The Thankful Adoptee

There’s a clash of opinions among the adoption constellation, specifically the ADOPTEE community. Should we be thankful, and if so, to whom/ what entity should we direct our thank-yous?

In my research and interaction with fellow adopted adults in recent years, I find the topic of thankfulness, (AKA gratefulness) to be a highly charged topic, and it makes me think about HOW to feel…how I SHOULD feel, and how I ACTUALLY feel. Note that ‘how’, ‘should’ and ‘actually’ might not be the same thing.

Growing up I was taught, like many kids, adopted or not, to give thanks for my home, family, food, health and school.  OK, fine.  No arguments there.  I am deeply grateful for all those things. I could thank G-d plus any physical human beings who made these things possible. I am thankful all the time, not just on one Thursday in November, and I try to make a note of it. I’m not “churchy” in a traditional sense, but I do thank “Spirit” every day.

As an adopted person, I’ve often received the comment from well-meaning strangers upon learning this factoid about me, “Oh how special! You must be so thankful!” No one else but fellow adoptees understands that a remark like this makes adopted adults feel a little awkward and not “special”. It’s condescending and instead makes us feel like perpetual children.

Adoptees need more open-ended reactions and less of telling us how we must be feeling.  It doesn’t make us less grateful for our lives or what have you, but such comments can make many adopted people feel pushed down and as though a door has been shut in our face.

A more appropriate response might be, “Wow! That’s so interesting. Tell me about it.”

Keep that communication door open, and we might be the most thankful people you’ll ever meet!

Am I thankful for being adopted?  Some days, yes I am. I had a great house, a fine education, (Go ‘Noles!), loving relatives and even dogs! Other days I remember the flip-side. In order for me to have ended up where I did and with whom, my birth parents had to endure a traumatizing loss. My birth mother, specifically, had to sign her rights away regarding one of her children. It meant my birth siblings and I lost many years’ worth of time not knowing one another. It meant that many people had to live with the notion of “what if…”  and had to harbor locked-away secrets of shame and fear because a couple of people’s timing and luck was really lousy.

Why do so many instances of “Let’s give thanks” have to come at a price?

So am I a Thankful Adoptee? Only to a point. I’m thankful for the blessings I have had; some which are unique to only me and some which my birth siblings and cousins have also had because we all grew up in the same town during the same decades, so we have some things in common. I am thankful that I know all of my birth family now. I am thankful that many of us have been able to celebrate holidays, weddings, births and even mourn losses together. I am thankful that my adoptive and birth families have successfully blended for some of these events.

For nearly every ounce of gratitude I have, I also understand that someone else had to sacrifice dearly, and I wish they could have been spared heartache, guilt and regret. That’s why being adopted doesn’t make me special.

It just makes me me.

What Adoption Means to Me: I am honored to be a part of this project.

http://www.chicagonow.com/portrait-of-an-adoption/2015/11/what-adoption-means-to-me/

 

How Does It Feel To Be Adopted- Paige L. Adams Strickland:  Featured with an excerpt from my sequel-in progress!       #flipthescript 

Source: How Does It Feel To Be Adopted- Paige L. Adams Strickland

Adoptee Rap Inspired by Fellow Adoptee, JoAnne Bennett’s Question: “As your fellow adoptees, how can we help you to feel genuinely supported and cared about as valuable human beings in the Adoption Community?”

Adoptees through time have had a back seat.

Unknown relations we wish to meet.

Society’s said what we feel ain’t that bad.

They haven’t experienced the emptiness we’ve had.

Adoptees want our opinions heard,

and receipt of validation for our word.

It isn’t about revenge or ingratitude.

But people at large need a shift in attitude.

It’s time for laws to modernize and update.

We’re no longer children, wards of a state.

We can fight in wars and smoke a cigarette;

We get tried as adults, and lest we forget,

If we do our part with responsibility,

Then why can’t we connect with first family?

Adopted people don’t always agree,

but we need to establish greater unity

among our own awakening community.

We should celebrate our achievements without jealousy,

Unite for our causes and work as a team.

We should care and console, no judgmental disdain

And avoid competition and comparing our pain.

If we want acknowledgement, more cred and more gain

From inside

To feel cared for and valued by peers there should be no divide

The more we bond the less we will hide

yet be free to appreciate our differing views without shame

Understanding our counterparts; not placing blame

For something that happened a long time ago

Let’s honor and celebrate now, for now is what we all know!               #flipthescript

Top Ten Things What I Want People to Know About Me as an Adopted Person:

1- When I share my feelings and ideas about being an adopted person, I’m not whining or complaining. I am telling you the truth as I see it because I live it.

2- Please take me seriously when I discuss adoption.

