RED COUCH REBUTTAL

I’m so proud of my peers and friends in the adoption community: adoptees and many birth mothers who are brave enough to share their voices in the face of the evil, backwards for-profit adoption industry. We recognize that the adoption industry continues to commodify children and when we are witness to such blatant money-grabbing emotional-pandering as seen in the documentary-cum-fundraising film, “Stories From the Red Couch,” we band together.

This video comes on the heels of my last post, written as a review or reaction to the film. Apparently, and thankfully, I wasn’t the only one disgusted by the film and the continued, age-old tactics of The Cradle to promote and facilitate adoption and discourage (putting it mildly) family preservation.

The voices in this video are only a handful of the brave adoptee-voices (and one lovely birthmother) who had something to say in rebuttal to “Stories From the Red Couch,” and the questionable practices of The Cradle. Tune in to the National Association of Adoptees and ParentsAdoption Happy Hour on Friday, April 15, 2022, to join in the discussion.

Adoption – All Sides Matter

A commentary on the film “Stories From the Red Couch”

In case you haven’t seen it, here’s the trailer.

If you have the time, here’s a link to the forty-five minute video.

The trailer was released a month ago. The film was released just a week ago.

It’s promoted as simply a “Hollywood produced film about adoption,” and described as a project meant “to capture 99 years of [The Cradle’s] work through emotional, inspiring stories of adoption.”

It’s “Hollywood produced,” alright. It’s a polished, obviously professionally produced and edited documentary-style film. But to say it’s “about adoption” is terribly misleading. What it’s really about is fundraising. To facilitate adoption.

The Cradle is a private adoption agency that’s been around for nearly a hundred years. The film is presented and stylized as a celebration of The Cradle’s work by showcasing several “successful” adoption stories from the perspective of the heroic savior adoptive parents and the counselors employed by The Cradle. The fairy tale-like stories portray adoption as something “magical,” and The Cradle as someplace where “dreams come true.” Lofty words and phrases describing The Cradle and its work, such as “destiny,” “meant to be,” “special place,” and even “divine intervention,” are sprinkled throughout the forty-five minute campaign.

What’s missing? It’s obvious to adoptees. Whether we’re “well-adjusted” or struggling, in the fog or out, wrestling with identity issues, facing secondary rejection, muddling through a reunion, or fighting against the powers-that-be in a closed records nightmare, the emotional turmoil of the adoptee is sorely missing from The Cradle’s fables of the adoptive family. Even adoptees who claim a happy childhood and successful family life growing up adopted face issues related to adoption trauma. It’s a fact. The deep emotional experiences of great loss and grief are a common theme in the life of a adoptee. The trauma related to being separated from one’s mother and family at birth or soon thereafter is real. It may not be something an adoptee feels as a child growing up, but it often surfaces later in life, particularly during milestone events like marriage, childbirth, or death of an adoptive parent or someone close to the adoptee.

In the film, The Cradle claims to be a place that recognizes and nurtures a pregnant mother struggling with the decision of whether to keep her child. How does a mother even get to that point? How is the option of adoption introduced to a pregnant mother who is under duress? I turned to The Cradle’s website for answers.

The Cradle is proud of their on-site nursery. The website proclaims: “The Cradle is the only adoption agency in the country with an on-site nursery offering a safe, neutral place for infants to stay while their parents take the time they need to decide if adoption will be the plan for their child.” So, the mother and child are separated while the mother “decides” if adoption is right for their family situation? This is where the “options counseling” comes in. There is little positive or encouraging information on the website about the choice to parent. And there was even less mentioned in the film. What about options for parenting? What about support for the mother and child together rather than a nursery that separates mother and child? The website’s page for “options counseling” is sparse, and includes a simple comparison of “ADOPTION” and “PARENTING” that lists the things an expectant mother should consider (according to The Cradle) if she is thinking about parenting her child:

  • Your daily schedule and child care needs
  • Your budget, including housing, living expenses/bills, baby supplies, transportation, child care, etc.
  • Health care and medical insurance
  • Supportive people (family, friends, professionals) – identify who those people are for you, and talk with them about the kinds of help you can expect from them

That’s enough to scare the living motherhood out of me. Where are the answers? Where are the resources? And to make matters even more one-sided, the page on the website that features the nursery also features a big window with continuous scrolling photos of hopeful smiling potential adoptive parents with the caption, “Choose an Adoptive Family.” Problem solved.

