Assembling Self

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The ghosts of adoption


A silhouette without a face these ghosts I chase from place to place.
Shadows playing hide and seek elude my call evade my reach.
They come and go within my dreams looming near but never seen.
Just when I think they've gone away I realize they are back to stay.
Haunted by who I might be, in the mirror this face I see.
It is mine but comes from where?
I find no peace, only blank stares.
Few clues to riddles lost in time.
Can't capture what I can not find.
Pursuing what I can't deny, the phantoms of days long gone by.

I've been busy.  It's been a good productive busy but still hectic.  I have not had the time to write as I would like to.  I've jotted down some notes over the last few months that I wanted to expand upon because no matter how far you attempt to get from adoption it is always there and usually in your face.  It's quite invisible to nonadopted persons but as blatant to adoptees as the noses on our faces.  All it takes is a quick change in perspective to see it.

As adoptees we all know and realize you can never get away from adoption.  And, most of us don't want to since we have spent so much of our lives unable to express how we feel or how it has shaped and molded who we really are.  We need to feel it, see it, dive down deeply into it to discover what it is we need to do about it.  But there is a point a vacation would be nice.  And many of us take breaks from activism, reform, education, search and support along the way.  However, the world usually doesn't give you long before there it is, in your face, reminding you that being an adoptee is who you are and will always be.

I was in Walmart a couple of months back, yes Walmart it's the only store within walking distance I can get to, and doing my usual grocery shopping.  I turned the corner and there she was.  A woman about 4' 11" tall weighing around 100 lbs.  How can I size a person up that quickly?  And secondly, I'm sure nonadopted people wonder why would I?  Because I am adopted.  And, because the only identifying information I have about my mother that she gave me in her non-id letter through the adoption court is nearly exactly that.  And, because I have been searching for her my whole life.

I also know her hair and eye color as well.  Not many women are that petite and every single time I come across them I engage them in conversation if I can and scan their faces closely for resemblances.  Little are these women aware that I am almost oblivious to our conversations because there is a whole internal dialogue going on inside me that if anyone knew they'd probably turn and run and or immediately notify security.

The hair color of this woman matched too.  Unfortunately, she was turned from away from me and I could not see her face directly.  I pretended to look at items on the shelves on either side of her and moved as unstalkerish (yes adoptees get to make up words we need our own language) as possible to get her to turn towards me.  She was probably around my age and as my brain absorbed this information my first thought was "possibly a sister?"  I know I have at least two siblings from my mother's side.

Unfortunately, nerves got the best of me and I walked on pushed my cart down the aisle and went about my day swallowing the lump in my throat and breathing slowly to stop my heart from pounding so heavily in my chest.  If anyone asked I'd just attribute the shaking to too much coffee.  I should have approached her probably but who REALLY knows how unnerving it can be to be confronted by a perfect stranger in a Walmart no less.  But, this is the life of an adoptee in search forever traveling down the path of "who am I?"

Adoption is ubiquitous to adoptees.  We are constantly told to get over it, don't think about it, or it doesn't matter.  Adoption is the fabric our hearts and bodies are stitched and sewn from.

Recently I've began to delve into my favorite fiction authors.  Even when I escape into fantasy there it is chapter two, main character, and a girl no less.  Orphaned at birth, adopted and abused, sent to an orphanage, and taken in by a family member who became her guardian.  Almost too close to home and definitely enough to bring me back into reality.

Soap operas, forget it, not one around I don't think that doesn't have an adoption story line.  Horror shows, always look to the antagonist to more than likely be an adoptee given up at birth returning to exact revenge on the parents that abandoned them.  Pinterest, social media sites, and online news even adoption in some way, shape, or form is within view.

One day I'll be a ghost to my children and those who have loved me.  But, I will have be a "real" ghost in the capacity that I will have a face, and a voice, and eternal memories that will carry on when I am gone.  Adoptees need to have that as well, or at least the chance at tangible proof of the ancestors and heritage they will always be a part of, and that will always be a part of them.

