Dante and the “A Words” of Adoption


, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Along the journey of our life half way, I found myself again in a dark wood

Between Heaven and Hell, Dante illuminates the Adoption Journey

Between Heaven and Hell, Dante illuminates the Adoption Journey

wherein the straight road no longer lay.
-Dante Alighieri (1265-1321)

Recently I took an intensive course on the famous Florentine epic poet and philosopher 
Dante. His Divine Comedy, published in the early 14th century as Commedia, is considered a masterpiece of world literature. Written in Italian, the poem tells—in first person—of Dante’s imaginary journey through the three realms of the dead, lasting from the night before Good Friday to the Wednesday after Easter in the spring of 1300. The Roman poet Virgil guides Dante through Hell (Inferno), Purgatory, and finally to Paradiso.

Four days of total immersion in the world of Dante led to flights of fancy. As expert instructors took us through Dante’s journey—the circles of the Inferno, Purgatory and the levels of Paradiso—I found my mind wandering to the World of Adoption. Astonishingly, there are parallels!

Adoption” calls to mind so many words that begin with the letter “A,” some of which are devoutly to be wished for, some of which are to be avoided. As I mused, I realized that those A words correspond to the circles of the Inferno, the stages of Purgatory and the levels of Paradiso.

Let’s start in the INFERNO, at the bottom circle of the Adoption underworld. ACCUSATION is at the uttermost depth of hell. This applied to me. As long as I continued to blame my birthmother for not having it in herself to parent me and my brother, I was filled with ANGER. ALIENATION also belongs in Inferno, as it comes from feeling like a victim, feeling as though being adopted means something is wrong with you. After all, if you were OK, why didn’t your birth parents keep you? Also belonging to adoption hell is ANXIETY, the state of perpetual fear that you as an adoptee can never achieve the life that “normal” people enjoy as their birthright.

Skipping through PURGATORY (for now), let’s consider the A words of PARADISO. First

Decades of diaries became my memoir, The Goodbye Baby

Decades of diaries became my memoir, The Goodbye Baby

is ALLOWING your history to be what it is and realizing that regrets about the past will forever keep you out of Paradiso. An important “A word” of Adoption is ADJUSTING….And finally there is ADAPTING.The latter two qualities lead to stress reduction and happiness.

Dante makes his way from the Inferno, through Purgatory, on to Paradiso. I’ve saved Purgatory (that limbo state between heaven and hell) for last. After all, I am striving, always working on adoption issues. The A words for this in-between state: ADMIRING, which is my attitude toward adoption pilgrims who’ve come to terms with whatever demons they must deal with; ASPIRING for that benign inner peace which I believe must come with self-knowledge and acceptance, and ASCENDING, which will go on for a lifetime. Purgatory, with its emphasis on an upward quest is not such a bad place to be. It involves ADMITTING that my life is a work in progress.

JOIN Elaine Pinkerton ON ALTERNATE MONDAYS FOR REFLECTIONS ON THE ROAD TO ADOPTION RECOVERY. Do you resonate with any “A” words of Adoption? Please comment!

Adoption Reunions: Be prepared for ANYTHING


, , , , , , ,

Note from Elaine: Guest blogger Pat Goehe is a frequent contributor to The Goodbye Baby website. Meeting her daughter for the first time after 32 years was a life-changing experience. It has been two years since she first wrote about their reunion (http://bit.ly/1M2dGlW). Pat is now moving forward with personal goals, specifically writing projects.

Birthmother/daughter reunion - Pat knew the day would come and it did!

Birthmother/daughter reunion – Pat knew the day would come and it did!

In Retrospect…

As I think about the reunion with my daughter after she found me, the thing that benefited me the most, was knowing that in fact she had been adopted by a wonderful couple.   Those who have read my original blog posts may remember I indicated  something had happened in one of my classes which made me wonder if my daughter had a negative experience similar to one of the students in that class.   So it was such a relief to meet her adopted parents and see that they were so wonderful.

