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/

Saturday, August 30, 2014

St. Francis Park

On Sunday I brought my adoptive mom, husband and kids to St. Francis park to watch Kate and Steve play music. They were playing as part of a celebration for the park. Normally, I might have skipped it. While St. Francis is a beautiful park in the middle of southeast Portland with a gorgeous water feature that streams along the length of the park, it's inhabited by the homeless and I just don't feel safe letting the kids walk barefoot or roam out of my direct line of sight.

My mom seems comfortable with visiting with Kate and Steve and enjoys their music. We don't talk about it often, but she accepts Kate as part of my life. I don't think my mom sees Kate as a threat, just as an addition to the family not unlike how my husband's family is now part of ours.

But there are aspects of the two worlds coming together that are challenging for me; music has always been one. My parents gave me music lessons and bought me a piano, they wanted me to have music. I just didn't follow up with it, I let it slide away. Music just wasn't part of our lives. It wasn't a fault, it's just that my adoptive parents didn't happen to be musical themselves. I didn't grow up around people playing music.

After meeting Kate when I was 18, I've wondered if music would have been different for me had I been raised by her, had known that it was part of my heritage not just with Kate but also with her siblings and father and even my birthfather. I would have been surrounded by music had I grown up with my birthfamilies.

So, it's important for me for the kids to be able to see Kate perform. I want them to understand that's something that they can do too, if they want to.  

The kids, not knowing my intent in bringing them, spent their time playing in the water feature and using a bubble-blower gun to overtake the park with wild bubbles. They didn't really listen to the music. I'm not even sure if they were aware that the songs Kate and Steve performed were ones they had written.

As usual, the kids pick up on more than I expect.

A few days later, my 6-year old announced he would like to perform a song he just wrote, "The Only Way I Can Be Happy is if I See the Universe." He brought out the little kid guitar (a gift from Kate and Steve) to the backyard and sat on the porch. My mom, my 8-year-old and I took our seats in the plastic
chairs in the yard. He sang and strummed the guitar about a deep yearning to go up into the sky and see the universe, how he could never be happy until that happened. He sang loud and clear, seeming unconcerned with the potential audience of neighbors surrounding us.

We applauded and told him our favorite parts and he spent the rest of the evening working on the lyrics, writing them down on paper in his kindergarten writing. It inspired the 8-year old to write a song, "It's a Burning World Without You." The next day, we came home to a sign on the front door, "Consert Tonite," and they performed their final songs for their new nanny and us.  

Maybe they would have written songs and played for us without being exposed to Kate and Steve performing. But, maybe by seeing them they realized they could do it too. Maybe we need to be exposed to the family that came before us to know what we our capable of ourselves.



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



Monday, August 11, 2014

What a Wedding

Me, my husband and our beloved dog, Otto.
Kate is just to the right of me in the picture.
Eleven years ago yesterday, on 8/10/03, I got married.

I am pretty traditional when it comes to weddings (well, ignoring the big hairy dog bounding in the picture). I believe it is a celebration not only for the couple getting married but also for the families. I am not someone who would elope or limit my wedding to a small, select group. I believe our family and friends create the community that helps support and foster the marriage. The wedding represents not only who you are as a couple, but your family as well.

The family that attended my wedding was very different from the family I'd started out with.

My wedding was traditional in a lot of ways. My dad gave me away (the feminist in me lost the argument to the sweet sentiment of the ritual). My mother sat in the front row.

But, aside from a cousin of my mom's, I didn't have people from my adoptive family there. My adoptive family is small. I had a brother, but he had passed away years before. I didn't have any living aunts or uncles. My cousins, all significantly older than my brother and me and residing on the other side of the country, weren't able to come.

It would have been a very small wedding on my side of the family if my definition of family hadn't expanded significantly years before when I'd reunited with my birthmother and birthfather, and, to some extent, their families. So, in addition to my mother and father, I had my birthmother, Kate, there. Two of her sisters (my aunt Mary & aunt Gina), one of her brother's (my uncle Steve) and one of her cousin's (though he had to be reminded of who I was - we'd only met once before) came. Her daughter, my birth-sister, Abby, was one of my bridesmaid's. My birthfather came.
My dad and mom are in the front row. Behind my mom is Kate. To her
right is her husband, Steve, and to her left is my birthdad, John.

My family was full. And, the parts of me that had been unknown or unrecognized were unearthed as well. For me, the wedding symbolized the integration of who I am from all these different families. Although I was only 28 when I'd met my husband-to-be, I had been in reunion with my birthmother ten years and had just found my birthfather a month earlier. When we married four years later, he knew he was coming into a family of many branches. He knows me as who I am, as all of me, and all of my families. 

The wedding was a blend of those families. The rehearsal dinner was a fun, casual backyard barbeque at my mother-in-law's. The wedding had two receptions. The first was hosted by my birthmother at the ceremony site in the woods where we were married, where she had married her husband, Steve, several years earlier. She had prepared the food and brought it with her. The second reception, was hosted by my parents, back in the city and was the traditional reception with the opening dance, full dinner, wedding cake et al. 

It was the way I was able to incorporate all of my families into one wedding. 

It was one that included all of me.

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

Thursday, July 24, 2014

What's Normal Now?


 So what's normal now? 

For adoptees, normal doesn't come naturally. We make it up as we go along. Placed into families that have no relation to our own biological roots, we adjust to our environment. Our adoptive parents' nationalities become our own along with their family heritage, their traits. It's what society has designed for adoption - just go along as if it's normal. So, we pretend to be something we're not.  We do it for so long, we get so used to it, we forget that it's not normal.

Seeking reunion with my birthfamilies, I've reconnected to those roots, but it's splintered. Neither quite fits. So, my relationship with my birthfamilies, but especially with my birthmother and birthfather has had to develop it's own normal.

When I met Kate twenty-five years ago I never imagined her as part of my life. I didn't imagine I would travel across country and live with her in her apartment for a summer when I was 22. I didn't picture buying a house just a couple miles from hers eight years later. I didn't expect to find my birthfather on the liner notes of a CD. But, somehow, that's become part of our normal.

Normal now is that my husband has at least three mother-in-laws. My kids have multiple sets of grandparents (they don't complain). Holidays are complicated. Family reunions are emotional time bombs (okay, at least those last two are probably normal for most people : )

But what also is normal for me is knowing the whole of all the parts that make up the sum of who I am. I have more people in my life, more people who are family. That means how I define family has had to be reworked a bit. How I define myself had to be reworked too.

Normal now is having people in my life who seemed imaginary at first. It's being someone a lot more complicated than who I started out as. And it's being comfortable in not being normal. 


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