Thursday, June 19, 2008

I Don't Know What to Call This Post

How's that for a title? This post is a little rambly and I couldn't decide on a title that summed it up well. I changed it several times, and still didn't like it, so I went with this.

Update: Just in case you don't read the comments for this post, Possum has written a response to this on her blog. While I must be honest and say I do not feel it is a completely accurate interpretation of my thoughts, I wanted to give you both "sides" (although I don't actually think this is a matter of taking sides- it's just a different view. I do agree with several things she says). I felt it would be most fair to link directly to her post instead of just telling you about it. I wanted you to hear what she thinks, instead of just my version of what she said, both out of respect to her and to allow you to get the full gist of her perspective without it possibly being misinterpreted or judged by me. You can read her thoughts on this post here. Thank you, Possum, for your thoughts.

To begin with... I wanted to direct your attention to a blog called Possum's Place , and specifically to the post called The ONLY Way Adoption Should Be, written Mon., June 9th. Awesome post. I loved it, agreed with it wholeheartedly (and I rarely agree with anyone even halfheartedly), and think everyone on earth should read it. There. How was that for an endorsement? A little over the top, maybe? I'm just trying to convey that it's a good, worthwhile read. Go read it. But go after you're done here, because I'm getting ready to say something else. So wait just a darn minute. Geez. Ready to jump ship pretty quick, aren't ya?

As an adoptee, I find it very difficult at times to talk about my adoption-related feelings, especially on this blog. I'm sometimes a little jealous of "Adoptee Bloggers" (like Possum and others, whose blogs offer a view into their thoughts and feelings).

For one: (and I've said this before) Members from all the various factions of my life read this blog, which makes naked, brutal honesty difficult. Oh, how I would love to just let my guts spill all over this blog someday- lol; I could really give you an earful on a lot of different things, not just adoption; get everything off my chest, but... I won't. And several of my family members probably just breathed a huge sigh of relief. A few of my favorite bloggers have recently taken up the practice of protecting certain posts, or even starting a separate protected blog altogether, to allow them to be more open with their readers on certain topics. I can understand why. There are things you may feel like you want or even need to say, but can't when you know certain people are reading. So we remain guarded and only show a portion of our true selves and our lives to the world. Probably as it should be. Honesty can be a dangerous thing! My personal problem with starting a protected blog would be the guilt I'd feel over denying someone the password. If I refuse to give it out to someone, they will know I'm talking about them- Ha! I'd end up giving it to everyone, so as not to hurt any feelings, and I'd wind up in the same boat I'm in right now- guarded.

Two: At 41 years of age, I am still struggling with a schizophrenic mixed bag of feelings regarding my adoption and all parties involved. I could carve my thoughts into stone today by putting them out here to publicly float forever, but tomorrow I may will feel just the opposite and regret ever saying anything at all. I have talked about my adoption facts and feelings a little bit on this blog, and if you missed it, you can find those posts here, and here. I'm sure there are a few others if you're willing to dig, but who has time for that? I'm not that interesting, anyway.

I also struggle with listening to others talk about their own adoption experiences. I don't always agree with everything other adoptees say for one thing, but it's more than that. Disagreement wouldn't be a big enough reason to keep me away from a blog- in fact, that's part of what makes reading blogs interesting, isn't it? Exposing yourself to new and different views, seeing things in a different light, etc... But I think my problem, at least partly, is I have a hard time processing the words and writings of other adult adoptees and birth parents without it affecting me in a very deep, personal way. I get "upset." I do not read any birth parent blogs (and I'm sorry if I offend with my chosen terms here, but I just don't like the term "first parents." I don't care if it's the new, improved lingo. I say "birth" or "bio."). And I don't read many adoptee blogs. I have a few favorites that I feel are excellent, well-balanced and articulate blogs, but just a few.

