Monday, August 25, 2014

Letters To My Adoptive Mother

My Mother and I, 2013, Best Friends Forever

Back in 2009 my therapist at the time asked me to write a series of letters. The assignment was to write letters I would have wanted my Adoptive Mother to write to me as a young girl. The task challenged my loyalties to my Mother and made me feel very icky and uneasy. However, the healing that took place as a result was remarkable. As I read the letters aloud in the therapists office, I cried and cried like a lunatic. If only my Mother had known what to say or do when it came to adoption. If only she had the tools. The truth is she had nothing. She was handed a baby and was told that it was her own. In her mind, I was a blank canvas.

I have not looked at these entries since writing them 5 years ago. It took my breath away as I read through them earlier this morning. The way in which I wished my Mother had spoken to me is a mirror of the way I am parenting my adopted daughter.  These letters no longer evoke any huge emotions in me.  I still wish my Mother voiced these things to me to make my journey to self easier, but I am getting there on my own and that is incredibly empowering. She is by my side now [every day for 5 years] and we are walking together through my healing now. It's important to note that these letters were never sent to my Mother, nor were they meant to be.  She will be reading them for the first time now along with all of you.

Dear Lynnie Bin [My Mother's nickname for me],
     I want you to know that it is okay to love your Birthmom. It is okay if you even refer to her as Mom. She is your Mom as am I.  You have two Moms and that is okay. That is what makes you special.  Being adopted is very painful.  It is okay if you ever want to talk about your Mom or ask me questions about adoption.  I will try my best to answer them and if I cannot I will find someone that can.  It is so hard to lose someone you love. Just because you don't know your Bithmom does not mean you can't love her. It is okay to love her. It is okay if you even love her as much as me or or even if you love her more than me.  I think you should have a heart for your Birthmom and a heart for me. Know that it is okay - you can keep these two hearts separate. 
     The truth is that I do not know why you were put up for adoption. When you grow up, perhaps we can find out what your story is. I am sorry that we do not have too much information, but I do not mind telling you the information we do have over and over again.  Everyone has a story.  Yours may be short and incomplete , but you do have a story.
Love, Mom

Dear Lynn,
     I am so sorry that those girls in class whispered about you being adopted.  I will call their Mothers' and explain to them more about adoption. People whisper and stare at people when they do not know about it.  Just because they are whispering does not mean something is wrong with you.  It just means they don't understand.  I can also give your teacher some books about adoption or I can come to your class and we can teach your friends more about adoption.  Whatever the best thing is for you, I will do.  If you don't want me to do anything, just know that I would do anything if you asked me to.
Love, Mom

Dear Lynn,
     I am so sorry I cried all those times you were mad and said I was not your real Mom.  I know that was a cry for help and I turned the other cheek - I made it about me.  I always made you feel guilty for saying those words, instead I owe you an apology.  When our fights settled down, I should have spoken to you more about your feelings.  We all want our Moms when we are mad or frustrated.  These are confusing times for you.  Although it is not okay to hurt people deliberately, I realize that those words, in particular, are your way of expressing how much you miss your Mom.  You needed to deal with the pain and anger of losing her.  Because I never helped you do that, all your pain and anger is being brought into everyday situations.  I am sorry I never helped you separate the pain, fear and loss of your Mother with the trials of everyday life.  Please forgive me.
Love, Mom

Have any of you used this letter writing method to help heal from your adoption loss? Did you find it effective? Do you feel I am being disloyal to my Mother by publishing these very personal thoughts?  I look forward to hearing from you.

Lesson Learned: When you decide its time to begin to heal from the trauma of adoption, let down the guard that adoptees often put up to protect the feelings of our adoptive parents.  Be vulnerable and don't feel guilty finally voicing the emotions you repressed for so long.  The adoption was not your choice and you have the right to feel the way you want to. 




Sunday, August 17, 2014

If you love something, Let it go free



Trace's story was recently featured on Al Jazeera

"...If you love something let it go free…If it comes back it’s yours: If it doesn’t, it never was."  


I saved this quote from my teens. It came in handy when I was trying to figure out if someone really loved me.

