Forgive! Are you Crazy?

When we forgive, we set a prisoner free and discover

that the prisoner we set free is us.”

Lewis Smedes

The prompting for this post was a discussion of sorts on my friend’s blog. http://www.morningpageswriter.wordpress.com  Monsters of Our Childhood … last evening.  I can’t remember all the comments but it was about finding forgiveness for those that have abused us in horrible ways as children or adults.

I never even thought about forgiving the people who had abused me, raped me, given me away, caused me pain…the list is endless.  I was so filled with pain and disbelief in human nature that when someone said to me, “Someday, you will need to forgive them and move on,” I wanted to shoving their words down their throat.  How could I possible forgive.  I was handed over at birth with no name, no thought, no love.  Handed over to live in a nursery probably not even held for who knows how long and then fostered by a middle-aged couple for two years as they waited for a boy, which was what they wanted.  If a boy became available I would be “sent back”.  They finally settled.  She, not wanting children at all and he, wanting a boy to fish and hunt with.

They settled and I paid the price.

Forgive!  Are you crazy?  I’m given away only to be abused by strangers who didn’t want me in the first place.

Raped and nearly beaten to death, not once, but several times and you want me to forgive?

I could go on and on with the specifics which, now are just that…specifics.  It doesn’t matter how much has been done to me, with me, around me anymore.  I set out on a journey to heal and to heal I knew I would have to forgive and let go of the past.  I know the exact moment it began.

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The word is where we all get stuck, especially if you were indoctrinated as many of us were in religions where everything was our fault since we were born sinners anyway and meant to spend the rest of our lives atoning for our sins.  We were taught/brainwashed to believe that we deserved everything we got or at least I was.

If I fell and scraped my knee, I deserved it.  If I spent a night licking my wounds from words and hand mirrors, it was because i deserved it.

 Of course, then when I was first raped at 16, in my head I could hear her words, “Well, look what you were wearing, you are a child of Satan.  What do you expect.”

 When I was critically ill in the hospital at 17, I could smell her breath as she leaned over droplets of spit landing on my face and said, “Go ahead and die.  You weren’t meant to be born anyway.  You don’t deserve to be here.  You are dead to us.”

Forgive?  You want ME to FORGIVE?

I wish someone had said to me years ago, “You don’t have to forgive.  Forgiveness is for them.  Letting go is for you.  When you’ve expressed enough anger, enough sadness, enough fear, then you’ll be ready to think about letting go.”

If you remember nothing else, remember that.

The truth is that yes, forgiveness sets you free and yes, I did forgive and have compassion for her now.

Forgiveness is a form of realism.  It doesn’t deny, minimize or justify what others have done to us nor the pain we have suffered because of it.  What it does is encourage us to look squarely at those old wounds and see them for what they are.  It allows us to see just how much energy we have wasted and how we have damaged ourselves by not forgiving.

Forgiveness is an internal process.  There is no forcing it and it sure doesn’t come easy no matter what you call it.  What it does do, is bring a great feeling of wellness and freedom.

Forgiveness/letting go means we no longer identify ourselves by our past injuries and injustices.  We are no longer Victims.  We can claim that right to stop hurting when we say we are tired of the pain and want to heal.  At that moment, forgiveness/letting go becomes a possibility.  We no longer want to punish those who hurt us, the pain from the past will no longer dictate how we live in the present, nor will it dictate our future.

Part of the healing is finding our own voices, speaking our truth, being vulnerable and courageous and writing blogs and books, speaking out loud our long-held secrets.  Dig through this layer and you will rescue your heart.

 This will be one of the most difficult parts of our journey only because our Ego doesn’t want to let go of the power that comes from being wronged.

Read that one again and again…

As long as we feel hurt and damaged we give ourselves the right to blame and judge.  We are the Victims.  Ego can point the finger and feel a certain power.  The Ego has to be put on the shelf for this one.  Forgiveness is an act of compassion but it doesn’t mean we forget.  It just means that there’s no longer an emotional charge from remembering.  It’s a gift to yourself.

You are worth having such a gift

ESSAYS OF AN ADOPTION ACTIVIST by THE DECLASSIFIED ADOPTEE

I have just finished reading Amanda H.L. Transue-Woolston’s new book “The Declassified Adoptee-Essays of an Adoption Activist”.  Twice in fact.

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I’m sure most of you know her as “The Declassified Adoptee” through her website, blog or The Lost Daughters network.

Amanda is the founder and editor of Lost Daughters as well as being a Social Worker, Author, Speaker, Award winning blogger, Feminist and Adoption Activist.

ImageI’m sorry, I don’t know who to credit for that description of what being an Activist means.  I felt it important to let people know just how important it is we all take this stance and learn from Amanda how important it is to speak our truth.

When I found Lost Daughters it was like finding my home.  Finally, a place where i belonged, where I fit in and knew I would be understood.  Having followed their blogs for some time I have been fortunate to experience the essence of what it means to be part of a sisterhood (and brother), to be with “those who get it”.

