Saturday, November 03, 2012

Everyday Life and Adoption

I wouldn't know how to begin to separate adoption from who I am. No, I don't keep a separate blog for my "other" self, the one who can pretend she isn't adopted. What immense amount of work would that entail? I have friends who have created aliases for themselves on Facebook, to separate their adopted life from "real" life. I cannot do that, either, although I can understand the comfort and necessity for some people.

I have always been real--perhaps too honest--about who I am, with everyone I meet. Sometimes that has been detrimental to myself. As a teen, one of my mentors told me, "You don't have to be a piece of Swiss cheese and show your holes to everyone." It took me many years to internalize that excellent lesson. I don't mind admitting my weaknesses, although I never considered adoption a weakness, just part of my identity.

I am much more secure and guarded now, and I mostly love myself, warts and all. Reunion has helped with that because I had been missing access to part of myself. Genetic mirroring has been immensely important in the process of self-acceptance. The mirror that I had before was a warped one, the one that the bullies had created, the one in which I was fat, ugly, incompetent, in which no one would ever, could ever, love me back properly. I was skilled at creating situations that reinforced the self-fulfulling prophecy. I sought out people who were excellent in giving me negative messages about myself, and I internalized the self-doubt even more. I am sure that adoption had some part in this self-doubt, but was not the only variable, by any stretch of the imagination. I did think I was not worthy of any success, worthy to stand up for myself, worthy to take my place at the head of any line. My aparents were, and are wonderful. It wasn't that they didn't do a good job. But I didn't look like them, and I was teased for how I did look, and for my brains, which my parents appreciated but didn't share. They sent me to a school where I didn't fit in at all. And when I told them about the bullying, they did nothing. For years. So I figured my being different in terms of looks and goals was just for shit, and I deserved to suffer, although I never gave up on my goal to get the hell out of Missouri. Somewhere, deep inside, I knew it had to be better somewhere else. There had to be people like me who valued knowledge and education, somewhere. So I continued to get great grades while I hated myself and my body. I engaged in self-mutilation and behavior that visited all that outward hate onto the skin, and even worse, into my psyche.

I allowed people to bully me on and on and on, people who should never had a snowball's chance in hell of bullying me. I was passive beyond belief. I had a wake-up call when I was 37, no longer subject to the world of art history, when I was successful in nursing school, had a Ph.D., and was actually formidable. I realized that the mirror I was using was cracked and distorted. The people who had handed me that mirror some 20 years ago never even thought of me. All the work I was doing to prove my worth to them was pointless; they weren't in my life, and if they were, they wouldn't have cared. The only person whose opinion really mattered was myself. It was liberating to make that discovery.

In retrospect my brushes with death and depression and intellectual madness were quite healing in odd ways. I discovered who around me loved me unconditionally, and some of these amazing people revealed an attractive, accomplished, unfamiliar version of me in a new mirror. Even when they couldn't give me what I wanted from them, they loved me and affirmed me for who I am, for the roads I had I traveled. They helped me to smash that old mirror, once and for all.

Thomenon pointed out last week that he and I are difficult people to control. Those people who crave control (such as our academic advisers) didn't have much love for us. Those people who can admire difference and challenges may find room in their hearts and lives for us, and will encourage us on our quirky paths. And we're all right with that. Thomenon loves me unconditionally, and after 20 years together, this love is incredibly energizing. Long ago, he helped pick up a beaten down, self-hating Midwestern girl and over time, helped shape her into the person I am now. I will always, always adore him and support him for taking me on and seeing my potential. When I didn't have the confidence, he had the patience and vision of who I could be.

And I am still a work in progress!

1 comment:

Lorraine Dusky said...

Good post, always enjoy reading your thoughts.