Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Monday, June 13, 2011
Sunday, February 06, 2011
William F Lynch, a Roman Catholic priest calls hope
the fundamental knowledge and feeling that there is a way out of difficulty, that things can work out, that we as human persons can somehow handle and manage internal and external reality, that there are solutions in the most ordinary and biological and physiological sense of that word, that, above all, there are ways out of illness.
His view of reality is that it is not ultimately conflictual. He believes that
being immersed in reality, belonging to it, provides the foundation for the beginning of hopefulness for all human beings, despite what may be the very difficult circumstances of relinquishment and adoption.
It is said that we are to find hope in our ‘future stories’, in our possible futures with our questions answered, and ideally, with our reunion needs met. We are to find and cling to the hope that some day, we will receive that letter from our birthmothers, that we will have that teary reunion in the airport, that we will no longer need the fantasy birth parents that we spent a lifetime creating.
But what happens when we do receive that letter? What happens when we do have that teary reunion, and we get to know the men and women who gave us away? And what happens when everything you expected to happen doesn’t? How, then, do we deal with the insatiable longing that still lurks in us?
It must be a common occurrence that upon meeting for the first time, or even over periods of time, we realize that what we dreamed our birth families to be can never exist. In fact, it must be an unavoidable truth. The fantasy we create in our minds cannot exist outside of our minds. Our mothers are not Queens, our fathers are not Kings. They are not flawless. They are humans. They are like us.
So how do we deal with reality? And how, when there is an unrequited interest in reunion, do we achieve a maintained sense of hope? How do we keep from falling into a pit of hopelessness when it would be so easy to focus on everything that did not happen according to plan in your reunion?
Moreover, what happens when your questions are answered by our birth families.. and we still cannot come to terms with the reality of our existence?
It seems there are still more questions than answers. And it seems there is little else to do but to continue to hope that they will be answered - if not by our birth families, then by ourselves in our journeys.
Star Trek: Voyager - Drone ... And Adoption.
For the non-Trek watchers.. a brief overview:
Remember ‘beam me up, Scotty’? Different ship. Different people. But they’re being ‘beamed up’ from an away mission..and there’s an accident. A borg’s (think: terminator.. a being crossed between organic and technology) technology combine with a human’s DNA and create a completely new being, whom they call “One”. The episode chronicles his short life, and, in turn...seems to have chronicled mine.
ONE: Describe my origins.
EMH: Oh, it's a long story.
ONE: I wish to hear it.
EMH: Another time.
ONE: I wish to hear the story. Now.
EMH: In a nutshell, there was a transporter malfunction. My emitter fused with several of Seven of Nine's nanoprobes.
ONE: I was an accident.
EMH: Call it a random convergence of technologies.
ONE: Am I unwelcome here?
EMH: On the contrary. Our primary mission is to explore new forms of life. You may have been unexpected but given time, I am sure you'll make a fine addition to the crew.
I was an accident. Obviously, I was not a convergence of technologies, but I certainly was an accident. No two fourteen year olds get together with the intention of having a child. And yet, two did. I’ve struggled with this concept all of my life. I know that I was never intended to exist. But I do now. For whatever reason, my birth mother chose not to end my life. So there must be a purpose for it.. right? At fifteen years old, it would not have been exceptional to have chosen abortion as a viable solution to an unwanted pregnancy. But abortion was not chosen. And now here I am. But for what? I still have no answer. Sometimes I wonder if abortion would have been the better choice.. the “righter” choice. At least then I wouldn’t be playing tug of war with my own purpose for existing.
JANEWAY: Well, we can delay telling him for now, but keep in mind the drone is becoming an individual. Seven, he has the right to know. Sooner or later, we'll have to answer his questions.
And here was the moment of clarity I wish my adoptive mother would have had. I wish she could have had this conversation with Captain Janeway and realized that I had the right to know even the minuscule amount of information that was known. Knowing was a vital part of becoming an individual. And I have been delayed in doing so because of not knowing.
ONE: No. I should not exist. I was an accident. A random convergence of technologies.
SEVEN: You are unique.
ONE: I was never meant to be.
