separation. 

Although other families have to deal with their family vs. the in-laws and different families from divorce, those are situations of balance - which family do you visit for which holiday. This is different. I could never NOT spend the holiday with my family, opting instead to spend one of the holidays with my birth family. Maybe others can do that, I cannot. 

When it was looking like Kate was going to be back in Portland by Thanksgiving, she had planned a large extended family gathering to take place that weekend. Not on Thanksgiving itself, but the Saturday after. It was a way for us to celebrate the holiday together. But through no one's fault, plans changed - both on her end and on mine. Now Kate's extended family Thanksgiving is happening on Thanksgiving itself, and without me. Just as mine is without her. 

The results of relinquishment run deep and continue on. Although we are part of each others lives and call each other family, it is still not quite right. Not quite blended. There is segregation - together, but separate. We're looking over into each other's lives. I see the family I should have been a part of, but I am not part of it. It's not that I am unhappy being in the family I am in. It's just a strange experience to be able to see the other life - the one you don't have. We live the natural consequence of a choice made 43 years ago. A choice I had no say in. 

And that's just what it is. This is normal. 

Grateful for what we have, but bitterly aware of what we're missing. 


***

to view my birthmother's blog on the same topic, go to mothertone



Thursday, November 6, 2014

National Adoption Month #flipthescript



Adoption is such a personal, private, and now, public thing for me. I find it interesting that it's such a big part of my life, such a big part of who I am.

I also find it interesting that adoption is promoted, pushed and ... celebrated. It's National Adoption Month. A month where adoption is celebrated.

I love my adopted family. I respect my friends who are adoptive parents. But, I don't think people are really thinking when they are asking to celebrate something that is inherently sad (if not also tragic, life-altering and painful). It shows an inherent ignorance in what adoption is. It's trying to be something it isn't. I don't think people realize that at it's core, it's propaganda. It's a lie. Adoption is a big money business and they're selling it.

As an adoptee, I just want to say I don't support National Adoption Month. It's icky. Celebrate love, yes. Celebrate family - whatever your family make-up is. But don't celebrate someone's core tragedy.



***

to view my birthmother's blog on the same topic, go to mothertone


Friday, October 3, 2014

Exposed



I had always been an avid writer, but everything I wrote was tucked away in journals. The experience of writing the blog has been very different. It's a mix of trying to be exposed enough so that I'm honest, while being resolved enough that I'm not just spewing.

It's very different than how I am in my real in-person life. I don't like being so exposed in my feelings. Friends would describe me as somewhat reserved, I think. It's a more comfortable space for me. I am not in my element being so out about my feelings. It's not my nature.

I'd kept to my journals for so long because writing for an audience takes a bit more arrogance than I have in me. Why should I think I have anything to say that's worth reading? If I didn't have my experience of reunion, I think I would have kept to my journals. But I feel like the story is worth sharing. I want it to make sense to others. I hope maybe it can be of service. Maybe someone who is going through something similar will get some insight out of it, recognition or hope or relief of just a knowing nod. Maybe. 

But, I just wanted YOU to know that this is hard for me. This is not something I go into lightly. Right now, as you're reading this, I am cringing just a bit, hoping it is worthwhile.

But, I'm also really glad to be sharing it with you. You know a little more about me, and maybe there's value in that. Maybe it's not about arrogance or self-centeredness ... maybe it's about connection. And there's value in that.



***

to view my birthmother's blog on the same topic, go to mothertone

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Moving Home to Portland

After college, I accepted Kate's invitation to come out to Portland. I would spend the summer "rubbing elbows with my genes." It was supposed to be for the summer. Instead, it lasted eighteen years.

It was such good fortune. I was eighteen when I met Kate. I went to college for four years and then moved out to Portland. And then, for just as long as we were apart - eighteen years - we were together, living in the same town. It still blows me away.

It felt like we cheated fate. Kate had relinquished her rights to be my parent, she promised to stay away from me, we had no way of finding each other, yet there we were - together. It was a precious, unexpected gift.


I fully expected it to end. 

