Empowerment - Part 2
I think this is my 318th blog post. I feel like I’m close to crossing some sort of finish line.
I’ve been taking a break from blogging because I realized I was having experiences so I could write about them more than so that I could be fully present in my life. But this post has been on my mind, particularly because I’d written “Part 1” not long ago when I wrote about learning to paddleboard. This is going to be the second of three or four posts about empowerment.
I had forgotten what I’d started out with over two years ago here, and I was both surprised and not surprised to see it was a picture of me with my mom, and that I’d written, as a way to close out the post, I was lucky to be adopted.
I’d written the post not long after I’d published You Don’t Look Adopted, and I was just entering the spin cycle of You said what was on your mind. Let’s see what happens next. My book was not about being lucky as much as it was about being traumatized and lost. As almost any adoptee will tell you though, lucky is our key word. It’s the universal label for people who aren’t adopted to imagine and describe the adoptee’s experience. You didn’t have a family, and then, lucky, lucky you, a family came along and made you theirs
Adoptees as a whole are not idiots, and they learn to nod and parrot back, as I did, I am so lucky.
Have you ever gone to a funeral where the mourners talk about how lucky they were to lose their beloved? Have you ever visited the aftermath of a town hit by a tornado to talk with the now homeless residents how lucky they are to have lost their houses?
Because loss isn’t generally seen as lucky. Because loss as seen, often, as sad. Devastating. Tragic. As, uh, loss?
But not many people want to look like whiney babies, so it’s easier to talk about luck than heartbreak and confusion and loss when you are surrounded by people who claimed you, paid for you, filled out paperwork to change your name, people you love, people you now see as family (until you look too closely and your brain and sense of self gets confused by the fact that your roots and their roots are not from the same tree, but, whatever, let’s jump back to luck, it’s easier to process).
All of this is to tell you that something amazing happened. I have been writing and writing and writing for the past two and a half years, trying to find myself, my place in the world. Trying to figure out how to negotiate being adopted, negotiate being hit by the fact that when I was 50 years old I realized the reason my life has been so confusing and such a puzzle to me and to those around me was that I’d been carrying around unprocessed grief and DNA of strangers for all of my life. How can you live as an adult, making decisions, having feelings, partners, jobs, houses, cars, children, when you have no idea, truly, who you are? Often you create a mask, and then something happens: a parent dies, you lose a spouse, a child, a pet, a job, and unexpectedly the mask slips and you suddenly a car in a storm whose lights can barely cut through the fog that surrounds you.
Writing helps. Finding out that I could write “my story” even though I’d never met either of the people who had created me made me feel more present in the world. Blogging helped. Publicly exploring feelings, beliefs. Putting my handprint on the side of the cave of life.
But I still felt…rocky. Not strong in my bones.
And then I got on a paddleboard.
I’m a big believer in the magic of the perfect people coming to you in your life at the perfect time. Last month when I googled “paddleboard lessons and Santa Cruz” I won the lottery. Portside Paddle was the first in the lineup, and so I clicked and booked an appointment for a group lesson.
This morning I had my fourth “group” lesson. I use quotes because each time it has been just me and Burleigh Cooper, the instructor who used to be a lawyer but who retired early to create this company (as well as some other non-profits) with his wife, Helen, a marine biologist, as a way to share with other people their passion for the sport of paddleboarding and their love of and deep concern for the ocean.
It’s hard to write about my experience with Burleigh and Portside Paddle without sounding like either a giant Hallmark Card or a hardcore salesperson, so I have to think about how to tell you just how important this experience has been for me, and how I believe the action of going out onto the ocean on a paddleboard with a gifted teacher is what this (adopted) person needed to get to the next level of health and well-being. My brain is changing. My body is changing. My outlook on my life is changing.
Let me think about this. I’ll get back to you soon.
In the meantime, to check out Portside Paddle, go here: https://portsidepaddleco.com.
I can’t wait to hear your stories.