Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Just Plain Worn Out

I have a relatively new adoptee friend. I helped her mother find her and they have had one of the most decent reunions I have seen. They were both ready. They both needed each other in their lives but both had become their own person. But my adoptee friend is not feeling well. She is very tired and I don't blame her.

She is a mother and a grandmother. Her daughter is ill and she spends a lot of time taking care of her grandchildren while her daughter is treated for her condition. That is a very active, all boy pre-schooler and a happy, playful infant girl. She also runs her own business from her home.

As an adoptee, she has been raised to be a caretaker to everyone and to their emotions. She has been the recipient of very conditional love from her adopters and they think nothing of making heavy demands of her. Learning to say "No" has been an issue with her. Now, in a new relationship with her Natural Mother, and dealing with the ups and downs of emotions that come with reunion, she is feeling the effects.

It is that way on both sides, that of the Mother and the Adult Child. The intensity of the emotions, dealing with adoptive family members, running the gauntlet of everyday life, all this can enervate you in a New York minute. If I were to give anyone who is in a new reunion any advice (not on reunion relationships because I obviously suck at that), it would be to get plenty of rest, eat right and take vitamins. Our emotions act on our bodies just as much as our physical activity and if there was ever an ultra-emotional time in any one's life, it would have to be at reunion.

I am dealing with a beloved pet with cancer, a husband with a chronic condition that flares up now and then, trying to get the house ready and hope for a buyer, dealing with issues of septic systems, wells and other lovely necessities at our property in WV, plus dealing with the problems of my raised children. I am also dealing with the estrangement from my oldest child after 17 years in reunion. That may be a blessing in disguise, because I was never able to understand what she wanted from me and I always felt drained whenever we talked.

There comes a time for both Mothers and Adult children when we have to go for some "Me" time. I'm not talking about backing off from a reunion, although some find they have to, but the more prosaic ideas of time for oneself...some self-pampering and relaxation.

And it might be a good time for my new friend to reflect on the fact that she has spent the biggest part of her life being a caretaker for the feelings of others. That, in itself, is enough to wring you out and bring you down. Observing from the outside, where it is not my child that is of concern, I see a lot of co-dependency in many adopter/adoptee relationships. They obey a tacit, covert command to participate in a life built upon a legalized lie and the expectations of the adopters. I'm sorry, but that can't be healthy. It is no more healthy that the fog many of us Mothers live in from surrender to reunion and the way many of us try to re-claim our babies from the persona of the adult adoptee or allow ourselves to be used by them out of guilt.

In the more severe cases of this dysfunction of the adoptive home, I have seen adults adoptees who never learned to work things out by honest communication but who are masters at manipulation. I have seen those who alternate between emotional neediness and raging anger. I have witnessed the most nasty behavior from some that I have ever seen. Their lives are ruled by their anger and misconceptions, many implanted by their adopters. The lucky ones are the ones who look within themselves for their identity and also recognize that bullshit stinks.

This is not true of all adoptees across the board, but it is indicative of enough of the population of adopted people to be problematic. For many of us who surrendered our babies, it is equally enraging to find these damaged adults (and it is noted that some are more damaged than others and some function better than others). We were backed against a wall and had no choice but to place our newborns, beautiful and filled with promise, into the hands of the Industry, trusting that they would be placed with paragons of parental perfection. Many found good, loving people but even the best didn't make up for the pre-verbal trauma of separation from the mother. And for Mothers like me, who found badly damaged adult children, it has been heart-breaking, anger-producing and, yes, exhausting.

I am a big fan of the mini-vacation. Even if it is nothing more than a day spent in one's PJ's, the phone and the Internet turned off and a good book, we need restoration for our emotions and spirits. My new friend needs a "Me" day, I need a "Me" day and I can think of quite a few family members and friends who could benefit from a lot of "Me" days.

I just threw the makings of an easy Beef Stroganoff into the crock pot. I am in my comfy lounger with the kangaroo pockets in front and have soft socks on my feet. I am reading an F. Paul Wilson "Repairman Jack" novel and Rocky is asleep beside my chair. Hubby is experimenting with baking, again and the a/c is set just right.

Me Day, here I come. Join me, if you need to.


Laura in Mobile said...

As usual, you said so many things that resonate with me. I fell into the trap of trying to "reclaim" my baby, and then later, into allowing myself to be used and abused. She and I have come a long way in the seven-plus years of reunion, but it just dawned on me while reading your post that there have, indeed, been many breaks of contact interspersed. My daughter and I are in a very good place right now, with mutual respect being the key ingredient, but I think that both of us are ever wary of how quickly the situation can degenerate if we lose sight of what matters most to us. She is extraordinarily busy with graduate school, and I am insane here a thousand miles away, homeschooling my youngest, working part time, and being solely responsible for the well-being of my household. She and I still try to talk once a week, but it doesn't always happen.

The advice you give here to those new in reunion, regarding taking care of oneself at this critical time, is key. All I did for the first three months was cry, drink, sit by the computer waiting for an email/pm from her, obsessively write in my journal, and ream my mother out over the phone. I was a hot mess, and I am coming to find out that my daughter was the same over on her end! The gamut of emotions brought me to my knees, and there was a healthier way of dealing with them that I just didn't seek.

Your me-day sounds lovely and much-deserved.

KimKim said...

Even if I had a choice as is sometimes thrown at me, it was so hammered into me that keeping her would be a highly selfish thing to do. I was also not in a place of life or confidence where I felt like I could stand up against all the reasons given and demanded that she stay with me. It upsets me deeply to be told that I am some pig who threw my child away. It didn't feel like I had a real choice at the time. So I don't belong to the same club as you older mums but I feel like I was really undermined and bullied and brainwashed and I also blame myself for being weak but fucked if I'm going to have some angry pig on the internet talk for me or decide that I threw my child away. It's so tiring to be called an abandoner it's so not how it was. not going to read her blog, that's a good start I guess.

About what you wrote, I try to back off and give my daughter space, she has so much going on for her right now. I don't want to burden her with my emotions nor make demands on her. I worry that I am looking like I don't care but I am just trying to not be that extra pull on her emotions. Reunion is overwhelming not just for us but for them. In another way I feel like I am not really wanted.

I'm so sorry your reunion is at a close right now, sorry about little dog too. Sending you lots of love.

Your blog posts give me comfort thank you for writing them.

Von said...

Anyone even thinking about or hoping for reunion would find Evelyn Burns Robinson's books helpful on reunion.Don't go there until you've read them if you want to make the best of an almost impossible task.Thanks adoption you just keep on giving!