The film does mention that a parent who has taken advantage of The Cradle’s services, like counseling and the nursery, can, of course, decide to keep her child and simply come and get the baby and take her home. Good to know. If The Cradle actually does this work (like counseling in favor of keeping your child and directing a mother and/or father to usable resources, etc.), why not highlight in the film a few of the stories where this sort of happy ending resulted? Or at least provide some statistics. I know I would have loved to have seen a few of these real-life fairy tales where mother decides to keep her child. I mean, really . . . this sounds like a much happier (and more natural) ending to any story than a child separated from his or her biology and family and thrown into the arms of strangers.

Note to adoptive parents: That baby isn’t bonding with you. It’s a matter of life or death for the baby–her needs must be met. It’s survival mode.

But there are no family preservation-style happy endings shown in the film. That’s because The Cradle is about adoption; more specifically, facilitating the brokering of babies. Period.

More to come on this topic–look for “Red Couch Rebuttal: Adoptees (and Others) Talk Back to The Cradle,” coming to NAAP Happy Hour soon.

Find Your Tribe

During this crazy Covid-time, it helps to connect with family, friends, and others who share a common bond. For me, it’s helpful at times to connect with other adoptees. This article is shared and reprinted here by permission from the Indiana Adoptee Network. It was originally printed in its 2020 Holiday Newsletter.

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter,and those who matter don’t mind.” –Bernard M. Baruch

It took me a long time to find my voice. I mean, my real voice. The real me. I’m not even sure I know who I am fully at this point in my life.  I’m fifty-seven years old.

I grew up adopted, raised in a middle-class, normal(ish) family. I went to college and had a career in the legal field, where I worked as a paralegal for over twenty-five years. I’ve been married, divorced, and married again. I have two grown boys. I even wrote and published a book—a memoir—about my adoption experience, my search for my identity, and my journey to find biological family.

I’m still insecure. I have anxiety. But I know I need to move forward every day. But how?

I took a big leap in 2019 after I published my memoir. It was a big leap for me, anyway. I wanted to share my story with adoptees and others connected to the adoption community. I searched online for groups or sub-communities near me here in Southern California where I could share and talk about adoption. There really wasn’t much locally. I toyed with the idea of starting a social group with a few adoptee friends of mine. But I wanted more—I really wanted to connect. I wanted to learn about the experiences of others and how other adult adoptees were faring in this crazy world. I eventually landed on the Indiana Adoptee Network website. As it turned out, at the time I found IAN, they were getting ready for their March conference. The website was all a-buzz about it. How fortuitous for me.

But wait . . . Indiana? Was it for me? Was I really going to travel over two thousand miles to hang out with total strangers? The workshops looked interesting, and there were going to be other adoptees, but would they welcome me—an outsider from California—into the fold?

At the same time I was considering attending the conference Indiana, my anxiety was hitting me hard. I had just birthed my book and my crazy adoptee story was out there for the world to see (and judge). Who did I think I was writing this memoir about my small experience? Who is really going to care? What if they don’t like me?

I waited until the last minute to register and book my flight and hotel. But I did it—I was all in. And I’m glad I did. What a revelation! Let me tell you, it is really something to be in a room full of other people who just get it. Everyone was friendly and helpful and caring. There was no shortage of sharing and learning. There was yoga, meditation, comedy, and a movie. There was even an art display put together by a super-talented adoptee-artist. That might sound a little strange to non-adoptees—how is “adoptee-ism” a genre? Or a subject? But, believe me, it IS! There is a connection . . . a common thread. Really, more like a common direction, or lifeline. I made new friends and met so many smart and vibrant people that are truly committed to the support and encouragement of adoptees and others dedicated to adoption issues from all angles. My tribe.

2020 is a disappointment, for sure, with the unavoidable cancelation of the fourth annual live conference. I was really looking forward to seeing everyone again, meeting new people, and getting my dose of adoptee harmony. But not to worry, IAN is dedicated to continuing its work to uplift and support those in the adoption community. I hope you are all joining in on the Adoption Happy Hour. It’s such a great way to stay connected until we can meet again.

Pushy People Persevere

I’ve never considered myself a pushy person. In fact, I’m mostly non-confrontational. As a child, I rarely spoke up for myself. I accepted what I got in life and was grateful. Adoptees are groomed for that. We’re people-pleasers, for the most part. It took me a long time to realize that my own thoughts and emotions mattered, find my voice, and then learn to advocate for myself.

