Advice from a Tree

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“When the Student is ready, the Teacher will appear” -Unknown

This California tree overlooks sun-baked terrain.

This California tree overlooks sun-baked terrain.

Stand tall and Proud
Sink Your Roots into the Earth
Be Content with your Natural Beauty
Drink Plenty of Water
Enjoy the View!

-by Ilan Shamir

LIKE THE REHABILITATED ALCOHOLIC, the recovering adoptee must be ever vigilant for signs of backsliding. Nature, I have found, provides opportunities to gain clear vision, to strengthen, invigorate and purge. For example, a grove of Eucalyptus trees near my son’s home became a psychological springboard. For one week, I strolled daily under the majestic giants, stopping occasionally to write in my journal. It so happened that in the journal was a bookmark that spoke directly to my heart. Quoted above with the permission of http://www.YourTrueNature.com …is the lesson. Sounds simple, but it is actually profound. Yes, I’m following advice from a tree, delivered by a bookmark!

Join Elaine on Mondays for reflections on adoption and life.

Join Elaine on Mondays for reflections on adoption and life.

TWO YEARS AGO, motivated by the desire to provide a “tell-all confessional,” I published The Goodbye Baby-A Diary about Adoption. Through the Internet’s large, rambling “adoption community,” I’ve met dozens of other adult adoptees, many of whom have written about the same hard lessons of growing up adopted. The response from my readers has been gratifying, but even more beneficial has been the freedom allotted by pouring the angst into a book and journeying forward with courage and positivity.

And yes, it is possible to leave the past behind, to move on. But let’s get real. No matter how much analysis, clarification, self-appreciation and education the adopted self receives, the demons return. Thanks to the support of my readers and the excellent adoption memoirs I’ve read, especially Catana Tully’s Split at the Root, I am able to recognize the demons and combat them.

Hope comes from many sources. Who knows where or when the next beacon will appear? While taking a

Nature awaits us with answers, if only we take time to listen.

If we take the time to listen, Nature awaits us with answers.

beautiful walk on one of San Diego’s many urban trails. I realized that the answers to adoption issues, and maybe to anyone’s issues, need not be complicated.

So here, with the clearer vision of one who’s fought the demons for years and come to an armistice, is the message: Letting the past take up too much of today is not a good idea. Learning is a daily challenge, but one that makes life worthwhile. The rewards are never guaranteed, but when they do arrive, we are able to emulate the tall, proud, healthy tree. My gratitude is deep, I’m drinking lots of water, and I’m working on the rest.

Not so Lazy Days of Summer

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Working on the Adventures of Arundati, my fictional adoptee

Elaine revising the plot of “Arundati”/ Drawing by Christine Boss

I’m old enough to recall the song from the 1950s about those lazy, hazy, crazy days of Summer, but I’m trying to remember: What they were like? Were they a figment of our imaginations? Did they even exist?

This summer, I’m planning to be not lazy or hazy but industrious. Maybe a little bit crazy, as that is often the perfect state of mind for plotting a novel. Well…Perhaps sometimes lazy, but only after working two to five hours daily on my book.

Last December, I toured Southern India to research a sequel to Beast of Bengal. India inspired a whole new plot. Not to my surprise, it features the odyssey of Arundati, an Indian-American adoptee who travels to Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka to learn about her origins.

The ideas are percolating. To allow time for them to blossom, I’m switching to a bi-weekly blogging schedule. Before the first snowflakes fall, I’ll be back to posting every Monday. In the meantime, please know your readership means the world to me. Comments are always welcome!

Elaine digs through old diaries for character clues.

Elaine digs through old diaries for character clues.

Remembering Cindy

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It’s been said that we do not truly die until the last person on Earth who remembers us is gone. -Unknown

On the long path of “adoption recovery,” I’ve learned a few things. One of the most important is this: memories have the power to hurt or to heal. At the loss of a friend who dies, I’m heartbroken and grief-stricken. These are demoralizing blows, painful and bitter. On the other hand, those who I’ve loved are in my heart. Even though they may be physically gone, the departed can still be part of our lives. They can even teach us, which is the focus of today’s posting.

