First of all, I must clarify: I’m not talking about breaking up with bad boyfriends. Been there, done that. In my memoir The Goodbye Baby: A Diary about Adoption, I chronicled the painful dissolution of relationships that never should have been forged in the first place. This is a different kind of break-up. I’m speaking about letting go of a bad childhood, of truly breaking the habit of (intentional or not) “Victimhood.”
Last night I had a terrifying nightmare. The setting: a closet. Time: Morning, any day. Action: Deciding what to put on. Except for a final garment, I was dressed and ready to face the world After donning a random cardigan, I realized that it was all wrong. Help! I had to be somewhere! Before leaving the closet, I was determined to remove the wretched sweater, which by now had shrunk into a tight, ugly bolero.The garment became painfully confining. As I struggled, its evil embrace grew stronger. My sweater was trying to kill me; the only escape was to wake up. With a relief, I did just that. As I wrote in my journal, I saw how the sweater symbolized my emotional entrapment. I literally woke up to my need to free myself.
It’s easy to announce to yourself that you’re over hangups, harder to make a public “confession,” as I did in The Goodbye Baby, but nearly impossible to really be over those negative ways of reacting. My overactive adoptee mind, so used to uber-interpretation of EVERYTHING, can hardly stand a lack of drama. And what better occasion for drama than a bout of loneliness or an imagined slight or pangs of self-consciousness? I seem particularly good at finding those occasions, or maybe they find me.
Let’s imagine that you’re happy. (But you have the overactive mind of an adoptee). The form of depression that in my book I’ve called “Edgar” wakes up and starts pawing the ground. Edgar wants action! The Edgar inner demon asks “Is this really Elaine’s life? How can this be HER life if everything is just humming along, sort of mellow and OK?” I, Edgar the omnipresent and all-powerful, cannot allow this. How dare Elaine feel happy? I’m here to rain on her parade! I’m keeping score and she loses. ”
I say, “Enough already!” I have become a victim against victimhood. Adopted or not, adoptive or birth parent, child or adult, I invite you to join the ranks.