3- I would rather know the truth, (about any topic), than be told a nice little “story” that will make me “happy”. Don’t think that I won’t know the difference.

4- Loss of any kind really, really sucks, plain and simple.

5- I’m not saying that my feelings are any deeper, better, worse or lighter than yours, but they are MY feelings. Please acknowledge.

6- Many times, especially socially, there’s a veil separating me from everyone else, and I will forever wonder if that veil-feeling is a result of my being adopted / different from most everyone else.

7- I no longer fear being rejected or replaced. I know it will happen eventually. It always does. What I do instead is enjoy the windows of time I do have with people, jobs, etc. and make the most of the “season”. It may be a long season, it may be short…but it’s a season. It’s like that Robert Frost poem, “Nothing Gold Can Stay”: https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/nothing-gold-can-stay When I learned about it in high school it struck a huge chord with me. Prob 3/4 of the kids in my class were zoned out, but that poem gave me a wake-up call.

8- I did not search, find and manitain good relationships w my birth family members because I was dissatisfied w the blessings I had, I did it to learn my medical and ancestral history, enrich my life and the lives of my children who now never have to grow up wondering, “what if…” like I had to do. I did all that to find a way to feel less “fragmented” and more “whole”. It worked.My birth family members are awesome!

9- I get it. We have to have laws to protect children. There are a lot of creeps out there. However, when that young person turns 18, they can serve in the military, buy cigarettes, vote and be tried as an adult. Why should that person be denied their original birth information if they are a responsible, law-abiding citizen? That’s my opinion. Please respect it.

10- I am not anti-adoption, but I am anti-lying/ falsification, anti-manipulation and anti-coercion. Adoption should not be a “business” for big profit. Yeah, yeah…social workers have to be paid. (I teach kids, and I want to be paid. Do you see me getting rich?) Lawyers and other adoption “entrepreneurs” need to lay low on this one. It should be all about family and child servicing first and foremost.

This post was inspired by a question that LeAnne Parsons, http://www.walkyourtalkwithleanne.com/ , proposed on a Facebook group. I told her that I would be sharing on my blog as well.   P.

The Benefits of Being an Adoptee (This post is a “re-run” from 2013, but not many people saw it then.)

THE BENEFITS OF BEING AN ADOPTEE

My adoption memoir, Akin to the Truth, contains some universal themes, which appeal and are relatable to all teenagers, adopted or not. (Pre)junior high through high school is the period of time when young people observe more and begin to analyze and form attitudes and concepts about their personal lives and the world in general.  Often these notions lack perspective and life experience, however the young person’s belief system still contains value and meaningfulness because their feelings and how they deal with them are parts of becoming mature. For me, being an adoptee added an extra dimension of self-doubt and lack of confidence.

The purpose of this memoir was not intended to be a complaint-fest, however, it does reflect my point of view at the time. My observation is that there are a lot of sad adoptees out there.  Not all, but a lot. I was fearful, lacked trust and was tremendously self-conscious, and those feelings held me back from developing many skills and relationships back in the day. I wasn’t sad, but I did feel unsatisfied and flawed.

Akin To The Truth is intended to show that a person, adopted or not, can overcome many obstacles with persistence and support from key people in life, whether they be family, friends, teachers, coaches, colleagues or even famous people you don’t know but admire. Embrace your heroes, the everyday or the celebrity-type. Let their positive qualities work on you.

Akin to the Truth reflects a time in the past.  Today I have the advantage of looking back and realizing what pluses adoption did provide that I could not have recognized back then:

  • Being adopted has made me very selective about whom I’ve chosen as my best friends.  As a result, mine are top-notch.
  • Being adopted causes me to study faces and mannerisms, noting similarities between biologically-related persons. I’m not staring and being weird. I’m impressed by the miracles of life and how DNA plays out.
  • Being adopted makes me view the concept of Family  globally.
  • Being adopted makes me inclined to question everything. I may or may not openly challenge everything I am told, but I assume very little. I look before I leap.
  • As a kid, being adopted helped my imagination soar because I wondered who else had a secret identity, and what was it. I was a creative kid, which made me better at art and writing.
  • Being adopted gave me a special bond with every pet I ever owned plus the pets of many friends and family members. So many pets are adopted from large group settings or by random chance. I feel lots of compassion for homeless animals and much respect for those who rescue them.
  • Being adopted is part of what makes me strive to be the best parent possible to my kids. I never take the time I spend with my girls for granted. I feel bad for the birth/ bio-parents who were forced by society, negative circumstances and controlling institutions to relinquish children. I know the ones who did and do it by choice believe(d) on some level that they were/are doing it to provide a better life for their baby.
  • Being adopted makes me appreciate being alive. I respect all life, (with the exception of some really nasty, creepy insects). I’m glad I was born!  Life is good.

