The Language of Longing
My friend’s cat loves to sit at the window and watch the birds in the Japanese maple. Every morning he stands on his back legs, reaches up, catches the top of the blind, and uses his weight to drag it down so he can drive himself crazy with longing.
When he sees a bird, his body ignites, and you can see the electricity travel from his sharply pointed ears to the tip of his bristled tail. The birds sing and the cat is so alive it looks like every cell in his body has become a pin.
I watched this happen today and suddenly I was in tears. It’s so hard to describe what it feels like to live as an adopted person. I have to go to my hairdresser today so I can continue looking like a blonde, and last week when I was there for a cut, she told me she didn’t believe adopted people were any different from other people. She knew about my book and she feels it is important to talk through my appointments, and so somehow we ended up talking about her thoughts regarding people’s resiliency to recover from early mother loss.
It’s almost enough to make me want to stay gray. During my last appointment I said it was people like her and comments like that that made being adopted so hard sometimes. There was a moment of silence as she cut my bangs, and I wondered if our relationship was severed. It’s not easy to find someone who cuts your hair in a way you like, so although I wanted to walk out and never see her again, I also was very attached to her scissor skills.
I said I was sorry and that I was tired and that it’s really hard being told what it’s like to be adopted by people who aren’t adopted. She nodded and I felt sick inside. I wished I hadn’t said anything and I wished I had said more. I wished my words were flames and that they would have burned her to the ground. I wished my words were flowers and she would have marveled at each one as it opened in her hand, glorious and full of all the world’s meaning.
I would rather be a photographer than a writer when it comes to many things, including adoption. I would like to show you an imagine and let you feel what you feel without having to sink into words. I would like to try to talk to you that way, show you the tired eyes of someone who looks as if she has been scanning the horizon her whole life for a boat to appear instead of writing to you about what it feels like to long for something that will never arrive.
Three of my four parents have written books. None worked in images. I am driven to use language in order to talk about something for which there often are no words. What word is there for the feeling you have the first time you talk to the women who created you and she says she has no interest in meeting? What word is there for the bright light that goes on inside your body when you see your odd hand gestures acted out by a stranger you found on 23 and Me? How do I tell you that every day part of me wants to die because this world hurts, because my skin does not feel right: it aches and wants to disappear? How do I tell you this and in the same breath tell you I love you; I love myself; My skin feels so alive, so good and I feel so lucky to be here?
The cat gets to have his feelings, gets to ache with the desire to decapitate the bird and eat the tiny heart. His conversation with the world is in the wild song of his spine. It’s private and better than any sex you will ever have.
I will keep writing. I will also keep taking pictures. Maybe I can best find myself in the space between words and photographs. Maybe it’s better if I focus only on Did I say what I wanted to say? instead of Did you hear me?
Did I sing the song I was meant to sing? Did I show up? Was I fearless in this life? Did I allow myself to long for the bird even though a pane of glass separates us and I will never know what it is like to bite down, to taste the beating heart, to be one hundred percent myself?