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