My Daughter Turns 20
It’s been a year of thinking, reading, writing and speaking about adoption, and I am feeling like a piece of paper that has been rubbed thin by vigorous erasing. You’d think it would be the opposite, that maybe I’d be feeling like a piece of paper thickened by words and pictures, but adoption is…weird.
I recently started working with someone who has ALS, and while I have spent the last year staring into the face of the trauma that comes with relinquishment, with early loss of the mother, now I look at that trauma in a new light. The thing about ALS is that the communication between the brain and the muscles breaks down, and so you die. The thing about adoption is that often the communication between birth parents and adoptive parents breaks down (or doesn’t exist). The communication about adoption between parents and child breaks down (or doesn’t exist). The communication between the child’s true felt self and the false self she creates to please her family breaks down (or doesn’t exist), but all of these things can be raw material for healthy growth and transformation.
When you have ALS eventually you can’t breathe on your own, and unless you get a tracheotomy, you die.
So I have a new perspective on the things adoption has given me.
This does not mean I think it’s a good idea to tell adoptees they are lucky they have the family they have, the opportunities they have, the life they have. So much has been taken from babies who were taken from their mothers: let these people have whatever they want (is my philosophy). If adoptees want to cry for decades because their grief is so deep and bone-painful, just hug them and hand them tissues. They’ll get over it. Or they won’t. It’s not your business.
I have decided to use my grief as rocket fuel. I want to see how much I can accomplish in the time I have left on this planet. I want to see how purely I can love. I want to have fun. I want to be easy in my skin. I think I want to live in a trailer and sit on the steps and drink a beer and watch the sun set. Granted, I don’t really like beer or how it makes me feel, so maybe I’ll pour it out and fill the containers with water so I can look like a wild thing while really I’m just hydrating.
I can live with grief. It’s a hollowness in my solar plexus that makes me feel unmoored and unsafe at unpredictable times, but I can try to shove it full of cookies or hamburger or I can go to Target and try to buy enough things to make me feel solid on the earth. Whatever. Who cares. I can do yoga. I can meditate. I can call a friend. As long as I don’t judge myself and make myself feel worse for having expensive or sloppy self-care methods, I’ll be focusing on the self-care. Maybe I’ll become the most efficient self-care person around. Maybe when I’m feeling super sad I’ll walk to a mountaintop and Ommm until my heart sparkles, but chances are better I’ll be heading for an icy container of Ben and Jerry’s Super Fudge Chunk, and if I’m going to beat myself up while I chew, that is self-care gone to shit.
Twice last week people told me their dreams and then they told me they are afraid to chase them. They told me they are afraid of looking vain. Of failing. Of looking like they think they are special.
I get it.
Stay small. Do what you are supposed to. Should yourself to death.
I’ll be outside on the steps, drinking my fake beer.
It takes a lot of focus to chase your dreams. I find my brain is so comfortable in telling me things that keep me inside. My brain loves to tell me how easily everything could fall apart. My brain loves to terrify me, but I’m waging a counterattack. This next year it’s going to be me against that big scoop of oatmeal that occupies my skull.
This year, I’m adopting a whole new way of thinking.
It goes like this: What do you want? Okay. Let’s go get it.