As a searching adoptee, I faced a lot of questions from well-meaning people who just didn’t get it.
“Didn’t you have a good childhood?”
“Aren’t your parents your real parents?”
“Shouldn’t you just leave it alone?”
“Why rock the boat?”
As I approach the year anniversary of connecting with Pat, my first mother, many of them still don’t understand. Some have very strong feelings about it, their stoney silence and pursed lips telegraphing disapproval as though I have somehow been disloyal, selfish or “bad” in attempting to be true to myself.
I guess in their minds, my lot in life was to have remained complacent, never questioning, never disturbing the status quo.
The Terri of years of ago would have done just that; here in midlife, I’ve finally learned to stand up for myself.
It is a watershed for me.
Not that I expect people who are not adopted to understand — they are, after all, innately connected to the people around them and don’t have to give their identities nearly as much thought.
However, I also didn’t expect to find an explanation for all us adoptees on one of the longest running reality shows last night.
Tina, one of the contestants on Survivor, having beaten her daughter, Katie, in a test of will and skill, confided as the host prepared to send Katie home:
“There is something about my relationship to Katie, my daughter, because I’m adopted. And I don’t have those connections in my life, not until I had her had I felt a real connection in my life. It’s a pure, unadulterated, pure love I have for her.”
Although I had just one eye on the show (the other was on the latest Michael Connelly novel), suddenly the screen had my full attention.
“YES!” I yelled at the TV.
Because I completely relate.
Although I had a perfectly wonderful childhood, am loved by my parents and love unconditionally in return, have a loving husband and longtime friends who somehow manage to put up with me, Catherine’s birth nearly 18 years ago marked a similar milestone for me.
Finally there was someone in my life like me.
A real connection.
I’ve written here before about how upset I would get when people said she looked like Basil, how as she grew I saw more and more of myself in her actions and mindset, and how that propelled me to face my need to search.
I’ve written, too, that as an adoptee, I struggle with connections and relationships, choosing to hide behind a smart-ass sense of humor rather than put myself out there and risk rejection. How I have always felt out of step. And how, with pieces of my life tapestry missing and blurred, I am unmoored, incomplete.
Pat recently asked if I always hold myself apart.
I guess I do. It’s a trait I’ve always ascribed to being adopted, but perhaps it’s how I’m hard-wired.
Now, as I get to know her and the other members of my extended original family, I’m parsing “chicken” and “egg,” but above all else, I’m looking to forge connections — to finally understand who I am and where I fit in.
Isn’t that what everyone, adopted or not, is looking for?