It hit me as relevant for parents who adopted us... you can be selfless for adoptees and you can set us free... especially when we are adults and go into reunion with our first parents.
This past week I had a long conversation with a friend whose wife gave up a baby for adoption 40 years ago. I played a small part in their finding the child she gave up at age 16. 

Now they are reunited with Barb (not her real name.) My friends are trying to figure out what is happening to Barb now that she is in reunion with them and they are obviously looking for clues or signs that she's doing OK. They honestly don't know if they should reach out more... They aren't sure of anything because Barb is in the midwest and they live on the East Coast. They just can't pop in for a quick visit. (I told my friends that Barb is not in their "territory," which means they can't even guess what is going on with her adoptive family since she lives in "their" territory.)

Barb, an adoptee, is young (40) and navigating reunion, trying to balance life as a wife, mother and adopted daughter who now has her new-found first mother and her adoptive mother.  It’s been three years.

The risk is Barb will upset her adoptive parents, who happen to be quite wealthy! (If she is not careful, they might disown her.  Barb's husband sees this eventuality better than Barb does, my friends believe.)

Adoptees like me went through this dilemma, too. I didn't tell my adoptive parents anything. I tried and failed. Mine weren't wealthy but I did risk alienating them. I chose not to...

How do we keep our adoptive parents happy with us, especially when we are meeting our first mothers and fathers? Do we keep them separate? Do we tell our adoptive parents not to worry?  Or do we tell them nothing?  

Reality is most adoptive parents are not the ones in therapy or even thinking about this messy reunion stuff.  Adopters have the upper hand as legally-defined parents to the adoptee, and can reject and disown the adoptee at this most important juncture of an adoptee's adult life. (I call this veiled threat emotional blackmail.)

My friend and his wife are good people. They don’t want to stir up any trouble. They simply want to know Barb and keep in contact. Barb has children so naturally my friends want to know their grandchildren. They are not pressuring Barb in any way. They are letting her make the moves…but for the past few months, Barb's been very sick. (These details are from my friends, and on Barb's recent Facebook posts.) They gave Barb her maternal-side medical history three years ago but new facts have come to light about ancestry, genetics and it could possibly help treat Barb's illness.

They keep up with Barb’s life via text messages and are on her Facebook page. Barb has not been communicating. Earlier this year they met with Barb and her husband and kids out of state for Barb’s convenience. It’s likely Barb kept this trip from her adoptive parents.(She put her phone on silent when her adoptive mother made several calls to her.)

Why?  When Barb was contacted by her first mother, she was so excited she called her adoptive mother to tell her the big news. Barb learned immediately her adoptive mother was not happy at all and was in fact quite shocked.  (Her adoptive mother could not have children, so naturally Barb and her brother filled that gap. Barb has said in so many words said her adoptive mother is controlling and always hovering.)  I have no idea if Barb reads blogs or books by adoptees. Obviously she should!


Many of us Lost Daughters have been navigating reunion for years and have successfully dealt with issues of how much contact is good, and with who...  So I ask your help and advice, Lost Daughters and blog readers.
  • What can my friends do to stay close to Barb now that she is seriously ill?




Trace (Lara) DeMeyer (Cherokee-Shawnee-Euro) is the author of One Small Sacrifice and co-editor of Two Worlds and Called Home (Lost Children of the Indian Adoption Projects.) She also contributed to the LOST DAUGHTERS anthology and other adoption anthologies including ADOPTIONLAND.  Her email is tracedemeyer@yahoo.com.  If you wish to answer this post privately, please use email.


Link to Al Jazeera's Fault Line digital feature LOST BIRDS

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Female Role Models


Perhaps my life would be different had I had the oppertunity to be raised alongside my older sisters... I'm sure I would have had them as role models and been both influenced and inspired by them. But if I had been able to stay--- not be adopted I'm not sure if my youngest birth sibling would have been concieved or even born... (I don't want to elaborate, or dwell on this in any possible form because that part of my adoption is still a very real, tragic and hutful thing. I reserve the right to mention that in another separate post--- if or when I feel strong enough to actually do it.)