In JaeRan Kim’s foreword she puts it so eloquently in stating that Amanda, through these essays “calls for a more equitable and humane conceptualization of adoption.”

We, as adoptees are the last to speak.  Because of people like Amanda, others have found their voices in blogs, rallies, memoirs, and groups.  Because of this, CHANGE WILL HAPPEN.

That’s what being an activist means.  Creating a better future for those in the world of adoption.

  When she was born, I was 33.  Having participated in the Vietnam War Protests back in the early 70’s I considered myself, at the time to be quite the activist.  In my 30’s I was an R.N. working in Psychiatry fighting for the wounded, yet I was unable to find “my truth.”

Amanda, in 2009 at age 24, the age I would have walked in protest navigated the maze of government requirements and obtained her birth certificate and adoption file, thus eliminating the “secret information”.

 The Declassified Adoptee came into being.

I share my timeframe because it’s important for everyone to be included no matter what age.  This is a book of inclusion.

The essays within the covers of this book were born from her blog and cover the topics we all wish someone had spoken to us about before we began navigation and maneuvering  around  adoption land mines.  It holds information that is helpful to everyone touched by adoption.

I spent my life searching, finding my biological family when I was 50.  For myself, attempting to join, merge with a family already well established in how they functioned, was nothing I could have anticipated.  Perhaps, if we all had been better prepared in knowing what to expect, how to navigate the emotional roller coaster reunion is known for, our chances would have been better.  Having Amanda’s book would have shed some light on what has been a forbidden topic for years, especially in my era.

There are no wasting of words in this book.  I turn the page and the title is How to Listen to an Adoptee without getting offended.  I was tempted right then to scan the pages and send them out to the world.  It’s not an easy journey, this life as an adoptee, nor is it easy to unite with the family you were first born to.  This dialogue is needed between all of us, sooner rather than later.

Page after page I could feel the Love and Compassion in between the lines as she spoke about her adoptive parents and her first mother and family.

I was moved to tears in the essay “A Letter to my Prospective Adoptive Mother.  What that little baby might have wanted to say.”  She had a wonderful mother of adoption.  I know, despite the different environments we all grow up in that deeply ingrained beliefs lie in the tangled web of the limbic system.  It’s how and what we choose to do with them that makes the difference.

The need to know is there.  We search faces, countries, records..anything that will prove, that yes, we do in fact…exist.  Yes, we have a right to be here and yes…we do belong.

We need to feel empowered, not silenced in our search for self.  We need more Amanda’s in our world.  Each one of us must find our voice and let it be heard.

Tough topics are embraced in these essays.  From Abortion, Children of Rape, to Mother-Daughter-Mother Connection.  Her words are clear, concise and relative to each and everyone of us.

Adoptees live in a world of secrets.  From the lack of access to our own history and heritage to the amended birth certificates that so many of us still carry.  Secrets and Lies…How can we know who we are…when we don’t know who we were?

Amanda states she was around 11-12 when she first saw her amended birth certificate.  I was around that age as well.  It is, of course nothing more than a piece of paper with a lie written down, stating that your adoptive parents are in fact the ones who gave birth to you.  Like Amanda, I felt as though the wind had been knocked right out of me.  How could this be?  How could they lie about something so important.  As Amanda states, “the lies need to stop.”  I was intrigued with this essay and the research Amanda had done, because I, at 61 still do not have “a real birth certificate.”

Nearing the end of the book, I was left wanting more.  To read such a moving, yet provocative book of essays that apply to all of us, no matter what colour, what circumstances, what age, is inspiring and at the same time reassuring and comforting.  You are not alone.

For adoptees who have lived with secrets and silence for so long, these essays bring to light the many tough subjects that need to be discussed, written about and discussed some more.

I was so moved by the last couple of essays for many reasons.  Honouring each other’s stories with love and compassion and truth is vital to healing.  As Amanda is a Social Worker, she is acutely aware of all aspects of self disclosure.

To listen, truly, completely listen is a gift as well as an honour and so greatly appreciated.

To be heard, really heard and to be held in the hands of truth and love is where healing lives.

I feel honoured to be writing about this book and bear witness to Amanda’s story.

The Declassified Adoptee Essays of an Adoption Activist is a book I believe should be  on everyone’s coffee table, out in the open, where everyone involved can pick it up and ask questions, discuss the hard topics.  It needs to be in book cases in houses where adoption has touched lives in any way.

From the words in between this cover you will find your voice and you will be held with such compassion you will speak your truth.

Imagehttp://www.thedeclassifiedadoptee.com

http://www.thelostdaughters.com

Book available on Amazon.com

Setting Heart Horse Free

ImageSitting on my table for the last few days has been the story of life until age 20.

I’ve held it, opened it, moved it around, read a line or two, shed a tear or two and felt very vulnerable.

I’m finally, after 8 years of writing, setting the first part of this journey free.  Into the world Heart Horse goes, and I’m ready.  Bring it on.

