Thursday, February 4, 2016

One Year Later

Me and Kate Writing these blogs Sunday night, 1/31/16
Kate moved back to Portland last year, on January 27, after having left about five years ago. It's been exactly one year since she's been back.

Those who follow our blogs know that it hasn't been a smooth transition for us. It brought up a lot of negative feelings for me that I didn't understand. While we have been in reunion nearly 27 years, I have to say this has been one of the most challenging years of reunion for me. I still can't explain exactly why.

Maybe part of it was starting graduate school just before Kate moved back. With work, school and kids, I was at capacity and couldn't deal much more of anything, much less the complexity of reunion.

Part of it could have been that being involved in the writing collective of the Lost Daughters. Being part of that group brought up aspects of adoption and reunion that I hadn't thought about before; it challenged my beliefs and triggered deep feelings about the rights of the adoptee that I hadn't acknowledged before - like the rights of the adopted person, the needs of the child. It made me angry (and that's not a bad thing). It made me aware (and that's a good thing). It made me conflicted (and that's the hard thing).

But most of what made this past year so hard was about fighting the natural fight-or-flight I feel when I come face-to-face with my reunion. Because facing my reunion means facing my abandonment. Seems obvious enough as I write the words down, but I am so loathe to admit it. Although Kate was returning, not leaving, having her back here, and having that connection, is what stirred up the  furies in me.

Like many adoptees, I am fiercely independent. It's a fight to get close to me, as my husband will attest to. I can love someone, I just can't need them. I am resistant to admit needing anyone, much less the mother who relinquished me. I can, and will, make it on my own. And yes, it seems an obvious defense mechanism once you realize that an adoptee is the denied the one they need the most - their mother. Of course they would learn to defend themselves against needing that, or anyone.

I survived the first 18 years without my birthmother, so I was fine to survive without her again.

So, when Kate left, it was okay. Maybe I expected it on a subconscious level. We'd had many years living in the same town, being an active part of each other's lives, something that most adoptees in reunion don't get to experience, so I counted myself lucky for the time we'd had.

But then when she returned, I felt chaotic, like my world was shattering.

Because it was.

When she left Portland, I returned to a less connected reunion. One of phone calls and visits and emails.

But, LIVING in reunion is different. Living in the same town,  you can't compartmentalize and have adoption and reunion be just a part of who you are. Because all sides of your family are part of your life, you're always exposed. Being adopted and in reunion is revealed every time I introduce my birthmother or step-birthfather. I don't get to compartmentalize it, I don't get to just pretend adoption isn't a big glaring part of my life.

But, in a way, it's freeing. You have to live your full self.

And, sometimes that's complicated, and painful, and kind of sucks.

But, most of the time, it's good. To have our relationship, and reunion in general, be mostly good - with some crisis points of really bad - seems like a fair enough balance.

So that was a really long way of saying, we're doing okay now. Still edgy, still felling like we're on shaky ground, but mostly good.

And that's good enough.


***

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

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Thoughts? Reflections? Opinions?

Please comment!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Blissfully Ignorant #FlipTheScript

NOV. 14, SATURDAY - Lost Daughters' Prompt
For those who are in reunion with birth family members, talk about the rewards and the challenges of building and maintaining relationships with people related by biology but not by life experience. How do these relationships differ from those with your adoptive family members? Have you experienced the “reunion rollercoaster,” the wanting to be close and then pushing away that many describe? Are your relationships with your birth family members what you would like them to be? Knowing what you know now, would you do it all over again? What might you do differently if given a second chance? Has being in reunion made everything “better” in relation to your adoption? Are you pleased with how your adoptive and birth families relate to each other? Why or why not?
______________________



I read a post today about an adoptee who is happy to have been a closed adoption. My first reaction was that I could've written that post myself. Back before I was in reunion, I felt the same way. I've even said some of the same things:
I've always known I was adopted 
In my family, being adopted was seen as a good thing 
Being adopted wasn't upsetting for me 
I respect my birthmother for making the decision that was best for me

I've said all of those things. Not having more information, those were the foundational elements of the structure of my life. It was what was best. I have a good life. Why should I care?

