August 21, 2011
it is what it is
© Photographer: Galdzer | Agency: Dreamstime.com
Change: To lay aside, abandon, or leave for another; switch. (American Heritage Dictionary)
Maybe THAT'S it. This definition of change explains why the last few weeks have been so hard for me. Everything is changing. Or so it seems. Being adopted (sounds eerily similar to the definition above) is tricky, and living 43 years of it, I'm convinced it weaves more complex layers of emotion than most people experience in a life-time. Exhausting.
Mom got married last night. She's 80 and met an extremely nice man in her assisted living center a few weeks ago. They had a whirlwind romance which culminated in what rivaled a "royal wedding" (media and all). I'm still in the middle of the whirlwind...but so happy for her! She was a beautiful Bride.
So thankful I was able to enjoy it with her, even through the fatigue of planning a wedding during the same time my son was transitioning schools.
Considering his sensory issues, my son was amazing last night. He tried his hardest to hold it together. All after his first week of kindergarten in a new (huge) school. He only stuck out his tongue once and stomped on one foot the whole evening. Thank goodness it was a friend who understands. (It was Mom's teasing that taught him to stick out his tongue in the first place ~ thanks, Mom).
Before the wedding I had to talk my son down from horrible anxiety. And when I say anxiety, I mean it. He can't deal with strong feelings sometimes and behaviors ensue ~ like head banging, darting away, yelling, saying he "hurts inside" and wanting to "get out of here." We were at the brink of leaving with him, so conflicted about what to do...put my son through something obviously hard for him (to please my Mom), or try to talk him through it and see it is a growing experience...thank you, Lord, for helping us.
The photographer from the paper (yes, the media was there in full force because the assisted living center was so nice to host the ceremony) actually helped a lot. She got on his level and talked gently to him (she has an eight-year old, she said), till he felt comfortable enough to take pictures with us and his Grandma...and then walk right down the aisle like he knew what he was doing. Whew!
I explain all that to say this...I'm so done. I can't wear myself out anymore with all this stress. I'm tired. My head was spinning by the time I got home last night, too exhausted to sleep (again). I put on a smiling face, but at home I struggle. I know most people do. Life. Right?
Adoption never ends. It colors everything for an adoptee. I'm just thankful I've grown over the years through my search & reunion, the pain, and joys, to finally accept...it is what it is...and enjoy and embrace the present. (When not under so much stress, at least).
Last night, for example, as Mom and I were walking back to her room to get some things after the wedding, she commented about how many people complimented her on her family...
"You always looked so much like Nanny (my adoptive Grandmother) that no one even questioned and we never had to think about the fact that you weren't really ours...I mean in THAT way...You know what I mean...you ARE ours, BUT..."
It struck me that I've heard this same scenario at every major milestone in our family's history...since I was a little girl. And speaking of "little girl"...do adoptee's ever really grow up...or are we forever children? It sure seems that way, especially when we can't even access our own birth certificate as adults. Loyalty issues from day one.
I so enjoyed seeing many long-time friends, and Mom's new husband's family. I also couldn't help but notice how mothers & fathers, with their children and grandchildren all share family similarities through the generations.
I'm enjoying an amazingly special day with my Mom, while trying to ignore pain that I'm not with the family of my birth. You can never get it all back.
It's taken years of riding this roller-coaster of search & reunion to integrate my identity, know who I am, and embrace my family for what it is...the good, bad, and ugly. Much better than trying to live how adopted people are expected to live..."it is what it isn't." Pretending.
Someone mentioned to me, "You have a new Dad". What? I had to stop and think about what they said. A new Dad? It never occurred to me that my Mom's new husband is legally my step-father now. That his family is my family too. That's how adoptee's roll, actually. We experience ambivalence everywhere we go, because we never had what most people have and need...that strong bond as a baby with our mothers, the families of our birth, those we came from and look like and act like. We have to adjust and adjust we do. But inside we sometimes feel lost.
Probably the most awkward moment in the wedding was when the preacher asked "Who gives this woman away?" Huh??? I guess he had spoken with my husband earlier about that part of the ceremony, but it was quite a surprise to me. Interesting concept.
So, I guess I met my "new family" for the first time last night. Talk about ambivalence...this wedding was planned so fast none of us have had time to think or feel. My Mom's husband's grandson and his wife was there with their four-month-old daughter all dressed up in her wedding best...so darling. Even after a long evening she had a big, peaceful smile on her face, perfectly content resting in her Mother's arms.
Yet another reminder of adoption, prematurity, and life-longings of the early mother/child relationship. How can an innocent wedding evolve into an emotionally-charged land-mine?
On the outside, no one would have known I was tired & numb, and emotionally navigating adoption even as a grown woman, wife, and mother.
Laughter abounded, and I so hope my Mom and her new husband have many more years of amazing joy. I know years from now we will look back with great joy at what a beautiful evening we had together as a family. Because we did.