Cindy reading about an old high school flame

Cindy reading about an old high school flame

My friend Cindy Bellinger died of cancer when she was barely sixty. A modern-day Renaissance woman, Cindy wrote, rode horses, taught, lived a fiercely independent life, and, a year before she died, fell in love with a wonderful man who became her soulmate. Recently, as I was cleaning my office, I came across a manuscript that I’d totally forgotten about. It was a draft of Cindy’s book Not a Rock Out of Place, and I recalled editing it for her and writing a recommendation. Before many people saw the final version, published by her company Blue Mesa Books, Cindy slipped away.

While living in Los Alamos, New Mexico in the early 1980s, Cindy walked a forest path near Burnt Mountain. For four years, she did this nearly every day. In her “Pre-Amble” she writes, “The path that traversed Burnt Mountain didn’t take me deep into the wilds, but it brought me into some extraordinary happenings… On Burnt Mountain–with its trees, birds, butterflies, and grass–moments sparkled with the simplest wisdom, or the darkest truth. I’d take a question beneath a ponderosa and learn how to find the answer. I’d sit on a rock and the anger that accompanied me would melt away.”

Another aspect of Cindy that I cherish was her generously supportive nature. Cindy helped me during the first decade of this century by participating in my “Dear Diary” staged readings, benefit performances which we produced as fund-raisers for Santa Fe Film Festival. We held “cringe readings,” sharing selected excerpts from our adolescent diaries: Cindy, as she read from old diaries, was a star. Even as a young girl, she wrote with style and exquisite wordsmithing.

Dear Diary Readings 2009

Dear Diary Readings 2009

I’ve adopted Cindy’s habit of walking the same path nearly every day. My route is not through a forest but up Sun Mountain. Thank you, Cindy, for inspiring me. And thank you as well for the reminding me not to wait to express appreciation. Tell the people in your life how much they mean to you. Do it today.

The End is the Beginning

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The sun reminds us to open our hearts to life and love.

As a “recovering adoptee,” I welcome every opportunity to break loose from adoption issues. My favorite way to achieve a fresh attitude is walking the circular path, the labyrinth. On June 21, I went to a late afternoon Summer Solstice Walk. The event was sponsored by the Labyrinth Resource Group in Santa Fe, NM. Perfect conditions: mild temperature, clear view of surrounding foothills and mountains, a congenial group of labyrinth enthusiasts, live harp music. The sun just setting. Before we entered the circular path, we read the following inspirational poem, contributed by poet Mary Ann Wamhoff and written to “celebrate the infusion of light from the summer sun.” In honor of the new season, I present her reflections…

Solar Power
We’re heading toward the Light
drawn toward the Light
entering this longest day
reaching for fullness of being
gravitating to it
just like a phototropic plant!
consciously leaving behind any darkness
leaving all darkness behind
any pettiness, stuckness
any narrow-mindedness, prejudgments
“my-way-or-no-way” attitudes
“I-can’t-do-this” points of view
releasing what is passing away
the unproductive
any hindrance to our becoming full, rich, complete
releasing duality, either/or, distractions
limited notions
Just let it go.
Let it all go–
what is old, past, done, less-than-useful
killing creativity
strangling our spirits
fearful, selfish, withered, dry, dissonant, dim

Walking the Labyrinth is a good practice for every season.

Walking the Labyrinth is a good practice for every season.

We’re standing in the longest Light
receiving its Goodness
Just like a plant, needing it to grow
to become who we really are
receiving the Love it contains
absorbing All Life
letting this warmth penetrate each cell, aspect, fragment, facet of our Being
taking it in
holding it close and dear
allowing it to work its Mystery
to have its way within us
becoming new, remade
We are rising from the depths of despair and hopelessness
embracing all Good
embracing this Light

embracing this brightness
merging with trust, truth, joy, fullness of possibilities

We’re returning with Light
shining!
emerging with Life!
Love to share
ready to be instruments of this Brightness
this Sweet energy
and focus it
to dispel any darkness
carrying Abundance
effusing this Power
stars walking here on Earth!