“Now I know what a ghost is. Unfinished business, that's what.” ~Salman Rushdie

Saturday, February 15, 2014

More Adoption Myth Busting

I've been reading and commenting on an article about the New Jersey bill that will allow adoptees the right to their original birth certificate.  A bill that was passed by the house and the senate but vetoed by Governor Christie last year.  It is more than frustrating to attempt to educate people who refuse to listen or even consider the adoptee voice and experience.  Especially when adoptees ourselves advocate for equal rights, to the same legislators, and it continually falls on deaf ears and closed minds.

Some comments I've encountered recently regarding Adoptee rights:

"Be happy with what you have."  Ok, then let's have the government kidnap your family, ALL of them, and hide them from you in some remote inaccessible area and if you beg and plead long and hard enough and pay enough money they might, just MIGHT, let you know where they are.  Of course, they might not too that is their right.  You have none.  Oh btw, be happy about it.

"No one needs identification these days you can vote without an ID."  Don't confuse identification with identity.  Adoptees deserve their original identities they were born with that is printed on their original birth certificate.  What they do with that is their right just as it is for every other citizen.  Period.

"What if these biological parents are "bad" it should be up to the adopted parents themselves to tell the adoptee if they feel it is right for them to know."  And, what if they are not?  What if they are wonderful?  What if they want contact?  What if they don't?  What if they are deceased?  What if there is a whole biological family to welcome them?  This is what most people get confused, the difference between rights and relationships.  What if's don't matter in relation to OBC access, rights do. 

"These women are going to have abortions instead of adopting if they can be found."  Can we please get OFF the correlations between adoption and abortion FINALLY???  There is not a fact nor a statistic anyone has (or ever has had) that open records will 'cause more women to have abortions.  In fact, the opposite is actual true just look at states like Alaska and Kansas who have never closed adoption records.  Or, to Oregon who opened theirs over a decade ago.  Adoptees are receiving their original birth certificates in other states as well that have opened and no traumatic events are occurring and no tragedies are mounting because of it.  Can we be done with this lame argument now?

I understand adoption is difficult to comprehend for those who have not experienced it themselves.  And, it is not the same as having a relative who is adopted or knowing someone that is adopted.  What adoptees do NOT understand is the frequent dismissal of our requests to be heard and understood.  As if we were whiney little children who really don't know what they want or are need of and instead are and sent off for a nap, a time-out, or are simply ignored.

I really can not wrap my brain around how people fight against us in this really simple basic request for our original birth certificates.  And, how adoptees still are continually denied the same basic human rights as other citizens.  And worse, chastised for asking!

DENIED - By The Government

I plead though they ignore my cries.
The record's sealed is their reply.
Time and time again I ask.
I'm told to put it in the past.
I can't get them to try and see.
They have what belongs to me.
I beg for truth but no one hears.
It only falls upon deaf ears.
I get no matter how I try.
The same stone cold response DENIED.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Adoptees - Healing and Empowerment

In the Quiet of my soul

In the quiet of my soul there dwells, a story that is left to tell.
A life that lives beneath, so still awaiting its release.
Hiding there for many years beneath the layers of my fears.
Afraid to recognize the pain not knowing where to lay the blame.
Tucked away, I feign a smile.
But the pressure grows and all the while.
I dream one day, we'll make them see this burdensome road, this strange journey.
For if our voices join together ceasing not, nor quitting ever.
I believe united we'll reclaim the loss of histories and names.
And, that's enough until the time we'll change their hearts, transform all minds.
So cease not in this quest for truth nor give up on your search for proof.
What we're told that matters not can't be ignored, nor be forgot.
I pray for days and nights sometimes and probably 'til the end of time.
That relief is somewhere close in sight so I can lay to rest this fight.
Returning to truth and honesty at last our spirits will be set free.
And reaching out we'll heal all those lost and lonely wounded souls.

I've been told I'm consumed and obsessed with adoption.  That, I am an angry adoptee.  That I need to get over adoption as everyone has issues them from life experiences and to just leave it all in the past.  The problem is that being adopted can not all be in the past.  It it is very much a part of adoptees in the present and future too.  Just like you can't be unborn, you can't be unadopted.  Our pasts as children, the people who influenced our lives growing up, the genes and biological we come from, are very much a part of our now.

