Being an Almost Daughter…Here’s to all the Motherless Daughters & Sons

I was so sure I would be able to stay away from the computer today.  So sure, so determined.  Here I am, unable to “not write”.  I’m usually pretty good at not letting “special occasions” get to me now.  It’s taken a lot of work and reprogramming of those deep-seated beliefs.

Mother’s Day, of course is a tough one when you haven’t had a mother.

Yet, here I sit.  The Almost Daughter..one of the thousands of Motherless Daughters.

Hope Edelman wrote a book called Motherless Daughters: The Legacy of loss.  She was writing about the death of her mother but the loss applies to those of us who have lost our mothers from birth as well.  We also are motherless daughters in a different sense,  especially if you didn’t have mothering in your adoptive home.

“There is an emptiness inside of me–a void that will never be filled.  

No one in your life will ever love you as your mother does.  There is no love as pure,  unconditional and strong as a mother’s love.

 And I will never be loved that way again.”

Hope Edelman

How does one begin to understand or explain the depth of what it means to have never experienced a mother’s love.  For the last few days my news feed has been inundated with pictures of flowers and dinners and moms and children.  I look at them and smile, happy, that for them, the day holds memories of nurturing and love.

 Inside..deep inside..there is a place that screams of loss, of pain, of not knowing what that feels like.  Of recognition that I will never know.

My adoptive mother never wanted, nor should she have had children.  There was no nurturing there, no love, only the harsh reality of not being wanted which was reinforced daily.

I have great compassion for her now.  She’s been dead for years and I have forgiven.  Of course, none of its forgotten and the wounds still spill out their pain every now and again..like today.

I met my birth mother in 2003 after searching over most of my life.  I was 50 and terrified to meet this woman who gave me away.  It doesn’t matter why you are given up.  The primal wound still exists.  The in utero knowing of “not being wanted” the energetic connection that was severed early, even before I entered the world.

She never saw me.  She never named me.  I never existed.

She lived in my heart and I lived nowhere.

I moved my life across the country to get to know “my family, my mother”.  Life changed forever when I got that first call that there was a family.  A family that had existed all of my life but without me.

Thirty years before that, I had found a cousin.  Everyone knew I was looking except my siblings who never knew I existed.  I often wonder if we had the fortune of meeting then, would things be different?

Our kids could have grown up together.  We could have grown up together.  It would have been 30 yrs less of secrets and lies.  Would we have been able to heal at a younger age?  Would my mother have loved me then?  Would she have been able to mother me then?  So many would haves, should haves, could haves.

Don’t get me wrong, I do believe things happen for a reason and I suppose the time wasn’t right…but then when is it right?

There is never a right time to expose  a secret for the one who holds it close.

I will never get over the loss.  I try to embrace the tiny bits that emerged to connect us.  She loved horses and of course Finding Heart Horse describes my passion for horses and my search for my Heart Horse.  We both had a standard uniform of white shirt and blue jeans.  The first time I saw her picture I was speechless.  It was like staring in a mirror.  Never before had I seen myself reflected back so vividly, so genetically.  My daughter was my first biological connection.  I can look at our pictures now and see the resemblance but for the longest time I didn’t know what “I” looked liked so couldn’t see me, in her.

The Almost Daughter: not wanted in my adopted family, they wanted a boy

The Almost Daughter: my real mother died 9 months after I moved across the country to get to know her.  On this day, mothers day, 8 yrs ago.  I never got to be mothered.  I never had the chance to be her daughter, nor she my mother.

As I’m writing I understand why I’ve fought so hard NOT to write on this day.  It’s difficult to express authentic emotions in our society.  We tend to push them down and not release them.  We speak in social talk which I’m so not good at anymore, nor do I want to be.  In the adoptee world the social talk is translated into meaningful connections with honest words.  Much has been talked about with the work up to this day.  I thought I could just let the day be a day..

I found my mother and lost her all in the same breath, on this day.  I hold great compassion for her as well.  How terrible to have lived with that “secret” for all of those years.  How painful, what a terrible loss to hide from everyone.