I do think of myself as a proud, independent woman (among many things) I confess that my mindset and outlook were forever altered after my last trip back to the motherland. As you may or may not know Korea is a nation with a very defined hierarchy.

I am doubtful as to why Korean women easily can get away with übertajt and short skirts and shorts and could this possibly be linked to Korea's ancient taoist beliefs?

I am proud of the fact that I was raised in a nation that is recognized by many as a nation of strong feminist beliefs yet I wonder if my newfound self has walked right into a trap - even repeating the mistakes my own Omma did and that my beloved Onnis might have made as well.

Korean woman are supposed to be very submissive towards men in some way, yet they are allowed to work but only until they marry. After marriage it's the husband who makes the decisions for the wife - decisions that concerns the woman. However the woman are allowed maybe even expected to make decisions over the finances and children. Another contradiction is that married Korean women get higher social status in society for each child that is born and if she has many sons that's even better.

Nowadays though its very rare for a family to consits of more than two children - due to Korea's family planning policies which restricts families from having more than two children (multiple births are exempted somewhat) because it is believed that a lower population number will make it easier for the nation to industrialize faster. - That could be true for all I know.

Here's a question is it possible to call yourself a feminst yet dress a certain provoking way ? Is your political views supposed to be displayed and mirrored in the way you dress ? Can't a feminist get away with wearing whatever she likes without having to worry about unwanted attention from the opposite sex...

Sometimes when I recollect my thoughts I think it's funny that I am feeling so strongly for a nation that isn't so feminist friendly as Sweden. But you see it is the nation or rather continent where I was created, planned and placed upon this earth...

How ironic it is that I might end up repeating my Omma's destiny... I wonder if she's truely happy , if there are decisions that she regrets. Then I pinch myself and remember that Korean people never worry or are supposed to never worry or dwell over things in the past. Should they be sad they simply seem to repress such feelings.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Would Black Transracially Adopted Males Rather Be White Right Now?




Many of us know about the fatality involving an unarmed African-American 18-year-old named Michael Brown. I won't rehash what has already been said and written (in very passionate and poignant ways) by firsthand witnesses and ill-treated journalists in Ferguson. Instead, I will focus on bettering the future of transracially adopted black males by encouraging a discussion around how we are preparing them for the reality of our "post-racial" world.

I cannot recall how many conversations I've had with white prospective adoptive parents who would say; "I'd just love to adopt a little black boy - they are the cutest!" I always wondered if they realized that the little black boy they so fondly dreamt of would become a teenager in a matter of years, and that between the time of his infancy and his teen years that he'd also morph in to a walking crime. Could those parents also gleefully say "I would just love to parent a black teenage son who is being profiled by the cops!"? Not likely - although these two sentiments are largely one in the same right now. Between Micheal Brown, Trayvon Martin, Renisha McBride, Eric Garner and Ezell Ford it's clear that in America's current climate it is a crime to Be Black.

How will white adoptive parents teach lessons of safety to their growing black sons?  How will they teach that it's okay for some people to talk trash during a spirited football game, but not them?  How will they explain that daddy can walk to 7-11 with a hooded sweatshirt for some skittles, but if they want to make a midnight run to the convenience store then they need to code-switch and whistle Vivaldi as they walk with their hands in plain view in an attempt to lessen the fear from strangers who automatically perceive them as a threat.  How will a black boy learn appropriate behavior in a city like Ferguson if he grew up in a culture where he was consistently fetishized by his teachers and joyously picked first to play basketball as classmates espoused to the black athlete stereotypes?  How might a transracially adopted black child gain a healthy identity when the world that you've created in your home or community does not match this world we live in where the police, Congressmen Steve King, Cliven Bundy, Janelle Ambrosia, Donald Sterling (shall I go on?) don't care if they grew up in a stable and loving adoptive family? Their skin is still black and according to some, that in and of itself is a crime.