People every day talk about the circumstances and situations that have shaped and are molding their lives.  Just scroll through Facebook (as we almost all do ;) ) hundreds are discussing and sharing about loved ones who are gone, posting pics from childhood, High School, college, weddings, it runs the gamut from A-Z.  If we could just put everything in the past then there would be no wonderful memories and reunions!  But, unfortunately with the good parts of our past come the difficult ones too.

 Recently, I read someone who is not adopted comment on how much someone thinks about adoption and the hurt and pain that it brings up.  And how it's easy not to think about something you "just don't think about it".  And then this person goes on to list every wrong someone has done them over the last twenty plus years.  Ummmm, a little (understatement) contradictory?

For many adoptees, we've had decades of bottled up, unidentified, and confusing, bewilderment we have felt without anywhere safe to express it.  Misunderstood and perplexed because the knowledge of where we came from, the very foundation or our lives is gone, and we are told to be happy and bury the underlying despair and sadness we feel and have felt.  For us it's like opening an unread book and beginning on chapter four, and the previous chapters we are not allowed to have.  It will never be a complete story, and that's what adoptees deal with, incomplete lives.

For adoptees there seems to be different rules when it comes to reactions and emotions about being adopted that we are required to adhere to.  The term "victim mentality" gets thrown about a lot.  Many of us talk about it because there have been no guide books or mentors, no one who understood us and could help us, and instead it became even more confusing when our questions and emotions were dismissed and labeled wrong.  And many, many of us, speak continually and publicly in tireless efforts to change the system of adoption and educate the world as to what these changes can, should, and need to be. 

There is a difference in being angry about something, and being an angry person.  There is a difference in speaking about something to vent, be understood, and supported, and allowing yourself to become a victim because of it.  There is a HUGE difference in writing, speaking, sharing, and encouraging others to do the same about adoption, because there is power in numbers, and there is empowerment for individuals.

“It's not forgetting that heals. It's remembering.” ~ Amy Greene, Bloodroot

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Emotional Impact Being Adopted Has Meant In My Life


I see this person staring back at me and wonder who it is I see?
Are those her eyes?  Is her face the same?
Do I look like him?  What were their names?
Mirrors like pictures tell thousands of tales but the stories told have always failed.
In lending me the slightest clues to endless questions and intangible truths.
For I feel just like an empty shell that has no history or past to tell.
A single light shines all alone in the dark so far from "home".
Burning bright to light the way into the dawn of another day.
To illuminate where I must go and guide my steps through this unknown.
Discovering trails back to where, I'll find that face that's in the mirror.

Some of this may repeat or over lap what other adoptees have written or expressed about being adopted.  That is the great thing about communicating with other adoptees, you finally know your truths are similar to others.  There is a lot of comfort in that especially after being so alone in the world with all the issues of being adopted that are never spoken of, and usually dismissed as unimportant instead.  I enjoy hearing from other adoptees who inspire me with their voices of truth and encourage me to voice mine.

I do tend to speak for other adoptees too, and I feel after 15 years in adoption search, support, education, activism and reform, I can.   I have gleaned a lot of experiences from the voices of thousands of other adoptees.  Today though, I am going to speak of my personal experience about what it means, and how it has felt and still feels, to me being adopted.

Many adoptees will tell you that they have never felt the way I do, and are happy and grateful for being adopted.  They consider their adoptive family their real and true family.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with that in any way.  What I can tell you is that there are a good amount of adoptees, who feel as I do.

It's growing up living a secret double life that no one really knows about, including you.   It's belonging, or many times not belonging, to two separate worlds.  And always, always, trying to reconcile each with the other.

Being adopted means watching from the outside.  Constantly analyzing other families and comparing them to your own.  It's never fitting in anywhere, even inside your own skin.  Because your own skin is all you have to belong to genetically.

Pondering your navel in ways nonadopted people would never think about, and where that connection that once was is now.  Birthdays that are spent wondering if your mother is remembering you, and if she is in what way, good, bad, or indifferent?  Being adopted means being puzzled with the reasons parents could give you away, and walk away, and leave with so many unanswered questions.

Mirrors are tough, because they tell so many stories about you, yet none you really know to be true. Fantasy becomes a huge factor in your every day life.  You are often caught as a child staring off into space, or called on by a teacher for not paying attention.  It's not that you mean to be like this, it's that you don't know how NOT to be like this.

