The other day I was listening to the latest episode of the podcast Adoptees On. I don’t remember how I first learned about the podcast, but I remember where I was when I heard it: walking the dam in Los Gatos. It was season one, episode 1: Carrie.
I walked and listened, knowing my life was never going to be the same.
I had found my people.
Later, much later, I went to my first adoptee conference in Indiana. I felt like a fish that was finally in the right tank of water. I could breathe. After a lifetime of feeling weird or different I saw that there were a lot of other people who felt like me.
What an incredible relief. It’s like I had been born wearing a girdle and someone showed me that I could take it off.
I could expand.
Marci Purcell has the most beautiful eyes. They see you. I don’t remember where I first met her because all I remember was the sensation of stillness, of love. It may have been at Indiana. It may have been at an AKA conference. All I know is that I felt seen. As a human, this is a remarkable experience, and as an adoptee it can be life-changing, life-saving: to be seen in a way that feels like mirroring.
I wish, of course, AKA’s conference was happening this year for so many reasons. It’s healing and informative for me to be with other adoptees, and it is also healing and informative for me to be with other members of the adoption triad so I can better get a sense of how really we are on the same page: we want the best lives possible for the children of the world, and together we can work at defining what that means. Together we can find ways to fully appreciate each other.
I hated first mothers until I met one. I had thought the mother who had given birth to me must have hated me to put me up for adoption and then to deny contact later in life, but then I heard the stories of other first mothers, and I understood I had no idea what was going on in their heads, no idea of the depth of their trauma and grief. If my first mother were alive, I would stop bothering her. I have stopped reaching out to her family. They do not owe me anything, and I am--yes, I am going to say it because I truly believe it is true--lucky to be alive, lucky to have the life I have.
I could have taken myself out of the game. It’s tempting, as an adoptee sometimes, to disappear.
But the will to stay and the decision to make the most of the life you have is an amazing experience—at least it was for me. I still am a body and a brain that has fury and sudden changes in emotions, sudden dips into depression, but I am more generous with myself. It’s
okay, Baby, I say. Hold on. Do the next right thing. Hold on. You are not alone. The more kind and real I am to myself, the more kind and real I am to others, and the more kind and real my life becomes.
More and more I feel I am living from my heart instead of from my dysregulated nervous system, but, holy cow, this is a process. Talk about baby steps! One step forward, two steps back. Repeat.
I had deep issues with my parents who adopted me until I wrote about my thoughts and actions and came to terms with my fury and their confusion. Now I just wish my mom were alive so I could tell her I love her with all my heart, my raging, broken, loving heart. I do tell my dad who is still alive, and it is a relief. He is not my biological father, but he is the father I got, and either I can rage against the dealings of the cards or I can be in my body, in my life, and love the best that I can. I love you, Dad, even though we are so different. I love you even though we are so similar.
When Marci asked if I would write a piece for AKA’s newsletter, I felt, again, seen. She believes I have something to say, something of worth. These things matter: having a sense of worth, feeling seen.
At the end of the latest Adoptees On episode (the latest now, on April 14, 2020), Haley asked Kevin for his recommended resource and he started to talk about me. He talked about the time we had lunch; he talked about my book, the writing classes I teach. He talked me UP, and I, of course, cried.
We adoptees see each other. We support each other. We lift each other UP.
And when we gather as a triad, the opportunities for support and understanding are endless.
Anne Heffron, author of the memoir, You Don’t Look Adopted, is currently writer-in-residence, farmer-in-training at Spirit Hill Farm in Sebastopol, California. She is a writing coach for people in the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, England, and Canada. She has a 75-minute class she calls Write or Die that is meant to get you off and running on your writing project (and in your life). She has no recent picture of herself because she has been on her own with the the chickens and the turkeys for months now it seems and does not love selfies. Hence the photo of her gloves.
Since 1992, AKA has offered essential knowledge and lifelong support recognizing adoption as a complex, on-going and intergenerational process. We serve people touched by adoption in all its variations – infant, open, closed, domestic, international, transracial and kinship. We need your help in reaching our fundraising goals. Please contribute to our Annual Fund Drive!