For Adoptees Only
Usually I’m pretty good about taking out the garbage, but today the sound of the trucks woke me up, and I lay in bed and listened to them drive past the house. I was in so much trouble. It felt like my bones disappeared and were replaced with ether and that someone--yesterday maybe, or last year: the feeling is an old one--punched me in the heart and the gut.
My brain went to work on itself with its sharp little tools of destruction. What good are you? They (I’m housesitting) are going to be so disappointed in you. They asked you to do one thing and you messed up. You messed up last time you housesat for them. You broke a window. You are walking trouble. Who breaks a window when they housesit? And really—it wasn’t a window. It was a door! How expensive are you? You are too much trouble. You were too much for your parents. You were too much for your husbands. You are an expensive mistake.
Almost worse than the brain attack is what was happening in my body. Before I finally fell apart enough to have the courage (desperation) to write about adoption, there was a period of time when I wasn’t able to hike or ride my bike very far. It was as if my legs had already worked out, and they were so full of lactic acid or whatever makes them burn and seize, I’d just sit down and cry.
Something similar happened to my body when I realized I’d forgotten to take out the garbage. My whole self went weak. The thought of getting out of bed and taking a shower seemed equal to stepping up to the line to race the mile, but I didn’t even have my running clothes on. I was still in my pajamas. I was clearly not made to thrive in this world. Or even shower.
There is something called muscle testing that is based on the idea of internal energy which is the basis for Chinese medicine, for acupuncture. My chiropractor uses applied kinesiology to read the body: this is a form of muscle testing. So maybe, if you have gone to a chiropractor who does applied kinesiology, you have experienced muscle testing and didn’t even know it.
The idea behind muscle testing is that the body inherently knows what strengthens it and what weakens it. If you hold a can of Diet Coke in one hand and someone does muscle testing on you, I’m betting you’d test weak.
I know. Hippie shit.
But I have lived a life of muscle testing closed adoption, and I would like to argue it has made me weak.
The good news is that it hasn’t made me consistently weak. Last night, for example, I was strong. I was myself. Then, this morning I forgot to take out the garbage and my limbic brain went Lost in Space on me: warning! warning! warning! and my system got flooded with adrenalin and cortisol and god knows what else and suddenly the day stretched before me like a mountain of sand. This is going to be so hard. And, because my brain decided the day was going to be hard, it is. All I see is trouble.
Yesterday I was euphoric. At one point I was walking home and I was thanking everything I passed for existing. The fire hydrant was beautiful to me. The grass. The mailboxes. I could not believe I got to be on this planet to do this dance of my life. It was wild. I was so happy.
I took an Uber today, and for the first time, I exchanged fewer than ten words with the driver. We went down the streets in silence. He was in the driver’s seat; I was in the passenger’s seat. A stranger might have thought we were friends, or a couple. It was an opportunity to know someone I may never meet again, but I’m like a piece of Velcro with all the loops worn off. There’s no stick to me today. I let this opportunity for connection slide away, and my worldview is confirmed: I am alone.
You see, I forgot to take out the garbage. There is something wrong with me.
And that’s one of the hardest things about being adopted.
The feeling of being wrong.
The answer, I believe, to breaking this pattern of weakness is connection. So, even though I want to hide, I’m going out into the world. I’m going to show up and work with my writing partner. I’m going to hang out with a four-year-old and play monster trucks. I’m going to pretend everything is okay because, really, I believe this: it is. It’s just my brain needs to learn the real truth and to see what is right in front of me and what has been there all along.