Many adoptive parents have kindly asked for my opinion on the correct time to bring up these topics with their sons. My gut tells me that just as there was no "right" age for us to be adopted, there is no right time to introduce the reality of our world today. I'm sure the parents of young toddlers living in Ferguson would rather not have to explain to their child why their eyes are burning while they play at the park because of the lingering teargas in the air. I'd imagine it's hard for parents in Ferguson (of any race) to explain to their children why cops are killing people, since they'd previously taught them that the people in those uniforms are the people who we call on to help keep us safe. If you have the great fortune of living in an area where rioting is not happening outside of your window then perhaps this difficult reality is hard to believe and putting off the conversation is doable. But these times are real, scary and dangerous and your child is part of the systemic racial profiling war and thus they must be discussed. Perhaps the happenings in Ferguson would feel closer and less avoidable if you think about your child's birthparents - what if your child's birthparents live in Ferguson right now? How might you talk about it then?

By nature of being a trans-racial family, your son cannot gain an understanding about his identity from simple role modeling of appropriate behavior as the rules are different for Whites right now. If your children mirrored your behavior (as children are hard-wired to do), they may be in grave danger.

Are white adoptive parents more inclined to reminisce, reflect and eulogize Robin Williams than they are to educate, advocate and act upon these current systemic tragedies that directly impact their family?







About me: Angela Tucker is a trans-racial adoptee, adopted from foster care – born in the South and raised in the Pacific Northwest. She recently reunited with some of her birth relatives, and is still actively searching for another birth sister as is chronicled in the documentary, Closure.  Angela is a columnist for The Lost Daughters and her blog The Adopted Life and has been featured in Psychology Today, Adoptive Families Magazine, Slate.com, Huffington Post and other mediums.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

American Seoul by Zeke Anders

Filmmaker Zeke Anders is a Korean adoptee who grew up in a white middle-class family in suburban Detroit. He is making a series of YouTube vlogs (video logs) called American Seoul about his experience.

So far in the first three episodes, he talks about his one and only memory of living in an orphanage, what it was like being the only Asian kid in elementary school, and his childhood desire to be white.

The episodes are short--running only 3-5 minutes--and easily digestible. In fact, I found myself wishing they lasted a little longer and went into a bit more depth. Still, I'm anxious to see what other territory Anders will cover in upcoming episodes.

Watch American Seoul here:


Friday, August 8, 2014

A Somber Moment For A Fellow Lost Daughter

Prompt. 
The writers and contributors of Lost Daughters comes togheter to remember, honor and also celebrate the life of one of it's contributors. The writers on Lost Daughters comes from all walks of life and ages. Susan Perry a beloved, honoured , inspirational, empowered activist and strong woman sadly passed after battling a period of illness. Let's take a moment to remember.It's a sad event and the first time Lostdaughters had to bid farewell to one of their own, one of our lost daughters is no longer here with us.

Defeat I do not recognize the meaning of  the word, Margaret Tatcher.
If you want something said, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman, Margaret Tatcher.
You must do the thing you think you cannot do, Eleanor Roosewelt.
It's not fair to ask of others what you are unwilling to do for yourself, Eleanor Roosewelt.
The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams, Eleanor Roosevelt.
 One man can make a difference and every man should try, Jackie Kennedy Onassis.
 We should all do something to right the wrongs that we see and not just complain about them, Jackie Kennedy Onassis.
Susan certainly wasn't a woman who silently accepted the injustices that adult adoptees faces. She didn't rely on a man to solve the problem nor did she hope someone else would. Like Eleanor Roosewelt, she dared to dream and believe it could come true. As Jackie Kennedy once said, Susan realized one man could make a difference and she didn't complain about it she dared to do something about it and as Margaret Tatcher she refused to recognize defeat. 

New Jersey adoptees right to get their birth certificates in 2017, is very much thanks to dear Susan Perry and her adoptee activisism. Hopefully there will be other who follows in her steps, continues the struggle and pick the thorch were Susan left it. She is of course grately missed, being a female adoptee activist who refused to accept that adoptees couldn't optain their birth certificates. For the past few years Susan Perry begun to share her experiences in her blog nanadays. Now it's Susan's daughter who keeps the blog active and updated, the work of Susan will certainly not end.

She would have celebrated her 64th birthday just the other month, I like to believe that she noticed the new New Jersey Law that she made a huge contribution to -and she was one of many who is behind it.

