Saturday, November 10, 2012

NaPoBloMo Day 10: Reactions to Searching (by Lynn Grubb)

Blog prompt:   If you've searched for or are thinking of searching for your natural family, what would you say to those who think your desire to search means you are unhappy in your adoptive family or had a bad childhood?

 If you don't have a desire to search, what would you say to those who wonder why you have no interest in knowing where you come from?

I count myself fortunate, with all the comments I get on a regular basis, one I have not gotten (as of yet) is someone telling me they believe I was unhappy in my adoptive family or had a bad childhood as an explanation for the reason I searched for my natural family. 

However, there may have been occasions where they have assumed this without saying it. It seems to me that people being curious by nature, need an explanation for everything and many times, when they don’t have a true understanding of the dynamics of adoption, they go with the most convenient explanation, rather than digging deep.  

Until we can understand the assumptions in which we are drenched we cannot know ourselves.
- Adrienne Rich


On the surface, one might assume that an adoptee would begin a search because of unhappiness and on some level this may be true.  I don’t particularly care for the word unhappy unless you want to say that I was very unhappy with my situation of not having any information about why I was adopted.  Then unhappy doesn’t even begin to describe the feelings about my predicament.

Freedom is knowing who you really are.
- Linda Thomson

So I will replace “unhappy” with lack of a complete identity.  We  all start out in life with an incomplete identity and as we grow up, we build our identities.  In adopted people, this identity has large holes.   
All of us, adopted or not, strive to engage in life choices and activities that enhance rather than take away from ourselves.   The search, therefore, could be seen as a “stage of life” for an adoptee, not unlike any normal stage of life all of us go through as we grow up.


Until we see what we are, we cannot take steps to become what we should be.
- Charlotte P. Gilman

It is about understanding oneself in a deeper way, similar to the quest of adolescents.  I have never been an adoptee who didn’t want to search.  I wanted to know from the time I could speak about why I was adopted and where my other family was. My parents had no answers for me.
Many adoptees had unhappy childhoods and being treated like a state secret didn’t help in that happiness.  Many adoptees had a wonderful childhood but still felt unhappy about their adoptee status. Many adoptees had a wonderful childhood and never questioned what they were told (or not told).

The precept, "Know yourself," was not solely intended to obviate the pride of mankind; but likewise that we might understand our own worth.
- Cicero

 It is really not for someone outside of your family to judge about whether you were happy or not.  I believe the unhappiness card gets thrown about when the non-adopted -- who believe the stereotypes of adoption -- want to blame the adoptee who may choose to speak out, go against the grain, or open Pandora’s box.  

We are volcanoes. When we women offer our experience as our truth, as human truth, all the maps change. There are new mountains.
- Ursula K. LeGuin

We are labeled “unhappy” because we make people uncomfortable.  We say things about adoption that others don’t want to hear or believe.  Some people find it highly offensive when we don’t prove to be the grateful adoptees others think we should be.  We upset the apple cart by proving the social workers wrong that we would be just like a biological family. 
If you were adopted as a child without any say, something was taken away from you.  Family, names, choices.  You don’t have the understanding to fully realize this fact until you are an adult. 

Sometimes it takes years to really grasp what has happened to your life.
- Wilma Rudolph

 I believe the search (whether it be physically reaching out or just questioning what people tell you about yourself and life) is really a quest to become whole. 

 Some adoptees want to propel themselves forward in a full-blown investigation and others want to sit back and hope someone comes looking for them.  Still others deny any need, curiosity or desire to search.  Each of these people are in different stages of growth.  The non-searcher of today may be the woman on a mission next year.

Ninety percent of the world's woe comes from people not knowing themselves, their abilities, their frailties, and even their real virtues. Most of us go almost all the way through life as complete strangers to ourselves.
- Sydney J. Harris

As a person who was always been a searcher, what I want you to take away from this blog is that my searching had very little to do with my adoptive family; however for many, the decision NOT to search has very much to do with them. 

In other living creatures the ignorance of themselves is nature, but in men it is a vice.
- Boethius

Loyalty to the adoptive family and hurting people’s feelings is one of the biggest reasons adopted people postpone their search (sometimes indefinitely).  Fear is the enemy of all searching and fear of upsetting the adoptive family (and extended family) is very powerful.
Many adoptees search after the death of their adoptive parents which to me says the desire was always there, just laying dormant waiting for the right time.  

Sometimes a person has to go back, really back-to have a sense, an understanding of all that's gone to make them-before they can go forward.
- Paule Marshall

From the time I was a child, I have always felt it was my right to know where I came from. I believe we are born with this need and expectation.  When the need is not met, we will feel fragmented.  I questioned my mother like a prosecuting attorney throughout childhood with nothing to show for it.  Once I became an adult, I requested all information that my agency could legally give to me.  I received it on my birthday the December before I got married.   It wasn’t until my late 30’s that I could take the giant psychological leap toward actively seeking out my mother.  But that’s a story for another blog. 

 I was never looking for my Oprah moment when I searched . . . only the moments of truth that I was forced to grow up without.