I was pleasantly surprised at the time of the original reunion that she was involved in the arts, and that she had moved to California the very same year that I went there on a years’ sabbatical leave from my college.  Her field was music and also management and an agent for film composers.  I was dabbling in the film industry as well.   Another surprise was to discover we both were in love with the song from a Disney movie …. “somewhere out there….”    In fact, while celebrating one of my birthdays shortly after the reunion  at a favorite place, one of the singing waiters came and said there was another request for me.  He went on to say my daughter had called and requested it.  She knew I would be there that evening.

The old “nature or nurture” question was back in my mind.  At our very first meeting she ordered the same salad dressing I always do.  At one point where I excused myself to go to the restroom, she commented “So that’s where I get my pea sized bladder from!”.  And as originally talked about, when she called me for the first time, I couldn’t get over how much she seemed like me.  So much more than the daughter I had raised.  She’s also a “worry wart” like me, usually overbooked in the “to do” lists, and there’s no question that we are both sensitive, emotional people.

What advice can I give to adoptees or the birth parents seeking a reunion?  Be prepared for anything.   If you have a scenario developed where it’s a glorious reunion, it may not be.  If you have other children and you hope all will become one big happy family, that too may not be.  It hasn’t been in my case. If you are haunted by needing to know, then by all means search.  I hope you have a happy outcome.   To me, the not knowing was the most difficult of all.   I was prepared for whatever I would find, good or bad.  She found me,  and it has been good.  Perfect?  Is anything ever that?

Editor’s Note: Pat Goehe is a lifetime teacher who’s worked in all facets of communication and related arts. She teaches students at the secondary and university level. Perhaps the most meaningful communication of her life, however, occurred when her daughter Linda, after decades of separation, contacted her. Pat is a frequent contributor to The Goodbye Baby website and the author of a children’s book Annemarie and Boomer wait for Grandma, the first in a series. In keeping with National Adoption Month, Pat reflects on her reunion with daughter Linda.

Pat relaxes in Santa Fe's Rose Garden Park

Pat relaxes in Santa Fe’s Rose Garden Park

Once Again, It’s Poetry Monday


, , , , , , , ,

It is possible that I may always be searching for adoption recovery. Does this quest never end? Maybe the yellow brick road leads nowhere? Perhaps, as Dorothy discovers

Escaping is sometimes the best way to become free.

Escaping is sometimes the best way to find oneself.

in The Wizard of Oz, there is no place like home? In the case of the adoptee, it seems necessary to come home to oneself. To do that may require devious methods, even escaping. Today, I’m proposing that escapism is not only allowed but beneficial. Rather than further lamenting my lack of completing the adoption recovery “final exam,” I’m celebrating the end of warm days and the prelude to Winter. Revisiting a past literary love, I summon British poet John Keats.

John Keats, who lived from 1795-1821, created some of the most beautiful poetry of the Romantic Era. His tribute to Fall has been called “the most serenely flawless poem in English.” Read, imagine, and savor…

Autumn is a great time to escape to the world of literature.

Autumn is a great time to lose oneself in the world of poetry.

Ode to Autumn
by John Keats

SEASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness,

Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;

Conspiring with him how to load and bless

With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;

To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,

And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;

To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells

With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,

And still more, later flowers for the bees,

Until they think warm days will never cease;

For Summer has o’erbrimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?

Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find

Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,

Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;

Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,

Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook

Spares the next swath and all its twinèd flowers:

And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep

Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,

Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?

Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—

While barrèd clouds bloom the soft-dying day

And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;

Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn

Among the river-sallows, borne aloft

Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;

And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;

Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft

The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft;

And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Join Elaine every other Monday for reflections on adoption and life.

Join Elaine every other Monday for reflections on adoption and life.

Lost and Found


, , , , , , , , , , , ,

“Not all who wander are lost.” -J. R.R. Tolkien

(Note: But some are. The good news is that even if lost, the lucky ones will be found.)

My 40-year-old son  was visiting me for the weekend. Since we both love hiking, we

A brief period of sun before the clouds lowered.

A brief period of sun before the clouds lowered.

decided to climb to Deception and Lake Peaks, located in Santa Fe National Forest, both above 12,000 feet. We had just one day available for the hike. This particular Saturday was iffy, threatening rain and cold mountain top temperatures. An early start was mandatory. Fortified by Starbucks, we drove to Santa Fe Ski Basin and were forging up Winsor Trail shortly after 7:30 a.m.

