Posted tagged ‘Learning to navigate family gatherings with “strangers”’

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…)

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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.