Tuesday, October 19, 2010


It's a truism that we are usually our own best advocates. But stepping up and taking that responsibility isn't always easy. In my own case, I am handicapped by guilt, self-doubt, and chipped self-worth. Who am I to think that I deserve to be heard and treated as a human? It's not been my story so far, so why should it be any different now? 

Then again, if I don't advocate for myself, no one else will. I have a very impressive army of people who have my back, but I am the leader, the one who has to call the shots. It's intimidating, and also rather sad that the only thing I believe I am good at is learning and thinking intellectually. I can be a good friend, but I don't deal with conflict with much self-assurance. 

I have spent too many years of my life being bullied, dismissed, and ridiculed. When I asked for help in my youth, I didn't get it. I internalized what my bullies told me: "You're ugly, you're an idiot, you are hopeless, you're a failure." I still struggle against these ghostly messages. The people who said these horrid things to me are no longer in my life, and I don't think that people I have met in the past 10 years would think any of this about me. And yet it's just under the surface of my skin, ready to be triggered. In therapy today, my therapist said that I have immense amounts of compassion for others; could I perhaps consider treating myself with the same compassion? And yet I don't feel worthy of it. I've done all I can do to be a good person and treat people well, and yet the insults and rudeness seem to have an affinity for me. 

On a funny-sad side note, I was looking at my wedding photos with Mark the other night. There was a slew of guests who were downright cruel to me, not to mention judgmental. My Ph.D. thesis adviser, for example. You know what her wedding gift was? A stack of used magazines from her house. Nice. And my husband, messed up in his own way, thought that it was absolutely normal that his entire family boycotted our wedding (he had the audacity to marry a foreigner). How could they possibly travel to the US to celebrate his wedding with him? I should have told them all to fuck off. Well, at least I could do that now. 

How blind, sad, and downtrodden we were. Ugh. I feel pity for the person I was then, and joy that I had friends who were trying very, very hard to wake me up and show me that things didn't have to be the way they were.

Part of my adoption journey has been finding my own voice and place of power. There were all those years when I felt I couldn't overstep C's privacy, and felt that she needed to be supported and protected. Then I came to my senses and realized that while she's a valuable human being in her own right, I am, too. She doesn't have the right to cause me pain or harm. Upholding her secret is not my job, nor is it ethical for her to withhold my father's name from me. I wanted medical information that might help my chronic illness, and I felt my father and I had the same right to choose a relationship, or not. 

At the end of August, I began to sketch out a letter to send to C that would let her know I respected her position but that I thought she was not living up to the moral code she subscribed to as a Christian.

Dear C,

It has been nearly a year since you wrote to me. I am approaching you now in the hope that prayer and time might have led you to change your mind about communicating with me. I am sorry that my contacting you caused you pain and fear. You are the person who gave me life, and for that I love you.  

If you believe that ignoring me negates my existence, that is not the case. While my birth is something you've relegated to a file cabinet in the back of your mind, I cannot do that to myself. That is part of my story, my identity. However much you might wish me to be a figure in history, I am a living, breathing person with feelings. I hurt, I cry, I bleed, I love. 

You ask me to respect you. I do. What I will not do is deny myself, and who I am, to make life easier for you. I know you are a devout Christian, and I ask you to look closely inside yourself and see if you extend me the same respect that you expect in return.

I still care deeply and irrevocably about you, A, T, and W. However much you say that you have your family and I have mine, I am a Newman by birth. Nothing can erase that.

I have been suffering from medical issues for the past two years that have had a great impact on my life; this extends beyond hereditary spherocytosis. Tests have indicated genetic components to problems that could possibly have been avoided had I been able to provide my physicians with a more thorough medical history. Half of my genes are not Newman. I implore you to tell me the name of my father so that I may contact him and possibly help heal myself. 

Just as it is your choice not to have a relationship with me, my father should be able to make his own decision. 

You rely on the unmerited compassion of Christ, and I appeal to you to show that same compassion to me, one of God's creations.

Please pray on it. 

I sat on the letter for a week and polished it. I asked my friend Lori if she would be willing to mail it from Indiana so that C wouldn't recognize the Oakland postmark and simply chuck it in the trash.

I wrote the letter on nice stationery and had it ready to go. Then I was playing around on FB and checked my brother's page. Although he had broken off contact, he hadn't defriended me. It gave me hope that things might change with time. But that night, of all nights, I looked, and I'd been dumped. Sadness and anger welled up again. The wall between us was now up and complete once more. 

Back in May when I had received his cruel e-mail from Afghanistan and when his wife had defriended me on FB, I told myself that once A had drawn the line in the sand, I would begin to consider other approaches to my nfamily. I knew C's brother's wife was on FB, and I decided to send her a message. I was hopeful that someone in this family would be open minded and open hearted, as well as be beyond C's control. 