A few hours after embarking, we’d traversed Raven’s Ridge and were above the treeline. The temperature had dropped from 50 degrees to below 40. Wind picked up; Cloud level lowered. Reaching Lake Peak, which is just beyond Deception, involved scrambling over a rocky ledge. Because my son is stronger and faster, I told him that Deception would be my final destination. I’d wait while he went on to the more technical destination of Lake Peak. Then, when he’d gone the difficult extra half mile, he’d turn around, come back and we’d reunite forces.

He instructed me to wait on a boulder near the grove of trees next to the end of Raven’s Ridge and at the base of Deception. He’d be back, he promised, in 30 minutes or less. Though this seemed like a fine plan, that’s when the trouble began.

Deception Peak lives up to its name.

Deception Peak lives up to its name.

You might say it was my fault. Instead of just sitting on a boulder near the grove of trees, I decided to keep warm by temporarily joining some hikers who were headed toward Lake Peak. My plan was, after the 20-minute trek to keep warm, to take the same path down to the tree line and wait for my son.

At the top of Deception Peak, all paths are just slight demarcations in the rocky dirt, one resembling another. Shivering from the cold wind and realizing that it had been MORE than 30 minutes since I was to meet my son, I mistakenly started down a path that led to another ridge, NOT Raven’s Ridge. Thus began a scary interlude of searching. I tried my smart phone. No voice reception. Panicking, I decided to start sending texts. Here, transcribed, is our broken conversation….

ME: I’m here at the top
SON: Top of what? Went past treeline yelling and I didn’t see you
ME: I went back down and I’m headed toward the trees on the path…go down the path
ME: I;m headed right to the trees where you told me to wait…down the path
SON: I am already down a ways. Head down and I’ll wait
ME: Okay, I’m coming down
SON: Make sure you are on the right path. Stay on the ridge
I’m down about a half mile on but where it starts to go up again…

At this point, texting failed, and I was practically running, not at all sure I was headed toward the right landscape. When you’re lost in the wild, everything can begin to look alike.

Then a minor miracle! It came in the form of two other hikers, total strangers, who were there when I needed help. The first hiker was a man with a long white beard who looked as though he’d stepped from the last century.

“I’m headed toward Raven’s Ridge,” he said, after I’d explained my plight. Another five minutes and we were at the grove of trees where I’d been told to wait. I learned that the stranger’s name was Paul, then hugged and thanked him for being a Good Samaritan. He went on toward Lake Peak and I hurried toward the path that my son was already partially down. Another hiker appeared from nowhere, a young man named Jason and a few of his friends.
“Are you Elaine,” he called out.
“Yes, I’m sort of lost and I’m looking for my son.”
“He’s looking for you,” said the young man. He escorted me a half mile down the trail where my son, who’d hiked two extra miles, was awaiting. It turned out that Jason and his pals were doing field work to qualify for the local Search and Rescue Team. After thanking him profusely, I made a feeble joke:
“Well, at least I gave you a case study.”

My son was relieved but furious. As we hurried down the trail, it started to rain. “I

All's well that ends well.

At the top of Deception, Lake Peak in the background.

can’t leave you alone for a minute,” he grumbled. “You’re a terrible hiker.” Thoroughly chilled, we reached the car in record time. Fortunately, my son’s a forgiving soul and reneged on his decision never to hike with me again.

In retrospect, the episode reminded me of my adoption, of how I’d been lost but then found. It was fate that my birthmother was not able to be a parent. Figuratively and literally, she lost me. My adoptive parents, by a series of fortuitous events, found me and my brother and provided us with a stable home and good childhood. Above all, what I gained from this memorable day, was a sense of gratitude. Oh yes, and this as well: follow directions. and pay attention to the landscape.

