Tuesday, August 17, 2010
More On Reunion and Expectations
The picture at the left is me in April of 1989. I was 43, newly divorced and in a relationship with the wonderful man who is now my husband and the love of my life. I was all tied up in this new stage of my life and in this man who really seemed to respect me. I was still in the good barfmuggle fog and, although I was making stabs at searching, I was so frustrated by it all that I lost myself in new love, work, friends and trying to be reassuring to my adult, raised children.
Fast-forward to 1993 and it was double-whammy time. The daughter that I had been told by the SC DSS did not exist in their data bank (a lie) found me and we met each other the same day she called. Then in November of that same year, we found my son. I guess I thought that we could just go on with our lives but with the newly-found family members as an integral part. WRONG.
The truth is not easy to know, sometimes. Whether if fits the fantasy memory or not, the fact is that the adopters really wanted me put in and kept in what they saw as "my place." I wound up a dirty secret for my daughter, who saw me and talked to me without the knowledge of the adopters and this continued up to their passing. There were other hard and painful things going on in her life and it was a trying time for us both. My son, the young man I had told a friend would be, when we found him, either a minister or a convict, turned out to be the latter. I don't know where I got that flash of insight but it was true. He is truly a lost soul and remains one to this day. He wants me in his life but seems to go through spells when he wants no one around, period.
That same year, I quit smoking, lost my job, my father-in-law died, we started noticing that my stepson was having some serious problems and I was dealing with my new marriage. It was getting a rocky start due to the baggage we had brought with us from our less-than-successful first marriages. The only things that survived from that mess were my marriage and my non-smoking efforts, I still don't smoke. I found work on a less responsible, prestigious level, kept fighting to hold my new marriage together and dealt with the on-again, off-again reunion roller-coaster. My reunited son was deep into his addictions and violent behavior. My daughter was dealing with child custody and the demands of her adopters.
Over the years, life has gone on despite the fact that I was getting to know my own flesh and blood and experiencing, again, the loss of my babies. My step-son, deeply depressed, took his own life just before graduation from high school. My marriage evened out and we moved to FL to start over. But it has always seemed that my reunions were static...neither excellent nor bad...just there. I spent a lot of time, and still do, trying to learn and grow and heal. I don't have all the answers but I do know that I am a lot better than I was and that I have learned acceptance of what was and what is.
I also know the difference between the things I can change and the things I can't. Nothing about the past can be undone. I cannot fix, even with all the love in my heart, the problems of another human being..even my own child. Healing comes from within and spreads outward. Looking for it in others is a form of emotional vampirism. No matter what trauma we have experienced through adoption loss, and believe me, there are many traumas just as bad or worse than what we mothers and adult adoptees went through, no one else can make us okay. If that were possible, we would do it and have things just the way we wanted them...and probably be bored to tears.
One of the things I learned about in reunion that still grinds my gizzard (southern, bless my heart) is the burden placed on adopted children, as small children, of responsibility for the emotional welfare of the adopters. I have also seen this behavior of people-pleasing in many other adoptees. That is an unbearable and unfair pressure for any child OR adult. To be fair, I don't think that many adopters realize what they are doing or why. It just seems that the need and the fears outweigh the good of the adoptee.
In a natural parent-child relationship, there is the truism that we seek whatever is both good for our child and what makes that child whole and happy. That seems to stop, with adopters, when what might be good for their adult child and might make them happy is a relationship with the natural mom.THAT is conditional love and I don't like it. This is the whole problem with that "as if born to" fantasy that the Industry promotes.
So many of us stumble through reunion with our eyes wide shut. Some take whatever the opposite number deals out and walk on eggshells. Others learn, after a while to communicate honestly and set reasonable boundaries. It was many years from Werner Von Braun's first combat rockets to the Saturn V which launched our first astronauts into space. He was a pioneer. We are pioneers and, all claim aside, there are no experts except the ones who are living through it. It has just been in the neighborhood of 30 years since the search and reunion phenomenon began.
Until we begin to be taken seriously and are not seen as nebulous threats to each other (actually to the Industry and its customers), the only way we can learn is through experience and, if we are really smart, through the experiences of others. I am hoping that, by the time we learn how to get the rocket launched, it will be a moot point and there will be no more secrets, lies and mothers, babies and adult children in flux. I would love to see a nation that honors mothers rather than preying on the vulnerable ones and deciding who has a right to be a mother. Our constitution takes a beating on this one.
Until then, I would love to take some of the people I know, in reunion, and give them a Cher slap and say, "snap out of it!" Mama, your child is not your problem and adoptee, your Mama is not yours. Own your problems and you'll come a lot closer to finding solutions.
In the words of the late, great Bob Marley, "Let's get together and feel all right."