Again, here is my (seemingly) lifelong struggle. I suppose I am only at my quarter-life now, but thus far, I have battled this in myself nearly every day. I was an accident. I was never meant to be. And when I watched this scene, I couldn’t help my tears. And they kept flowing, because I realized I was weeping out of jealousy. “One” was allowed to end his battle. He died heroically saving the ship and its crew. Lucky bastard. I just wait. And wait. And wait. And maybe one day I will find my purpose.
Friday, January 21, 2011
I tried to end my life in the summer between fourth and fifth grade. I was nine, going on ten years old. What could possibly be so painful at ten years old? What could hurt so much that after only a decade of living, you wanted it to be over already? Moreover, what ten year old even knows that suicide exists?
I’m sure a lot of adoptees know.
Among adolescents who have attempted suicide, an alarming number of them were adopted. According to a study conducted by Gail Slap, MD, Elizabeth Goodman, MD, and Bin Huang, MS, adoptees were found to be 7.6% more likely to have attempted suicide. (Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics)
I had coffee with a good friend of mine last night; one who I have known since eighth grade. She was recalling a church service she recently attended where a movie was shown about orphaned children in various third world countries. She was moved by the film, and says she felt God putting something in her heart that day. When I inquired further, she said, “I just all of a sudden felt this overwhelming push. I think I might want to consider adoption in the future.”
I waited, letting her continue her story, as she was speaking quite passionately about it. My immediate, albeit, silent reaction was to vomit up all the reasons to be cautious...to be as passionate about caring for an adopted child (which is significantly different than caring for biological children from an emotional standpoint). And then those dreadful, sharp, soul-shattering words passed through her lips: “But then I think..I really want children of my own..”
Children of my own. My own children. My own.
And I am, what? We are, what? Not. Very plainly, we are not. We are not our parent’s “own”. Not even remotely.
I can recall another friend of mine, who I met in college. Many of my thesis pieces and bodies of work were adoption-related, and being close to me, she was very well versed in “adoption-speak” and very aware of how adoption has affected me.
She and I were sitting in a pub we frequented between classes, and I had just put away my sketches for a body of work I was presenting to a professor. She perked up in her seat, and her eyes got wide, and she asked if she had ever mentioned her cousin. I did not think so. She recalled to me that her cousin had held a birthday party recently. At the party, one member of the family had invited a guest. As they were being introduced to the family, this cousin said, “This is my wife.. and this is my son. And this is my adopted daughter, *****.” My friend asked me if she was hanging out with me too much, or if this was legitimately offensive. My reply was far from calm.
She added, “Well, she didn’t seem to mind. She never does.”
Yes, she does. My heart broke for that poor girl, who had always, and would always be introduced as second-rate. This is not my daughter. This is my adopted daughter. And I wondered how many times she’d thought of ending her young life.
There is something both insignificant and monumental that happens in our words. It’s a strange duality between the nonchalant and the overt. Adoptees hear it every day. It’s that dreaded phrase: “my own children”. It’s always said in passing. It’s rarely meant to cause the damage that it does. And more often than not, the speaker does not realize what they’ve said and what they’ve done...though experience has taught me not to underestimate the intentionally cruel.
Oh, to be someone’s own child. I don’t think there is anything in this world I wouldn’t give to be ignorant of the power of that phrase.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Sunday, November 07, 2010
I cannot remember the day I was told that I was adopted. I’m sure I was very young. While the fact was always known to me, and it appeared that my parents had informed me of my unique standing in my family, I never knew a time when the topic was not viewed as taboo. I can remember clearly, the look on my mother’s face, when I once asked about my first mother. It was a combination of horror and anxiety and a deep pain in her eyes. I had wounded her by bringing up the subject of ‘the other woman’. I can also remember very clearly that I knew better than to ever bring her up again. Of course, this was a futile undertaking.
Throughout my childhood, I produced many drawings, collages, paintings, and other attempts at creativity. Consciously and unconsciously I would sneak the other woman into those creations. She was the princess in the tower, awaiting her rescue. She was the Queen who rode upon a white horse, searching for her long lost daughter, so that they might rule together in happiness. She was the sorceress, the flower, the eye, the heart, the anything I could possibly make her so that she was a presence in my life.
