Friday, September 30, 2011

Occupy [your city]!


Tomorrow, October 1st, people all over the country are participating in Occupy Together, in solidarity with the massive, peaceful protests on Wall Street. This is why everyone's gathering (as if you didn't have a feeling as to why, right?):

On September 17th, men and women of all races, backgrounds, political and religious beliefs, began to organize in nonviolent protest. These men and women represent the 99% with the goal of ending the greed and corruption of the wealthiest 1% of America. Occupy Wall Street is a leaderless resistance
movement which began as a call to action from Adbusters, a Canadian-based anti- consumerist organization.

I'll be joining in, making my sign tonight ("Human need not Corporate Greed") and hopefully experiencing the start of some positive outcomes along with everyone else. Word on the street is that our city's riot police are gearing up, though. For what? So far, every Occupy Together protest has been peaceful. But Albuquerque cops tend to be some of the most hotheaded, so let's hope they don't get too rowdy. And everyone thinks riots start because of protesters...

Thursday, September 29, 2011

5 pages and no name~

Before I was adopted my birthname was Marie.
Then my adoptive parents named me Emily Suzanne. Growing up, a lot of people called me Emi, so it stuck. But depending upon who you are, you may also prefer Emily or Birdy, too.
I have many names, but my birthmother has none. Not to me, at least.
She has forever been a faceless, short curly brown haired 19 year old whom I pictured handing me over to a city adoption agency after fiddling with her fingers when they asked her what was happening. I'm not making this up.
All I have left of my pre-Emily/Marie past is a 5 page typed document from the social worker assigned at the time to my birthmother's case. Honestly, the only thing I could ever pull from the document as being even remotely relatable to my present self was this:

Marie is very alert and curious; she laughs and babbles happily.
Yup, that sounds about right.

Pennsylvania is a closed adoption state. I'm not always sure how I feel about this. On most days I agree with the idea---it protects adoptees from being pushed and pulled emotionally as they attempt to navigate their already complicated status as they grow-up. On other days, the not knowing really anything about my past is gut wrenching. I'd look around at other people and feel jealous they at least knew their story---even if it was painful. The truth hurts, but not as much as a lie.
So was I lied to?
No, I was not. My adoptive parents always made it clear. I didn't fully understand the ramifications of being adopted until I was much older, but I applaud them for not attempting to create an element of bliss that unintentionally morphed into a lie (ignorance is bliss, burst: I know people this happened to and let me tell you: the trust component between parents and child is utterly destroyed forever.) Lying about something like adoption is nearly impossible to move on from.

So I didn't know much about myself other than these facts:
She was 18, Catholic, unemployed, and stressed out.
He was 22, from Saudia Arabia, an engineering student, and uninterested in having a baby with her.
This is what I know about my birthparents. Basically that they were young and having fun. Well, apparently a little too much fun.
Sometimes people ask me why I wasn't interested in finding my birthfather: Oh! He's sounds so intriguing! Oh! I bet he's tall, dark and handsome! Oh! aren't you just dying to go to Saudi Arabia to meet him?!
Um, no.
As much as I love middle-eastern culture, I'm not naive enough to imagine him being happy to see me if I showed up tomorrow. Middle-eastern men are not exactly known for their fidelity to one woman or their treatment of women. Let's just say as soon as I understood sex, I knew that I was, most likely, one of many.

Having said this, I am very proud of my Saudi half. I love that when I'm shopping in a middle-eastern market or eating at particular restaurants, people will come up to talk to me just because they recognize it in me. I've even had people ask me if I am a "good muslim" and why my parents didn't teach me Arabic. (For a time I made something up on the spot because the scandalized reactions I got started bothering me: really? No one in the middle-east has bastard children?!) Most people are kept guessing about my background, but not folks from the middle-east: if you're looking for something, you find it.

But I'm human. It's the stuff in life that we don't know that becomes our nectar.
What's your other half, then? was always the next question.
Sometimes people would guess. When I was a preteen, I got into this hilarious habit of lying about it. I would be very sly. The person would say something random like, Oh, I bet your other half is Czech. It's that, isn't it? and then I would ridiculously reply Yes, yes, how on earth did you guess?!
I wanted so much to connect, to feel a sense of permanence. And you can't take your heritage away, can you?
In the past, some people close to me have said, "why does it matter? Aren't you just happy with what you do know and what you do have?"
We all have a deep desire to know our entire self. The complete story. Even if it's horrendously bad, the truth is very healing. It makes us whole. This is why all people---even those who already know their family story--- still go on in life to "look" for themselves. It is a journey only you can take and the story is not complete until you take your last breath.
The truth will set you free means so much more than we realize.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

