Note from Elaine: I have two books coming out in 2016!: the “remodeled” Santa Fe on Foot and a suspense novel, All the Wrong Places. Because of current writing demands, therefore, my blogging has temporarily taken a back seat. Hope you enjoy this republished but timely message. Wishing all adoptees an especially fulfilling holiday!
For Adoptees, the holidays can be tough. Not only for young adopted children, but also for adult adoptees. During Christmas and Hannukah season, we are supposed to be happy, filled with joy, relishing family reunions. Tis “the season to be jolly,” fa-la-la-la-la-ing” as we frantically strive to find the perfect gift for every last person on the list.
As described in my memoir, The Goodbye Baby: Adoptee Diaries, I was five when my birth mom relinquished me. For all of November—National Adoption Awareness Month—I’ve focussed on my own adoption. It’s been an awakening, and not always a happy one. Though striving mightily to make this a good holiday for my own grown children and their families, I suffer from an all too familiar ache of incompleteness. We adult adoptees can become “orphans” all over again.
I’ve lost all my parents, both biological and adoptive. My birth parents: They could not have raised me and my brother, and yet I would have liked to have known them earlier in life. When I finally met them, it was too late for us to really form a relationship. Those wonderful people, the mom and dad who raised me: I feel an even keener sense of emptiness at their deaths.
To better explain why the holidays present this adoptee with a sense of deprivation, allow me to quote from The Goodbye Baby:
Whenever I think I have finally been healed from the wounds of adoption, life serves up a reminder that I am not. It is the opposite of “looking through rose-colored glasses.” When one looks through the glasses of being adopted, everyday events are reminders of loss, betrayal, or abandonment. Through reading all my diaries, I became very aware of the unremitting prevalence of “adoption bruises.”
There are metaphors I find helpful in understanding the wounds of my adoption, including disease and death at sea. When troubled by having grown up as an adopted child, I let insecurity and self-doubt take root. Reason eludes me. I have given that negative emotional state a name—Edgar. Like burning flames, Edgar is fueled by his own energy. Like fire, he feeds on everything, which he transforms into negative thoughts about my past, present, future. Edgar is a demonic artist who paints the world in stark tones of black and gray. Like a disease, Edgar undermines my physical well-being. Edgar lurks, waiting to arise when I am feeling healthy and balanced. When my spirit starts to wane, he is poised for the kill.
Edgar is always keeping score. His message to me: To be considered worthy of living, I have to prove myself “good” every day. If I do not, I might, metaphorically speaking, be sent to an orphanage. Never mind that I lived in foster care for only the first few years of my life. No matter that I should be well over the feelings of abandonment from that difficult beginning.
Fire burns everything in its path. Self-destructive memories add to Edgar’s growing stockpile of ammunition. Edgar thrives on drama and misfortune, not just mine, but the world’s… Disappointment appears and then malaise sets in, a pervasive feeling of things being awry. My stomach feels queasy, my shoulders ache, and my limbs are leaden. Uh oh. Here’s Edgar, I think to myself.”
If only Christmas were a holiday one could celebrate quietly and thoughtfully, I would be happier. That is not going to happen, so I’ve taken responsibility for making this season rich and fulfilling.
Loss, want, privation and melancholy are NOT what I want to give myself for Christmas.
I am taking the holidays as a time to deepen and renew friendships. Every day I will focus on self-care, spending time in nature, drinking more water and beginning each day with a morning stretch and hug. As a friend recommended, I will stretch my arms and legs, sit up and notice that I am breathing. For three or four breaths, I will simply pay attention, breathing in and breathing out. I will give myself a hug, saying “Good morning, Elaine, thanks for taking a minute to just be. Let today be about learning to love—myself and others”
Embracing my adoption is a way of nurturing myself. This year, the holidays will be different. After putting “Edgar” into an escape-proof cage, I will wrap my adoption insights in a beautiful gift box. Knowing and accepting my adopted self is the greatest gift. When I do this, I have more to give family and friends.
Some questions for my readers:
Why do you personally think Adopted children find it more difficult to enjoy the Holidays?
Do you remember struggling with your own Adoption when Christmas/Thanksgiving rolled around?
Do you ever remember your parents trying to help you deal with this?
What do the Holidays mean to you?
How do you reflect on your adoption during the Holidays?