Adoptee Stories —>Share YOURS


, , , , , , , ,

This Fall, I am inviting first person stories to my site.images-3images

When the publisher of The Goodbye Baby suggested a Goodreads book giveaway, I seized the opportunity to relaunch my memoir. Rather than”A Diary about Adoption,” it would now be subtitled “Adoptee Diaries.” The book comprises four decades of my personal journals as I came of age, as I accepted the reality that the wounds of adoption had to be healed. It’s been a fascinating journey, one that has shaped my life and continues to impact future writing.
In that spirit, I am opening the door to the adoption stories of others. These must be first person accounts, submitted online (see instructions below). They can be written from the point of view of the adoptee him or herself, parents wanting to adopt a child, birthparents searching or in reunion with their biological children.
The submission period runs throughout the rest of September and early October. Acceptance for publication is up to the editor. During the five Mondays of November, I’ll publish the best of the stories, and I will also send you a present (one of my published books) by snail mail.
If you’re adopted, here are the questions to consider:
* How old were you when you were adopted?
* Was it an open or closed adoption?
* Were siblings adopted with you?
* In what ways has growing up adopted affected you? Why? Or, if being adopted has not affected you, why not?
* Did you meet your biological parents, and if so, how did that go?
* Do you feel that adoptions be open? Why or why not?
* What misconceptions about adoption have you encountered?
* What is the most positive aspect of your personal adoption? Negatives?

Story entries may also include accounts from those who want to adopt a baby or older child, birthmother/birthfather experiences, accounts by adoptive parents.

Your personal account can range from 250 to 400 words. Please edit carefully before submission. Avoid an angry or accusatory tone; keep your approach conversational. Humor is always welcome. Remember that your story may make all the difference to readers who might be struggling with “being adopted issues.” Deadline is October 20. The top five submissions will appear on TheGoodbyeBaby website during November, which is also National Adoption Month. Please indicate whether or not you grant permission for use of your piece in a future book.

Along with your story, include a brief bio and a cameo photo. E-mail queries and submissions to deardiaryreadings@me.com.Front Cover- JPEG

Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood


, , , , , , , ,

As I’ve traveled the road to what I call “adoption recovery,” I’ve learned a IMG_0002 (1)few things. It is those reflections that will be the topic of today’s blog post.
Whenever I visit my young grandchildren, as I currently am, I like to tell them stories of what the world was like when their Dad was their age. In this age of streaming and electronic books, it’s hard for them to imagine coming home from school every day to a beloved television program. In a way, it’s a lost magic garden; at another level, I’m glad for the memory.

On this Grandparents Day weekend 2015, as my four-year-old grandson and I stroll to the corner park, I’m reminded of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, a 1970s television show that came on every weekday afternoon. It was a favorite of my children when they were four or so. There was something very reassuring about the dapper, genteel no-longer-young gentleman singing It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a beautiful day in the neighborhood…Would you be mine, could you be mine, IMG_0004won’t you be my neighbor?
The show always started in precisely the same way, inviting the viewer into an orderly and benign world. Mr. Rogers puts on his cardigan sweater, flips his shoes in the air before lacing them up, and invites you into the Rogers world of green lawns and painted shutters. It’s a world seen through a child’s innocent eyes. There is room for optimism. Happiness seems a natural state of being rather than an act of courage. Mr. Rogers beams his charming smile and asks, “Did you ever grow anything in the garden of your mind?”
Back to the present: I’m here in southern California for my summer visit to see the family. It’s been way too hot for a San Diego September. Monstrous wildfires rage to the north. Mercifully, however, there is a refreshing breeze wafting through the palm trees surrounding the playground. Following a fierce heat wave in San Diego during which temperatures reached 98 degrees,this is a blessing. The day itself is a blessing .As my grandson digs contentedly in the sandbox, I reflect on everything that, despite a world full of troubles, is still right.
The gratitude list. It never fails me as an attitude adjuster. I have family that’s small but close-knit, wonderful friends, and I live in a place I love. My health seems to be holding up. I have two books scheduled for publication—Santa Fe on Foot, a guidebook, and Murder at Red Mesa, my second suspense novel. Though I’ve held many other jobs over the years, my hope has always been to be a full time writer. While I may not be on the road to fame or fortune, I am pursuing a lifetime dream.

Feel the heat and spend outdoor time anyway!