I am told that I had an imaginary friend when I was a girl. Her name was Sarah. I taught her how to ride a bike almost immediately after I, myself, had learned. My mother has elaborated, on more than one occasion, that I could often be seen pushing my bike alongside myself, coaxing and encouraging my invisible companion, hoping she, too, would learn to love riding down the steep hill on Fessler Drive. Sarah appeared only a few times more in my childhood. Each time, after accomplishing something I felt to be magnificent and important. I wonder now if this was yet another attempt to solidify the other woman’s presence in my life, including her in my achievements.
It was not until the winter of 2006 that I found the location of my first mother. I was nineteen years old. I had never felt a greater swell of emotions in my life. I was happy and sad and scared and eager, and I was alone in my dorm room in my second year at college. No one on my hall knew I was adopted. I felt like running through the building shouting and screaming that I had found her at last. I decided against it. I shook and sat on the floor, staring at the phone, which I had just hung up. On the other line had been a friend – a first mother. She had found her. In my left hand I held a piece of paper, with trembling, juvenile penmanship scrawled across it. Her name was written there. Her address. Her phone number, should I feel comfortable enough to use it. I cried by myself for a few minutes, unsure of how to proceed. I wanted to call her right away. I wanted to get in the car and drive to meet her in person. Then I thought of my mother.
I kept the secret of the other woman for almost two months. While I had already sent her a letter, and explained that I would love to peruse some relationship with her, I hid it all from my friends and family. I lived two lives for two months. I kept an agenda book then, and every day, from the day I wrote the letter, I marked a small square in the corner: “Tell mom today”. And every day, I crossed it off and wrote it again for the following day.
I remember the day I finally told her. I was home alone with her. My father was away on a business trip and my siblings were at school. My cheeks burned and my heart raced. I kept telling myself, “This is it. Just open your mouth. Just say something. Just tell her.” I sat in silence for hours, screaming at myself in my head. Finally, she walked through the room. “Mom?” I asked nervously. She stopped and looked at me, waiting. I said nothing. I must have stared at her for minutes. I could see a number of scenarios playing out in her mind – none of which were that I had found the other woman. I think she became frightened of what I might have been trying to say, and finally begged for me to ‘spit it out’.
“I found my birthmother,” I said quietly. I remember that her face turned white, and that there was a long silence. I honestly don’t remember the conversation that followed. I remember telling her that she lived in Las Vegas. I remember discussing how we had been there the previous year on a family vacation. She wanted to know if I knew then. I assured her that I didn’t. The next day, I was asked to leave work early so that I could go out to lunch with my mother and father. She had told him, and they wanted to discuss it.
My father is a very unemotional man. He loves facts and numbers and answers. He wanted facts and numbers and answers from me. He wanted to know how I could be sure that this was truly my birthmother. He wanted to know if she had asked me for money. He wanted to be sure of her intentions. I showed him a photograph she had sent me of herself as a child. I remember when I had first seen it, I was immediately confused as to how she had gotten a picture of me. We looked identical. Even my father couldn’t deny the resemblance.
There were several more “family meetings” regarding my finding her. I was asked to leave work again to have lunch with my mother’s side of the family, where I had to formally tell everyone that I had found her. I was asked to share pictures and any other information I had gathered about her. It felt as though I were on trial, determining whether or not this woman was worthy to be acknowledged and absorbed by the family. This may not have been their intention (in fact, I am certain it was not), but the result was the same.
After much debate, and innumerable obstacles, I finally booked my flight to Las Vegas to meet my birthmother for the first time. It was December of 2007, a year, almost to the day, that I had first found her. As per my mother’s wishes, I was accompanied by two of her sisters. I was twenty years old. I was being chaperoned.
The plane ride was turbulent - more than usual. I remember turning on my iPod and listening to Enya, just to try and calm myself down. And I remember thinking that it would be the most hilarious tragedy to die in a plane crash en route to meet my birthmother for the first time.
The Las Vegas airport is massive. My heart was racing from the moment the pilot announced that we were beginning our decent, and continued to pound in my chest as I made my way from the terminal to the baggage claim. It was nearly half an hour of torture to my nervous and circulatory systems. I called my birthmother’s cell phone to try and find out where she was. Her voice seemed more real, now that we were in the same state as one another. I hung up and waited with my aunts where I had been instructed. I didn’t see her anywhere.