I had already drafted a letter to send; I tweaked it for a few hours and sent it off. Mark was horrified, as were other friends. I think they were concerned that I was setting myself up for failure and pain again, but I knew in my heart it would hurt more to attempt nothing than to continue to try and live my message: I am not a secret or an object of shame. I am a person with ties to these people, whether they like it or not. I had to advocate for my humanity because no one else would.

Here is what I sent: 

Dear M,

My name is Kara, and I am C's daughter. You may or may not know of my existence. C gave me up for adoption in 1969, at the time of my birth. I have been in contact with her, A, and T over the past year; C has declined to know me, but I met with A and T several times in San Diego.  

While I respect C's decision not to pursue a relationship with me, I believe that it should be the choice of each family member to decide how to proceed, or not, with the information that I am giving you. 

I am well educated, happily married with two young sons, gainfully employed, and at peace except for wanting to know where I came from. I am writing to you in the hope that you might be willing to share with me what you know of the Newman family. There is still so much about my myself and your family that I would like to learn. 

Humans have a genetic heritage that ties them to their families of origin. There are questions about myself that I cannot answer, nor will these questions simply go away. While adoption gave me a wonderful family, it did not erase the parts of me that are Newman: my looks, my intelligence, mannerisms, etc. 

I understand that I am placing you in a difficult position, but we are all adults. I hope that you won't immediately say no. Please take some time to consider what I've said and the immense difference your help would make in filling a dark hole I've been living with every day for 41 years. It's not a hole I can fill by myself. Believe me, I've tried. I am not an object of shame, or a secret: I am a living, feeling human being who happens to be a Newman by birth. 

Please do not hesitate to contact me either here, via e-mail (xxxxxxxx@yahoo.com), or by phone (xxx-xxx-xxxx). Thank you for your time.


This was on a Monday, and then it was back to waiting, waiting, waiting. I felt proud of myself for being my own best advocate, asking politely and within reason to be acknowledged and heard. Unbeknownst to me, something hugely unexpected was about to happen.


SuperTamTam said...

Kara, I needed your words tonight. You are correct, and no one can advocate for us like we can, like we deserve, and like we are entitled to. That's right, I said entitled. I am no longer willing to sit by and watch others carelessly harm me, I am no longer willing to be silent, I am no longer willing to be dismissed and I am no longer willing to swallow my feelings whole, for the comfort of others. Thank you for your timely words, your wellspoken honesty and for beautiful you. Go girl, I will too.


Unknown said...

You are beautiful and amazing. I am honored to know you.

Assembling Self said...

We have so much in common, and I know and feel your pain everyday. You put into words exactly what I have been battling. I am proud that you are standing up for yourself and it helps others, like myself, do the same. I no longer can sit waiting on the sidelines of life, wondering if and or when, someone will show me the dignity and respect I deserve and give me the missing pieces to this life puzzle. Amen friend, and thanks again.

Julia said...

What happened next? Oh my, please blog it soon. My son's adoptive family wants nothing to do with me and he has very little time & I guess inclination to spend time with me. (We found each other 10 yrs ago.) I am not adopted but I can relate to your blog alot. It's also very hard for me to understand how C follows Christ and treats you this way, but it's the same thing with my son & his afamily. God hates injustice, unkindness, coldness/cruelty we show to anyone, let alone our own children. What you wrote in her letter to her about "unmerited compassion" for Jesus or something like that I found offensive and she probably will too. But I know that even if you shared the same beliefs as her, it probably wouldn't change anything. I share the same beliefs as my son's adoptive parents, but I'm still a very unwelcomed human being it seems they'd all like to just forget I exist. I can't just fall off the face of the earth as and I've reach the end of advocating for myself. Excuses is what I'm consistently handed. I've done it for 30 years since he was born. I wrote him every year on his birthday, they withheld knowledge of my letters. The damage has been done. Still, I know in my heart this is not the end. Because this is my heart's desire and I love Christ so I know it's not finished. And I know my son & I will be together as mother & son through all of eternity. Going through life with this kind of pain (with unwanted separation from someone I love) life seems soooooo very long as I'm sure you know all too well. Unmet needs & wants, of normal, everyday human emotional needs that go unmet make it so hard. I remember too well when I believed answers to questions I should never even have to ask, were all I needed. But even those answers didn't heal the wounds. As my adult self and child self, I don't understand cruelty to people & never have. Separation of mother & child is one of the cruelest human actions. Anyway, I wish you success in your journey, you're not alone. Julia