Feel the heat and spend time outdoors anyway! (Just remember sunscreen)

Beyond all of that, however, is the growing realization that we always have a choice. We can be buffeted by outward events, emotionally crippled by self-fulfilling prophecies, blinded by being too much in our heads. Or we can choose , as a hiking buddy once recommended, to “stay within the confines of the day.”

I like to dwell on an anonymous quote I discovered while walking a Santa Fe labyrinth. Engraved in a large rock is the following:
There’s a new world coming. She is on her way. On a still day we can hear her breathing.

Join Elaine every other Monday for insights on adoption and life.

Join Elaine every other Monday for insights on adoption and life.


Adopting the Road to Gratitude


, , , , , , , ,

“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.” – Melody Beattie

The highway from Albuquerque to Santa Fe, New Mexico

The highway from Albuquerque to Santa Fe, New Mexico



NOTE FROM ELAINE:  I’m happy to announce that my novel Murder at Red Mesa was just accepted by Pocol Press. (Protagonist Clara Jordan is an adoptee searching for her roots.) Launch date TBA. Because of preparing the book for publication, I’ll be taking a brief blog-cation, occasionally republishing posts from the past. This post contains a message that’s always relevant. Enjoy!

Three years have passed since the publication of The Goodbye Baby-A Diary about Adoption. My memoir comprises diary entries from years of dwelling on unanswered questions about my adoption. Most of those questions have been answered; now I am free to live my life. This journey—writing the book—has opened up a multitude of insights. The weekly blog posts I’m committed to writing has deepened my tolerance and understanding of not only my adoptee status but of the personal issues of friends and family members.
I feel that I’m traveling an entirely new highway, going from overcast skies to wide open sunny plains. The secrecy that surrounded my adoption caused weary decades of self-doubt and recrimination. The lack of a family tree that was authentically mine felt like a character flaw. Being an adoptee and the insecurities attached to that label defined, at least to myself, who I was.
Finally it seems possible to turn problems into opportunities. Of all the insights gained, perhaps the most stunning is this: growing up as an adoptee was the source of my problems but, paradoxically, the springboard of my success.
Through the Internet’s vast, far-reaching adoption community, I’ve met adoptees young and old, birthparents, adoptive parents, couples wanting to adopt, and people who care about adoption issues. Seeing the “land of adoption” with a wide-angle camera has opened up a new landscape.
Its been said that eighty percent of our information comes through our eyes. Since accepting  the past and steadfastly refusing to stay mired in it, I’ve gained a new appreciation for the beauty all around us. I’m fortunate to live in northern New Mexico’s high desert country, a land of astonishingly beautiful sunsets, the Rocky Mountain foothills, majestic forests and scenic plains.
Sometimes all that’s needed is to spend less time “over-thinking”—a notorious flaw of adult adoptees I’ve met—and more time simply really looking at the world.This is a step toward discovering the fullness of your life. BEING HERE is a gift.

Join Elaine on Mondays for reflections on adoption and life.

Join Elaine on Mondays for reflections on adoption and life.

Portal to the Past


, , , , , , , ,

noun: portal; plural noun: portals

    a doorway, gate, or other entrance, especially a large and elaborate one.
    synonyms:    doorway, gateway, entrance, exit, opening; More
    door, gate, entryway;
    formal egress
    “the portals to the palace were heavily guarded”
    an Internet site providing access or links to other sites.


My granddaughter agreed that Randall Davey's home was really cool!

My granddaughter agreed that Randall Davey’s home was really cool!