I had to “grow myself”, raise myself in an environment I was never meant to be in.  Even running away at 15 didn’t solve the problem.  I grew up on the streets looking for where I belonged, where my family was, where I fit in.

The Wall of Secrets has finally been submitted and the self publishing process begins again.  Perhaps you will understand me better knowing my journey or perhaps you aren’t really interested, it doesn’t really matter either way.  This journey,  my journey, my healing, is the gift I am able to give to my daughter on this mothers day and that’s all that really matters.

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To all of us..To the Motherless Daughters and Sons of adoption and death I am holding you all in my heart today as we grieve our loss together.

 

Don’t Believe Everything You Think

ImageI have this bumper sticker and everyday when I get into the car I read it.  I know I’ve mentioned it before but I’ve done a great deal of thinking lately about how we and our thoughts about ourselves shape our reality.  I think it follows writing Finding Heart Horse and The Wall of Secrets.

I wish, I had known at an earlier age that I am, in fact, not my story but life has a way of unfolding just as it should, when it should.

I also know that I am not my thoughts.  I don’t have to believe them especially when what they are telling me isn’t what reality is showing me.  It causes a great deal of suffering when we let our thoughts control our life.

A great deal of conversation goes on within the adoptee community about PTSD but most of us suffer from other trauma’s, post primal wound, that also  classify as criteria for the diagnosis of PTSD.  Since this is Bell’s “Let’s Talk” week in Canada I thought it was a good time to bring up the subject again.  Having open conversation about mental health is crutial to eliminating the stigma and providing a way to speak out.

I don’t have to describe what the symptoms of PTSD are to most of you reading this and if you need further clarification, please take the time to look it up.  It brings me back to my many years of trauma, the rapes, the abuse, the feelings of unworthiness related to being given away.  It goes on and on.  It also boils down to believing those thoughts now or not.

I lived from a place of fear most of my life.  Fear of being found out, fear of not being good enough, fear of being unloveable, fear of not belonging, fear after fear.  All, based on thought.  Some of those belief systems as adoptees know, are so deeply rooted it takes years to uncover them and try to untangle the roots imbedded in our psyche.

Ultimately, everything we want, everything we are looking for is inside us already.  When you go inside and find your own happiness you discover that what already exists is unchanging, immovable, ever present….just waiting for you to find it.  You are the only one that can end your own suffering.

I know!  Go figure.  It’s as simple or as complicated as you chose to make it.  Even those of us with severe PTSD can, with work and love for self are able to emerge from the darkness we have existed in.  No teacher needed, although it helps to have a guide, a support, a spiritual base but ultimatly its you and only you that can change your thoughts.  You can decide to not believe everything you think.

There are, of course times we need various methods to assist us along the way.  Don’t get me wrong.  Appropriate care is mandatory if you are not at a place in your life where you can manage.  I can only speak for myself and now in my 6th decade as much as I accept that life works in ways that it’s meant to. I am astonished at the depth of pain and fear I lived in.  As an imposter.  As a chameleon.  As someone not present in today.

I’ve heard the lesson many times in my Buddhist teachings….If you are not living in your own life, if you are living in someone else’s  business you will only bring suffering to yourself.  So, if you are mentally living in someone else’s business and are feeling hurt or lonely pay attention.  You are not living in your own life.

Having lived in a state of severe PTSD and disassociation for many years I can now recognize with clarity the past triggers and the belief systems that kept me safe until I was ready to dig through the dirt and uncover them one by one.  Reunion was the catalyst and my writing became my therapy.  I relived each and every moment of trauma that had been locked away for so long.  I could smell the smells and feel the fear and pain.  I was there.  Right there.  Momemt by moment in each story told and I now understand why it was hidden for so long.  I had to live.  To survive.  To care for ailing adoptive parents and most of all care for my daughter.  There wasn’t time to open The Wall of Secrets.  There wasn’t time to allow myself to break down the walls and let the barriers fall.