My Aunt tapped my on the shoulder, and I turned on my heel. I looked up. There she was. She was much taller than me; nearly six feet tall. She had her hair in a ponytail, frayed bangs pushed to the side. She had a freckle on the tip of her nose. She had eyes that I had only seen in the mirror up until that moment. I smiled and said “hi” shyly. I gave her a hug and closed my eyes and wondered if this would be the moment where all of my childhood fantasies began to come true. I wondered if this would be the reunion that I had dreamed of. The type of reunion I had seen on Oprah or Maury. Mother meets daughter in a long, loving embrace, while an orchestra of strings and woodwinds play in the background; the type of moment where everyone around you stops and watches, tears streaming down everyone’s cheeks, a lifetime of emotions emerging in one elated cry.
It was not.
The hug was stiff, short. She pulled back from me and smiled. The smell of the leather of her jacket mingled with her perfume lingered in my nose as she turned and began to walk away. I followed behind like a toddler, my steps short and calculated. I got into her car quietly, my heart racing. I remember talking myself into believing that this was reality. This was my mother and I was sitting next to her. This was happening right now. As we drove down the Las Vegas strip, my aunts in the backseat, and me, breathing in her leather scent, her lit cigarette burning my eyes, I wondered what it would have been like to have grown up like this. This was a world so unlike my own. There are few similarities between Fairfield County, Connecticut, and Las Vegas, Nevada. I turned to look at her while she drove, the lights of the casinos illuminating her face. I smiled. She noticed. “Don’t cry,” she said with a hoarse smoker’s laugh. “I don’t do tears,” she said with a smile. I focused on her lips. They were like mine.
She dropped us off at the hotel, promising that her mother, Mary Kay, had a full day planned, so I had better get lots of sleep. She promised to call first thing in the morning. I hugged her goodbye, and she was gone. I felt strangely empty. I stared at the closed door as I sat on my bed, and wondered how I could feel this deserted. I’d only just met her. I had lived twenty years without her and suddenly, without her in the room, I felt alone.
And so began the delicate dance of reunion, and the greatest disappointment of my life.
Turns out “first thing in the morning” means something completely to my first mother. I’m an early riser to begin with, and my excitement only allowed me to sleep in until 8AM, despite jet lag. I called my first mother’s cell phone, but there was no answer. My aunts and I waited in the hotel room for an hour before deciding to go off and get breakfast, and wait for her to call. We had croissants at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant, and shopped a little bit here and there. I called several more times, but there was still no answer. Morning quickly turned into afternoon. I had lunch with my aunts at Caesar’s Palace, when finally, she called.
She was with her mother and fiancée, and they wanted to have lunch. I had just eaten, but I agreed. I was greedy for her time, desperate to see her again, to meet my grandmother. I met them at Planet Hollywood. Though it was only December 15th, there were Christmas presents waiting for me. I felt like I was six years old all over again. Mary Kay had given me two photo albums. One was for pictures we would take during our visit, and the other was intended for my photography.
I was completely enamored. I was like a teenager who’d fallen in love for the first time. I was giddy. Mary Kay insisted on buying me little souvenirs everywhere we went, insisting that she had to make up for twenty years of ‘grandma time’. I let her, and I loved them. Mary Kay took me to the aquarium. My first mother took me to the movies. We shopped, we ate, we laughed. We never cried.
The night before I left, I visited my first mother’s house with Mary Kay. We sat and talked, and looked at photo albums, and asked each other questions, like what our most memorable Christmases were. I was swept up in the romance of reunion, oblivious to anything but the moment I was living in. When things had calmed a bit, Mary Kay told me she had one more gift for me. I rolled my eyes and told her she had already done too much. She told me she had been saving this for tonight, and it was something very special. She handed me a small white box. I opened it, finding a little note, folded on top. My first mother laughed and asked if this is what had made her sob all day. Mary Kay nodded. I unfolded the note hesitantly, wondering what it could be. The note read:
“The day you were born, I talked to the stars. Make her strong.
