If I wear my bathing suit when I go out walking in the morning and carry a towel, I can head out to, say Natural Bridges, take off my outerwear, dive in the water, towel off, and then walk back home. That is what I did this morning. It was wonderful. I still, hours later, feel tingly and strong.
I have lived in Santa Cruz for almost a year and a half and I just realized I could do this.
There is a deeper truth here. My legs are different than they used to be. Think white chicken. They surprise me and so I cover them up, but I’m covering them up more in service to the world (who wants to see that?) than to myself. When I’m alone, they are just my legs, but strangely older.
I realized today how deeply I am affected by my worry about what people think of me. The irony is that half of my brain doesn’t give a flying foot what anyone thinks, but then there is this wobbly other half that stops to consider, Hold on! Don’t bend over to tie your shoe lace? What if you wobble? What if you fall over? What if someone sees you do this? I mean, really. It’s crazy.
I was carrying my towel today in a long-handled bag. I had it over one shoulder but then my arms couldn’t swing normally. I thought, What if you looped both ropes over your shoulders and wore it like a backpack?, but then I thought, What if you look like an idiot trying that? What if you think it looks okay and actually you look insane from behind?
This is embarrassing to write, but I’m here to figure out what gets in my way as an adopted person (for I’m guessing I’ll never be, in my mind, just a person), and since historically no one was real with me about the whole experience because I didn’t have anyone around me who even knew what was real about being relinquished and adopted, I am going for it to clear the veils of confusion and baloney at least for me, and hopefully maybe for you.
I was listening to Maria Shriver talk on a podcast, and she talked about how hard it was for her when her mom died. She said she thinks you are a different woman after your mom dies. I would take this a step further and say you are a different person when you lose your mom at birth. This means that if you were relinquished and either fostered or given a second mom, when that one dies and when your first mother dies a physical death, you are different person three times.
Maybe caring about what other people think is a way of trying to figure out who you are by sensing who you think you are in other people’s eyes. The only problem is that it’s like living in a cage in order to feel safe.
What I know is that sometimes looking stupid is so so so fun. When I met my birth father I saw he had a goofiness, a silliness, that was familiar to me. It was silly of me to lie down on the stage during my last adoption talk, and it was something my birth father might have done, too. Silly and really fun. I didn’t care what other people thought. I was thinking about how I could be my truest self on stage and deliver my message in a way that people would be able to both see and hear.
Another thing about adopted people is that they are really good at presenting one way but feeling another. I think most of my friends, even my close friends, would think I was fairly fearless. I’m not sure they know I care what other people think. And yet it’s on my mind a lot! It’s like when you carry the critical voice of a teacher in your head and you get confused and think it is your own voice, and that voice keeps you in a near-constant state of anxiety and it’s not even yours!! This part of me that cares what other people think is not even me, because really, really, really, I don’t care. I don’t want to hurt people, but I know that I am who I am and what others think of me is just a reflection of what they think of themselves. I need to separate who I am in my head and who are the crazy voices I picked up along the way and drop them off at the 7/11.
This gets me back to the ocean.
I’m afraid to go swimming alone and to get hit by a wave and to have strangers see me eat it in the ocean, my body get tangled in moving water. I’m afraid of drowning, but that’s a separate fear. These waves aren’t big enough to kill me—they are big enough to take me down at the knees. And then I would have to lose my balance publicly! And, yet, by publicly I mean at the beach with maybe one or two people noticing.
In two weeks or so Frosty Hesson is taking me out on a surfboard. I told him I was afraid of the water, but that’s not it. I’m afraid of losing control, of looking like an idiot.
That’s so boring.
I’m calling myself on this one.
I need to focus on what I think more than on what you think or on what Frosty Hesson thinks.
Pam Cordano said to me the other day, I’m a miracle and I’m ready to have fun. It was one of the best sentences I’d ever heard.
See you tomorrow.