It was a few years ago that Kate told me she was leaving Portland. Despite all that time we had been living together in the same town, I still wasn't surprised that she was leaving. It was as if we had been on borrowed time all along. It might have been eighteen years we were together, but there was part of me that was always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

I think that's the burden of reunion. No matter how long you're in it (and for us, it's been over twenty-five years now), the initial wounds never fully heal. Rationally, I know we're solid. I know she loves me unconditionally and completely. But, she left me. When I was a baby. When I needed her. 

No matter how long Kate and I might be together, I will always expect her to leave. I can't help it...

Only now she's coming back. 

I am thrilled to have her and Steve in our lives again. Not that they weren't in our lives. It was fun to visit Seattle, and to have them stay with us when they would come to Portland ... but there's so much more richness to living in the same town. They can come to the boys' soccer games, or meet us for dinner, or Kate can smuggle me out for a drink some spontaneous evening. My boys can have the music lessons I lacked. They can have the family that I was denied AND still have my adoptive family both. Complete. 

I want to just be happy. 

Only now I have to wait for her to leave. Again. And brace for that. 

***

to view my birthmother's blog on the same topic, go to mothertone

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Mushiness


Lately, I've been trying to connect more to my earth-mother more than my birth-mother. The East-Coast raised cynic in me is feeling all mushy towards New Age mentality. But it is a star-crossed pairing.

A few weeks ago I went to an acupuncturist when I felt a migraine coming on. I'd done acupuncture for migraines before and it's worked for me astonishingly well. I just don't understand why sticking a needle in my arm suddenly makes the pain in my skull go away, but it does, so I accept that it works while also knowing that acupuncture doesn't make logical sense to me. As usual, it did the trick, but as we wrapped up, the acupuncturist asked if I would be interested in trying acupuncture for my depression (it had come up during the intake assessment).

I had abandoned taking drugs for my depression because I felt that altering my feelings with medication might mean that I was missing out on valuable information coming from inside myself. Like maybe I hated my job? Or maybe adult responsibilities were killing my joy? There were lots of things going on, and I wanted to understand them. I didn't want to take something so I could trick myself into feeling that I was happy; I wanted to make the changes in myself and in my life so that I could be happy.

Don't get me wrong, anti-depressants are a life-saver, literally. There are times when it gets so bad that
it's essential to have that help. I've taken anti-depressants with good results. Gratefully, I am at a point where my depression is mild enough that I can go without drugs, but where the depression is still overshadowing my otherwise lovely life that I would really like to just enjoy without the dark feelings creeping around all the time.

I've gone to the acupuncturist three times now to get treatment for my depression. The first session left me feeling horrible, devastated - I just went straight to bed when I got home. I wasn't sure if I should go back, but I did. The next session had me feeling energized and excited. The last one has left me a intensely jumbled mix of the two.

If nothing else, the experience has been fascinating. I believe that the acupuncture is more spiritual than
it is physiological. THAT makes a lot more sense to me than the physiological side of it.

I feel like it's caused a seismic shift internally, spiritually, getting further faster than talk therapy (after all, words don't really work for the subconscious). While I'm still experiencing the emotional tremors, it is releasing a lot of bad energy that's been pent up under heavily reinforced barricades. I think that's a good thing.

After my sessions, I like to go to a Tea Bar & Spa a few blocks down from my acupuncturist's office to journal and reflect. The cafe is perfectly new agey: selling tea and kombucha while also providing raw-food facials. I feel like a tourist when I go there, the outsider looking in.

I just wish I could abandon my cynicism and embrace the New Age with an open heart AND mind. I love that Kate is so emotionally open that she can cry buckets or gush love. I joke about the "Power Mushiness" (most everyone in the family is super-lovey & emotional) and how it skipped me. I know I am more an introvert like my dads (both adopted and birth), and I still prize the grounding that cynicism provides too much to abandon it.



But, sometimes I wish I could just believe, even if I don't understand.


***


to view my birthmother's blog on the same topic, go to: http://mothertone.wordpress.com/

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Strength?


It does not come naturally for me to show vulnerability. Most adoptees, I suspect, cherish their strength. Even as a child, I eschewed the more feminine traits that were supposed to be more attractive - humility, vulnerability, invisibility. I wanted to be seen as strong, independent, tough. Living in Jersey could have been part of that too. Jersey girl ... you know.

