Friday, November 23, 2012

Coping and Forgiveness

I was thinking about forgiveness along with thanks yesterday, and talking it over with friends at the dinner I attended. I was talking about being adopted, and before long, one of the guests at the other end of the table piped in with "You were chosen! How lucky you are. Not many of us can say this. We get saddled with the family we're born into, but your parents picked you, just you, out of a roomful of babies and that love is perfect."

Which is, of course, bunk. I wasn't chosen. I was matched with my parents, probably because they were older and had good health insurance. That's what Dad says, anyway. And as I said before, they did have a right to refuse me, but given they'd been wanting and waiting, it was highly unlikely they'd have done so. My dad particularly wanted a girl, and there I was: a female infant, 10 weeks old. If it hadn't been me, it would have been the next available baby. I hold no illusions.

I really like the friend of the host who came out with the social fairytale about my story. She meant well, to be certain. But in telling it, she took over my story and made some pretty huge assumptions. Because, you know, that's what the world is like: it is easier to handle us if we all follow the "chosen baby" story; people can, as I have said before, project all kinds of their own hopes and dreams and wishes onto us. We're receptacles in an odd way, for the way people want the world to be.

I forgive her. I also didn't bother to correct her or to say anything else. I just shut up and asked her about her trip to see Obama's first inauguration, which was quite a journey, apparently. There's nothing quite as safe as deflection (except maybe not talking about oneself at all).

I read a fascinating, heartbreaking blog post at neverforgottenisfound about one adult international adoptee's attempts to come to terms abandonment within the contexts of Korean culture and familial expectations. It is complicated, so complicated. In her place, I don't know that I'd be able to forgive. Perhaps.

I have also been thinking about whether I am too rigid and unforgiving. I know I used to be, but at the same time, one can only forgive the same mistake from the same person so many times before wondering if what they're doing is intentional and not a mistake, if there's an underlying message about how they feel about one that they're trying to share in an indirect way. I know that life is messy, people change, circumstances call for elasticity. I can ask for change, and if it doesn't come, I learn from that lack of change (while being honest with myself about what I am asking of the other person). I can also forgive trespasses while not exactly wanting to put myself in the firing line again, knowing that other people's behavior patterns are not going to change. That means changing my expectations about relationships, and that's okay, as well.

I tend to want to be direct when I am invested in a relationship, and to speak directly about what is upsetting me, or what I hope can change. I run into huge problems when dealing with people who greatly dislike talking directly about feelings or problems. It's not easy, for sure; I often feel guilty about asking for what I need. But I am trying hard to change that.

I definitely have an easier time forgiving others than forgiving myself; as I have blogged about before, I am highly skilled in self-flagellation and wear guilt like fine jewelry. I am a Catholic in my soul, I know it. But I also try to deal with the oppressive weight of my guilt by being realistic, not pretending that what I did never happened. And I also try my best not to hurt that person in the same way again, especially when I love and respect that person. "Sorry" is an underused word, IMO, but it has to come tempered with desire for change. It can be an incredibly empty word, too.

How do you cope with forgiveness?


Megan said...

Forgiveness is hard. But more and more I am learning that I am harmed by holding on to hurts. Staying angry/ resentful/ contemptful/ fearful is a huge burden, one that ties me all up. It is very freeing to let go. Wish it were easy to do.

Trish said...

One of the first gifts I received when we brought L home was "Our Chosen Child" which I believe was meant to be a baby book for adopted children. Get this- the first page was a family tree (meant to be filled in by the a-family). Needless to say I could not get rid of this book fast enough. The gift-giver was close to me and I took the opportunity to educate her. I further wrote a review of the book on Amazon. Ayiyi.

As to forgiveness, I really wonder how L will feel and if she will be able to forgive her mother for abandoning her. I personally have a hard time understanding it. I am so against Safe Haven for obvious reasons.