Archive for the ‘Learning to be part of a new family’ category

A Convoluted Badge of Something

January 8, 2009

A Greek Tragedy for a Convolute?

ist2_1085349-snow-globeThe psychic looks at my left palm; the one which depicts where I have been, which bears little resemblance to my right palm, which is where I am, and am going.  He says, “Can I be frank?” I nod in an of course manner and consciously decline to utilize the obvious, “I thought your name was Henry?” joke, because I do not much ROFL over recycled humor. Cerebral humor is more my style; a mind-chuckle being more enjoyable than the mind [rhymes-with-part-of-the-word-chuck(le)] that was my childhood.

He says, “Your childhood was really convoluted.” Finally! The most succinct poetic ode to my childhood. A tidy one word summary. It is such the perfect word. I still have it. And it works. And, as long as we are being succint, if I had to sum myself up in one word I’d say I was an italic. And that my life has been in constant pursuit of the appropriate life-saving em dash. Maybe I am a Convolute.

I sometimes hesitantly suspect that I might be a dangling particle. But in reality, I am not entirely positive just what a dangling participle is and cannot immediately identify one. I mean I know, but I am not 100% certain, therefor I am one, because that would explain my confusion about who I am, in a metaphorically grammatical way.

ist2_5290011-who-s-that-manI think about such things all the time because I am very confused. I was raised by one family; I have another family now and I am getting to know them. But I wonder how much they are getting to know me. I don’t think either family really knows me. I think both families have tried to shape me. Why are we not all merely seen for who we are and not for what me might be? My bmom does not listen. I can hear her thinking of what she is going to say next rather than simply listening. Mostly in our conversations I just listen. I hear. I don’t really think much that she hears what I am saying but rather, hears what she wants. Hence The Guilt Trip.

I keep thinking of the whole journey as akin to the myth of Pandora’s Box, which was really a jar and only became known as a box due to a mistranslation of the Greek Pithos for “jar”, which became “box” when translated into Latin.  Pithos sounds like pathos, and is one of the three modes of persuasion, in Aristotle’s philosophies in rhetoric so it’s all Greek to me, and all tied together and convoluted.

ist2_3223613-entrance-hall-of-brussels-courthouseEvents of Pathos, or, Pathetic events, in a plot “are also not to be confused with tragic events. In a tragedy, the character brings about his or her own demise, whereas those invoking pathos often occur to innocent characters, invoking unmerited grief.” – wikipedia

Interesting, that jar/box thing – a mistranslation or mis-communication that changes the meaning of a thing forever. Pandora opened that jar out of curiosity and when she saw what was in it (more…)

Rants and Fancypants

December 30, 2008

ist2_1407030-blooming-dandelionI realize than ranting about relations with my bmom will possibly not endear me to bmoms out there wishing for a relationship of any sort at all with their bkids. But maybe it is useful information. Maybe it is helpful to know how it can feel as a middle-aged (btw, since we don’t know how long we are going to live, how can we know when we hit the middle of it?) person trying to delicately navigate a relationship with a stranger.

But I have no delusions of grandeur or perfection and I approach life and its inhabitants with the utmost of respect, humility and empathy, carefully examining situations from all sides of things; inside-out, outside-in, vertically and horizontally, upside down and rightside up, and perhaps I just wish for some of that from the other side. I just want to be who I am and never allow myself to be affected by the wants of another for that is not being true.

Truth is the most precious gift, to be handled with care and packed in bubble wrap at all times.  And my rant below is truthfully about the unnecessary cancer of a guilt that was imposed on me for a crime I had never, and would never, commit. No one among us should ever distort the facts as a means of alleviating other, perhaps hardly related or deeply rooted guilts, for doing so is to risk irrevocably damaging a precious relationship. I am not Ms. Righteous FancyPants. I do not judge. I merely react. I try too hard and offer too much respect to be slapped with guilt.

All that you have is your soul.

Guilt trips always get me down

December 28, 2008

Rainy days and Mondays are, however, fine.

IT’S A PARKING LOT WITHOUT LINES

ist2_4356889-coal-for-youOh, the holidays. What loaded fun. What complicated, charged, bloated, booby-trapped, commercial, expensive, meaningful, non-meaningful, joy! Good thing the big one is only once a year. This is not to say that I am against holidays or don’t like them but rather an acknowledgment of the emotional brew bubbling beneath the surface. No matter how I might try, if I do what I want – what is comfortable and meaningful, and peaceful and happy for me – I get in trouble. I am starting to resent that. And I refuse to continue to always put myself second to others, which is be a huge shift from the last few decades of subservient merry-making and everyday life.