When I first decided to search for biological family and learn about my origins over thirty-five years ago, I had just graduated from college. I had also just returned from a year abroad with a newfound sense of independence, strength, and swagger. Truth be known, I thought I was something of a badass. Then, I found my birthmother. And just like that–whoosh–I was cut right back down to size. Rejected. Ouch. I was not such a badass, after all.

I remember my first job out of college as a paralegal. The first attorney I worked for had a reputation of being an arrogant ass. He was. I took orders, basically, and did the work. It wasn’t fun, but I learned a lot. After about three years at that job, I went to work for a larger law firm. It was weird . . . they actually wanted to know what I thought. They wanted my opinion. Does this or that apply? Can we do this? Figure this out and tell me how we can make it work. I was still uncomfortable speaking with authority about anything, but I sure as hell could write a persuasive memo arguing just about anything.

So, no, I never thought of myself as pushy.

Recently, however, I was triggered by someone who called me pushy in relation to my adoption journey. Granted, this person is not an adoptee, so she has no idea what it takes for us, as adoptees, to own our stories and search for the truth. But it got me thinking. Was I pushy? Am I just too much?

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The word pushy just seems so childish. It has a teasing quality to it as though it originated on a playground. Its use can have the effect of reducing the significance of a goal to a sort of childish whine. Now that’s triggering! Talk about the infantilization of adult adoptees. Adult adoptees are often treated as  ‘forever’ children–delegitimizing our narratives and sidelining us from inclusion in decisions affecting us. Pushy? I think not.

Being  called pushy connotes an improper attempt to charge through a barrier to achieve a goal. Well, for sure I had to push through barriers to reach my goal. All adoptees do. When it comes to adoption, people lie and falsify documents to cover up the truth. Even the law, in some cases, is against us.  California’s archaic closed records laws still exist, despite the beautiful reality and truth of DNA testing. Yes, I pushed! But, I see nothing negative or improper about it. All I was doing was searching for the truth. Working toward a goal that is worthy of our time and energy often involves pushing for something.

And look at it this way–how about those lies and secrets, closed records, and forged documents? Why are those still being pushed on us? Why do we, as adoptees, have to settle for something that’s just not right?

So keep pushing. Be assertive. You can be assertive and still be aware and compassionate. I like to think that while I may have pushed pretty hard at times during my search and throughout my journey, I held on to my integrity and was still able to respect the thoughts and feelings of others, even if I disagreed with them (like my birthmother).

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Does this book make me look pushy?

Available at Amazon

The Silver Lining

whaleThe tulips are blooming in Washington State right now. The Orcas are in Puget Sound, swimming and feeding around the beautiful islands across the Sound from Seattle. And Jonathan, my sweet, smart bio-dad, just celebrated his seventy-seventh birthday at his home in Bellingham.

Jonathan1It was five years ago this weekend (Easter) that I flew up to Washington to meet Jonathan for the first time. Here is a post I wrote later that year about the experience. Back then I was calling him “Jackson” here on the blog–I was respecting his privacy at the time because I wasn’t sure how this whole “reunion” thing was going to go. For those of you who know my story or have read my book, you know by now that Jonathan is a loving and open man and he has shared his love of life with me. For those of you who haven’t yet read my book, it’s on sale right now–a good read for this time you’re stuck at home (wink).

Anyway, I had plans to be in Washington earlier this month, but the evil Covid-19 (a.k.a. the novel coronavirus) foiled my plans.

I get it. What we’re dealing with is serious. I’m doing my best to stay put at home. I’ve got a family member who is a nurse, and several friends who are in the retail grocery business–all considered “essential” workers. They’re risking their health every day they go to work. I also have family members who have lost their jobs and their income because of Covid-19 and the mandatory business closures. They are scared and stressed out about an unknown future. I’m worried about them. And then there is the illness itself. I have a couple of friends (one in California and one in Washington) who have had it. Both are recovering, thank goodness.

And what about the people among us who are more vulnerable than average? Those who have compromised immune systems due to cancer treatments or other medical issues must be extra vigilant. And the elderly have their own struggles with this pandemic. My poor mother-in-law is stuck in her assisted living facility with no visitors. She was crying on the phone today when she told us how much she misses us. She keeps asking questions about the virus . . . it’s heartbreaking!

This is a scary time for so many reasons. And yesterday, the mayor of Los Angeles announced that the stay-at-home order has been extended through May 15! This includes the social distancing, mask wearing mandates, business and park closures, etc. I’m assuming it’s only a matter of time before all of California will follow suit, along with other states and large metro areas across the country.

