Thursday, October 9, 2014

Adoptee Identity and the Fear of Losing Connections

Photo by La Citta Vita via Flickr
I have been thinking a lot about connectedness. This is different than belonging, which is fitting, like the stone in the center of a peach. Connectedness does not require the perfect environment. It is more like a house in a yard on a street with a park at the end; these things touch each other and may, to some, be considered part of a whole, though they each exist independently and might exist equally well someplace else.

I’ve long understood that I don’t belong in my adoptive family the way other people I know belong in the families they grew up in. I am a very different kind of person than most of my adoptive relatives. I don’t value the same things they do. I don’t communicate in the same way. I don’t enjoy the same activities.

Yet, I am connected to them. For a long time, they were my only foundation. As many adoptees do, I have often hidden parts of myself from them, and I realize now that this is because I’m afraid of losing my connection to them.

What would losing that connection mean? What would it feel like to no longer be connected to the only family I knew for all of my formative years? When I try to imagine this, I feel like I’m about to fall off of a very high cliff into a great abyss with no discernible bottom. And I don’t like heights.

More and more, I’m in conflict with myself. I’m afraid to go to the extreme of being all me, all of the time. And I’m afraid of never being able to be all me, all of the time. This is the way I have lived my entire life, and it hasn’t worked. It’s resulted in my becoming emotionally, psychologically, and physically drained. I realize that the more I allow my true essence to escape into the world, the more at peace I feel. I know that to live a fully satisfying life, I must be all me, all of the time. I’m afraid that I’ll live the rest of my life as a prisoner of my fear of falling into the abyss of losing my connection to my past.

One of the reasons I fear losing my connection to my adoptive family is because I want my own children to be connected to an extended family group. But when I visualize this connection, I imagine family relationships that I have never actually had. I fantasize about celebrating holidays and important life events with people who talk about the things my children and I talk about and who want to do the kinds of things my children and I like to do. I imagine enjoying the company of these people. This isn’t the family I have. So, I’m holding tight to relationships that have never really worked for me, in the hopes that they might somehow work better now that I have children. I want for my kids what I never had. Maybe I’ve been trying to have it with the wrong people.

It sucks to not have a basis from which to create the kind of extended family relationships I want my children to have. I must somehow create this situation for them on my own, via other groups outside of my adoptive family.

Let’s say the worst case scenario actually happens: I decide to be my authentic self around my adoptive family, and as a result, they decide they’d rather not be a part of my life. When I think about it, I realize I’ve been through this before. I’ve made friends and lost friends. I’ve been in love relationships that have ended. I was connected to these people and now I’m not.

But waitit’s not really the case that we’re no longer connected. I have history with all of those people, therefore that shared history continues to connect us even though we no longer interact. If my interaction with my adoptive family members decreased or even ended completely, I would still be connected to them. I grew up with them. They will always be my family, no matter how our relationships change. They will always be part of my history and the history of my children.

History, though, is about looking back. And I need to move forward.