And while we're on this subject, may I stop for just a moment to caution you guys about reading adoptee and birth parent blogs? I don't even have one certain blog in mind as I say this, so please don't think I'm picking on your favorite blogger. And I would never advise you to stick your head in the sand and avoid reading blogs that may make you uncomfortable (as I do- hee, hee). My own hang-ups aside, I think it is so, so important for us as adoptive parents to listen to what adoptees and birth parents have to say. I applaud any effort an adoptive parent makes to better connect with their kids' feelings and needs, and I think it's just good, healthy parenting to seek the wisdom and advice of those who have the inside view. We can learn so much from their unique perspectives. HOWEVER... Adoptees are not all the same. Of course you know that. While they do often share a lot of similar feelings, they are not all the same. Some are just plain hateful and P*$$ED at everyone and want the whole world to know it. Some have a good reason to be angry, of course, but just like any other group of people- you will have the ranting ones, the chronic complainers, the drama queens, the glass-is-way-too-freakin'-empty types, thrown in with sound, reasonable types, upbeat, hopeful types, helpful types, plain ole normal, nice but boring types, and nauseatingly cheerful, optimistic types. And a few deep-in-denial types . Then there are the ones who are just hateful to the point of being downright scary. Shocking, scathing, or emotional rants and horror stories make for interesting, titillating reading, but it's not necessarily what we should be immersed in. And while these stories can seem plentiful compared to the "good, nice" stories, these types of perspectives are not necessarily the norm (whatever that is), or the majority. Think about it... if you are "normal," happy, and well-adjusted, how often do you talk about it? How much time do you spend thinking (or blogging), "Boy, I feel so normal, happy, and well-adjusted"? Those would be some boring blogs to read, but those kinds of adoptees are out there, too. They may just not feel the need to write about it. It is possible to grow up adopted and happy. I'm not sure how many of us, adopted or not, feel "normal," but it is possible for adoptees to feel emotionally whole, and mentally healthy. We do not all turn out to be hateful ranters who blog about our horrible parents and childhoods! Listening to a steady stream of the negative stuff is not healthy for an AP, nor is it conducive or necessary for good parenting. It's conducive to fearful, insecure parenting- being sure you will screw your kid up, too. lol. As parents, we need to be informed and educated, not frightened and criticized. As with all things in life: There has to be balance. Just be careful of what you read and buy into, is all I'm saying.

As far as keeping my own head in the sand, I am interested in adoptees' stories and points of view. Really, I am. But they sometimes make me feel things I don't want to feel and think about things I don't want to think about. In my own life, I feel that many of my adoption-related issues will never and can never be fully resolved. I've tried to resolve them, but I'm of the opinion that if more than one person is involved in an issue, it takes more than one person to resolve it. When both sides cannot work together to talk, and listen to each other, and arrive at some type of mutual understanding to "fix" the issue, it's just left there hanging. I don't like that feeling of stuff left hanging. I'm definitely a "closure" kind of girl. When you try to talk to someone and they don't or won't hear you, or can only focus on their own defenses and perspectives, and there's no resolution or sense of closure at the end, you wind up feeling even yuckier than you did before you tried to work it out. So... I keep my unresolved issues hidden under the rug, where I don't have to see them very often. When I'm faced with others talking about their own stories, it lifts the rug, so to speak, and again, I get "upset" (and, again, the word Denial leaps to mind). I often feel uncomfortable about the level of anger involved in the sentiments of other adoptees, even though I sometimes share it. On the other hand, I can start to feel almost squeamish if they have a warm fuzzy attitude toward all the parties involved in their own adoption triads, but wish at the same time that I could consistently feel that way, too. In other words, **I'm screwed up. And I find it's easier to enjoy being screwed up when one isn't constantly bombarded with reminders of one's screwed-up state all the time.

(Before I get any *mean, judgmental comments about how I have no business being an adoptive parent if I'm so messed up about it myself, I'll add a disclaimer:
**Of course, I want to nurture the healthiest attitude possible towards adoption for the sake of my child, and I do feel that my efforts to create a healthy adoptive environment for her have helped me to confront, deal with, and heal a lot of my own icky stuff. Having the blessing of her in my life forces me to remove my head from the sand and face my own issues because- OF COURSE- I do not want her to be screwed up, too, and I do not believe she has to be. I try as much as I can to keep my denial and craziness about my own adoption separate from her adoption. And in most ways, they truly are. I hope, pray, and really do believe that in some ways, my screwed-up-ness can help me be a better adoptive parent to my daughter by helping me to avoid, or at least successfully navigate through, some of the pitfalls APs can fall into, and by having a true personal understanding of some of the painful isolation and mixed feelings an adoptee can experience.

Second disclaimer, to counteract the negativity of the first disclaimer:
*Of course, I do not think any of my regular readers would leave me mean, judgmental comments. I did not mean you. I meant someone else.)