 As an adult adoptee, I agonized about not possessing an authentic family tree: biological roots, a list of same-DNA folks to whom I could trace my origins, blood relations. How to invent your own family tree? A forest of trees? A juniper that sends its roots so deep into the earth that it cannot be easily uprooted? Pretend that the whole family tracing mania is a waste of time and really doesn’t matter? No, no, and again no.
Of course ones origins matter. To pretend otherwise is unsustainable. No matter how far my adoptee recovery journey takes me, I’ll wake up every morning and still be adopted. However, the issue no longer causes that dark night of the soul that plagued me for so many years. Life is simply too short to agonize over the past. I’ve decided to transcend the question and open my mind to studying the pasts of others.
 Last weekend, I visited the estate of the early twentieth painter Randall Davey, one of the most colorful figures in the cultural history of Santa Fe, New Mexico. He was a prolific painter, son of a well-heeled east coast family who wanted their son to become a lawyer or an architect. Instead, Davey studied painting in New York and moved to Santa Fe to become a full time artist. He bought 135 acres of land at the end of Upper Canyon Road and converted an old mill to his home and studio.
He was a bon vivant, fast driver, musician, married to first Florence and then Isabel. Very much a local character. Davey died in an automobile accident, en route to see a girlfriend, near Baker, California on November 7 at the age of 77. His son William and Kate Cullum (sister of Isabel) bequeathed the property to the Audubon Society for their national headquarters. The Audubon Center & Sanctuary has preserved the home of Randall Davey and opens it to the public once a week. Last Friday I traveled to the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and signed up to see the estate.
A guided tour through the artist’s home transports one to another era. It’s as though Mr. Davey would come back at any moment

The artist's touch graces every room.

The artist’s touch graces every room.

Furnishings, paintings on the walls, books, studio and paints – all seem to be frozen in time. The highlight of my August, the Randall Davey excursion was a reminder that adoption recovery allows an expanding  of ones horizons. Pondering the pasts of others, I’ve learned, can sometimes prove more worthwhile than pondering ones own!

Join Elaine every other Monday for reflections on adoption and life.

Join Elaine every other Monday for reflections on adoption and life.

In Pursuit of Roots


, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Dear Readers: I am taking a “Blog-cation to work on a novel (The Hand of Ganesha). Therefore, I hope you’ll enjoy this re-posting of thoughts originally published in 2012. The lack of “roots” continues to haunt me. If you’re an adoptee and have ever felt the need for a more authentic family tree, please send your feedback. Like other adoptees I’ve met, I’m still searching for the answers!

Last night I watched a program on public television that reminded me of being an adoptee. The emptiness and longing for a tribe of my own, a feeling I wrongly assumed I had put to rest, was back with a vengeance.

“Finding your Roots,” which featured three celebrities exploring their family trees, was all about searching to find a place where you belong, piecing together the past, and learning where and how your ancestors lived. The show was well presented and dramatized the interviewees’ journeys to discover their their true heritage.

imagesMy outsider status syndrome immediately kicked in. How fortunate, I thought, to even possess a genealogy that you could call your own. Growing up as an adoptee, I longed for years to claim a so-called “family tree.” I’d been to Italy with my birthfather Giovanni Cecchini. After our reunion, we travelled to Abruzzi, where he was born. I met my non-English-speaking cousins, aunts and uncles. Following the journey to Italy, my birthfather’s second wife (not my birthmother) helped me secure a detailed listing of paternal relatives.

With my adoptive mom’s help, I’d was able to chart out a family tree for my ancestry record, going back just a couple centuries. Those two charts were intellectual exercises, but I couldn’t relate to them.

Two family trees, but neither really fit who I was. Though I had the DNA of the biological parentage, I was shaped and molded by my adoptive parents. Rather than give in to an emotional meltdown, however, I thought long and hard about why the “Finding your Roots” program tried to break my heart. Tried but failed.

When I was young, I made up a myth about being adopted.The underlying theme was “Oh, poor me.” That was a way of reacting to everything, seemingly as fixed as the stars in the Big Dipper or the belt of the constellation Orion. However, I was not a fixed star and I could shape a new truth.

Juniper Tree

Juniper Tree. Everything, seemingly as fixed as the stars in the Big Dipper or the belt of the constellation Orion. However, I was not a fixed star and I could shape a new truth.

I decided to emulate the indomitable juniper tree. It will send roots down 25 feet in order to survive. Here’s a description from the National Park Service’s website:

“Junipers grow in some of the most inhospitable landscapes imaginable, thriving in an environment of baking heat, bone-chilling cold, intense sunlight, little water and fierce winds. Often they appear to grow straight out of solid rock.”

This is the kind of family tree that will serve me well.

Decades of diaries became my memoir, The Goodbye Baby

Join Elaine every other Monday for reflections on adoption and life.