This is crazy. Or, I should say, I’m going crazy. I know you are, too. Let’s get real, the months-long isolation will take its toll on our mental health. How, you ask?

  • increased anxiety (about health issues and financial stress)
  • loneliness, boredom
  • anger, frustration at the loss of personal freedoms
  • depression
  • grief

I’m no expert, but I’ve done a lot of reading and research on how to protect my own mental health over the years. Like a lot of us, I’ve lived with trauma and stress related to my adoption and my adoption journey. Many other non-adoption related curve-balls have been thrown my way over the years, as well. So, I’ve been to counseling. No shame in that. And I’ve learned to cope. For the most part. I still struggle. Just like everyone else.

Anxiety lives in me. Are you ever lying in bed trying to go to sleep when you realize that every muscle in your body is tense? On particularly stressful days this is me. I have to force myself to relax. Every. Single. Muscle. Or, do you mindlessly self-sooth? Are you ever just sitting reading, watching tv, or visiting with someone and you realize that you’re rocking your leg or tapping your foot and you didn’t even realize you’re doing it? That’s me too. Self-soothing is simply a behavior that has developed over time that is originally learned when a child tries to regulate their own emotional state. There are good self-soothing techniques for adults (spending time with a pet, listening to music, etc.) and there are destructive coping techniques (risky behaviors, drugs, violent behavior, cutting, etc.). I’ll be honest  . . . having a cocktail or two to blur the stress sounds like a good idea to me sometimes. But let’s try to stay away from the negative stuff.

I just want to help in any way I can, so I’m going to share what I know. It’s easier said than done, and it’s probably more difficult for us adoptees, but bear with me. Here goes.

When the stress and the negative seem overwhelming, look for a glimmer of hope to keep yourself going. I’m not talking about a simple look-on-the-bright-side attitude. That would be ridiculous. It’s not that easy. You have to work for it. I’m talking about actively searching for that silver lining. Do something about it.

So, where is the silver lining about being stuck at home during this time? Here are a few suggestions.

  • Getting chores done – I’m stuck at home so I should finally clean out and organize me & guythat junk room downstairs. I haven’t yet . . . but I should. I know it will feel good when I do. Silver lining.
  • Learning to enjoy togetherness – I’m stuck here at home with my husband so we’re doing more stuff together. He’s newly retired, so both of us being at home together all day has been quite an adjustment. Before the lockdown, at least I could escape for some retail therapy or lunch and wine with friends. Now, we’re going on walks, watching movies together, even discussing things. It’s been (surprisingly) nice!
  • More time for hobbies – I like to cook. I’m definitely getting to do that a lot while on lockdown. I’ve been experimenting with my Instant Pot and my air fryer. I realize cooking is not fun for everyone, but what about paper crafting, sewing, painting, etc.? Get your creative juices flowing!
  • Catch up on reading – I’ve read 3 books in 2 weeks. One was a really great adoption memoir that I need to review here on the blog. That’s another thing–I should blog more often! Stay tuned for a book review coming soon!

The most important thing you can do to keep that silver lining in view right now is to STAY CONNECTED. We’re lucky to live in a time where technology has made it much easier to keep in touch. For starters, there are Facebook groups. There are many adoptee/adoption-centric groups, or other groups geared toward specific interests that may help you get involved and connect with like minds. And don’t forget Facetime, Skype, or Facebook Messenger for video calls, so you can meet socially online with a more intimate group of friends or relatives. And, of course, there is Zoom for larger groups.

happy hourI’m all for on-line social clubs, too. Indiana Adoptee Network has started an Adoptee Happy Hour for adoptees and those connected to adoption. The group “meets” online several times a month. You can check out IAN’s Facebook page for more information. The next #AdoptionHappyHour will be on Friday, April 17 and will feature guest speaker, Wallace J. Nichols, Ph.D, author of Blue Mind, a best-selling book about the remarkable effects of water in all of its shapes and forms on our health and well-being. Dr. Nichols’ Ted Talk is on YouTube–check it out.

While staying connected is important, I also think there is nothing wrong with a little introspection, as well. Take some quiet time to assess where you are in your life. Contemplate if you’re content with who you are and what your’e doing. Be honest with yourself. There is no benefit to pretending that everything is okay if it isn’t. Adoptees are good at adapting, but move past your comfort zone and really look at your situation. If you are not happy with your professional and personal life, now might be a good time to start developing a plan or a strategy to achieve your goals. Ask for help or get a mentor. Some of us will be building a new future out of necessity after this is all over. Plan accordingly.

