But I was so much more than that.
I admitted to Matthew (my partner) that I wanted to call the search off. I was thisclose.
Why? Because it felt like a dead end? Because it'd taken too long? Because I was finally getting impatient?
No, because, deep down, it finally became too painful.
I'd gotten caught up. I finally had an emotional meltdown in the kitchen one night after dinner when Matthew observed the most basic thing in me:
You've kept your cool so long. It's actually surprised me because I'm not sure how most people deal with something like this...but I can't tell what's going on inside your head at this point.
I just fell apart.
All my pent up anxiousness, fear of a double rejection, disillusionment, abandonment issues, no current family outlet to turn to for support...it all came crushing over me like this massive swell that swallowed me whole, its salt water pouring down my face in waves.
It can be hard for me to cry, an expression I don't take lightly. I don't know when or how I got to the point in my life where it became so difficult. Somewhere between impossible attempts at talking about feelings in my family, losing one of my adoptive brothers to an overdose, and realizing in east Africa that my tears did nothing for the dying person I was helping in a grimy AIDS unit, eventually I found myself unable to squeeze those oft misunderstood watery drops from my eyes. So I became that person everyone applauded for being "a pillar of strength" and "holding it together" so well in the worst of circumstances. The worst.
Ya, I'm the person who hides in bathroom stalls and sobs.
Is it a protective shell? Maybe. I'm not sure, I'm still working that one out. Deep down I have this idea that I'm somehow protecting the other person from having to take the time (I kid you not, literally the time) in having to deal with the added conversational complication of well, my tears. The kind that cause awkward silences, confusion, darting eyes, a running nose.
The funny thing is I can handle everyone else's tears just fine. I always have kleenex on me, never feel awkward about wiping teary eyes and putting a hand on the shaking shoulder of someone with their head down, sobbing. Meanwhile, everyone else in the room is shifting their weight from one foot to the other, coughing.
In reading this, I'm sure I sound self-righteous, tooting my own horn, patting myself on the back. But what I'm really trying to say is What the hell is wrong with me?
Did all my tears run dry after being left alone when I needed her? My adoptive mom once told me my head was so flat from laying in the foster home crib all day that when they brought me home she spent a good amount of time rubbing it to round it out.
So I start to get nervous. I've been so focused on the fact that we haven't connected yet, I haven't put much thought into the issue of how to actually talk with my birthmom if we do. About things like her decision to give me up--the circumstances of my birth; the missing pieces of the puzzle outside of the 5 page document I have. And I hate to hurt people's feelings---even come close to riding the line of insulting them, no matter who they are. How on earth will I ask such personal questions, so intimate? I'm a pretty frank person; something I pride myself on. But can I do that with her?
In the end, Kathy the Social Worker tells me she finally got a callback from M on her own home phone. She tells me she's been "thinking of new strategies" to finally make a real conversation happen between them, rather than the seemingly endless game of phone tag occurring all summer. She still hasn't revealed the reason for her phonecalls and letters.
Suddenly, it's mid-September, the desert is cooling off. My birthday has passed and I wonder if my birthmom even remembered it. To cover up my disappointment and pain, we throw a birthday bash, complete with cupcakes in four different flavors, and party favors for the children who attend.
A week after the party, someone randomly tells me I'm a breath of fresh air, another new friend tells me she's glad I'm in the world; two people who barely know anything about me. They make me feel like maybe I do matter, that my presence makes a difference. Pathetic as all this may sound, I needed to hear their words. For some reason, turning 31 was bigger for me than turning 30: I'd given birth to my son and my relationship with Matthew had changed and blossomed into something even more beautiful and complex, much like my favorite flower, the heavily petaled ranunculus. But just like the ranunculus, you have to peel and peel to get to the weighty heart of the matter.
I start wondering what the 'heart of the matter' is with the search. Was I really doing it for my son; just so he could know his heritage? Was I prepared to be burned really badly? Much of the pain I've dealt with in my life I've been able to emotionally detach from quite well, not something I'm proud of. This skill is useful when say, teaching a bunch of African medical students how to draw blood from an AIDS patient. But I'll just say that afterwards, I snuck in a lot of little backrubs on the dying bodies of those patients to comfort them. They were so helpless.
We feel rage from our helplessness. I hadn't felt helpless in a long time. I owned my life since I was 18, I made sure of that.
But now, all my wounds were slowly tearing apart; old scars I'd hidden even from myself. I lay in bed at night cuddling with my newborn, sometimes tearing up, promising him I'd never abandon him, no matter the circumstances, no matter the person he became. No one could take him away from me, no one could take me away from him.
But I still felt the rage from the helplessness; a side effect of the search. The rage from the helplessness; the helplessness from the rage.