August 31, 2012
Belonging ~ such a broad concept.
As an adoptee this word has had several meanings throughout my life. I was adopted in 1964 when I was 5 years old. I am not Asian, but a mixture of Europe’s England and Ireland as well as America’s Cherokee and Ojibwa Native American Tribes. I come from peoples who left their land for a better dream and peoples who lost their lands because of this very dream. I am a mixture of these stories and when told or reflected upon become a personal paradox inside of me. I think perhaps adoption is like this as well. I’ve long been a believer in story; personal story and broader stories that shape individuals, families, towns, states, and countries.
As an adoptee I was given a new family story that directed me to give up the old family story. The old family story went underground. I didn’t belong to that family and the emotional scars from that family made me feel that belonging to that story was dangerous. When things go underground however, we grow shadows. Belonging to my adopted family was a wonderful story. Many years later as a woman in her 50s I would realize the flaws in this story and why the authenticity of that story never came to full fruition.
I believe as this blogger’s post shares in that there is a part of each adoptee that understands that they are, to some degree, a square peg shoved into a round hole. The family that adopts also knows and feels this. There breeds guilt, shame, and a lack of knowing how to fix it. The adoptee that has found their birth family often, because of the lost years, never feels a true part of that family as well. It is as if what comprises the security in family and belonging comes from two things that happen together. These two things are: history (connection over time that binds people through shared memories and experiences) and biology (that comprises looks that are similar, DNA that is similar, habits, smells, propensities etc). In my adopted family I have the shared history but not the DNA. In my birth family I have the biology but not the shared experiences that make memories and shared events and knowings that build identity in a consistent manner. In my case I have both the environmental influences from my biological family and my adopted family so I am ultimately a mixture of both. BUT ~ I do not belong to either family. I do not feel that I belong to either family completely. There is always this little undefined missing piece that disallows for complete membership/belonging.
I married a widower with three children when I was 22. I am now almost 54. I loved and raised these three children as if they were my own (ha! I am not even sure what that means…and that is a giggle for sure). In the first 20 years of our marriage we could not afford to fund my adopting the children. It would have cost $1,500.00 (this was in the 1980s) and we simply did not have extra money in this large amount to do such a thing. By the time we could afford to sponsor my adopting the children monetarily in the early/mid 1990s…they were already graduating high school. What would the point be then? At any rate….if you know about stepfamilies…well there are unique belonging challenges there for a stepparent as well. So, in reality, real reality, I do not feel like I belong in my marital family.
But…mind you…I am not a victim. I don’t have the feeling of belonging to family in the way that many or perhaps most people feel. Not to a mother, a brother, a sister, a daughter, a son, a grandparent, or an aunt. Yet, I am a daughter, a mother, a grandmother, and a sister.
So, I’ve come to actively search for the meaning of belonging on a larger scale; from a broader definition of what it is to be human, alive, and perhaps connected to something larger; something larger like the human race or as a spiritual being. So, as has been true for most of my life, I am on a spiritual path to make meaning and sense of the story I tell myself about myself and my world and my experience. I’ve moved from trying to make a sense of belonging from tangible people/family to something intangible God/the Universe/Spirit whatever works in regards to labeling…I am open. It is difficult. I’ve returned to therapy as a result. I am working with a wonderful EMDR therapist and we have delved into those early years…infant years too (0 – 5). It’s made a huge difference. Life is very different after working in this therapeutic modality. I highly recommend it.
After searching for 10 years I found my birth parents. After recreating my abandonment story in my marital family, I have learned to bring this story of loss fully into my consciousness so I don’t have to act it out again. Since I have come to accept the truth of the biological preference truth…I am freer to understand the meaning of this and become free of it without judging myself and allow myself to create boundaries with my adopted family around these things. And now that I am working on these early, early events and emotions that have built who I am and impacted how I tell the story of who I am, what the world is, and how I fit into it…I am discovering that the only one that I truly belong to is myself and to that power, energy, force that is larger than myself. I believe that this is the ultimate truth. I still struggle with it as I am weaving this new and more empowered story that feels based more in the truth than anything to date. I am not a victim…and neither are you. What is your story? What story do you want to direct and inform your life? How are you learning to tell an authentic story that is free of the tethers that drag you down? You are worth this journey of finding your authentic story that allows you to live from a place of joy.