The labyrinth is simple: One enters, walks to the center, pauses to pray or meditate, turns the opposite direction, then walks out. Walking the labyrinth is a way to get in touch with who you really are, to bring insights to bear on your life. As I journey toward wholeness and freedom from past invisible wounds of adoption, I realize the wisdom of the labyrinth. The door that closes opens to an “infusion of light” and a fresh start.

Join Elaine every Monday for reflections on adoption and life.

Join Elaine every Monday for reflections on adoption and life.

 

 

Bloom Where You’re Planted

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Many of life’s lessons can be learned from nature.

Join Elaine every Monday for insights on adoption and life.

Join Elaine every Monday for insights on adoption and life.

Much of what I call “adoption recovery” comes from walking and hiking in the Rocky Mountain foothills. My favorite spot for musing is Sun Mountain, affectionately known by its Spanish name, “Monte Sol.” Less than a mile up to the summit, it rises 700 feet and offers sweeping views of the high desert plateau, Sandia Peak to the East and the Jemez Mountains to the West.

Festooned in scarlet, this cactus brightens its dusty surroundings

Festooned in scarlet, this cactus brightens its dusty surroundings

Though short, the hike is demanding. The narrow path comprises several hundred switchbacks and a bit of scrambling across boulders. The surface is gravelly. Feet can slip right out from under, landing you on your derriere. Once at the top, however, you are rewarded with a panoramic landscape painting: The distant mountains and mesas offer layers of purple, blue, sage, sand, and green. Over-arching you is a dome of sky and an-ever changing show of clouds. It is the kind of view that to many, me included, means home.
There are gifts along the path as well. Because of late spring rains, we’ve enjoyed a season of blooming cacti. For years, I’ve taken these blossoms for granted. It is said that nature heals, and I’m finding that to be true. Because of freeing myself from constant focus on adoption issues, I’ve been more tuned in to the unique beauty of cacti. Also—don’t laugh—I learned a valuable lesson from these native Southwestern plants.
Bloom where you are planted, they seem to tell me. The cacti know that they may never be showcased in someone’s cherished garden, proudly displayed like heirloom roses or bragged on like proud dalhias. Many will be regarded as reminders of drought, dust, wind and harshness. They may be considered prickly pests, ugly opportunists who hang out with dead trees, surrounded by a scree of fallen pine needles, dry dirt, twigs and fallen pine cones.
No doubt, conditions here in the Southwest are dangerously dry. We may be running out of potable water and — according to many environmentalists — we are definitely running out of time. Still, one can

Not to be outdone, the prickly pear offers a radiant burst of yellow.

Not to be outdone, the prickly pear offers a radiant burst of yellow.

celebrate the lowly cactus as a plant that thrives without water and gives back with brilliant flowers.
It is amazing to find such unexpected beauty bursting forth from the lowly cacti. The “Triglo” claret cup boast scarlet blooms; prickly pears are festooned with blossoms  that range from lemon yellow to marigold, pale coral, pink and mauve. They are a source of unexpected joy, reminders that beauty exists everywhere, if only one has the eyes to see.

Would I do it Again?

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“What’s Done is Done and can’t be Undone.” -Stephen King

Nowhere is this more true than with publishing a memoir. Let’s be honest. Maybe it isn’t always a good idea to reveal the past. Perhaps it is worse if the “revelation” is in written form, an intimate expose, a confessional, a putting of oneself under the microscope? In other words, why would I present excerpts from my daily journals?

