Tweeting Adoption with Maeve
Maeve was the fourth adoptee, aside from my brothers, I had ever met face to face. I was the first for her. We barely paused to say hi before we started talking about what it was like for us to be adopted.
You know when you go to a river and you put your toe in and then your foot and then you go up to your knees to get used to the water? We didn’t do that. I don’t even remember what we said to each other. What I do remember was feeling I was safe.
Usually a conversation with a new person is, however subconsciously, a dance to get him or her to like me. I’m so used to doing it, to charming my way to safety, I think that behavior is who I am. I think I naturally listen more than I talk; I think I naturally put my needs second (“I don’t care where we go--what do you feel like eating?”). When I don’t do those things, when I talk a lot or when I say I want Mexican food, I feel I am standing on the edge of something dangerous. How can someone like me when I talked more than he did? What if she hates Mexican food but just didn’t want to say anything?
Why is having someone like me a way for me to feel safe? That question is how I think you can often separate adoptees from those you weren’t adopted.
I have a story for you:
You’re surprised, but you’ve found yourself on a project that could go almost a year, minus a few months. It’s steady work, a 24/7 job, but you’ve been told that when the job ends, you’ll have created the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen, and it will be yours to take home and cherish for the rest of your life. It may define how you see yourself. You may love it more than you love yourself, So, although the hours are long and although you often feel uncomfortable and uncertain about what you are making since you can’t see it, you just keep going.
Because, one day soon, you know, you will be face to face with the beauty of your existence.
Then, like out of the movies, your world jolts you awake. Everything is closing in on you and you are being squeezed to death by the very walls that have housed you all the time you have been creating this beautiful, unseeable thing. You are going to die before you get to see the fruits of your labor. Everything is pitch dark. Your head might explode from the pressure. You would cry if you could, but your mouth is full of fluid. All this work for nothing. This is the worst moment of your life, and it goes on and on. You didn’t know your body could take this much abuse.
And then, suddenly, your head emerges into the opposite of everything you have experienced for the last however long. It is the opposite of close. It is the opposite of safe. It’s like your skin is peeled back and what you used to be you is now gone: you are part of something but you are alone. You close your eyes against what hurts them and a forceful fleshy thing thrusts you into a new feeling, not soft. This is not what you expected, but you were created to have this moment, and you know it’s coming, the beautiful thing, but the thing that is not soft, not home, takes you away from what smells like you, what sounds like you, what tastes like you.
You open your eyes. You open your mouth. For the rest of your life, part of your brain, the back, dark, controlling part, will remember this moment. The moment when you became skin of longing instead of a baby who was sealed by the connection with the most beautiful thing. You do your best to be like everyone around you as the dark part of your brain mutters: not it not it not it not it not it. You do your best to be likeable because you know that the whole world can slide away in an instant and that, like that, you lose what feels like the most important part of yourself, the heart that beat you alive.
There is another question that comes after How can someone like me when I talked more than he did? What if she hates Mexican food but just didn’t want to say anything? It is What if I am left all alone?
I used to teach English as a second language, and there is a look people have when they speak English when it is not their native language. They look to the side when they talk, like they are reading their own brains, like they are lying. I used to do that a lot, look anywhere but in someone’s eyes when I would talk with them. I’ve been working on that.
Maeve’s eyes are very blue and clear and…real. We looked at each other straight on quite a bit while we talked and talked and talked about our experiences living as an adoptee. It was hard not to over talk. I had so much to say. I think we both wanted to hear: I have the same feelings. I had the same experiences. You are okay, and that is what I heard. We were so similar. Two spirits living outside of their corporeal bodies, looking for acceptance, looking for home. There was a great comfort in this, but not a lot of answers.
Until Maeve started teaching me about Twitter. Suddenly our stories of loss and sadness and confusion disappeared. We were intent on our phones. She was teaching me how to reach out. How to connect. I felt stronger in my body. I could feel the muscles in my arms.
Being with Maeve was like wearing floaties in the pool. I’m not the greatest swimmer even though I love the water, and so it’s always an effort not to drown.
Writing about adoption is interesting because the language I was taught to speak and write is the language of people who weren’t adopted. There is no word in the dictionary, for example, that means what happens to your brain when you are born and are taken away from your mother.
The world at large doesn’t know Maeve as Maeve. But because she was raised thinking her adoption was a shameful secret, most people in Maeve/not Maeve’s life don’t know she is adopted. She goes by the name her birth mother gave her when Maeve was born. The birth mother who hired a lawyer to tell Maeve/not Maeve never to contact her again the first time Maeve reached out.
The most beautiful part of Maeve is Maeve, but Maeve’s brain, I think, believes the most beautiful part of Maeve is the connection she has with her birth mother, and since that connection is shit—well, I don’t know what Maeve’s brain thinks, so let me jump to mine—since the connection to my birth mother who also refused contact with me is shit, my brain makes the logical conclusion.
The world tells adoptees they are lucky, but the brains of many adoptees tell them they are shit.
What if both things are true? What if adoptees are lucky shits?
For some reason, that makes me feel good because I think it’s funny. My birth mother may have turned her back on me, but I’m still here. And I want to find the funny in it because the sad is so damn tiring. I’m going to make a baseball team The Lucky Shits just for the shirt.
Anyone want to play?