Give her courage. Make this the right thing to do.”
I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I cried. Mary Kay cried. And my first mother left the room.
Going home was the most emotionally difficult obstacle I’d ever faced. I was torn between two worlds, two realities. In Connecticut I had one family, school to attend, friends I’d known nearly my entire life. In Las Vegas I had a second family, a biological connection, a life I’d not known before. On the plane, alone with my thoughts, I could still feel their arms around me, their warm tears on my face, and my shoulder. I could see Mary Kay’s smile, burned in my memory forever. I could see my first mother’s eyes, could still smell her leather jacket, her stale cigarettes. They were a part of me now.
When I arrived in Connecticut, no one spoke of what happened. No one asked how the trip was. No one asked what my first mother was like. No one wanted to know if I’d had a good time. I felt the weight of my childhood; of the taboo of adoption. It was as if my visit had suddenly sparked something in them; they remembered that I was not theirs.
A year passed. Our letters, which we had once written frequently back and forth, became few and far between. My first mother sent me a gift on my birthday. Mary Kay sent one letter, incomplete. I was promised that the second half was yet to come, but I never received it. In December of the following year, I decided to visit again. I forgot about the lack of communication. I forgot about the incomplete correspondence. I felt like I was going home again.
My first mother was married now, to a man named Jay. They were living in the house I’d visited before. Mary Kay was living in the spare bedroom. There were no extravagant lunches, or shopping trips, or gifts. It seemed more casual, more commonplace. I didn’t mind it. It felt like I belonged, like I was truly part of the family. No one needs to go out of their way to accommodate immediate family. You come and you go, you do as you please, there’s laughter and silence, and dinner together in front of the TV. It was strangely comfortable. And it was over too soon.
Flying back home this time was almost a relief this time. Her cigarettes had begun to burn my eyes. I missed my parents and their discomforting glances. I missed my bed. I missed quiet.
I began keeping a blog sometime that year, chronicling my reunion experience. I wrote of my first trip out there, the blissful romance, the first love, the incapacitating longing and yearning finally being fulfilled in one orgasmic embrace. Mother and child meet face to face for the first time since I’d left her body. I wrote of the return trip, the familiarity, the waning excitement of closeness. I was not unfamiliar with adoption literature, and knew that this was what they referred to as the rollercoaster of reunion. There are exuberant highs and unbearable lows. I knew this. And I was living it.
I did not return the next December. We had begun to argue over her unwillingness to visit me in my home state. I tried to understand her reluctance, and even began to empathize with the difficulty in meeting her other woman, my adoptive mother. Eventually, I let it go. I held out until September, when the longing to be with her had returned, and begun to consume me. I once again missed her smell, her presence. I missed Mary Kay. I missed my only known biological connection.
September was unbearably hot in Nevada. We rode on horseback through the desert, side by side on contrasting colored horses. I told her about how I used to ride in Connecticut when I was young. We laughed about the differences in our experiences. We connected, on a new level, understanding how the paths of our lives differed, how they were similar, and how they ultimately were intertwined. She was living in a new house. She had divorced Jay. Her mother was living in the spare bedroom.
What I remember most about that trip was that every night, before I went to bed, Mary Kay kissed me goodnight on the head and called me her little star. Every night I waited for that kiss. I waited to smell her perfume close to my face, to feel her lips against my hair. Every night I was there, she told me she loved me. Once again, it was over too quickly.
My first mother and Mary Kay both took me to the airport that trip home. They walked with me through the lines, and Mary Kay held my hand tightly. I knew she didn’t want me to go. As in previous trips, she struggled to hold in her tears as she hugged me goodbye. She hated to let me see her cry when I left. This time, she failed. She held me against her and sobbed against my shoulder. I smiled through my tears and promised to come back again next year. It was only a year, it would go by quickly. It always did. That was the last time I saw her.
My first mother and I fought that year. Frequently. I still did not understand why she was so adamantly refusing to visit. I promised that she did not have to meet my family. I promised it would just be the two of us. I promised everything I could think of to convince her to come. She still refused. I decided that if she was going to continue acting like a child, so would I. I didn’t write her anymore. I ignored her random posts and comments on my social network sites where we were mutual friends. I did everything I could to freeze her out.
