Friday, May 27, 2011

Conjectures, Urban Legends and Fantasies

Nothing could possibly be more surreal than the landscape of our dreams and imaginations, especially when fueled by half-truths, lies and rumored legends. I'm not denying that there is a visceral memory and early childhood memories that are real and true for the adoptee. But over the years, adopters avoiding questions, the industry and adopters telling convenient lies, the social perceptions of adoption and being adopted, the mythology and the deepest wishes can create a picture worthy of Charnine or Dali.

The real and valid feelings the adoptee experience are the brush, but, too often, misinformation and unrealistic expectations are the paint with which the adoptee creates an idea of what might be. Meanwhile, Mothers are often busy either trying to blank out the canvas or, at least, present a fairy-tale image of happily ever after for their lost babies. This is why we meet each other across a barrier of warped images, coping mechanisms, preconceptions and a consciousness tainted by an unnatural separation. There is nothing natural about surrender or adoption and there is nothing easy or natural about reunion from what I have seen and experienced.

When I was in treatment at the Rader institute (for bulimia), we had a wonderful group leader who made a contract with each new patient when they joined his group. We had to promise, on a scale of one to ten, to not kill ourselves, not kill anyone else and not go crazy. I managed a ten on the first two but had trouble getting past six on the last one. He kept at me until I got to a ten. I kept trying to figure out why that going crazy thing was so attractive to me that I was reluctant to let go of it. I guess, like everyone else, I was looking for an easy way out and a way to live without having to face life. I was way past insecure and into the melting clocks and purple trees of self-loathing.

I had constructed an image of what life should be, for me and for my children, and it wasn't happening. I was not ready to step out of the fantasy and learn how to enjoy and appreciate and cope, healthily, with reality. I made a lot of progress at Rader. I grew up a lot. I accepted the process and the imperfections of life, people and myself. This all happened a few years prior to reunion. I shudder to think what might have happened had I not been through that particular refining fire.

I'll be honest that reunion took me a few big steps backwards and I had to retrace my steps to reality and sanity. None of the hopes and dreams I had for my two oldest children had come true. Their expectations and imaginations had created just as unreal a scenario as mine had. And it has been so hard to admit that we can't fix each other. It's like going into a museum and looking at a piece of surreal or modern art. Each of us see something different in the painting. Sometimes I wonder if we are even speaking the same language. All we know is that the connection is there and still strong.

Someone told me that no one could understand adoptees but other adoptees. They're right. The same holds true for Mothers. So we are often at an impasse with many of our number in seeking cooperation to achieve goals. There are those that see only the dark and those that won't give up the rose-colored glasses and then there's the pain competitions. That's the reality based on the surreality. So what we need to do is find a way to accept the reality of the other, even if we don't understand it.

Once again, I have set the bar pretty high, even for myself. I can accept that the adoptee FEELS abandoned, but MY children were NOT abandoned. And it is almost impossible for people in the generations following us to even begin to understand the pressure of society and family shame. Conversely, it is hard for us to understand how it feels to be a lilac on a magnolia tree..grafted on to another family and expected to be totally okay and comfortable with that. I can't begin to imagine how it must feel to experience that "otherness" and yet be expected to behave as if it doesn't exist.

So, we would all fit right into a painting by any of the surrealists...trying to get into each others' heads, walking on eggshells and traveling through alien territory. And we are trying to do this with a road map that is drawn from lies, suppositions, our own fantasies, manipulations and the official picture of surrender and adoption presented by the industry, government and society and (all too often) the church. It takes courage to toss away that poorly-charted map and do some serious exploring without any preconceived notions to shed false light on the path.

All this is a fancy way to say that we all need to get real. Where is the logic in, for instance, saying that "my mother is the bitch from hell so I am going to hate 'em all, mistrust 'em all and call them all 'birthmothers' regardless of what they want?" It makes about as much sense as saying that "my adult child is a selfish, whining, demanding monster so all adopted people are mean and childish." But there are Adoptees and Mothers who will say just those things. These folks are still out there with Bugs Bunny meeting up with the Dodo Bird. It's a fear factor...if it is true for them, then it needs to be true for everyone...illogical but human.

I don't know how long it will take for us to meet on a common ground that is acceptable to us both. For all the mistrust and misunderstanding, there is a need for connection, love and acceptance that is just as great as any of the hostility. I just hope we get there. There are a few willing to find common ground. There are those of us who want records open for adoptees AND mothers, who want the Industry investigated and past practices put under the microscope of public and congressional scrutiny and we are willing to stand up and identify ourselves.

What really pisses me off the most is that the main architects of this surreal social experiment are uncaring of the weird world they have created. There's money in it and they are not ready to see that their "wonderful solution" only created more pain and problems. Some of these geniuses passed thinking they had left behind a perfect legacy. And the Industry and PAPs and adopters are the ones who gain along with the high-paid lobbyists and the congressional palms they grease.

Them that has, gets.


Sandy Young said...

GREAT post, Robin. The comparison of our lives and reunion to a Dali painting is perfect! That is precisely what it often feels like. you painted a very clear picture with this one, Darlin'. Spot on!

Lori said...

Awesome! I would like to link it to my EDU blog! That is soo wonderful!

Von said...

What a joy to read the voice of reason and from this adoptee spot on too.When the day comes that we in Australia can stand on the common ground despite the advances that have been made long ago with changes in the law it will be time for celebration.

Robin said...

Thank you all, so much and yes, Lori...feel free to link.

maryanne said...

I really love the picture of the house floating in the ocean. Variations on that theme are a recurring dream I have had since childhood, the sea rising higher and higher and washing things away. It is both compelling and frightening at the same time.

Also I did an adoption themed drawing based on the words of an old ballad, "I put him in a tiny boat/ and sent him off to sea/ that he might sink or he might swim, but he'd never come back to me". It is a drawing of a baby in a basket in the sea, floating away, the crying mother on the shore and various scary faces in the clouds and rocks.

Another place this theme occurs is in the charming film "The Secret of Roan Inish" where a baby in a basket floats out to sea, but is raised by the Selkies, the seal people who can turn themselves back and forth between human and seal. This takes place on the coast of Ireland.

A lot of adoption experience resonates with surrealism, myth, folk tale. It is one of the most ancient themes. Remember Oedipus?