Shadows post The Courage to Talk About It a couple of days ago got me thinking about being in the middle.
I believe this is the reason so many adoptees, those who search, those who don’t, those who talk about it, those who don’t, and, in general, most of us would say that we would rather not be an adoptee. We would have rather been born to one family, or the other family, and not transferred from one to the other. To put it as simply as possible, what we really want is to not have to deal with it at all; not have to balance the good against the not so good parts of adoption.
My first thought was of course no one would ever want to be an adoptee. Why would they?
But then I started thinking more and more about not only the impact of what it means to be adopted but also the multiple yo-yo effects, so elegantly noted here by Shadow.
No one wants to hear an adoptee say that they don’t want to be adopted. No one likes to hear us talk about our grief, our feelings of loss, or our anger at being in such a complex, confusing, and yes sometimes frustrating situation. When we do talk about it, sometimes, what we say seems to hurt, in one way or another, everyone that loves us. Knowing that is a huge burden we, adoptees, bare, as best we can, even when we understand it isn’t really our burden to bear. We all handle it differently. Just knowing how our own feelings may hurt those we love, hurts us too, which is why most of us go to such lengths to protect those we love by keeping those feelings to ourselves, sometimes, at the expense of our own emotional well-being. As adoptees, it seems, no matter what we feel, we take the chance that our feelings are going to hurt, not only us, but those we love as well, and there isn’t really anything we can do about it, or to stop it, other than to stay silent.
One one side we have our parents who raised us. Now for those of us who had good parents, who did their absolute best with forethought and grace, well it’s pretty hard to imagine life without them in our memories and in our daily lives.
On the other side we have our parents who created us. Whose genetic heritage was passed down to us, as it was passed down to them, as far back as you can go. A family who, we should have by all rights grown up in. They should have been the ones we have in our memories, but we do not know them.
In the middle you have several things happening:
The residual lasting effects from losing your family that can show up in any number of ways. The feelings of rejection. The need and desire to know why? The need and desire to know them. And that is just a few from a long list of impacts. But those impacts are not accepted as valid, rather “if” they are found in you, the solution is to move past them, ignore them, delete them from your psyche, because they are not compatible with what adoption and being an adoptee “is”.
That perception is that adoption is ALWAYS the best solution and what a Blessing it is. If you deny you are glad to be adopted, then the perception is that you do not love your family. If you state you are glad to be adopted, the perception is that you hate the family you were born to, and are glad you were not raised by them. There is no acceptable answer when you are the adoptee with good families on each side. Societies perception, as well as sometimes either or both families, is that it is either/or, never both.
And if the above is not enough you have the ego’s and feelings from both of your families. If you search, you are causing one side pain. If you don’t search, you are causing the other side pain. If you spend more time with one than the other, you are causing one pain. Now you may believe you are above all that, and would never do that to your child, but everyone has “tells”, and as the one in the middle we read those “tells” louder than if you spoke the words themselves.
On-line if you don’t publicly hold the adoptive side higher than the other, then you are anti-adoption, and written off by most as not worth listening to. If you do hold the adoptive side higher, then you know it hurts those on the other side. It is a no-win place to live. We aren’t allowed to be ourselves and think and feel for ourselves, without one side or the other getting pissed off or hurt.
In the media, if a story about an adoptee does not include a good portion of it on the adoptive family, then the adoption community gets upset, and if they are mentioned then the reaction is also overblown touting how wonderful adoption is, and the actual story about the adoptee is gone. If you don’t think we get the message loud and clear with statements to the effect of “look how much he loved his family”, “he considered his adoptive family to be his real family” or “why didn’t they include more about his adoptive family in his story”. But what really bugs me the most about the reaction whatever it is, is the need for the families to be discussed at all, when the story is about the individual. I hope you stop and think about that reaction when an adoptee is highlighted, versus the reaction you have when it is a non-adopted person highlighted. When was the last time you read about a non-adopted famous person and commented about the lack of family mentioned in the article?
In the midst of these thoughts, I am also reading S.teve J.obs biography, and perhaps the above reasons are why he chose to not speak about being adopted very often, because it would have been a no-win situation for him either.
Sometimes you can see this confusing mix of realities of what adoption is, and how it can impact an adoptee, and her families in their memoirs, and Lorraine at First Mother Forum has written a great review of Joan Didion’s Blue Nights. I hope you take the time to read it.