I knew once I opened those drawers that held my secrets my world would change drastically and I wasn’t sure I could get to the other side in one piece.  I became totally fragmented during the process and everyone around me just figured that’s who I was, never thinking of the magnitude of the process of reunion and all the primal wound brings along with my life traumas.  Interesting, now that I can reflect on the past few years.  Why didn’t they see?  Why wasn’t there compassion and understanding instead of irritation and dismissal?

That’s why, this week is important.  People need to speak out, educate, speak their own truths about depression, anxiety, disassociation, whatever it is you suffer from.  The only way one will find understanding and throw off the stigma is to speak out loud or in-between the covers of a book.

Back to us…back to us and our thoughts.

A thought really is harmless unless you believe it.  It’s not the thought itself but the attachment to the thought that causes our suffering.  Once you attach to it, you believe it to be true.  Without inquiring, without question you/we believe it.

Imagine!  All those nasty, demeaning, harmful, despicable thoughts….are nothing more than that.  Yet, when we get attached to them we believe them to be so.  Can you imagine if…just if…it weren’t  so..if they weren’t true and all this time, you “thought” they were!

This subject, i think will have to be several blogs as it’s so much of human conditioning and I so want to write my way and your way through this process to a place where we KNOW we aren’t our thoughts.

You can’t control them.  Don’t let anyone tell you it’s possible, it isn’t but what you can do is meet them with understanding.  They will, then, let go of you.

It’s a practice.  It’s a process.  This being aware of our thoughts,  Inquiring if they are in fact true and then letting them go with perhaps a chuckle.  Say to yourself..hmm..now that was interesting..why on earth would I think that to be true.

A Facebook post has resurfaced the last few days.  One that is especially pertinent for trauma victims, PTSD, Adoptees.  Perhaps you aren’t aware it even exists.  We do the best we can at the time and as we grow and open our walls of secrets we learn that it’s okay to be uncomfortable and walk through the discomfort and pain to expose our coping skills and with time change them.  I’ll post it at the bottom and you can give its some thought.  I want to look at the thoughts behind some of my suffering over the years in my next post.  I have many and I’m still digging them out and I’m also discovering that most of them just aren’t true.  You will find the same.  I promise.

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Who am I now?

All things found in the world and beyond

Are illusions created by one’s own concepts.

Grasping at them but further distorts perception.

Give up grasping and see things as they are.

  H.H. Dalai Lama

My two memoirs are written.  My story is finally going to be “out there” and yet,  last night as I lay in bed, I thought about the person I used to be.  I thought about the previous lives I’ve lived within this lifetime and there have been many.  

From the time I was adopted I was forced to play many roles within that family.   I was a maid, housekeeper, performer, model, pianist, choir girl, girl guide.  I could go on and on.  We all know, as adoptee’s, how we twist and turn trying to fit into the place given to us after we are given away.  We never fit no matter how hard we play the roles and how we try to mould into a space that was never meant for us in the first place.

Over a lifetime of trying to fit in to the many subcultures of the 60’s and 70’s still didn’t work..  You know, deep down that you don’t fit and yet from experience and desire to belong we still try.

I go over these lives, the people that were part of the journey.  I wonder where they are and what they are doing, knowing in my heart most of them are dead.  Yet here I am, alive and telling my story.

This morning when I got up I reached for my stethoscope  that hangs on the hall stand as a reminder of one of those lives.  I was going to listen to my little Jangos chest, just as I did for many years with patients.  Image

Where did she go?  The very well respected, confident R.N. who thrived on stress and yet always remained so cool and calm.  I remember how she felt each day she went to work excited for the challenge and unpredictability of the ward.  I wonder where those I cared for are, how they are doing knowing, some are not with us, yet I think about them.

As real as those years were and the memories still are, it’s like a dream today.  It reminds me of Buddha’s own words. “See this floating world as like a dream, like a mirage, like a fantasy.”  I also remember, I think it was Yeats saying we are all actors in a play, on the stage of life and we can do, be anything we want.