Twinsters: Adoption Movie review

Twisters Movie Review

Twinsters, a delightful documentary, co-directed, written and produced by Samantha Futerman, tells the tale of a young, adopted Southern California woman who unexpectedly discovers via social media that she may have a twin sister. Both girls were born in Busan, South Korea on the same date. Samantha was raised in the USA, and her sister grew up in Belgium and France. 

Their story is touching and relatable for all adoptees, especially for those who find siblings and form relationships, no matter which country you’re from. The film shows in detail many of the feelings adoptees process prior to reunion and just after as reality of a whole new family life sinks in. Personally, the moment when they see one another live for the first time brought back exciting memories from my own adoption reunion(s). Also, the scene where they photographed their hands together, struck a chord for me because my sisters and I have done the same thing.

Even though Samantha and Anaîs are identical twins, (proven through DNA testing), their perspectives on being adopted are different, which proves again that as adopted individuals, there isn’t one “correct” way to think about our statuses. This makes explaining our feelings challenging. However, this film masterfully represents a wide range of attitudes regarding the adoptee spectrum.

(If “adoptism” isn’t a word, it ought to be!)

The cinematography in Twisters is spot-on as the viewer travels literally around the world from Los Angeles to London and South Korea, as the saga of the twin sisters’ reunion is captured. It was also interesting to witness the blending of both girls’ adoptive families and foster mothers during their respective visits. Their story is filled with humor, honesty and resilience, and I enjoyed getting to know Anaîs and Samantha better through this film.

#adoption #adoptees #koreanadoptees #twins #flipthescript

The Art of Life by Alyce Wilson: Not Adoption-Related, but What a Great Read!

Alyce Wilson’s collection of memoir-seque essays, The Art Of Life, is upbeat, humorous and rich in descriptions about her experiences, feelings and lessons learned.  A very helpful Who’s Who section appears in the back of the book, almost like a curtain call, which clarifies the relationship of the assorted characters to the author’s life.

Many entries are themed around Wilson’s pets, especially her loving and trusty canine, Una and her kitty, Luke. Therefore, this book has definite appeal to pet-lovers. Another unique quality of this collection of writings is that many entries have morals and or humorous messages at the conclusion.

The Art of Life is the “Chicken Soup” of one young woman’s observations as she experiences post-college work life and relationships with family members, men and friends in an ever-changing world of technology and expectations. The well-crafted vignettes read swiftly but are full of enlightenment and good advice for all.

Review of Amelia’s Story, Book 1 by D.G. Torrens

Amelia’s Story, Book 1 tells the struggle of one girl’s challenge to remain a part of her family with an abusive mother. She grows up in and out of the child welfare/orphanage system in England, while trying to maintain contact with her brother, form friendships and finish school. Technically, Amelia isn’t an adoptee, but I chose to read this book because it was closely related to adoption and foster care and takes place outside the USA. The cover is appealing and wistful.

Everyone in the foster and adoptive care system has a worthy story, and all of our voices need to be heard. Unfortunately, the writing style is less literary and more like reading a factual report. It reads fast, but it lacks detail and deep feeling. Clearly, the writer has the feelings, and perhaps the subject matter is so sensitive that she felt unable to delve much beyond just reporting events.

There is a sequel to this book, and I am undecided about reading it at this time. I wish author D. G. Torrens well and much success with promoting her books. I hope that her writing has brought her some peace.

Born With Teeth: Kate Mulgrew’s Birthmother Memoir

Stage and television star, Kate Mulgrew can now add “author” to her impressive list of talents and experiences.  Her memoir is Born With Teeth and tells about her childhood, early acting success and rise to fame all the while harboring a nearly devastating secret:  She was a birth mother who had no other options but to have her daughter placed for adoption when no one would support her with parenting needs while her career was taking off. 

Mulgrew’s story-telling “voice” is articulate and elegant as she describes her early home life and relationships with her siblings and parents, her early acting pursuits, romantic encounters and education in theater.  At the same time, the reader gets the impression that she is “real”, as if you could be sitting together at a quiet restaurant or coffee shop listening to her share her life story, passions and sentiments. The story reads swiftly and keeps the reader engaged while turning the page to find out if and how she landed those coveted acting roles and eventually connected with her long-lost birth daughter.

Born With Teeth is candid, bold and a great read for Mulgrew fans and fans of her television shows in general.  It also adds an influential voice to the emerging community of adoptees and birth parents who are speaking out more about adoption rights and reforms. For anyone who might be searching for and wondering what happened to their own missing family member(s) from years prior, this is a wonderfully expressed account of one birth mother’s life path as she pursues her dreams and never forgets.