After writing my head off for a year, I hit a wall. Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, I had nothing to say. It was as if someone had taught me to surf and I’d been riding waves day after day after day until one morning I went to the beach to find the ocean gone.
What happened was that I met a woman at a bar. I learned her story, and the lens through which I was used to looking at the world fell away. This sounds exhilarating, perhaps, and it was, but it was also deeply unsettling and…depressing. It was as if someone had dug into my psyche and had written my limiting beliefs in huge letters on a white board. They boiled down to If you dream big ,you will fail.
I can’t tell you her story because it’s something I am working on for another project, but I can tell you this: no one I have ever met has faced the kind of adversity this woman has faced and is facing, and no one I have ever met has been as innovative and as creatively successful as this woman has been and is being.
One of my limiting beliefs was: if things get really hard, seemingly cruel, the universe is telling you to quit. If this woman had quit when things got as hard for her as they did, she would have died.
What if I looked at adversity as opportunity instead of punishment?
One thing many adoptees struggle with having to hear that being adopted is a gift, an opportunity for a new and better life, and I think this communication (this is how I, a non-adopted person, see your life, leaving the adoptee furious and depressed and invisible) is damaging, and yet I am headed in that direction. So I have to be careful because I know, I feel, the terrible loss of being relinquished, and I believe my brain was damaged in the exchange.
I believe this because I do and think things that feel firmly out of my control. I believe this because I can feel that sometimes, often, I am not standing at the controls in my brain, and whatever is spinning the dials is dark and hurt and dangerous. (And this is why people who aren’t adopted, I believe, can never truly understand what it is like to be adopted, just as Tim O’Brien said in The Things They Carried that people who haven’t been to war can’t understand the stories of those who have.)
When we think of our bodies, what makes up our bodies, generally we think about bones and muscles and internal organs. It wasn’t until recently that anatomists recognized the important role fascia plays in our bodies, our bags of skin.
Fascia is a connective tissue that runs over all our organs and muscles like a spider web, like Saran Wrap, like a giant sweater that provides support and holds things together. When it is relaxed, it is strong and flexible, but when it is excessively strained or traumatized, it becomes tense and limits movement, causes pain.
I think adoption is like fascia and because I wasn’t taught anything about it, it became rigid, affecting everything. I need to know how to stretch the body of adoption, love it, teach it the world is a safe place. And this is the opportunity part of adversity.
Look how much help I need. I need doctors, body workers, and thinkers to find ways to help adoptees stretch into health, into a sense of well-being. I need these same people to study how the brain works, how the body works, and find ways to undo the damage years of denial (I was lucky I was adopted. I love my parents. I lost nothing.) have done to my physical and mental being (I am alone and in so much trouble.)
I’m not saying look at the bright side for the sake of making everyone else around you happy. I’m saying being adopted, being human, is super complicated, and that it is more fun to see what you are capable of doing than it is to lie face down in the mud thinking about what a shit show your life is.
Here’s to rebirth.