Elaine said...

I appreciated this post because I know a few adult adoptees who are fine, healthy, blah blah blah, and you are so right -- they don't blog about it! But it is possible to be adopted (even trans-racially) and not be all mad and bitter. I also know what you mean about all parties involved needing to work together to "fix" an issue. Even though I'm not an adoptee, I can relate *insofar as* I have "issues" in my life that just have to stay swept under the rug because the other parties involved refuse to acknowledge anything, so nothing will ever be resolved there. Instead I'm just working on letting go of it. Which sounds nice, until the issue rears its ugly head AGAIN, and then I have to start from scratch, but whatever.

Christina said...

A. Love your title. Have wanted to use that myself a time or three.

B. Agree about the perspective thing... I think it's possible for AP's to be too "head in the clouds" and not even acknowledge that adoptees may have real, serious issues and that AP's themselves may have some responsibility in/for those issues. But it's also possible to take on a HUGE guilt trip after reading a few blogs from the perspective of adult adoptees or birthparents who have hurts/issues/etc. So, like you, I just read a few that I believe have a balanced perspective.

C. Adoptees do not have a corner on the "screwed up" market. We all have our family dramas... I haven't told any of my family my blog address but still I'm guarded because what if they found it? (and my mom's best friend found it so it's pretty much guaranteed my mom has read it now, but I try not to think about that!!). And I'm with you, life is just easier if you let some sleeping dogs lie - some things can't be resolved because the other parties don't even recognize that there is an issue in the first place!

D. Now I shall go read that other blog. :-)

Possum said...

I think adoptees can make some of the best adoptive parents.
Have you read Paula's blog -
She's pretty amazing.
I had too much to say - and your post triggered stuff for me - so I wrote a post over at mine.
I hope it's not taken in the wrong way - as that was not my intention.
Don't be hard on yourself - I think you're doing just fine.
Poss. xx

Michelle said...

Hi, Possum. Yes, I'm aware of Paula's blog and love it. You're right- she is amazing! I read your post, and agree with so much of what you're saying; However, I'm not really sure you completely "got" what I was saying. At any rate, I appreciate your comments. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

Michelle said...


One more thought, since this is keeping me up anyway...

This just occurred to me- Is it possible that you thought I was holding your blog up as an example of one to avoid? Did you feel that I was calling you or your blog "angry" (or bitter and ungrateful- although I never used those words in my post)? If so, I sincerely apologize as that was not my intent at all, but maybe I didn't seque between the two separate ideas as clearly as I'd thought... ??

I want to make it clear to anyone else reading this that that was definitely NOT my intention. I simply wanted to bring attention to a post that I liked, then I drifted into the other (related, but separate) stuff. It was not directed at you personally and I'm very sorry if you felt you were being attacked or that I was holding you up as the poster child for "angry, bitter, and ungrateful" adoptees. I hope that's not the case.

Possum said...