And yet, that’s just what I did when publishing an adoption-focused memoir, The Goodbye Baby-A Diary about Adoption. I culled four decades of diaries and transcribed the passages that showed me growing up as someone who felt herself to be a burden, a girl who had to hide behind the facade of being successful and “normal.”  Twenty-three years of grappling with the need to reveal what it felt like to grow up adopted. This act of daring or craziness (or both) accomplished my goal.

Diaries from the past directed me to a better future.

Diaries from the past directed me to a better future.

The reactions to the book have been surprisingly favorable. Other adult adoptees, birthparents, adoptive parents, and readers interested in adoption issues have welcomed the The Goodbye Baby. Coming out with my angst-filled past has opened doors. Now that I realize what happened to me isn’t that “special,” the book has led me to a wonderfully supportive online adoption community, many members of whom are shining lights, providing inspiration and serving as mentors.

As one of the bright stars in cyberspace, Deanna Shrodes, wrote in a blog post, “You wake up and you’re still adopted.” She is so right; the facts remain. However, having come face to face with those adoption demons empowered me to stare them down. Talking was not enough. Years of therapy, while enlightening, never enabled me to separate from what happened so long ago. Coming out with the story, which I never could have done without the therapy, cleared the path for divorcing the “poor adopted me” syndrome.

“Happy and grateful” is the image much of the world has of the adopted child, or rather of how the adopted child SHOULD feel. Most adult adoptees I’ve met are grateful for being removed from foster care, the orphanage, or whatever dysfunctional situation. But happy? Perhaps not totally. Something has been lost that can never be replaced.

In answer to the initial question, would I do it again, the answer is YES. It was much better to come out with a book containing my personal truth about adoption than to deny its effect. Now, as I burn the final pages of the diaries themselves, I realize that I no longer define myself as an “adult adoptee,” but as an adult. I’m free to live my life.

Join Elaine every Monday for her insights into "Life after Adoption Recovery"

Join Elaine every Monday for insights into “Life after Adoption Recovery”

Sail to your own New World

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“Don’t wait for your ship to come in, swim out to it.”
― Cathy Hopkins

If you are landlocked, do you long for oceans, lakes and rivers?

Life as an Ocean Odyssey

Life as an Ocean Odyssey

For me, the answer is “yes.” I live in the arid state of New Mexico, and as much as I love my home in the high desert, I’m increasingly drawn to ocean metaphors.  Some personal favorites are the film “All is Lost,” the book and movie “Life of Pi,” and Tanya Aebi’s memoir Maiden Voyage (written in conjunction with Bernadette Brennan).

About Maiden Voyage: When she was eighteen and going nowhere fast, Tanya was offered a challenge. She could either go to college or accept her father’s offer of a twenty-six-foot sloop in which she was to sail around the world alone. She chose the latter. For two years, her boat was her home. She not only survived but triumphed over fear, uncertainty, feeling lost, being alone.

She did not allow herself an emotional breakdown. To do so would have been dangerous. For months, sometimes off course, she negotiated skyscraper-tall waves, incredible storms, weather and illness, and her journey became, in the words of one review, “a spiritual quest that brought her home to herself.”

Sailing Home

Sailing Home to Yourself

Two years ago, I published The Goodbye Baby-A Diary about Adoption, a memoir comprised of diary entries from the 1950s through 1980s. Through the act of writing, I began to heal from years of repressed anger and pain. I forgave the past and myself. I redirected my imagination. Instead of dwelling on all those invisible wounds from being separated from my birthparents for most of my life, I was able to focus on writing.

Tanya Aebi had to conquer herself and focus on surviving the elements. She focused on the journey. For me, the unveiling of past suffering, my miasma of self-recrimination, was a journey at sea. Not Aebi’s voyage alone at sea, an endeavor that required extraordinary bravery and focus, but nonetheless, a voyage to a fresh beginning.

Join Elaine every Monday for reflections on adoption and life.

Join Elaine every Monday for reflections on adoption and life.