Know what bugs me? I miss that ignorance. It's so damn comfortable. You are loved! What else matters? Why SHOULD you care?

I went into reunion the way a clueless co-ed opens a door in a horror movie - "What can go wrong?" I thought. I didn't know what lay behind the door. It's not that it was horrible, that would have been easy to reconcile, "Of course I was relinquished!" I would have thought in that situation. And it's not that I revealed an unimaginable Eden either. That would have made my discontent equally explainable.

No, it's that what lay behind the door were my original families. Plain and simple, with all their gifts and their faults. Perfectly human, and a whole lot like me. The families I had been denied as a child.

Had I gone through life never knowing my families, I would never had known that loss. It would have been easier. Yes, more comfortable. Reunion is uncomfortable. Addressing that there are things you lost, things that were outside of your control, ways that you were controlled - those are unsettling feelings. Ignorance is easier.

So, why shake things up? Why not just accept what you were given and not look back?

I guess, for me, the answer is because that's empty. It's ignorant. Sure, you're happy, but you don't know who you are. I've heard a statistic that genealogy research is the most popular searches on the internet after porn. We crave knowing where we come from nearly as much as we crave sex, so that tells you something. As adoptees, many of us are missing even that first connection to the tree in not knowing where we come from. It matters. I know many people wish it didn't matter, but it does. It doesn't mean you can't make your own families or build your own life, but without the grounding of where you came from, I feel like you're trying to gain traction sliding on sand.

I'd rather be rooted on hard truths of the knowledge of my history as a way to make a more solid future. I know what I've lost AND I know what I've gained. One doesn't cancel the other out in either direction. The deeper the sorrow the higher the joy, or so they say.

But, yes, sometimes I wish I could just go back to being content. Contentment is easier. Questioning is difficult. But then again, I don't know of many people who've said on their deathbed, "I just wish I'd known less!" So, I'm going with that. For better or worse, I'll take the unabridged version of myself.


***

Thoughts? Reflections? Opinions?


Please comment!



Thursday, November 5, 2015

Happy to be Alive? - Nov.4 #FliptheScript



Nov. 4, Wednesday

In response to the GOP effort to defund Planned Parenthood, #ShoutYourAdoption was created to posit adoption as a better alternative to abortion. 

Talk about your reaction as an adoptee to the idea of adoption being pushed as an alternative to abortion. Whether you are pro-life, pro-choice, or somewhere in between, your opinion on this issue as an adopted person matters. Consider these questions...









A couple of years ago, Kate and I were having a painful heart-to-heart discussion about how much I lost in relinquishment. My youngest self didn't have her mother, and she needed her. It was one of the first times I really identified with myself as a newborn, what that loss must have felt like. I felt such deep sorrow for that infant... for me... at the loss experienced.


Kate stayed gently firm in her belief that it was the best choice given her situation. Faced with the newly legal choice of abortion, she chose life instead. She expressed how glad she was she made that choice. Wasn't it the better choice? Wasn't I happy that I was alive?


My answer shocked her.


"No," I said. "I wouldn't have cared because I wouldn't have known any different."


Don't get me wrong, there are days that the beauty of the world makes me want to fall to my knees in worship. There are also times when the burden of the sorrows in my life cripple me. The experience of being alive is powerful. I understand why we must respect life. But...

We are conditioned to honor human life over all things. Sometimes it even seems that the opponents of choice honor the unborn life over that of the mother's life. Kate wasn't anti-choice, she respected others who had abortions, but couldn't have one herself because of her values, because of what she felt. I respect her choice.


But I can't say I'm grateful to be alive. I happen to be alive. Just like you. Just like anyone. We popped into this world because of the innumerable instances that led to our conception and birth. And now here we are. All of us trying to figure out the meaning of it all.