I remember falling in love for the first time. I remember the overwhelming sadness when it didn’t last.  I remember thinking I would never live anywhere but Toronto and that if I lived beyond 30 it would be a miracle.  I remember people I loved dying and leaving me alone in the jungle of city streets soothing my pain with my drug of choice.

Several times I came home to an empty house, all of my belongs gone.  Mostly I worried about my writing, my songs and my guitar.  I still look when I see someone playing on the streets.  It was the most beautiful Gibson 12 string and that pretty much was the total of my belongings, yet to start over so many times was just part of life back then.

Why is it so hard to let go?  Let go of who we used to be.  Let go of the reminders of what once was.  I got rid of a box of pictures years ago because I was afraid when I died, my daughter would see who I really was and here I am writing it out for the world to see.

I remember, when I got off of the “streets” and my first living space was a purple and black hall closet.  How safe and cozy I felt, confined in that tiny place because it was mine.  I remember the body that was a speed swimmer and the feeling of gliding thru the sparkling water muscles working in unison and without pain.

I have an old shirt I wore when i was in India.  Since then I’ve gained a huge amount of weight from illness and medications.  I remember where I wore it and the smells and sounds I experienced and if I hold it to my face, i can still smell the Indian spices and Buddhist monastery incense.  If I get rid of it, will I loose touch with those memories?  Will I throw out and important part of who I am?  Who will I be if I rid myself of everything?

As an adoptee that has been fragmented by reunion I know what it’s like to not know who you are, either before or after reunion. We have walked around for years in the roles we thought were such a big part of us.   We adoptee’s know the emotional collapse of our psyche that occurs at some point in reunion.  Other’s of course, have no idea.  Why would they when they were standing on their own roots, grounded in the knowing of who they are.

We are all connected to people, places, things, traditions, beliefs, habits, ideas.  Are we defined by these connections?  I believe so, perhaps that is why adoptees struggle so much with identity.  Without roots you have no ground to stand on, no stability in who you are, just the roles you play.

In Buddhism we are constantly reminded that these “things” represent our attachments, thus attaching us to the world.  As in the previous post I wrote that our attachments are what cause us suffering.  Because we are so focused on our attachments we don’t pay attention to the truth of our present moment, we fail to follow our deeper values.

Attachment is all about wanting and not wanting.  Its about desire and dislike.  What do you want most in life?  What do you want least?  I write about this because as a “post fragmented “adoptee who has spent the last years putting myself back together in a different order I can now reflect and see where my attachments were and how much suffering I set myself up for by clinging to things.  It took me 3 yrs to stop paying my nursing licence even tho’ I knew I was too ill to ever go back and had also moved across the country.  If I took that away at the time of physical and emotional crash during reunion what would happen.  Who would I be?  

I keep repeating this subject because I need to hear it over and over again.  Writing makes it real for me.  When I recall all of the attachments that have been let go I feel lighter and ready to take on the next chapter.  Having strong internal boundaries as well as external control over your own behaviours has helped focus and refine my energy.  My spiritual practice is deeper and more intense on a personal level.  The sense of inner peace is growing and the inner attachments have lessened.  Still a long way to go but the less you carry, the easier the climb.

By letting go of the inner attachments, the roles, the beliefs you open up a space in your heart.  Growing virtues such as compassion and loving kindness packed in care emerge.  Detachment doesn’t mean you become indifferent by any means.  What it does mean is you are less vested in the outcomes.  The real possibility of seeing everyone as equal and belonging to the same tribe becomes evident.  Even personal loss may be better handled when detachment and understanding is attained.

So, who am I now?  I feel lighter, more whole, more spiritual, more grateful, more grounded, less encumbered by the wanting of what could have been and never will be.  Its easier to return to that place of peace than ever before.  Always a work in progress.  I am…

I am not my story and yet it is part of me but not the total of me.  That is freedom.  I am happy to just “be”.  I am.