No no Michelle - as I said - I was triggered more by what your first commenter said. (she used 'mad' and 'bitter' - I added ungrateful - as that has been thrown my way too often lately - not too much on my blog thankfully - but on some forums I visit)
I think I get exactly what you mean - and I didn't take offense to your words.
Emotions and feelings about this stuff change and evolve - and unfortunately get triggered when it's usually not a good time.
(perhaps I'm just too sensitive to the use of certain words - but I didn't take it that you were saying that about me - per se - but as I said - I'm very protective about other adoptees that have found their voice - and perhaps I'm a lot softer in my message than some - but we all have so much of the same pain.)
It's just perhaps that you hinted that there are angry and bitter adoptees out there - and your first commenter ran with that - and to me - was discounting them.
(hey - sometimes things can be taken wrong on the computer screen)
I'm told so often that - "well I know so and so adoptee - and they have no problems" - but the reality is - very very few adoptees ever speak up about troubles they've had or they feel - because they're too scared to be shot down in flames or that they'll upset somebody. KWIM???
And if AP's don't get that - just because all the adoptees they know are "fine" - then they've missed a chance to open up honest conversation with their adoptees - when it really matters - when they're young.
I rarely talk about adoption IRL.
My views were discounted at a young age - and I knew it upset my a-mum to talk about my adoption, and I didn't want to upset her - because I loved her so much - so I shut up - and kept it all lock down low.
I've started to talk about adoption IRL (with people I think are 'safe') - but only because I've found strength online.
People would find out that I'm adopted - and they'd say - "oh that's so great - you must be so loved" or "wow - you were chosen"(or some such comment) - and of course - you don't get much of a chance to argue that - without putting everyone off side.
It's so so complicated for an adoptee. I love my adoptive family with every fibre in my being. But I also missed growing up with those that looked, had traits and talents like me. I always felt like I didn't totally fit in (even though I wanted to be just like them)and I always hated looking in the mirror at the strange face that looked back at me. I felt and feel immense pain from being given away by my first family - and I feel pain now that I'm still not allowed to have real contact with them - as if I'm some sort of threat.
(some days I think it would have been so much better if I'd just been born to my fact I think that was my wish most of the time when I was young)
Social views of the institution of adoption run very very deep.
It's amazing how my 5 year old just got it - when I explained in an age appropriate manner that my mother couldn't keep me when I was a baby - and she's having trouble with me reemerging in her life - and she said - "That's sad mummy - can I give you a hug?"
Kids get the loss - the sadness.
Too often - adults don't - or try hard not too - because it messes with their image of how it should 'look'.
I hope this explains a little more of why I wrote what I wrote.
I didn't link it to here - as it wasn't completely about what was written here.
Some of the words used were a trigger.
Please know that you've not offended me.
I'm sorry if I offended you in any way. That was definately not my intention.
I'm so sorry I kept you up.
I'm sorry that I caused you so much concern.
Poss. xxx

Possum said...

Me again - yeah - I'm now an official stalker.....
I've reworded a couple of things on that post - which reflect more accurately what I was trying to say.
As I said - there has been much more going on than between our two blogs.
If I had a real beef - I would have linked - and sent in an army!!!
(joking - I promise)
Take care.
Poss. xxx

Michelle said...

Hey, Possum...

Thanks so much for taking the time to clarify, and I do know exactly what you mean. As I said before, I agree with so much of what you say. 99.99%. I guess where we differ is that I just don't think it HAS TO be an insult to say adoptees can be angry and/or bitter- at least I didn't intend it to be insulting. Some adoptees ARE angry. I am. At times. To me, that's just stating a fact. It's not meant in a critical way. There IS pain in adoption. There IS anger. I don't think it's a bad thing to be honest and call it what it is. I do understand that many people use those terms towards adoptees in a critical way- as I have experienced that type of criticism myself, as if we have no right to feel those feelings. And you were feeling protective because you've experienced that, too. I get that.

I absolutely, completely agree that adoptees should be able to voice their feelings, opinions, stories, etc., without the fear of being criticized or basically being told they should just shutup and be grateful. And the internet provides an awesome platform to do that. Which brings me to the point I was trying to make in this post(although a bit clumsily)...

The caution I gave in my post was intended more for APs who are trying so hard to educate themselves on how to parent their children in the best way possible. As both an adoptee and an AP, I can see both sides of this coin. Parents these days have access to so much more info than they had when I was growing up, and that's both a blessing and a curse. It's easy to feel very overwhelmed and intimidated by some of the "intense" emotions they hear coming from adult adoptees. It can be very daunting to an AP who wants so badly to raise an emotionally healthy, happy child to hear those things. There IS anger. Sometimes, there IS bitterness. I'm not saying it shouldn't be there. I'm not saying adoptees have no right to feel it or voice it. I'm simply saying APs need to be careful and try to form a balanced view. In any area of life, focusing only on the negative will send anyone to a nut house. Parenting is hard enough without starting out convinced you are going to fail your child in the most important ways. I don't want APs to focus so much on the negative side that they begin to feel like there's no hope no matter how hard they try.

Does that clear it up a little better, or did I just make it worse- lol?

One last thing: I gotta defend my regular readers and commenters! I do not believe the comment to which you referred was meant in a critical way, the intentions were good, even if the wording was not what you would prefer. I understand why those words sound confrontational and even judgmental to you, but I do not believe that was her intention with her choice of words. Again, I see both sides, here. I believe her comment was merely intended to show support for what I was saying, and let me know she got my point- and not to be critical or draw a line between adoptees who are "fine and healthy" and those who are "mad and bitter." I think I know what she meant and I appreciate her participation in the discussion, as I do yours.

Thanks agin, Poss! Your insights on this topic are much appreciated.