Unfortunately, there is going to be suffering. The goal is coping. Coping well and finding that silver lining. Share how you are coping and what silver linings you’re finding during this crazy time in the comments. And most importantly, STAY HEALTHY! Together we’ll get to the other side of this!

HK quote

 

This Is Us – It Wasn’t About Jack

I know it’s fiction. I know the characters are not real. But wow, do these writers know how to write emotional stories.

I have friends that say the show is “too depressing,” or just too much of a “tear-jerking melodrama,” so they don’t watch. That’s fine. I have a theory about those people. Perhaps those people are not in touch with their own emotions and watching these stories and the heart wrenching relatable life events may be uncomfortable for them. I might be wrong, but really, This Is Us is soooo good!  To each his own.

I want to focus on Randall’s story, obviously. Seriously, I cannot stop thinking about last night’s episode. Finally, Randall’s story focused on his adoption and the trauma and anxiety in his life that is related to 1) his feelings about being adopted/abandoned, and 2) how his adopters handled certain situations relating to his adoption.

“A Hell Of A Week: Part One” kicked off several weeks ago with three episodes, each focusing on one of the siblings. The episodes also effectively flashed back to the stressful teen years and a flashback to their childhood and their first night in their “big kid beds.”

randallWe know that as an adult, Randall is an over-achiever and a perfectionist. And even in the flashbacks, we see Child and Teenage Randall aiming to be a over-the-top people-pleaser and solver of all of the Pearson Family problems. Randall’s anxiety has always been central to his character. But in these past episodes, we seem to see Randall sort of “flailing in the dark” about where the anxiety comes from and how to deal with it.

Randall’s anxiety even manifests itself in nightmares and once even in a ‘shroom-induced hallucination. In the episode “The Trip,” we see via flashback that Jack, Randall’s a-dad, had no idea that Randall’s biodad, William, was alive and/or interested in his son’s life. After Randall’s interest in random black people becomes evident, Jack talks to Rebecca and suggests hiring a private investigator to find Randall’s birth parents. But Rebecca shuts him down. Her guilt is palpable. She knows who Randall’s bio father is and had even been in contact with him. When Randall finds this out, he is understandably upset. Then, back in real time, Randall is accidentally tripping on ‘shrooms at the cabin, and hallucinates a conversation with his dead a-dad, Jack. “We gave you everything we could,” Dead Jack tells Randall.  “And all I was supposed to feel was grateful,” Randall shoots back. “I was a replacement for your dead baby. That’s all I’ve ever been.”

Later, when the drugs wear off, Randall’s anger had calmed down a bit and he decided to visit Rebecca. I was thinking we were going to see some sort of reconciliation and a real heart-to-heart between Randall and his a-mom. But no. Randall was still pissed about the lie.

“You kept that secret for 36 years. That must’ve been incredibly lonely,” Randall says, standing at the doorway, refusing to come in. Rebecca begins to sob. She reaches for him, but he pulls back. “No, not yet,” he says flatly. “I’ll see you at Christmas.” Then he walks away.

Okay, so the above is just an example of Randall’s issues and anxiety. I can relate to ALL OF IT. Fellow adoptees: can’t you? It’s so obvious!

therapySo, FINALLY, Randall starts to realize, through his therapy, that his abandonment issues are at the heart of his anxiety. Interestingly enough, however, the episode is touted as a “What if Jack Never Died” story. But what really comes though, for me anyway, are the scenarios that Randall plays through his head regarding his bio dad.  Randall realizes, through is therapy, the possibility of rejection, a different kind of reunion, questions about his bio-mother, different emotions about his adoptive parents. . . all so familiar to an adoptee. For me, this was missing in Randall’s story before last night. The flashbacks never showed him wondering about his biological family. His childhood, as far as we knew, was not riddled with fantasies about his bio parents and where they were and whether they were looking for him. Perhaps he didn’t think about it as a child or as a teenager. But he sure as hell let it all out during his therapy as an adult. All the scenarios were there.Jack Randall

I felt satisfied watching this episode. I understood Randall. It felt real.

Unfortunately, there is an entire group of TIU fans who think the episode was really about “what if Jack didn’t die?” And they’re disappointed with the episode. They didn’t “get it.” Uh, no.

