Carrying a Heavy Sack
“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
― Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
It’s been said that “everyone is carrying around a heavy sack.” The sack, of course, is a metaphor for woes and concerns that come with everyday life situations. Some sacks are heavier than others. Not surprisingly, I feel that the sack of adoptees weighs tons more than most. The issues we adoptees face aren’t the kind that go away easily. As life goes on, the issues simply take different forms.
Such questions as “Why don’t I have a real family tree?”; “Am I repeating the mistakes of my (birth/adoptive) parents?” “If I love someone, will (he/she) abandon me?” and finally, ironically, “If I do not have to solve the problems of adoption, what’s left for me?” I am no longer an “adult adoptee,” but simply “an adult.”
What IS it about being adopted? About not quite belonging and slipping into a feeling of alienation? Picture this. The evening has arrived at last: A fundraiser for Youth Shelters. I’m at the benefit party I’ve been planning for months, and the guests are having a wonderful time. Jean (not her real name) mentions that she knows of a birthmother who had a most wonderful reunion with a son she had to give away when he was just an infant. The meeting, recounts Jean, was completely wonderful and now the reunited mother and son have a great relationship.
Immediately, I recall the not-so-satisfactory meeting with my birthmother and hardly pay attention to what else Jean is saying. Why can’t I be present? After grappling with my adoption angst for so many years, shouldn’t I be less reactionary? Less easily injured and thrown off balance?
Jean is still talking and I tune back in to what she’s saying. She wants to help the mission of Youth Shelters, which is directed toward helping homeless adolescents and young people. Another volunteer! How wonderful. I shove thoughts of my unsatisfactory reunion under the rug and put my cheery facade back into place. The evening is a success and everyone, especially Jean, seems to be having a wonderful time.
I realize that my sack of concerns may never really lighten, but that I am capable of becoming stronger. After all, the family constellation formed long ago. Changing it would be like moving the stars. This is impossible. The only star I can change is