As a society we value strength immensely. We praise someone for being strong, overcoming obstacles, pushing through. For me, strength was the default. It was a defense, a barrier. It disguised my true feelings of loss, inferiority, hopelessness.

In my reunion with Kate, all the strength I'd developed as an adoptee faltered, weakened, fell. I couldn't be strong and still face the issues that reunion surfaced. It wasn't until the defenses collapsed that I was able to feel all the awful emotions spiraling my relinquishment and adoption. I didn't want to feel them, but I had to.

After the honeymoon phase of reunion with Kate, I'd pulled away. I didn't know why. Part of me wanted to go back to not knowing, just be able to be who I was before the pandora's box of reunion was opened. Maybe I could sense that the negative feelings that were just starting to bubble up would roll over into a boil in I kept her in my life.

I think that's the point where many reunions falter. The adoptee senses that their foundation is cracking and if they keep allowing it to be pushed and prodded it will fall. I tried to pull away, Kate didn't let me.  She kept at me, asking what was wrong. I tried to just ignore her. She wouldn't go away. She asked if I would go with her to therapy, and I conceded. It was that moment of weakness, of giving in, that changed everything. 

In therapy, my defenses were attacked. My defenses, after all, made everything so nice and tidy. With them, it made sense why Kate relinquished me - she was young, she didn't plan on getting pregnant, it would have been a huge burden. I got it. I would have liked it if that was enough. But logic is not enough. Strength is not enough. Weakness won.

For me, allowing myself to be weak took so much more strength than simply being strong. I had to feel all the things that came up - loss, inferiority, hopelessness. And anger, so much anger. We got through it, and somehow made it out on the other side.



So, now when things come up in my life and I feel strong, that things are matter-of-fact, that I need to accept things as they are, it's usually a sign I need to take a step back and work on being weak.



***



to view my birthmother's blog on the same topic, go to: http://mothertone.wordpress.com/

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Old Family Photos



I am curious what it is like for someone who is not adopted to look through old family photos. Do you wonder about your connection to these unknown people from the past? Do you scan the faces to see if they are similar to your own? Do you try to understand how you, individual quirky you as you are, fit into this family?

Recently, one of Kate's brothers started a Facebook page of family photos that he's dug out of the archives of his parents' home. It was started as a gift to Kate's mom for her 90th birthday.

I was included in the facebook group; only family had access. I was relieved. It feels terrible when I'm forgotten, and yet I can understand why I would be. I wasn't included as part of the family for the first eighteen years of my life.

As pictures were uploaded, I would look through distractedly as one does with someone else's family photos - cursory glances mostly.

Then, one day a couple weeks ago, I opened one of the photos when it popped up in my email. It was one with Kate and her siblings in their teen years and it was funny to see these people that I've come to know as adults when they were kids. I could see their resemblance to their adult selves, people that I now knew as part of my life, and it hit me -

 I wasn't looking at photos of someone else's family... I was looking at pictures of my family. 

It's strange to forget that a family is yours, certainly, but when you have your whole life spent in a different family, a family who is not your blood, but where you are told they are your family, the only family that matters, it gets ingrained. I've forgotten for most of my life that I have other family.

I knew I came from somewhere else but it had ended at the birthmother. I think that's one of the reasons that's such an inadequate term. It insinuates that birth is where the connection ends, as if it were just a moment in time. As if, once you were given birth to, the connection to that family ended and the new one began. As if, the birthfather and that side of your family doesn't exist at all that existed in your life was in the womb of your birthmother and then the start to your real life with your new family.

But life isn't good with clean cuts like that. It doesn't quite work. I came from a mother and father who each came from a mother and father who each did as well. I'm connected to each and every one of them. They are all in my DNA. All of them.

So the family photos took on new meaning. This is the family I wasn't a part of. The family I was cast out of. Not my family, and yet they are mine. It's hard to get one's head around it.

I started looking at the pictures differently as the feelings about the pictures morphed and changed and evolved.

This is my family?



***



to view my birthmother's blog on the same topic, go to: http://mothertone.wordpress.com/