Goofy gets the Boot

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“Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden and Other WritingsIMG_0003

A year ago, I decided to get serious about re-purposing my old friend Mickey Mouse. I sold Mickey, Minnie and a host of other stuffed toys.  Because they were smaller, I kept Bugs Bunny and Goofy. Now even they have to go… I’m  once again de-cluttering.

Staging yet another garage sale is the only way I can escape the “too much stuff” syndrome. All of May, I’ve been walking around my house, collecting things with which I must part, labeling, pricing, and stacking said stuff in a spare room.
This personal de-acquisitioning campaign started with the publication of my adoption memoir The Goodbye Baby-A Diary about Adoption. It was so liberating to review four decades of past emotional “baggage” and then burning the diaries themselves, I realized that my too-much-stuff problem could be tackled. The late diaries went up in smoke, and that gave me courage. It was OK to get rid of something that had once been precious. In publishing my “diary book,” I’d saved the essence of those journals, which was all I needed: First the diaries, then the house and everything in it. There was no turning back.goodbyeBabyCover
My house is too big and yet not big enough. I have, from time to time, had grown children temporarily moving back home. Finally I gave up on having a guest room and declared that part of my home as the re-launching pad. Gone were my extra cabinets and shelves, dressers, bookshelves and desk drawers. I knuckled under and gradually removed my stuff from “their” space.
Do I get my precious storage space back? I wish! The adult child moves on but the stuff remains. This situation has forced me to take a serious look at all my now “extra” ousted-from-the-guest-room belongings. Turns out that a few friends, for various reasons, are  also being overwhelmed by possessions.  As a last resort, we’ve scheduled yet another garage sale.
This weekend my friends and I will be selling our excesses. Whatever doesn’t sell, we will give to charity. Our motto: This tyranny of things is exhausting and we’re not going to take it anymore.
Must sign off now, as the kitchen and dining room tables are loaded up with items that must be priced and relegated to the garage sale mountain.
*Use it or LOSE it.
*LESS is MORE.
*Empty is BEAUTIFUL

Join Elaine every Monday for reflections about life after Adoption Recovery.

Join Elaine every Monday for reflections about life after Adoption Recovery.

Blue Monday or Serenity in San Diego

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The road going nowhere in particular

The road going nowhere in particular

Note from Elaine: On vacation this week, celebrating my granddaughter’s Birthday Number 6. Family matters have taken priority over writing, just for now, so I’m offering a post from a year ago. Guess what! I’m in San Diego again, dealing–though more effectively–with adoption matters, and still walking the trails.

 

