“You see, you cannot draw lines and compartments, and refuse to budge beyond them. Sometimes you have to use your failures as stepping-stones to success. You have to maintain a fine balance between hope and despair.” – The Proofreader, a minor character in A Fine Balance
Rohintan Mistry, in his novel A Fine Balance, presents an epic tale that takes the reader from India’s independence in 1947 to the Emergency of the 1970s. It is one of the most absorbing (and heartbreaking) novels I’ve ever read; In many ways, the book’s characters and themes remind me that grappling with the invisible wounds of adoption is a life-long process. It is one thing to recognize negative assumptions about being adopted and quite another to truly free oneself of their sting. In other words, the shackles may be gone but the scars remain.
Those of you who’ve followed my posts are familiar with the master-underminer I’ve named “Edgar,” that uninvited but ever-present demon of self-doubt who is always on the prowl for ways to squash ones spirit. It does little good to repeat the cliche “Look at the half full and not the half empty glass.” Edgar wants us to feel small, unworthy, and marginalized. After all, he harps, we were given away by our first parents, so obviously we were not good enough to keep.
This troublesome idea—”not good enough”— is one of Edgar’s favorite weapons. We, the adopted ones, may try to pretend that being adopted fades in importance. We did not choose to be raised by other than our original parents. A tangled web of emotions surround a child being separated from the first mother and father, transferred to an adoptive family or single parent. All of this happened before we had words or the maturity to understand. The emotions of others involved were implanted in us, even when we were in the womb. Add to that the feelings we had in our earliest years about the “transfer.” This history is Edgar’s playground.
Can we ever escape the ripple effect of adoption—the fears and fantasies, the doubts, assumptions and longing? We cannot. It it is folly to pretend otherwise. Therein lies the conundrum. The events happened. We need to acknowledge them but constantly transcend their draining effect.
My fireplace has been busy this winter. I am burning the last journal pages that went into The Goodbye Baby-A Diary about Adoption. Even though “it” isn’t done with me, I’m done with the old wounded self-image. My diary-reading “archeological dig” revealed a deep pit of unresolved angst. Each day I strive to “take the best and leave the rest.”
Along with lesson number one is a more important thought: We have the freedom to choose hope over despair. Recently, my birthday brought home a reminder: We don’t have forever. In my remaining years on the planet, I’ve resolved to take a symbolic road to the bright side. Though it may be a fine balance, we always have a choice.