Monthly Archives: November 2009

shame shifting

The worst loneliness is not to be comfortable with yourself.

~Mark Twain

That pretty much sums up what I hear from adoptees. Their search to learn to be comfortable in their own skins is poignantly portrayed in fiction but often avoided in real life.  Being an adoptee is such a vivid portrayal of  something everybody has to learn.

Me, I’m getting over trying to explain my bad behavior and recognizing we  each do our best with what we know at the time.

I find myself stumbling on shame, as though the world (or anyone) is deserving of a better person than me is something I share with the rest of the world too. What kind of BS is that? I get over one shame and up pops another one.

For years I indulged in regret, shame  and unworthiness for buying the message that I would be detrimental; that my baby would be better off without me, that an adoptive family would provide a much better life than I would, that  I was  the only loser and deserved the grief.

Clinging to the dream that a “qualified” loving and adoring family was blessed to have such a beautiful being in their life blurred my vision of what her experience actually was.

Really nothing new here.  I was hurt and angry and ashamed of being coerced.  Now I’m in the next part, reunion

My dream of the idyllic loving family was shattered. My daughter was conditioned against me.   Though I sacrificed her against my personal wishes, I was to blame for gaping emotional holes, because I am and always have been her mother. Actions in ignorance returned to me.

Meeting my daughter who was now a young mother, vulnerable and confused, I felt rejected. For years our communication was biased by my self rejection and inadequacy.  How could I be so heartless? How could I be so mean? (so weak, so pathetic?)

I  finally figured it out. I did it by simply vacillating between denial and shame, taking all the hurt and anger and blame against myself. I mowed myself down with it.

What I achieved before reunion was won by crawling up from the depths of abandonment of my daughter and myself, of the rejection of myself and the world. I treasured my family of four. Raising two young children, my primary goal was insuring they knew they were loved. I tried to translate that in reuniting with Joy, to extend that loving to her too, the daughter I had failed.

Our reunion fell into hurtful recriminating patterns.  I couldn’t cope with the blame. I resisted in shame, feeling as helpless as when she was born — the ever present blame of leaving my firstborn to the care of strangers. These strangers …

… were the people that stood in my place. These were her parents. They did their best, just as I did mine.

Beginning our reunion, I couldn’t comprehend the difficulties Joy was experiencing. She had the high moral ground. I took a defensive position. There were huge gaps in our communication.   She had her pride and I had mine. Being raised in silence, being introverted, being the ‘responsible party’, all contributed to keeping my feelings unspoken. Protecting her from my pain and lack of confidence gave the impression I didn’t care.

Learning to be comfortable in this skin of mine, with my experiences starts with facing  all of it.  Communicating with those who understand and accept me is easing me into understanding and accepting myself.  As I come to terms with myself, it becomes easier to accept the various responses I get from others.

Part of a story of closed adoption morphing through reunion to openness.


Scarlet Alphabet

Yesterday I was helping get a mailing out at the botanical garden where I volunteer weekly. There were 7 other people sitting around, two of which know the bare bones of my story. A woman who has been very open with me asked how many children I had altogether and I told her (and everyone else at the table) that I hadn’t raised my firstborn who was adopted. It was the first time I’d even met one of the people there. A ripple of silence went around. Then a woman with a strong leadership style said her friend in birdwatching group recently reunited with her “first daughter” which invited me to share that my daughter and I have been in reunion nearly 20 years, said with a smile, followed by another ripple of silence.


We turned to talking about good books and literature which turned to Am Lit and Nathaniel Hawthorne. The woman next to me said she saw someone on Halloween with a scarlet A on her dress and standing next to her a child wearing a B. The group cracked up laughing and I sat quietly not getting the joke. My sense of humor was so absent! Why would Pearl be wearing the letter B?

Later thinking about it, I thought B for *astard, which made sense but the humor in that was a bit too harsh for that crowd. This morning the thought was B as in the second letter of the alphabet. A,B,C indicating the scarlet A no longer had the meaning it originally held.


Writing this all out gives me a fresh perspective. They were shocked, startled, to briefly hear my story. They haven’t shared that experience, but the experience we shared yesterday was one of acceptance, even though it took me 1/2 a day to figure it out.


In loving, I don’t have to defend anything or attack anything. I fall out of that loving daily. I have put myself on “pause” and re calibrate.  What do I really want here? What does the other person want?

Observing the challenges to my emotional experience, I am  learning.  Inhale, exhale, whoop I’m still here. Every experience is for growing and expanding. The purpose of my life is to turn all experience to good use. 

This every other daily blogging thing is interesting.  Really what do I have to say?

Oh, glory how happy I am

This being adoption month and nablopomo (or whatever) I’m inspired to keep my blog active with little tidbits. Back in November many long years ago I was living in a studio apt with my dearest friend and getting quite a big belly.  We were happy to stay home and teach ourselves to knit and listen to the Reverend Gary Davis.  Joy said she sang about being saved in the blood of the lamb.  When I googled it on youtube look who popped up!

Perhaps she picked it up in the womb.

Oh, glory how happy I am. Wait for it to load and skip ahead to about 2:20.

A Sunday in October

The previous post leaves a bad taste. I want to override it. So looking into unpublished drafts I found this, written just over a year ago. It’s something worth remembering.

I keep telling myself I’m not going to argue.  I’m not going to get defensive.  And yet there I go defending and arguing time and again.  I argue.  I defend.

Joy and I and Ezzy had a fine time on Sunday.  First, Ezzy took me to church with her friend, Mickie.  I called Joy when we went inside to let her know where we were.  I called again when we headed out to eat.  I kept looking back at the door during the meal even though I knew Joy didn’t know where we were so couldn’t possibly be meeting us.  Ezzy said, “Mom, she doesn’t know where we are.”  So I know she saw what I was doing.

Joy called to find out where we were and caught up with us as we were leaving.  She met Mickie briefly.  And we set out to see what we could see.  We casually walked over to Joy’s new place which has gorgeous “bones”.  Then to the library because we all three love libraries.  LOVE libraries.  I tracked down a favorite quote which I read aloud.

Ezzy and I have read to each other all her life.  We like the sound of our own voices.

Then we proceeded to Ezzy’s much less glam home, gently, gingerly trying out the everyday simple activities of daily living together.  Just this is where I live.  This is how I live.  How is this for you?  Simple.  Just hung out for a couple hours and then back to our regularly scheduled lives.  We said goodbye at the BART station.

Ezzy and I went to pour wine at a fundraiser til 10pm.  Back at her place she read poems of Octavio Paz in Spanish to me.  In the morning I went to dance class with Ezzy and took the train back home.

Walked around gingerly for a couple days thinking that went ok.  We’re doing ok.  Then last night I tripped up.  I’m not sure how it happens.  Joy and I were on the phone, talking, laughing… and then things slid down down.  I went back to fretting, feeling disconcerted, as though there was something I should do and I didn’t know what it was.

Figuring out these new pathways, building relationships among familial strangers, I feel so awkward.  Joy and Ezzy have things in common as daughters of me.  I have things I’ve shared with Joy and different things I’ve shared with Ezzy.  I’ve known Ezzy five more years than I’ve known Joy.  I raised Ezzy.  Now we’re learning to share things together.  They’re getting to know each other under the tension of me trying to insure that everything is OK.  As if I could.  As if there was a question whether everything is ok or not.  Everything IS.  We are OK.