Since beginning my search I have spent a lot of time thinking. Thinking and thinking all day long. Some times in all capital letters, sometimes in italics, often cluttered with colons and semi colons, brackets, asterisks and pound signs. Especially asterisks. I am an Asterisk. Actually, I am a Spasterisk. To illustrate that I am making the quotation mark sign in spastically rapid motions as I say “Spasterisk” as if I am paraphrasing myself. I should have named this blog My Life as a Spasterisk. Shit, always the best ideas are a day late, a dollar short, and then freely offered up for the next person to use. If I see a blog named that I am going to scream. today is a very rare anger day for me. It’s been brewing.

ist2_6547957-country-highwayI had thought and thought about the impact my search might have on my birth mother and for years was unwilling to take that risk, to possibly disrupt her life in a painful or negative way. Since meeting her I have tried to use what my friends determine is my immense capacity for empathy to weigh her feelings and possible perspective into my decisions and quite often made decisions to do things that I’d not wanted to do; to spend more time together than I was as of yet comfortable with. I have always tried to meet in the middle give or take a few miles, but the middle can start to shift farther and farther away till I need binoculars to see from whence I came.

So, for Christmas I had made plans to go visit friends, childhood friends, a few hours away. (more…)

Inadvertent Comparative Thanksgivings as experienced by Miss Givings

November 28, 2008

ist2_520198-group-of-fishesLast year I spent Thanksgiving at one of my half brothers’ (HB2) houses. I’d only just met my mother almost 2 months before and had only met the sons once. I’d met everyone at once that time, a few weeks earlier. At that time one of my HBs (HB2) had said, “We’ve been waiting to meet you but I guess, I don’t know, you needed some space or wanted to wait for some reason” and I laughed nervously and said “well, It’s a little overwhelming meeting a lot of people at once who have only just found out about your existence.”

“Yeah but we are the most easy going people you’ll ever meet”.

“Well I didn’t know that. I hadn’t met you yet. It is a bit overwhelming from my perspective.”

“Whatever.”

I guess you can’t expect people to understand. They’d not been adopted out and they’d not had to suddenly meet a whole new family at once. But they were very nice, just maybe uninformed and maybe hadn’t spent a lot of time trying to imagine how it must feel from my perspective.

ist2_6956692-shattered-windshieldSo I had gone to the other HB’s (HB1) house for Thanksgiving and brought a gift; a handmade gift. I make nice things that people spend money on. I have had a lot of shows and press. They never opened the box but merely tossed it aside (Ouch! Glass inside!) and mumbled oh, thanks, and went back to work preparing dinner. It’s hard not to always compare. I’d grown up in a family in which one dropped everything to carefully open and exclaim over a gift. It was just different. I am human. We all compare people and situations; it is inevitable because situations trigger memories of past and similar situations. I don’t want or expect an exact replica of my first family. But I cannot not notice the differences, good, bad and indifferent. For I absolutely see the good and sometimes can’t help but wish I’d had that growing up.

ist2_3968100-two-kittens-playingAfter dinner the adults were sitting around in the kitchen. The kids – my birth mother’s grandkids – were sitting at the kitchen table nearby and suddenly I heard them teasing their cousin (daughter of HB2), telling her “You’re adopted.” over and over, and laughing, and I glanced over at them and sorta wilted for the weirdness of this, being embarrassed for the play of children. I am too old to feel this way. None of the other adults seemed to notice, they were busy talking. The boys (sons of HB1) kept up this chant, glancing sideways at the adults all the while, but still only I noticed. The girl looked confused; she didn’t know what ‘adopted’ meant and her parents had explained my sudden appearance in different terms than HB1 and his wife had to their kids. I had a friend with me who looked at me to see how I was coping. But we were both on guest manners of course, I feel like I will always be on guest manners, and would not dream of mentioning it although we did start the process of taking our leave. At some point HB2 – the father of the little girl – noticed and said, “hey why don’t you guys go play upstairs”.