Being adopted means a lot of pretending.   Pretending everything is o.k.  Pretending you are someone you are not, because you have no idea who you really are.  You are always examining others to see how they do it and seem so comfortable with themselves.  You become chameleon like to blend in, and to appease others as you have no true sense of self and you fear further rejection.

 Adopted reality can hit you really hard, like a fast ball to your heart, an unexpected sock in your gut, when you hear your adopted mother snicker and proclaim, “No wonder your mother gave you away”.  And then, a large part of you believes it to be true.   And you always will in some capacity believe this, and hear that voice in the back of your mind.

It can also pull the rug out from under your feet in a matter of seconds, this being adopted, when you hear a social worker say "I'm sorry your biological mother is asking no more mail be sent."  Or, "Your biological father will not claim you are his daughter, put anything in writing, and says he understands your need for information but everyone there is healthy."  No nonadopted person can quite fathom what it means that the people who you were born from want nothing to do with you, ever.   And instead want to brush you, the dirty secret of their lives, off and away under the rug somewhere hopefully you'll never crawl back out from under.

Coping with losses and rejection so deeply unfathomable that sometimes the overwhelming facts and reality of what you face is so unbelievable you can't wrap your mind around any of it.  It all seems like a bad B movie, or an even more outrageous soap opera plot, or a nightmare you'll wake up from eventually.  But it's not.  There is no escape and you live it each and every day of your life.

Some days are easier than others.  Sometimes you can almost nearly forget, at least for awhile.  Of course, it's always there and you realize no amount of denial, food, drugs, alcohol, or other relationships are going to erase the perpetual questions, mend holes in the fabric of your existence, or fill the massive loss adoption has brought to your life.

I hope this gives those who can not understand adoptees some insight into the pain and trauma adoptees can and do endure most all of their lives.  Especially, those who want and need us to be grateful, and thankful, and happy that we were adopted.  I will never be happy to have been adopted, or relinquished, or "left" by two families.  I can only go on to attempt to educate the world and reform adoption, and hopefully help heal and support other adoptees struggling with their personal battles, issues, and truths in their own lives.

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart even when it leads you off the well worn path; and that will make all the difference.” ~Steve Jobs

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Adoptees In Transition

“It’s the same with people who say, ‘Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’ Even people who say this must realize that the exact opposite is true. What doesn’t kill you maims you, cripples you, leaves you weak, makes you whiny and full of yourself at the same time. The more pain, the more pompous you get. Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you incredibly annoying.”  ~Rob Sheffield "Love is a Mix Tape"

I am moving half way across the country in three days.  This move is necessary but it is far from wanted.  I am leaving behind an eleven year marriage that is broken, my three children, friends, and for 30 years now the place I have called "home".  I have given away most of everything I own, donated what I could to charity, and reduced what I have in the last year by about 90%.  I am leaving behind my three children, yes they are grown, they are still "my children".  I am stepping into total unfamiliar territory and out of everything I have known for decades.

I know these roads, and stop lights, and school zones, and neighborhoods like the back of my hand.  I know the comfort of homes I have lived in, playgrounds my children grew up on, comfort food I could get right around the corner, take-out menus from places I already knew the menu from by heart just needed the phone number, and establishments my family celebrated birthdays in.  I know the season's weather, and the time of light and darkness, and where I went through the door every day I called home.

Friends try and tell me how great and wonderful this new adventure is.  It might be what is best for me, but it is based on pain and loss.  It is a lot like being adopted.  Adoptees are expected to be grateful for new families, without being able to mourn for the loss of their original one.  It's like telling someone who is losing their legs to focus on being thankful for their arms.  It undermines their pain.  It causes them to feel misunderstood and for their suffering to be dismissed.

A dear friend who has known me for 25 years or so who GETS ME, said this recently.  She nailed it as far as how adoptees feel about loss, especially those of us who are held at arms length, by two families.  Her comments below:

"Unfortunately, this "adventure" has been forced upon you and it is devastating. I have lost all of my possessions at least a couple of times in my life and it sucks. Starting over with NOTHING sucks! Not knowing the outcome of the "new beginning" sucks! Everyone on Earth wants to have that feeling of belonging...(you especially) and we associate our surroundings..home, furniture, clothes and other "things" with a sense of self. Without family it is all one has to call their own. Losing these things can feel like waking up in the wilderness, naked, and all alone. I DO understand and I know that it's terrifying and I am so sorry that it has come to this."