“Wherever you go, you take yourself with you” goes the saying. After arriving for a short vacation in one of my favorite cities, San Diego, I was therefore not surprised that “Edgar” had brought himself along for the ride. He, or “it” if you prefer, had packed himself in the depths of my ginormous suitcase, amongst the slacks, tops, electronics, books, walking shoes and books. Egad, can’t I go anywhere to escape from that demon?
To understand Edgar, you need to know that I am a “recovering” adoptee. My original mother relinquished me when I was five. Even though I grew up with wonderful adoptive parents, I’ve struggled for years to come to terms with being adopted. I wish I could announce in a loud voice that I’ve succeeded in getting over my adoption issues. The best I can offer, however, is to say confidently that I am making progress.
This change of scene, however, has been more beneficial than weeks of therapy. San Diego’s magic begins to take effect the moment I arrive. The adjectives that come to mind: salubrious, sensational, scenic. Add to that another ingredient: simplicity. There is something quite wonderful about running away from home. Life can be pared down to an easier pace.
My host family goes to work or school every weekday at 7 a.m., so on this slightly overcast Spring morning, I leave for a two-hour walk to and from a nearby coffee shop. I’ve been visiting this San Diego neighborhood for the better part of the last decade and traveling the same route, to the java cafe. First it was “It’s a Grind,” which went out of business. Then it became “Sweetest Buzz.” But this time, there is no coffee shop. Where the “Buzz” should have been loomed a completely empty retail space. A “For Lease” sign was taped on the window. A sad, empty storefront occupied the place I’d spent memorable hours composing on my laptop and sipping lattes.
Had the expedition fallen flat, or was there something else awaiting me? Instead of going home right away, I decide to check out the park near my host family’s house. Walking a couple miles back to the neighborhood, I sit and enjoy a serenade of songbirds, the ambiance of healthy young trees, a verdant carpet of green grass.
The park itself is a marvel. When I first saw it years ago, it looked unpromising, even hopeless. Today, the community outdoor space is filled with children swinging, sliding, digging in the sandbox. Parents visit with one another. Laughter from a toss ball game sounds across the field. An elderly man is marching along the sidewalk, stopping at each circuit workout to do pushups or pullups or a balance beam.
The day isn’t complete, however, until I take a hike on the nearby former dairy road. It’s a road I’ve walked before. One of the city’s many walking paths, it branches off from a busy thoroughfare and loops back into a small canyon. Thistle, purple flowers, and feathery plumed bushes brighten a brown and sage terrain. Ahead of me, a large bird, strutting in a quail-like fashion, walks across my path. Other than it, I am alone. The sun intensifies, but just in time a gentle breeze picks up.
Of course, being a grandmother/writer and retired from a regular career means that life should be simpler anyway. That’s not how it works, however. When I’m at home, a million projects shout out: “clean me,” “organize me,” “declutter me.” Right here, in sunny, wonderful San Diego, the only thing I have to declutter is my mind. Accepting victory, I acknowledge that I’ve once again I dueled the evil Edgar. On this gloriously sunny Monday, mine is the victory.

The author is reminded that "all who wander are not lost"

The author is reminded that “all who wander are not lost”

Message from a Birth Mom

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Editor’s Note: Mother’s Day has special meeting for Pat Goehe, who—after decades of waiting and wondering—finally met the daughter she’d never seen. The reunion was wonderfully rewarding, and it has greatly enriched her life. For anyone who is hesitant to seek a lost daughter or son, she recommends moving forward.

**********************************************************************************

As I started to write this piece I’m reminded of a Christmas song that begins something like “So this is Christmas and what have you done?”   That’s probably a bad version, but it is what sticks in my head.  Only now I want to say, “So this Mother’s Day,  and what have you done?”
Without question for a birth mother and the child she chose to give away, Mother’s Day is a troubling time for both.  Recently a former student of mine put on her Facebook Page, “Mother’s Day and where is mine………..”ImageHandler

There are times in our lives when we must consider whether to jump into the void or not.  Deciding to search for a child is just that,  a void.  There is no guarantee that the outcome will be positive or even productive.  But is it worth the jump?  Certainly one can go through life never searching, but it is Mother’s Day that tugs at our hearts.  Where is he/she?  Does she wonder about me?  Is he angry that I did the unforgivable and gave him away?  Would knowing the “why” help?  Does she look like me?  Could we be passing each other daily and not even know it?

Some of you probably have read my story of reunion.  Was it worth it?  Oh yes!  Would I do it again?  Without question.  I must confess that over the yeas if I don’t hear from her for a period of time, the voice inside of me says, “Well Pat, why should she stay in touch…you gave her away!”  But then she call or emails.  Recently I’ve learned to remind myself that those who I did raise often are lax about staying in touch as well.  Children get busy with their own lives.

Should you search for your child?  I can’t answer that for you.  Some may not want you to find them.  Some may want to take advantage of you.  You may want to take advantage of them.  So many possibilities but always a question mark.  The “abandonment issue” remains a constant problem for both mother and child and never so much as when Mother’s Day arrives each year.   As you think of all the possible outcomes along with the tremendous emotional turmoil involved, I would ask you to also think of this.  When you lay dying, will you still wonder where that child is?  Maybe now is the time to take the leap.

Pat Goehe knew that someday she would meet the daughter who was adopted out at birth

Pat Goehe knew that someday she would meet the daughter who was adopted out at birth

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