It was about all the fantasies and emotions and anxiety and control issues stemming from Randall’s adoption. And we get it, don’t we?

Closure . . . or Peace?

I’ve read quite a few things written by adoptees (and others) where their end goal is some sort of “closure.” Whether adoptees are searching for bio family, or trying to end a toxic relationship with an adoptive family or bio, or trying to figure out how all of the complicated emotional layers inherent in adoption fit into a normal or well-adjusted life, adoptees are looking for closure.

For me, closure is a complex, elusive, and even somewhat scary, monster. And I’m not sure I want it.padlock-690286_1920

I believe life is a journey. Every point of interaction with another human being, and every bit of knowledge I seek, along with all the stumbling and bumbling along the way, come together to form who I am and what I believe. My truth, if you will. The journey, along with the growth and the pain and the learning—the highs and lows–never ends . . . until I end. Which I hope isn’t any time soon.

Closure” or the need for closure is defined from a psychological standpoint as “an individual’s desire for a firm answer to a question and an aversion toward ambiguity. The term “need” here denotes a motivated tendency to seek out information.”
Closure means finality. I don’t think that’s necessarily a good thing. I’ve definitely experienced failures in this life, as well as regrets and terrible disappointments. My life, like everyone else’s, is complicated. But those perceived negatives make me who I am! I’ve accepted my past, but there will never be closure while I’m still living.

open armsI’m open, and I hope I remain open, to new experiences, ideas, friendships and people. People change their minds about things, too. People evolve. The way I felt about something yesterday (or ten years ago) may not be the way I will feel about it tomorrow (or five years from now).

Take, for example, the rejection (at birth and later in life) from my birth mother. It was a crushing disappointment at the time. I was in my early twenties the first time she rejected me as an adult. The second time was in my late twenties after I had my first child. I naively thought the photo I sent of myself sitting on my white picket fence in front of my little starter home holding my newborn baby boy might melt her heart a little. It didn’t. How does one put “closure” on something like that? You don’t.

The rejection and sadness I felt was like an open wound. But it didn’t last forever. I grew and I learned and I healed. I dealt with the pain and eventually, the sadness was lifted. I moved forward. Counseling, friends, and family helped. I also met other bio family members. I met my aunts (my bio mother’s sisters) and spoke to other family members who helped me to understand where my bio mother came from and who she really is today. I’ve decided I’m better off not knowing her. That’s a decision for now. But who knows how I’ll feel five years from now?

path moorFor some, finding closure implies a complete acceptance of what has happened and an honoring of the transition away from what’s finished to something new. I guess in that sense, I agree with closure, in theory. I still like to think of my life as a journey—a windy road with all kinds of pitstops, detours, forks, and even potholes. Hang on, it’s a bumpy ride!

 

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Buy Laureen Pittman’s memoir here:

THE LIES THAT BIND

An Adoptee’s Journey Through Rejection, Redirection, DNA, and Discovery

What Are You Looking For?

“What we see depends mainly on what we look for.” This quote is credited to John Lubbock, who lived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He was an English aristocrat, banker, Liberal politician, philanthropist, scientist, polymath, archaeologist, and writer. Basically, this guy was an over-achiever. I bet he was a positive thinker, too.

glass half fullI don’t  usually make New Year’s Resolutions (okay, I make them, but I never keep them), but for 2020, I’ve decided to be more positive. I’ve made a pledge to myself to be a “glass half full” kind of gal. Don’t laugh.

It’s not going to be easy, I know. I’m a worrier. Seriously, I worry about everything. Constantly. I worry about fleas on my cats, the leaky faucet (which makes me worry about whether there are leaks somewhere I cannot see), money, my son in college, the loose pavers in the walkway out front, weeds, ants taking over my orange tree, the health of friends and family, getting old . . . etc. Worries are the first things to pop into my mind when I wake. They’re the things that keep me awake at night. I even worry that I worry too much. Duh.

Medication helps. I’m not embarrassed to say that I have been taking medication for anxiety for years now. It takes the edge off and I am able to be more aware of when I might be starting out on a crushing worry-spiral. If it’s a serious worry, I’ll give it its due and sit with it, worry about it, and force myself to think of solutions. Sometimes there are none. Sometimes the solution is out of my reach or beyond my control. I am learning to let some things go. It’s not easy.