I feel I've lived in my life walking a tight rope with no safety net below.  I am told I am strong and brave.  I have had no choice.  Adoptees can often find themselves left out in the cold, in the darkest of unending nights, left behind by those that gave them life and those that promised to love them. 

“Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o-er wrought heart and bids it break.” ~William Shakespeare 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Freedom for Adoptees


I plead though they ignore my cries.
The record's sealed is their reply.
Time and time again I ask.
I'm told to put it in the past.
I can't get them to try and see.
They have what belongs to me.
I beg for truth but no one hears.
It only falls upon deaf ears.
I get no matter how I try.
The same stone cold response.

Today is a great day for Americans to celebrate.  For many adoptees it is another day we are denied the same rights as other citizens of this country.  We can believe we are a country that supports the rights of the citizens that live here and celebrate that, but adoptees know and live another truth.

My original birth certificate, the one every other citizen of this country is granted upon request for a small fee, is held by the state by "law".  Laws I had no right or say in, and laws that dictate I am held and bound by agreements made by other parties without my consent.  This is discrimination at the least.

Adoptees live with out full truth.  And are expected to be grateful to do so.  We are NOT!  We are not asking for anything other than what other citizens can have.

So today while you are celebrating your freedom remember that there are citizens who can not do that like others do.  And btw, it not only effects adoptees but their children too.  Hence, my handsome son with the sign in the photo above.  He at a young age got that I am left without the knowledge and capability to know where he or I came from and who he really is too.  If a young 12 year old can understand, why can't legislators?  Why can't the rest of the world?

“Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.” ~Abraham Lincoln

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Adoptee's Genetics Speak - Please Listen Carefully

“DNA is like a computer program but far, far more advanced than any software ever created.”  ~Bill Gates

I grew up within an adopted family genetically opposite of everything I was and grew up believing that everything about me was wrong.  Being relinquished for adoption and transplanted into another family with which you share zero genetics or biological traits can be extremely confusing.   Being told you are just like every other child is not the truth, nor is the denial of the very basic facts of life everyone else has.  The lack of recognition of these issues too complicates bonding and forming functional and lasting relationships with members of your adopted family because they have no understanding of your loss, pain, and ongoing frustrations with trying to fit in.

I hear from many people when I talk and write about  how being adopted can feel say they feel like adoptees do too unwelcome, or rejected, like a foreigner even when surrounded by their biological family and relatives.  The difference is that as ostracized as they can feel, they at least grew up with and or have the knowledge of who they are and where they came from.  What they can not understand is the foundation they were given that when taken away or denied adoptees, can have negative and devastating impacts.

I do not think that my adoptive family and I could be any more different.  But, that is the lottery system of adoption.  Even with trying to match backgrounds genetics speak loudly and clearly.  Unfortunately the "voice" of an adoptee's genetics are usually ignored, the blank slate theory, and expected to be drowned out and unheard and rematched to those of the family they are placed in. 

My adoptive family is the polar opposite of me.  Neither is wrong or right, they are just VERY different.

They are a soft carefully patterned paisley.  I am a boldly colored bohemian print.

They are a predictable, well manicured, and designed English garden.  I am wild flowers growing where the wind blows me.

They are a safe, secure, home in a small residential community.  I am a city abode bustling and surging with lights and sounds and energy.

They are stoic, quiet, and reserved.  I am emotional, loud, and demonstrative.

The information I have received, even if not names, photos, or anything identifying at age 39 about my biological family changed the way I saw myself, my place in the world, and abolished immediately all the unfounded beliefs and incorrect theories I had compiled since childhood about myself.  The surprise of it is almost always reassuring and empowering to finally understand yourself as a unique individual yet belonging to a larger whole, and as a person most other people have always known themselves to be.  After growing up and living without any awareness of any of that, or comprehension of how crucial and vital is it, how positively life altering it can be once obtained and realized. 

However, I will never recover those lost decades of feeling incomplete, unaccepted, and disfavored and feeling somehow it must be my fault.  And that is a huge tragedy in adoption.  A tragedy only adoptees have known and lived for far too long.