Half of me suspects there is no meaning (I relate to existentialism, believing there is no God, love and kindness is the highest form of being); the other half of me feels that Buddhism probably has it right (we are here for a moment, our spirits should be unattached to the worries of the earth, focus instead on enlightenment, our souls eternal, part of the whole).


Either way, whatever we believe, there is one fact - with life, comes death. Before we are born, we are essentially dead. An essay that stuck with me (but that I can't recall who wrote it) pondered this, saying that they were not in distress to not be alive before they were born, so why fear death? It'll be just like how it was before we were born.


Without the fear of death, there is no need to mourn not having been alive. We will just be as we were. Our souls enact, just not here on earth in this body at this moment.


But I do feel gratitude. I am endlessly grateful that my life was surrounded with love from so many sides. I am so happy that I am able to be in a relationship with all sides of my family. All sides. I am infinitely blissfully humbled by getting to be the mother of the two most wonderful people that I have ever met. There is so much to be grateful for. But being born isn't one of them.


Getting to live with the loss honestly, without masking it with gratitude - yeah, I'm grateful for that.


***


Thoughts? Reflections? Opinions?


Your comments matter!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Truth in Lies - Nov. 3 #FliptheScript

Nov. 3, Tuesday

Talk about how truths, partial truths, and lies on your adoption documents have impacted your life and identity. Example of these include birth certificates, baptismal certificates, adoption agency records, orphanage records, court records, non-identifying information, naturalization/citizenship papers, passports, etc. 



My name is Petra. It is the name my birthmother gave me.
My first mother. 

That name is gone now. Hidden in who I was. 
I never got to be that person.

Petra is the feminine of Peter, which happened to be my adoptive father's name. My adoptive parents named me Cathleen. They didn't know it was my birthmother's name. 

It's like is was designed by fate. 

But what it feels like is two separate lives, one lived out, the other unknown. 

Which is the true person? 

I don't know. 



***

Thoughts? Reflections? Opinions?


Please comment!

Monday, November 2, 2015

My Adoption, Their Story #FliptheScript

#FlipTheScript Prompt: Talk about the “adoptee in the room” moment—that moment when you realize you are the only one in a space who can address a particular aspect of adoption experience, when you have to decide whether or not to speak up knowing that what you have to say may be confusing, unsettling, or triggering to others. Perhaps you have found yourself in this position at a work function, at a family gathering, or while with a group of friends. Or, you may have run into this situation in an online forum or on social media. Did you decide to speak or not, and why? If you did speak, what reactions or feedback did you receive?






I default to not speaking up when adoption comes up in conversation. It is striking how often it does come up. Someone will mention a recent adoption by a co-worker, or mention a child they adopted, or an adopted relative.

I know if I mention being an adoptee that I will be reduced to a tidy box that fits their story, the one society built for them. Or I speak out and they look at me quizzically, as if I have said something wrong. Something that doesn't fit.

I prefer to listen. I hear all the things that aren't said. And, the things that should be said.

I want to share what I know, what I understand about the adoption experience. But it doesn't fit into the office banter or the party chit-chat. It's bigger, it's more important. It would be awkward, confusing, strange.

But, when someone says THEY are an adoptee, then I speak. I say, "I am too." We can banter in the office or chit-chat at the party while still holding the weight of our experience, knowing the importance of it.

Someday, I hope to be able to reach the same depth with non-adoptees, but we're just not there.

Not yet.

I hope to read more on this prompt of adoptees speaking out, speaking up and standing up for what they believe. I want to hear stories of the narrative changing, even a little, to listen to the adoptee voice. Maybe for now, the writing is enough. Maybe next, the voice will come.

***

Thoughts? Reflections? Opinions?


Please comment!


Sunday, November 1, 2015

#FlipTheScript on National Adoption Month 2015

#FliptheScript #NAM2015 Lost Daughter Prompts
In November, I break from our usual format of the adoptee vs. birthmother perspective on shared topics to focus instead on the voice of the adoptee in response to National Adoption Month and the Lost Daughters' #Flipthescript campaign to amplify the adoptee voice in the adoption narrative. 