The important thing I want to say about my searching is that it had very little to do with the quality of my adoptive home and whether I was happy or not, but mainly in my belief that I had a right to know and wouldn’t stop until I did.

The challenge of the search is first, overcoming your fears, and second, accepting what you find is probably less than your fantasies. What you gain from the search is far more important. .. a more complete understanding of yourself.

Somehow we learn who we really are and then live with that decision.
- Eleanor Roosevelt






16 comments:

  1. Fabulous post, Lynn! You have articulated so many great points. I agree that searching was never about my afamily. It was no indictment of them, but about me trying to put the pieces of me together. Thank you!

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  2. great post and all very true. Thanks for sharing

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  3. Thank you, wonderful post. Just found this wonderful site, i'm an adoptee still searching for my birthfather (have found my birthmother). It is ridiculous that the law makes the whole process so difficult.

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    1. Kairmid, I'm so glad you found us. Kindred spirits;)

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  4. Amazing post, Lynn! Where to start with my reaction? So much to love...

    "...when they don’t have a true understanding of the dynamics of adoption, they go with the most convenient explanation, rather than digging deep."

    Isn't that so true? It's easier to give a quick answer and much messier to have to dig...


    "We are labeled “unhappy” because we make people uncomfortable. We say things about adoption that others don’t want to hear or believe."

    So true. It's most often about their discomfort. People resist the truth because it's just so darn uncomfortable.

    "Loyalty to the adoptive family and hurting people’s feelings is one of the biggest reasons adopted people postpone their search (sometimes indefinitely). Fear is the enemy of all searching and fear of upsetting the adoptive family (and extended family) is very powerful.Many adoptees search after the death of their adoptive parents which to me says the desire was always there, just laying dormant waiting for the right time."

    Perhaps the most powerful paragraph in this post! So true and heartbreaking! I wish every adoptee in the world could read this, especially those who are waiting for their adoptive parents to die before they do anything. It might be too late at that point. And they are probably not reading blogs like this because it makes them feel worse about what they aren't pursuing.

    Awesome post.

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    1. Thanks, Deanna . . your support and opinion means alot:) Glad it resonated with you.

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  5. Great post. "We all start out in life with an incomplete identity and as we grow up, we build our identities. In adopted people, this identity has large holes." Yes!

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  6. Another wonderful post, Lynn. You are so right that we delay the search for fear of hurting our a-family's feelings.
    And you are so right that the search has nothing to do with the success of our adoptive home. Being an older adoptee (62 now!), it took me years to figure all this out. What a waste of time and energy! Like you, I always felt that I had a right to know my own ancestry, no matter what anyone said.

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  7. That's why I love you, Susan . . . you GET IT!!

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  8. Thanks for sharing. I think I'll always feel guilt no matter how comfortable I get with it (and I've been in reunion and open with everyone for 22 years). Maybe someday I can shrug off the guilt.

    http://reunioneyes.blogspot.com/2012/11/nablopomo-day-10-reactions-to-searching.html

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  9. I think you wouldn't be human if you didn't have guilt. i believe adoption causes false guilt!

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    1. I am a birth Mother who gave my daughter up for adoption in January of 1970. At the time I thought that a sealed adoption was best,but as time passed I did not think that I made the right decision and started looking for my daughter. I gave birth in West Palm Beach,Florida during the first two weeks of January and had thought that I had gone through Children's Home Society. When I went to check with them last year they had no record of me doing that,so I didn't know where to turn. I have tried different web sites with no luck. If anyone can help me find my birth daughter I would very much like to see she and her family and fill in the blanks and give her medical information,a huge hug,and tell her how much I love her and have never stopped loving her. E.Noble/Florida

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  10. I didn't want to search. Of the 4 kids in my family 3 of us were adopted. My younger sister was driven to search (30 years ago) and I watch her need Me being confused as I had no need. She pointed out to me that she was removed from her family of origin when she was 3 and her need was driven by having NO memories of her original family and that seemed strange to her. I became very angry when my parents presented each of us with our adoption orders. I hadn't asked for this and it raised questions that had never occurred to me to ask. I was also struggling in my personal and professional life a single parent and divorcing with my second great love relationship failing. I didn't have time for this shit! (that was my feeling at the time) I did the passive thing which was to add my name to the list of adoptees wanting the Government to search...which is what happened. It took 3 years for my name to get to the top of the list and it took the Government 6 weeks to find my Mother. (the only time I've ever experienced the government doing anything in a timely fashion;-)I've had my reunion and I'm very glad I met my mother and the rest of the family and while I celebrate my similarities with my family of origin I do not maintain an on going relationship as my mother wishes to keep secretes (there are 3 of us she gave up) Two of us have come forward but she feels the need to keep #3 secret and I believe secretes to be unhealthy. So I've chosen to stay away as I refuse to lie to the rest of the family. It is this dynamic that allows me to feel relief at not being raised by my mother. I feel very sad that she is still so stuck but I do understand. I just won't accept this dynamic in my family

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