Thursday, February 2, 2012

Blogs, Movies, and Adoption

When I first started blogging, I didn't realize how interactive it would be. I had an agenda and some things I wanted to say; blogging seemed like a good soapbox. I didn't know I was stepping into a community. I didn't realize how much other people's blog posts would get inside my head and swirl around with my own thoughts, sending me off in new directions.

Today, for example, there are several posts that have set my mind spinning. There's this one, from Jenn at "Insert Bad Movie Title Here," which has me thinking about my own partially written second-attempt letter to my biological father, whom I've never met. And this one, by Megan at "Earth Stains," which started me musing on my own struggles with chronic pain and the possibility of an adoption connection.

But the post that really reached inside and grabbed me today was this one, by Tonya at "Mommy Musings." This blog is a new discovery for me, and I'm glad to have found it by way of the New Open Adoption Blogs post at "Production Not Reproduction." Reading Tonya's thoughtful analysis of the book Found,  I was at several points moved close to tears. I love how well this adoptive mom gets it ... or, at least, how well she gets me. She doesn't actually know me, of course, but in expressing her understanding of her daughter and of the author of Found, she is also acknowledging parts of me and my experience. I recognize myself in them.

I was particularly moved by the brief description of her daughter's tearful response to the movie Free Willy because it brought up a memory for me ... one in which I did not experience such understanding. I was in my mid-twenties and adoption grief was just beginning to surface for me. I went with a close friend to see The Joy Luck Club. At the end of the movie, one of the characters travels to China and meets her biological half-sisters for the first time. My friend is an expatriate who grew up far from the members of her extended family, and the movie struck a personal chord for her. It also struck one for me. As the credits rolled, other people left the theater but my friend and I remained in our seats, tears rolling down our cheeks. Eventually, she turned to me and said, with a note of irritation in her voice that surprised me, "I know why I'm crying, but I don't understand why you are."

"I'm adopted," I answered.

She shrugged her shoulders. "Oh right. I always forget about that."

I can't say for sure what she meant by that shrug. She was caught up in her own pain at that moment and probably didn't put a lot of thought into her response to mine. But I know that I interpreted it as a dismissal. It was as though she had said to me, "Well, that doesn't count. That's not a good enough reason for tears."

I was in the very early phases of figuring out that it did count ... that it mattered very much. I had grown up with the story that adoptive families are just like other families, only more intentional. I considered myself "lucky" to be an adopted person; it meant my parents had really wanted me. I was special ... chosen. I'd been with my adoptive family since infancy; nothing had been lost because they were all I'd ever known. (You can't miss something you've never had, can you?) I was just starting to figure out that there were pieces of my experience that didn't fit with this simplistic, happy story. During a different conversation, the friend who attended The Joy Luck Club with me admitted that she had a hard time remembering that I was adopted (and acknowledging that I struggled) because it didn't fit with her image of me. She saw me as someone who had led a perfect life, growing up in a perfect family. She didn't know what to do with any pieces of information that didn't fit with that simple view of things. I didn't know what to do with those extra puzzle pieces either either. I'm still figuring it out.

One thing I do know, though, is that I feel hopeful when I read blog posts like the one by Tonya. I love knowing that there are adoptive moms like her out there. I love that, through blogging, I have become part of a multifaceted conversation about the complexity of the adoption experience. I love that I am seen and that other adoptees are seen. Is there still work to be done? Of course. But I believe we are moving in the right direction.

8 comments:

  1. Thanks for the mention! Great post!

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  2. Our daughter, 4, hasn't seemed bothered by the obvious adoption/missing parent narratives in a lot of the stories we see, but she was watching Happy Feet last weekend and completely melted down both times the little penguin left his family to go on his quest. "Nooooo, don't leave your mommy and daddy!" complete with hysterical sobbing. It broke my heart, but in some sense I'm also glad that she's in touch with that part of her own story and how she feels about it.

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  3. That makes sense to me. Sometimes, when I am watching or reading something that has an obvious adoption connection, I have no emotional response at all to that part of the story. It's as if the adoptee part of my brain goes "off-line." It's the things that don't seem to be about adoption but are that sneak up on me. The first time it happened was with a book by Joyce Carol Oates. I don't even remember the title, but I was reading along, not thinking it had anything to do with my life, when suddenly I had thrown the book across the room and I was on the floor sobbing. I'm sure your daughter's response must have been difficult to witness but I agree that it's probably a healthy thing, ultimately. It's part of processing.

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  4. Thanks for the mention! I love your blog and am glad we found each other.

    I always think it's interesting what brings up adoption issues for my daughter and so was very interested to read your response to the Joy Luck Club and your comments below about how sometimes it's seeming non adoption related things that bring stuff up.....The movies that have me holding my breath, waiting for a response from my daughter often bring up nothing. And if I ask her if it bothers her or makes her think of her birth family, she'll say no. But then something that doesn't seem very related will bring up all sorts of stuff. Your thoughts that maybe it's because adoptees are "on guard" about adoption related stuff but then get caught off guard when it's not specifically about adoption makes sense to me.

    Now that I've found your blog, I look forward to reading more!

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  5. I also thank you for the mention. The Joy Luck Club was a huge, huge trigger for me. I was a mess for days after watching it, weeping off and on, etc. That was the movie that motivated me to attempt contact with my birth mother. I had tried two other times during the past 10 years, but I didn't get a response, so I had given up. But after watching that movie, I knew I had to try again. The third time I tried I was much more assertive with my birth mother's relative, and finally the message got through to her and she contacted me.

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  6. Excellent post - especially the last part where you describe the feelings of a child in the only reality they have ever known to the dawning realization that pieces are missing.

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  7. Thanks, Megan. That's interesting. It may have been a motivating factor in my search, too. I didn't search immediately but about a year later. The connection isn't as direct for me but the movie was probably one of the things that nudged me in that direction.

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  8. Thank you for sharing this story. I recently adopted my daughter and it is helpful to read adoption blogs like yours. As a new adoptive mother, I learned a lot about dealing with adoption at http://onlineceucredit.com/edu/social-work-ceus-cpa. I hope this helps other new adoptive parents.

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