I’ve discovered, too, that worrying is not always a bad thing. In fact, worrying may be good for your health, if it is understood correctly. There are studies that suggest that “worry is associated with recovery from traumatic events, adaptive preparation and planning, recovery from depression, and uptake of health-promoting behaviors.” (Kate Sweeney,  Professor of Psychology, University of California, Riverside.) This is a great article to read if you want to remind yourself that worrying is not always a bad thing.

I believe that thinking positively goes hand-in-hand with filtering out the worries. I just need to do it more. I don’t know how I’m going to succeed with this, but I will. I’ll start with reviewing just a few of the positive vibes and events of the last decade.

positivityI have a friend who beat Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma in the last decade. He and his wife could not have gotten through it without positive thinking. It was a life-changing battle for both of them, their families, and friends. I’ve watched in awe as he and his wife faced challenge after challenge with poise and positivity. He had a bone-marrow transplant in 2011. It was successful, but brought with it a host of other complications. He has basically been fighting for his life for the entire last decade. 2019 ended with a double lung transplant, and this, too, has been a success! We had dinner with this couple recently, and I was nearly in tears just watching our friend as he was more animated, engaged, and happier than I’ve seen him in years. Garrett, my now 19-year-old, wants to get a tattoo of a pair of lungs to commemorate our friend’s success in this battle and as a tribute to him as a positive role model. He is an inspiration to us all. The power of positivity. 

JonathanAnother good thing that happened: thanks to DNA, I discovered my biological father! He’s alive and well and I’m so thankful that I’ve been able to meet him and have a relationship with this extraordinary, talented, and smart man. He didn’t even know that I existed. And I gained a sister and a niece and a whole new extended family. It’s been a weird and oddly satisfying journey. Our relationship has evolved in a way I could never have imagined. We have been working together for the last 5 years to seek out hidden truths about his life and (our) family.

Writing and publishing my book, The Lies That Bind, was another positive for me. By writing, I was able to share my truth–my adoption story. Writing helped me to make sense of my world and the people in it. It also helped me to understand, to a certain degree, the people who are not in my world. If you’re adopted, you know what I mean.3d mock1

So, I’m going to be more positive about who’s in my world and appreciate everyone for who they are and what they contribute. And here are some of the things I’m going to try to do to radiate positivity in myself:

  • Look for the best in others.
  • Forgive easily.
  • Be thankful for all blessings, big and small.
  • Treat myself with kindness.
  • Be optimistic; expect good things to happen.
  • Avoid complaining.
  • Smile more.
  • Compliment others more. 
  • Be more tolerant.

I’m sure there are more positive things I can be or try–feel free to leave me suggestions in the comments!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Adoption is Everywhere – It Cannot Hide (Or Can It?)

I have a friend. She is older than me. Old enough to be my mother, in fact. She knows my story. She knows that I was adopted, that I was born in prison, that I struggled with my identity in my youth, and that I was cruelly rejected by my biological mother when I searched and found her over thirty years ago. She knew I continued to struggle over the years with feelings of anguish and inadequacy after the rejection from my birthmother, and that I wondered constantly about my biological origins. She listened sympathetically and supported me fully (or so I thought) as the story of finding my biological father unfolded.

After over twenty years of friendship, and me spilling my guts about my crazy adoptee-centric issues (closed records, lies, shame, rejection, fantasies, social media, stalking family members, DNA, family trees, etc.), my friend dropped a bombshell. A big one. One night, after a couple glasses of wine and talking about everything and nothing at all, she confessed: “I gave a child up for adoption the same year you were born. My daughter would be just a few months older than you.”

Uh . . . what!? I was dumbfounded. After picking my jaw up off the table and consciously unknitting my brow, I took a big gulp of wine.

At first, I was sympathetic. She told me she was shunned by her own mother and father and sent away to live with a relative during her pregnancy. She described being shamed by her family for being pregnant at eighteen and how she was coerced into relinquishing her daughter.

I think at this point I was uncorking another bottle of wine.

I asked her if she had ever heard from her daughter or from anyone on her behalf. She said no. I asked her if she had ever tried looking for her daughter. She said no. She went on to explain that through the years she “made sure” that if her daughter was looking for her, she had done everything she could to make herself “easy to find.” It sounded like she was simply waiting to be found.

I asked her if she wanted help finding her now. She said, “If my daughter wanted to find me, she could have. And she hasn’t.”

There were tears and more drunken talk . . . and when my friend left that night, I felt sorry for her. I felt sorry for her daughter out there somewhere. I wanted to do something about it, but it wasn’t my thing to do anything about.