Bring on whatever you have to say, in fact, I really want to hear it.

I want you to convince me adoption doesn’t have ramifications.

I want you to convince me abuse doesn’t leave scars.

I want you to convince me that the Primal Wound and  In Utero Learning doesn’t exist and create a lifetime of ingrained belief systems that make it so difficult to know and feel loved.

 I would love to know that all those things mean nothing and the slate will be wiped clean with a bit of therapy.  I know better.  The damage is done.  The scars are deep and the pain unrelenting, affecting everyone around us.  All we can do is learn to “manage” these beliefs.

Brene’ Brown’s interview with Elizabeth Gilbert was inspiring.

 Elizabeth said, “I live a creative life, and you can’t be creative without being vulnerable.

 I believe that Creativity and Fear are basically conjoined twins;  they share all the same major organs, and cannot be separated, one from the other, without killing them both.  And you don’t want to murder Creativity just to destroy Fear.”

FINDING HEART HORSE is my journey of search and survival.  There are things in  Finding Heart Horse that will make you squirm in distaste and repulsion.  There are horrors described by a 16 year old that no one should ever endure.  The raw life of living on the streets in the late 60’s when drugs and peace were the norm.  Unfortunately it quickly turned into wars and violence that spilled into my world.

 Looking back I now see that my entire life has been spent in the never-ending search.

The search for where I belonged.

The search for acceptance and love.  The search for my tribe, my family, my roots.

The only thing that kept me alive was “Heart Horse” and the dream of someday catching a wild horse.  Without him, i wouldn’t be here to write.

It’s only one part of the journey.  The Wall of Secrets will be out soon and is part of “the all”.  Without The Wall filled with drawers to store my many traumas and secrets, I would not have survived.

As I hold my book and feel it’s energy…..books do have energy you know…a sense of peace, a vibration of knowing and acceptance radiates from the pages.  As Heart Horse  is being set free, so am I.

Mark Epstein in his book “The Trauma of Everyday Life” says;

By not fighting with his internal wounds, by not insisting on making them go away,

by not recruiting everyone in his intimate life to save him from his feelings of abandonment,

by simply resting with them the way we do in meditation, he could learn,

as the Buddha did, that he already was the love he thought he lacked.”

FINDING HEART HORSE is now available on Amazon, Chapters.Indigo

It will be a brave journey you take when you enter my world.  Please leave and honest review.

Learn what adoption does to a person, what abuse creates and together we can and will make a change.

A portion of the proceeds from these books will go to Covenant House, Vancouver

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FINDING HEART HORSE-MEMOIR OF SURVIVAL

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These are parts of my journey of survival….

As yesterdays post was about my emotions that surfaced when told I couldn’t use certain pictures or certain graphics describing a rape at age 16…I felt I should at least put something under the Books tab!

Seven  years in the writing of this memoir and another called The Wall of Secrets (released after Finding Heart Horse) have taken me to depths I could not have imagined,  Depths of my soul so dark and painful they had been hidden away in my Wall of Secrets for five decades.  

As I began the journey of transformative writing, the layers were peeled back, one by one, each one requiring time, solitude, meditation, contemplation, grieving and finally acceptance of all that never was, all that had happened to me (for me) and where I was now.

There was always the knowing, that a book lived inside of me, but I had no ending.  I’m still not sure if you ever find “the end”, probably not.  What I did find was the reason, the symbolism of my Heart Horse and that in itself became an end and a new beginning.

Have you ever wanted something so badly it was all you could think of?  All you could talk about, write about, dream about.  I did.  I wanted a horse.

Finding Heart Horse is my journey, my search for my Heart Horse.

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Yorkville, Toronto 1967
Photo courtesy of Vintage Toronto/Frank Denardo

It takes me from being “The girl most likely to succeed” to a life on the streets of Yorkville, Toronto in the late 60’s.

As an adopted child I had no identity, no history, no place where I “fit”.  My years on the streets led me into many dark places where I begin to add more secrets and traumas to my already large collection.

Always, in the back of my mind, Finding Heart Horse lives.  My uncle told me a story when I was little about finding a wild horse and being able to keep him, if I could catch him.  That dream, kept me alive in the days of Hell that unfold during my search for self.

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Globe and Mail article/ Frank Denardo

Life changed quickly in those days.  From Peace and Love to War and Violence. I went along for the ride not knowing where it would lead, just that I had to find Heart Horse.

We all have different journeys on this earth but the essence is the same.  We all want to belong, to be loved, to be wanted and to be happy.

In this memoir many life lessons are learned, spirituality discovered and the reality of opposites is proven.  Without experiencing pain we have no peace.  Within despair you find hope.  On the other side of sadness comes joy.

Haven’t we all wanted for something so powerful, so magnetic, so magical you couldn’t resist it’s pull?  Even not knowing what you will find at the end you knew you must follow the journey in order to live.

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HEART OF HEARTS

Perhaps, you may even find your very own Heart Horse.