Are You Listening- Part II


, , , , ,

Note from Elaine: Yesterday, guest blogger and birthmother Pat Goehe, explained how two people can seem to be communicating but are really “talking past each other.” In the second installment of her two-part post, she explains “in depth” listening and tells how we can be the empathetic listeners that so many of us need. What does this have to do with adoption? A lot! If we adoptees can learn to really listen, we can also learn to let the past be past and live within the confines of each day.




Finally, we have in depth listening. This is where the people involved follow many of the things Elaine said in an earlier post on the topic. While no one can do this type of listening in every interaction he or she has, there are times when it would not be beneficial. For example, classes where one really needs to get the information to pass the class. Another would be “on the job” where one is getting trained or new information for a project. And if one tried to engage in depth listening in every interaction, the emotional involvement would simply be too much. It is in our most significant relationships we need to develop the in depth listening type.
Looking at the “listening process” there are several concepts that can and do affect the outcome. In my opinion the first is “noise”. There is physical noise like being ill, having a hangover (My students always loved that one!), allergies in certain seasons. Also being in a room that is too hot, stuffy, too cold, in a restaurant where there is so much talk it is difficult to converse with your dining companions; these are all examples of this type of noise. But often it is the “interior” noise that creates the biggest problem. Examples of this could be: You have a major paper due in two days and you haven’t started it yet ; someone in your family is having surgery or getting a diagnosis on some condition but you are at work and have to fulfill those duties; you are already behind in two house payments and have no idea what you’re going to do; your friend told you your husband is having an affair; you have been contemplating divorce for months but can’t make a decision; you’re concerned your parent has Alzheimer’s Disease. So many more examples. I know you can fill in many of your own. The point being, these types of “noise” most certainly interfere with listening even when you really want to listen.

There is a difference between hearing and listening!

There is a difference between hearing and listening!

The next concept from the process is “interpretation”. Actually noise is a part of this as well, but what it means is how you take in what has been said. A person I know visited me recently. Realizing it is best to stay away from political topics, and yet he thrives on them, I tried to comment on a recent news story. I thought surely it would be safe. But, before I could do anything more than identifying the story, he was in to “They set him up. They’re just out to get him like they do everything.” As I write this the Supreme Court just ruled on the health care program and the same sex marriage issue. I’m sure you have seen how that has evolved into major conflicts. This leads me into my favorite image which I usually post for students to explain this entire concept of communicating. It is the M.C. Escher print called “Bond of Union”. Basically there are two heads with ribbons connecting at some places and no connection with others. Both are also surrounded by little balls in the air. To me this is the best visual I have found which illustrates the various ideas I have presented in this blog. Each of us carries
inside our head all the experiences we have had in life. Remember that just because you came from the same family, your experiences can be different … the first child, the middle one etc. And while someone you are communicating with may have had their Mother die and you did too, it still is different. So in those relationships we really care about, it is necessary to “depth listen” to make the connections. It’s at times like this we often want to “fix the problem for the person”. We can only fix ourselves! But, we can be empathic, caring, depth listeners which so many of us need! To do this we must follow Elaine’s advice in the earlier piece. Listening/watching for the nonverbal aspects is SO IMPORTANT! There are subtle instances, faces getting red, looking away when discussing key aspects of a situation, the eyes tell us a lot. You can see I could write a whole blog on nonverbal communication, and yes, I taught semester courses in that too!
I always gave my students assignments on listening. One would be to observe others. Restaurants are great places to do this. I want them to watch for “dialogue of the deaf”, the argument type, and in depth listening. I also have them to commit to depth listening with a significant other. They come back reporting silly things having discovered Tournier knew what he was talking about. On the deep listening with a significant other, 99% of students reported that “other” would say, “What’s wrong?” “Are you okay?” “Are you sick?”. That suggests in a relationship that is very important in our life, there is not much “depth listening” happening.
I challenge each of you to do those assignments. We know for our sanity, we each must have at least one significant person in our lives who listens to us and we listen to them. Who is your person?

Pat Goehe is a  children's author and birthmother.Her newest book is Annemarie and Boomer wait for Grandma.

Pat Goehe is a children’s author and birthmother.Her newest book is Annemarie and Boomer wait for Grandma.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,052 other followers