My friend and I left and discussed this on the way home; she was shocked, I was a bit deflated, after all I was just a guest, and I felt shamed. The next morning I had a voice message from my birth mother, left at midnight, saying please call me right away. She said her son HB2 had called her at 11:30 pm the night before and was horrified at the kids’ games and wondered if I was ok. So maybe he did empathize a bit when he saw what was happening. It had been rather loud after all and somewhat bizarre that the other adults had totally not noticed even though HB1 had glanced over a few times during this game that his kids were engaged in which made my friend and I wonder why he did not intercede. That sorta hurt. My birth mother was really upset. “Are you ok? I am so disappointed in the boys. I am going to have a talk with them,” and etc. I said “They are just kids. This is a totally new concept for them. Kids learn by playing with things, including concepts. I don’t take it personally. I imagine it must have been hard to tell the kids that grandma had this child who suddenly turned up. It’s ok. They should not be reprimanded and they should not be made to feel bad because that will just send them the message that adoption is a bad thing.” But she was shaken. The next time I saw the boys they were sheepish and did not talk to me much. This made me feel more guestly and more shaky.

ist2_2849109-doll-21This year Thanksgiving was different. I brought no gift. When I was given a glass of wine it was not in one of the ones I had given them last Thanksgiving but I figured it didn’t go with the china, which seemed really important that day, or perhaps they were packed away somewhere. I admit wishing that I had that gift back. I hope I don’t see those glasses at Goodwill some day.

I was having a friendly conversation with HB1’s wife and in the middle of telling her a little and brief story about something, her husband asked a question and she just walked away without a word. I could not help but notice that, and muse that in my former family any of us in that situation would have said, “Will you excuse me?” And would then return and say, “Sorry about that. Now where were you?” and I’d get to finish my brief tale and not feel ashamed for having possibly bored the hostess to the point that she’d need to walk away. And that is a crazy thought but I have that adopted kid insecurity in my core. And it’s impossible not to compare. We do it with exes and so why would we not do it with families? But I noticed this walking off in the middle of someone speaking thing happening a lot yesterday and I know to not take it personally. Because it’s not personal. While I am The Secret and The Newcomer, they seem to accept me as family (ish) and it doesn’t really matter who or how I am. It’s not personal. The half brothers have asked no questions at all about my life before them. I can’t help but ponder the oddness of that. Is there zero curiosity?

ist2_1834688-bulimicDuring dinner prep I watched HB1 take the foil off the tray of rolls and sort them out; touching each one and making a perfect grid on the pan. He then patted down all the rolls with his hands as if contemplating their springy firmness. I could not help but think that if he were a brother I’d grown up with, I’d have felt comfortable enough to say hey, why are you touching all the rolls that people are going to eat? But I can’t do that, I am The Newcomer and The Guest. Sometimes I miss my adopted family because their ways are comfortable and familiar. And regardless of what they have done or could ever do to me, I will still always love them in that desperate way that kids love their families.

I tend to think I will always be on guest manners. I did not eat a roll.

“What do you want?” – The Big Question

November 28, 2008

ist2_2566912-sandwichLast summer I decided to do the search. I had only begun thinking about it for the past 3 years. Never before in my life had I even pondered looking for my birth mother. She was a concept, much like the symbol on a Ladies’ Restroom door. At times throughout my life I had thought of her and visually she took on the form of a fuzzy symbol seen from far, far away and in soft focus lens. She was not an actual person; she was a mythical thing, a concept.

Friends knew of my search and a few people knew people who had done searches and passed along their phone numbers with the assurance that they’d be expecting my call. It was a summer of sitting in my yard making phone calls that began with, “Hi, my name is Caramel (not my real name), and Daisy gave me your number and said I could call…”, to which they’d reply, “Yes, I have been expecting your call.” And I heard their stories and because of their advice (“Don’t believe the narrative you get from the orphanage, it is almost always fabricated”, and etc) I was spared a few surprises. Their advice was spot on, as I’d find out later on.

ist2_254630-neon-woman-toiletI have one friend who was adopted and that friend did a search that took decades and involved the aid of Orphan Voyage and some crazy and illegal tactics, for her adoption was a private one done through a lawyer and she’d been handed off in a ladies’ restroom at an airport. But she had a name, wrangled out of her adoptive mother, and she finally succeeded. Hers is a wild tale and one I am not at liberty to post. It had a beautiful ending but still when she met her mother’s husband he said, “What do you want?”. Everyone I spoke to, including mothers, had a “What do you want?” story. Everyone.

