99 Ways to Feel Good as an Adopted Person
In October, I’m headed to Martha’s Vineyard with some writers I love to finally write the e-book I needed when I was 6, 13, 16, 18, 22, 30... The years start to pile up as I think about the times I needed something. All the times I tried going back to therapy, tried a new diet, tried a new college, a new boyfriend, a new job, a new place to live, a new hairstyle, a new set of deviant behaviors, a new car, a new set of goals. I was like a ship desperate for a port, claiming any rock or reef as home until I broke free and drifted yet again, moving away from a pain I could not name.
I asked other adoptees and some first and adoptive parents to contribute. I’m interested in people’s ideas about what adoptees need to live a vital, fully realized life. Mostly, of course, I am interested in what adoptees think, but we are, after all, part of a triad, and so I think there is greater power in letting everyone have a say. I don’t mind being wrong or looking foolish—I’d rather have a book out there that people argue with than have no book at all. At least there will be conversations about adoptees and needs and how to move to health and happiness and full acceptance of self and situation.
Often when you peel an onion, the first layers come off fairly easily. I feel like the biggest onion in the world, one where the layers get thinner and more tightly attached the closer I get to the heart. Just when I think I’ve gotten to the heart of the heart of my grief and confusion and lack of self-awareness, I find that I’m in deep, still in the dark.
How do I feel good during this process? I have days where getting out of bed doesn’t always seem like a great idea. I get so tired being a traumatized onion. Tired all the way to my soul. I want to be held, rocked, reassured, loved, fed. I want the world to love me to a place of rest, but I have to get my ass in gear, get dressed, make money, find a way to keep on keeping on when really many days I just want to lie down in the middle of the street and sink into the tar and disappear, because if my original mother and father didn’t care enough to keep me, how in the name of the sweet lord am I supposed to find the strength to stay in this mask of skin?
If you grow up trying to please people, trying to make sure you aren’t given away, if you grow up always testing limits, boundaries, people’s ability to stay with you when you are behaving like a wild animal, you don’t get a chance to be yourself. You don’t get a chance to learn how you feel when you are hungry, lonely, in love, excited. If you always tap into someone else’s feelings before you feel your own, you exist as a shadow, a whisper.
What if there was a list of 99 things an adopted person could do to feel good? What if I did #12: go paddleboarding (!!!!) and realized that standing on a moving surface was salve for my uneven brain? What if other adoptees were also trying #12 and I could communicate with them about their experience? What if we got together and did #12 as a group? What if we talked about our feelings, our experiences? What if we talked about other things we’d like to do together? What if we started to live in our bodies, our eyes, our hearts?
In the workshops I have been doing with Pam Cordano, I have seen what happens when 12 adopted people get together with the intention of living a life that feels more theirs, more joyful, more real. I have felt my skin pulse with home. I have heard the key in the lock, the door to self in community opening, flooding with light.