Talk about what National Adoption Month means to you as an adoptee. What is missing from the traditional narrative promoted during each November? Why is it important that adoptees’ experiences and opinions are heard during NAM? What does it mean to you to Flip The Script on National Adoption Month?




I didn't know November was National Adoption Month until just last year. 

In the past, I used to avoid a lot of things about adoption. Adoption wasn't in the forefront of my identity. There were a lot of aspects to who I was. I didn't want to be outspoken. I didn't want to make a fuss. 

Then I started to write about my adoption experience. Funny how the thoughts lurking under the surface of your psyche don't have a voice until you write them down. It is as if writing your thoughts releases them. And, like the furies, once released, they won't stand being locked away again. 

But, it's hard for an adoptee to speak out:
you get labelled
the "angry" adoptee ... the irony being that the more explaining you have to do about not being angry, the angrier you get,  
you get brushed off
if you had better parents, you wouldn't feel this way ... but I had good parents! you retort 
you get belittled
you need therapy ... ah, don't we all?
You have to stand up to these assaults. They try to silence your experience because it makes someone uncomfortable, or confused, or defensive. It brings up feeling they can not just sit with and accept. Instead they have to fight them with all their power to try to overcome them because they're just too hard to feel.

You remember reacting that way. You get it. Because to write about your adoption experience means you have to overcome the one voice that is fighting for its life to silence you. Your own.

It's the one that says:
your experience isn't important
until you remember all those stories you're read, stories similar to yours, and different from yours. stories that remind you that every experience is important.
a lot of people have had it a lot worse
until you realize that just because others have had things worse, doesn't mean that what you experienced wasn't real, wasn't true, wasn't hard.
not everyone feel that way
and then you recognize that is exactly why having so many voices in the conversation makes it so rich and valuable.
Last year my sisters decided to #FlipTheScript to say that adoptee voices should be part of the conversation about adoption. The furies flew and the chaos they caused was considerable. They took National Adoption Month and forced their voices into the conversation. 

They were voices that said that the adoptee experience is important. That even adoptees who had it good, also had it hard. That there were hundreds, thousands, millions of adoptees voices and they deserved to be part of the conversation, part of the truth of what adoption is. That their voices matter. That they matter. 

#FlipTheScript

***

Thoughts? Reflections? Opinions?

Please comment!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Guitar Lesson

A couple weeks ago, I had planned to go over to Kate's to write and her husband, Steve, had offered to give me a guitar lesson first.

I have been on and off with learning guitar for years. I've wanted to learn from the moment when I was 18 that I found out my birthmother was a musician and that her main instrument was guitar. I hoped to unlock an unknown talent in myself and to have something that linked me together with my birthmother.

It's been 25 years since we've met, and I haven't gotten to be "good" at the guitar yet. I can do a little, very little.

Kate's tried to show me some things. At one point many years ago I asked her to give me lessons but despite a few attempts, it didn't quite work. Maybe there was too much weighing on the lesson - the burden of what I'd lost from adoption and what Kate had lost in me wrapped up in music. The loss in the room was much louder than the music.

But, with Steve it's different. He makes it easy, fun, utterly unintimidating. He put the guitar in my hand, said, "do this," and I watched him and then followed along. Kate was there, making dinner, listening along. Being part of it, but a step removed. And I didn't have to think about loss and the heaviness of music for me because I was too busy trying to keep up with the lesson.

Steve has been a support to us since before he and Kate were together. He's always been rooting for us and doing what he can to help us along. From his perspective, there is just love, and he wants to do what he can to break down the blocks.

Then again, he would push a guitar into anyone's hands and tell them, "do this," and have them following along. That's one of the things I love about him.

Sometimes with reunion we may need something from the other person that we can't get due to emotional roadblocks that get in the way. But maybe we can still get what we need if we approach it from a different angle and get help from those supporting us through it. "Do this," they may say, and all we have to do is follow along.


***

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

***

Thoughts? Reflections? Opinions?

Please comment!