That was nearly five years ago. Over time, I’ve given my friend’s situation a lot of thought. We’ve had a few discussions about it . . . but each time I bring it up, I get hit with, “You just don’t understand!” Really? Or, “Quit trying to push your agenda on me.” We end up frustrated and upset with each other. Now we don’t talk about it. It’s like this awful, sad, secret, adopted elephant in the room. Our friendship has suffered.

I don’t get it. She’s successful, retired, single, and has a grown son. Now that she’s retired she throws herself into volunteer work, which includes helping orphans in Mexico and mentoring foster children in her own community. As for the mentoring, she’s actually been mentoring foster kids for years—even before she was retired. I had always admired that she gave so much of herself to these motherless kids, but now I’m seeing it in a different light. In my mind, it’s like she’s trying to make up for orphaning her daughter. Of course, I shouldn’t assume this.

And about her being always “out there” to find . . . I’m not so sure she’s been truthful about “not hiding.” When she finally joined Facebook, she used a fake name. That’s kind of a big deal. Social media is one of the easiest ways for adoptees to track people down these days.

Of course, my assumption of her reluctance to be found makes me think of my own biological mother. She absolutely didn’t want to be found. That hurt. Now I have this friend who is behaving in a way that I believe is hurtful. I don’t think she’s dealing with her own emotions about relinquishing her child so many years ago. Maybe I’m wrong.

Anyway, it’s not my thing. It’s hers. I’ll continue to advocate—adoptees need to be heard. Birthmothers, too. Some just aren’t ready.

My birthmother didn’t want to be found, either, but I found her anyway. Read my story, The Lies That Bind, An Adoptee’s Journey of Rejection, Redirection, DNA, and Discovery

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Release Your Truth . . . Find Your Strength

If you follow my blog (or any other adoption-centric blog or group), you already know it’s National Adoption Awareness Month (#NAAM). And you probably know that adoptees are making a concerted effort to switch the focus of the awareness to the people involved in adoption that matter the most: THE ADOPTEE.

It’s complicated. Most adoptees, at one point or another, deal with one or more of the following confounding issues:

  • loss of family (even if he or she gained a “good one” through adoption)
  • unknown or confused heritage
  • unknown health history
  • sealed records
  • family secrets
  • lies (sometimes)

And these issues often lead to anxiety, identity confusion, depression, low self-esteem, and more.

It helps to know and talk with other adoptees experiencing the same issues. It helps to bring your fears out into the open and deal with them. Release your truth and you will find your strength.

Last March, I attended the Indiana Adoptee Network‘s Annual Conference . What an eye-opener. It was fantastic to be with such a large group of people who just “get it.” While I was there, I was lucky enough to meet a woman who truly understands the power of opening up. She wrote a book about it. And guess what? She’s not an adoptee. She’s a birth mother (or “first mother,” if you prefer). I love what she’s done–for birth mothers and adoptees. And for anyone else holding in the pain of a traumatic event.

Shoebox Cover

In her book, The Shoebox Effect, Marcie Keithley tells the heart-wrenching story of relinquishing a child for adoption and how it affected her life and the lives of her family. As an adoptee, Marcie’s story helped me to understand the heart of a young mother suffering through her quiet desperation during a difficult time.

But, Marcie goes beyond just story-telling in her book. Marcie wants us all to open our hearts—and our shoeboxes—to let out the secrets and explore the truths within. There is healing in sharing. There is freedom and peace in understanding why we pack away and hide what hurts us. Marcie’s book offers a guide of sorts at the end of each chapter, to help us coax out our own secrets and unpack the shame, guilt, and unresolved grief. I wish my own birth mother would read this book . . .

Too often, we go through life as intimate strangers with the people we love. We avoid certain topics in fear they might open up a Pandora’s Box, so we take an opposing approach. Many of us stuff reminders of those topics inside shoeboxes or other containers, in hopes we can hide the situation away. But this is a mistake. –Marcie Keithley, The Shoebox Effect

This book is not just for birth mothers and adoptees. It’s for anyone who is hiding away bits and pieces (or big ol’ chunks) of his or her life in the hopes of avoiding difficult feelings. I highly recommend actively reading this book!

Marcie’s book, The Shoebox Effect, Transforming Pain Into Fortitude and Purpose, will be released November 12. You can pre-order it now on Amazon.

Click on the links here if you’re interested in learning more about the Indiana Adoptee Network and the Indiana Adoptee Network 4th Annual Conference.