The loss of Susan will be great, she was an ardent supporter of the Birthright Bill, now awaiting Governor Christie’s signature in New Jersey.
She was working with the New Jersey Coalition for Adoption Reform and Education (NJCARE) for the past ten years to update adoption law in New Jersey and allow adult adoptees access to their own birth certificates.
Adult adoptees in New Jersey may get Birth Certificates in 2017.







Sunday, August 3, 2014

Adoptees - Reality Mentality

 

There really needs to be an adoptee dictionary.  One that adoptees can hand out when they are attempting to educate nonadopted persons on the impact adoption has had on their lives.  I find that adoptees often communicate through their own terminology and language mostly due to the fact that we are little understood by anyone and sometimes even ourselves.

Adoptees are accused of many things wallowing in self-pity, not being thankful for the parents and family that we were assigned via adoption, and a multitude of other sins including being ungrateful, disrespecting our adoptive parents by searching, and interrupting our  biological families with our "curiosity".  But, that one accusation that really really sticks in my craw is when we are accused of having a victim mentality.

I think for many adoptees we have grown weary of being told how to feel.  Adoption has been painted as a win win for all parties and a wonderful way to create families for so long the under belly of adoption not been revealed.  Adoption is steeped in mystery, secrets, and lies especially considering the history of the closed records system and the propaganda of the profitable industry of adoption.

Loss is loss. You don't tell someone who lost a leg be thankful for their prosthetic, or tell someone who has lost one kidney to be glad still have one left, or someone who lost a child that they have others to be thankful for.  Even IF there is some reason to be thankful for that it doesn't diminish the initial trauma and loss.  Loss, is loss, is loss, is loss and will always BE loss.  Some losses are greater than others certainly.  We can measure and compare them, but they are all still loss. Yes, what we do with it makes the difference but that will never erase the initial loss.
 
Diminishing initial loss for adoptees can further undermine their feelings and emotions leading them to question even more who and what they are.  Adoptees begin to believe there is the distinct possibility that everything about them is wrong.  Mistrust in one's own basic instincts leads to poor decision making in the present, and in the future.  If adoptees are shamed into believing some of the most basic and primal parts of themselves are wrong then they begin to trust in others rather than themselves.  I know this has led me down some wrong pathways in life because I ignored what my gut told me.  After all, if I was told repeatedly I was wrong then everyone else must be right?

WRONG!   I am exasperated at how adoptee's emotions and reactions to one of life's most primal connections, that of those to our biological family, are continually and often cruelly trivialized, undermined, and judged.  Adoptees do not need to allow other people to define our journey in adoption.  It is ours, it belongs to us, and it certainly deserves the same respect as others.

Life's Links

As flower to bee as leaf to tree as cloud to sky and rain.
As foot to toe as face to nose and person to a name.
Together these like fish to sea forever will belong.
Just as notes an artist wrote or lyrics to a song.
Like tracks to a train this perpetual chain is what the world is based on.
There's links between each living thing and dusk that turns to dawn.
A lost key to a lock a stopped hand on a watch are vital connections gone.
Like pasts left behind that we need to find in order to carry on.
I hope you know what I'm trying to show, the point I'm attempting to make.
Like a child to its mother or sister and brother some bonds aren't meant to break.
Karen Brown Belanger

Thursday, July 31, 2014

At the Corner of Badass and Broken



In my first Lost Daughters post a month ago, I introduced one aspect of myself to you: Korean adoptee.  But there are many other parts and now is a good time to roll them out:  I’m a mother to biological and adopted children.  I’m a wife to what we’ve coined as a Stay-At-Home-Dude.  I’m a full-time working woman in Corporate America, an Army veteran, a Crossfitter, and a writer.  I’m a Kentucky girl and SoCal woman.  I’m a daughter to two families – the American family who adopted me at age 3 and the Korean family who found and reclaimed me at age 36.

I am everything I am, all the time.  There’s no way to be different parts of myself at different times. For example, it’s impossible for my maternal nurturing instinct and my Crossfit competitiveness not to inform the way I interact with colleagues at work.  I can’t help but impose a bit of military discipline when teaching my kids to clean their rooms and do their homework.  And, much to my husband’s frustration, I can’t keep the over-thinking writer out of some of our marital debates.