I allowed myself to begin pretending I was something else; I was not adopted. I did everything I could to forget my first mother. I tried to push myself closer to my adoptive family. I began blogging about how I no longer saw the need for the mother/daughter relationship I had once so yearned for. I boxed up my volumes of literature on adoption. I put away the letters I had received from my biological family members, getting them out of sight and out of mind.
For a year, it worked wonderfully. I wasn’t upset nearly as much. I was living life without the burden of not knowing who my family was, but also, without the energy needed to nourish our relationship. I had closed myself into a bubble, where adoption didn’t exist. It was beautiful, and happy. But it wasn’t real.
It was the beginning of December. I was working as a preschool teacher in upstate Connecticut, busying myself with holiday arts and crafts, and genuinely loving my life. Nothing brings out the Christmas spirit like children. I was excited for this year’s holiday, and looking forward to not having my time off disrupted by another trip out to Las Vegas. I had just woken up on Saturday morning, and was spending a lazy morning in bed. I looked over at the nightstand to check my phone. There was a new message. It was from my first mother. I hadn’t heard it go off last night and I found myself feeling slightly disappointed that I hadn’t. I opened the phone and wondered what she wanted. I was prepared to hear her complaints about my not visiting this Christmas.
“Mom is sick. She has pancreatic cancer. We didn’t want to tell you earlier, because we were hoping for a better outcome. They gave her three months to live.”
I froze. I began to cry immediately. I couldn’t think straight. How could they not have told me earlier? I wondered if it was Mary Kay’s decision or my first mother’s. It didn’t matter now. She’d been diagnosed a year ago, and they never told me. I began to feel sick. I replied to her message, asking if I should come out, when I should come out. I had a few personal days left, and I told her I would use them and fly out as soon as I could. I called my mother in tears.
I had known this woman for only four years. I had only seen her three times. I didn’t quite know how to process what was happening. My mother had lost her mother to cancer a decade ago. When I told her about Mary Kay, she understood better than anyone what I was feeling. She told my father to find me the first flight he could in the time frame available. I got out of bed and got dressed, jumped into the car and drove to my parent’s house. When I arrived, my father was already on the computer, halfway through his search for flights. I was sobbing.
The following weeks were a blur. I remember very little, except for my random and humiliating breakdowns at work. It was our traditional Christmas dinner with my mother’s side of the family. We were all at my Aunt’s house, sitting at the table. Everyone knew what was going on, but no one said anything. It wasn’t exactly dinner table conversation to discuss how my biological grandmother’s health was in steady and steep decline. Someone mentioned a memory they had of my first Christmas dinner, where I toddled around the table and mistook one of the adult’s glasses of Disorono Amoretto for coke, and had my first taste of alcohol before my second birthday. I began to cry.
I cried because Mary Kay didn’t know that about me. I cried because she wasn’t the one telling that story to a table full of my biological relatives. I cried because somehow, in my heart, I knew I would never get to tell her that story. I stood up from the table and excused myself. I locked myself in the bathroom and I began to cry. I stayed until I had no tears left in my eyes. They were red and swollen, but I put on my best smile and went back to the table. The seats had been rearranged as flurries of Aunts and Uncles and cousins helped clear dinner and bring out dessert. I sat beside my grandfather, who stared at me sadly, with knowing eyes. I sat beside my Aunt, who had accompanied me to Las Vegas four years ago when I first met my first mother and Mary Kay. She smiled and said quietly, “She must be so happy right now to have known you. Be thankful that you had those years to get to know and love her.”
I wasn’t thankful that I had those years to get to know her. I was bitter and resentful that I didn’t have more time. One week once a year for three years is not enough time. I felt cheated. I felt angry.
(absolutely unfinished. completely unedited. here is where i am stuck..)
I can't BELIEVE I've never posted this here. This was my final portfolio during my art school years. Still gives me the chills. Still makes me cry. Still makes me want to show this to my entire family and all of my friends and shout, "SEE! SEE! THIS IS WHAT IT FEELS LIKE!"
Saturday, November 06, 2010