Everyone also had a story about their new half siblings either asking that question and/or rejecting them, usually temporarily. I get that. I try to imagine how I’d have felt if, while growing up, my mother had one day announced that I had a half sister or brother. I honestly can’t say if I would be at ease with the situation. I cannot say with all honesty that I’d not resent that person, if only on a subconscious level, or if I’d be angry at her for having a secret.  Maybe I’d be jealous of that person for their special new status and place in my family. The phrase ‘sibling rivalry’ is not a new one and not one that anyone disputes. I am a kind and generous person and have an extraordinary capacity for empathy, but I am also a mere mortal. I know I’d have been conflicted. Human feelings are complicated. I find it hard to believe that anyone would not have conflicted feelings in such a situation. They are there, even if hidden from the surface. Hence my reticence.

ist2_6563341-under-constructionWhen I met my birth mother she did not ask that, and her husband and sons did not ask that. But it is possibly there and I feel a sort of outsiderness, and so I am determined to not ‘want’ a thing. They are wonderful people and they seem to genuinely love me but only my birth mother is possibly completely free of such feelings. I understand that and do not condemn it, for it makes them real, and human. I’d not expect them to be superhuman. I admire real people. I do not believe in perfect people. I am suspicious of seemingly perfect people who seem to never have a conflicted or negative or insecure thought. That cannot be possible. Not of humans.

ist2_7035453-private-propertyBut I did not want a thing actually and just wanted to meet her. I knew I’d possibly disrupt her life and I’d possibly be seen as an intruder and that freaked me out. This is why it took years to finally decide to do the search. You don’t know what you’ll find or how you’ll be received and I was totally against a possible disruption of her life. I was struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from a huge and painful family trauma and did not want to inflict trauma on anyone else. I had complete respect for what I imagined her circumstances must have been and I was grateful to her for that. But at some point the search agent at the orphanage from which I came said, “Are you just going to call me every 6 months as you have been doing for years or are you going to do a search?” So I made an appointment. Another friend, well aware of my reticence, informed me that she was taking the afternoon off from work and was going with me. And this is how it began.

It’s complicated.

November 27, 2008

UPDATE: Since posting this blog people have sent me many a link to the more personal and candid adoption blogs. And so I am adding links as I find them. It is reassuring to find so many people who are conflicted. Previously I had found more search stories and less assimilation into the no rules zone of becoming part of a new family. I have found so much. Thanks for the links.

ist2_7251173-3d-puzzle-xxl-12000x8000I have been searching the web for years for adoption search information and have found a lot of sites about adoption that include blogs as a sort of secondary aspect, and a far fewer personal story blogs than I thought I might. The ones I do find are just that – a personal story – but not a forum and really don’t delve into the deeper and larger issues of the whole journey, often stopping short of the complicated feelings involved. So I decided to sort of test the waters and see if there are people like me – people who have a story to tell and also want to share their stories with others who have been through the same thing. I am a big fan of support groups but cannot find a support group in my area for this small niche. Are we that few?

This all occurred to me yesterday on the phone with a friend who said, “I can’t imagine what it feels like to be adopted and I certainly don’t know anyone who has found their biological family. Do you even know anyone who has found their biological family? I imagine it is really complicated and overwhelming.”

ist2_6428830-international-chat-communityThank you for that, I said, it is really complicated and I only know one other search person and but for her, I don’t know any other adopted people. I know a lot of people and I have a lot of really close friends for support and all that but this adoption search has been surprisingly overwhelming and partly for the wide range of responses I have gotten from friends; everything from the aforementioned attempt to empathize and admission of not being able to fully comprehend to “What’s the big deal? Shouldn’t you be happy to have found your family?”

ist2_3920058-boring-meetingOf course I am happy. But it is a crazy thing, like a parking lot without lines, in a foreign dialect. It’s not instant Disneyworld complete with Tinkerbell floating about granting wishes. It’s complicated. Families are complicated, especially ones you did not grow up in. And you are entering a family not as someone who married in but as The Secret and that comes with a lot of baggage. It takes a while to learn the language and fathom the nuances. It takes a while to figure out where you stand and not feel like a guest. I will always be The Secret and I will always be a guest. It also takes a while for the family to understand you, and in the meantime so much is left to conjecture and, yes, judgment. I am a woman and as such I cannot comprehend what it feels like to be a man. I am white and therefor I cannot comprehend what it’s like to be black. I don’t know what it is like to be a twin or a houseplant. But not all of the people I encounter respond to my journey with that same level of humility and that’s just another place where it get’s complicated.

So this will be my story, and yours too if you want to share it. Maybe we can have a dialogue. We’ll see. It’s Thanksgiving and I am getting ready to spend part of the day with my new family. So it seems a perfect day to start this blog.