I’ve tried so hard segregate the pieces.  When I transitioned out of the Army, it seemed easier to prevent my military mind from imposing on my new civilian life.  In that way, I spent years struggling to find a career that did not fit the whole of me.  Conversely, I’ve sometimes found that empowerment in one aspect spurred growth in others.  For example, when I nurtured my inner athlete, I found a renewed confidence in my job and marriage.

I was born in Korea, spent the first two years with my Korean family, and was eventually adopted to my American family when I was 3.  I spent 3 years becoming a person with a family and country until the moment it all turned on a dime, and then I was expected to become different person with a different family and country.  I tried so hard to reject the old and become the new in order to survive the dissonance, but every aspect of my life was colored by the one part of myself that I tried to ignore.  So I broke myself in half, and I lived the rest of my formative years as half a person.

So many adoptees feel compelled to segregate our adopted selves from the rest of our so-called real selves.  We have been taught that the trauma was an isolated, static event in the past, and we expect that the trauma of maternal separation is something that we should get over at some point.  For some of us, though, the separation trauma is a living thing within us, sometimes manifesting in insecurity, melancholy, loneliness, or worse.  When don’t get over the trauma, when we can’t unquestioningly accept whatever replacement life and identity we’ve been given, we feel defective.  We have emotions that don’t make sense in the context of our “happy,” “lucky” lives.

Children want to be normal and accepted, and for many of us, the only way to conform to our assumed identities was to compartmentalize the trauma.  We try not to be adopted people.  We splinter ourselves from within. Then we stumble upon a trigger and are suddenly reduced to the adopted person again.  We feel defective again.  This persistent loss cannot be outgrown.

Studies have shown that adopted people as a group are exceptionally accomplished, and also have exceptionally high suicide rates, as compared with non-adopted people.  I don’t believe half the adopted population is well-adjusted and whole while the other half is mentally ill.  I believe many of us spend extra energy fostering an ideal of normalcy and worthiness, even as we view ourselves as grotesque and unworthy, and we struggle to balance these opposites.

After giving birth to 3 children, I decided to adopt.  At the time I thought I understood my motives, but in retrospect I realize there was something subterranean moving in my heart.  Through the process of adopting a child, the other half of me woke up.  She would no longer be ignored. 

It’s taken years for me to begin reconciling the halves, just as it took years for me to reconcile the parts of me that are both military and civilian, both career and family woman.  How foolish I have been to believe that I can ever unpack a part of myself.  We all have our invisible rucksacks full of our burdens.  We can ignore them, but we can’t deny them.  We all want to feel accepted by others and ourselves, but acceptance without acknowledgement is an insidious form of emotional violence.  We form false identities by avoiding the aspects of ourselves we don’t like or understand.

These days, I’m never surprised that I can leave the gym after crushing a workout to find myself fighting back tears from some unknown adoption trigger.  I am entirely composed of the badass parts and the broken parts, so why should I consider them dissonant?  They are equal parts of the whole, and I can’t leave any of them at home.  Every place we’ve been, everything we’ve lived, every person we’ve held informs who we are.  Some experiences stay alive in us – I will always be a woman who served in the Army, who raised four children, who grew up in the soft hills of Kentucky, who was a child who once lost everything.   

The great irony here is that I couldn’t be whole until I understood the ways I am broken, and then allowed myself permission to be both.  There’s no shame in this living trauma.  I have a right to both the trauma and the intermittent (sometimes overwhelming) grief that intertwines with every other aspect of who I am.  It turns out that the house of my identity sits at the corner of badass and broken, and it is beautiful because it is mine.




About me:

I contribute to the Lost Daughters blog and several adoption-related anthologies, all in development. I wrote for the now-retired blogs Faiths and Illusions and Grown in My Heart.  I have an American family that raised me and a Korean family that lost and found me. Both families met in 2013.  I live with my husband, Brett, and four children (3 biological, 1 adopted from China) in Southern California. Find me at www.soojungjo.com or on Facebook as Soojung Jo.