may into months~

After Kathy the Social Worker contacted me saying that she found my birthmom in Louisiana, she spent the entire summer just trying to get a hold of her. I thought for sure she was pulling the old bait&switch because things just kept going on and on and on. First, Kathy sends a cryptic letter to the birthparent in order to protect their right to anonymity after the adoption. It basically appears to be a letter from a random friend in Pittsburgh, but upon opening it says "I'm writing regarding an event that occurred on [adoptee's birth date]."
Kathy never heard from her.
So she sent a 2nd letter; this time certified mail to be sure she had the correct address.
The whole time Kathy and I were communicating via email, so every time my birthmom didn't reply, I found myself getting filled with more anxiety and frankly, a bit of anger. I thought she was being a coward. I thought, "if you don't want to talk with me, just say so!" I've handled my share of family rejection in my life, I didn't need a double and triple dose at this point. I figured it was time to move on. But Kathy told me not to lose hope. She's been searching for birthparents for a long time, this was par for the course.
But I was starting to get a little nervous too. The only non-identifying information she could pull from my birthmom's file (we'll call her MW after this) and share with me involved a brother's suicide, a parole officer, and being completely ostracized by her family upon getting pregnant. Great news, just great. What exactly had I gotten myself into? I never imagined her as being, well, let's say, deserving of the Mom of the Year Award, but geez. Was I really ready to enter somebody else's messy past and subsequent emotional meltdown after finally just getting to a place in my life where I'd learned how to keep certain types of people at arm's length?
Then she called Kathy. But she only heard the first part of the phone number because the answering machine cut it off. She had said, "I don't know what this letter's about".
At this point I thought I was seriously going to go over the edge.
All I could do is wait and wait, hoping she got the second letter, hoping she'd call Kathy back because all she'd heard was the area code. All I could think of was, What if she doesn't call back? over and over in my mind. I had to let it go because I was obsessing over it in my mind; the stupid thought crossing and recrossing: after all this, I can't find her because all Kathy has is a flipping area code. And I'm not even allowed to have that.
Then one day, she called Kathy back. It'd been nearly a month since the answering machine mess-up.
But they continued to play phone tag all summer long. Every once in a while I'd receive an email from Kathy saying how my birthmom said when the best time to get a hold of her was, only to have her attempt a phone call at that time and not be able to reach her. Nice.
Kathy told me she thought my birthmom might be repressing memories; something I hadn't considered a possibility. I mean, really? You can forget having a baby? Let me tell you this:
I could never forget pushing my baby out!
But I am not my birthmother and my birthmother is not me.
Maybe I was being hard on her. Maybe all those years of being so easy on her-- nay, nearly apathetic, had suddenly transformed into anger. But my anger is the slow-growing kind; a seam being ripped stitch by stitch after all those years of holding on by a thread---one I didn't even realize I was holding so tight.

Monday, September 26, 2011

the search~

The search for my birth mother started in spring 2010 before I got pregnant. I had one of those "mega moments". You know the kind. I realized that the life growing inside of me would share my heritage and while I'd never obsessed over finding her, meeting her, having some deep connection with her, it was no longer just my story. Now, it's my son's story, too.
So I submitted the paperwork to the Pittsburgh Orphan's Court (um, wow, really?) and the social worker assigned to me became this amazing person in my life during the search. A woman of great ethic and compassion, Kathy Leahy is the perfect fit for her job. We shared many an email and a couple of phone calls as she attempted to contact my birth mother after finding her in a database she has access to. What a juicy-information work life Kathy leads, for sure! But she had the utmost respect for all parties involved and I could tell she really, truly cared about me as an adoptee.
So I'm going to be frank with you.
Adoption is not the be-all, end-all answer to unplanned, unwanted pregnancy that people think it is. It is so much more complicated than that.
This is not to say that it should not occur. I want to make that very clear. I had a lot in my environment growing up that I would have completely missed out on had I not been adopted.
The reason Kathy the Social Worker was so compassionate and well, protective was because both adoptees and birth parents often go on to experience great emotional turmoil in their lives. Some are better at adapting and evolving and coping with all these conflicting feelings than others. Many go on to develop major trust and commitment issues, build walls, become perfectionists or messes to close themselves off to everything they're feeling. Workaholics, addiction, low self-esteem---these are all common in both parties. Some people don't even make it out of all this alive. I'm not kidding.
In my case, I am a perfectionist. I'm not quite type A, but that's only because I don't have the ability to bully people into how I think 'everything should go'. I'm super hard on myself and have never been competitive with others because I was too busy competing with myself. I do pride myself on being a flexible person who can usually see all sides of a situation, but some of this stems from my over-concern with what people are thinking and if I'm hurting their feelings (but in an extreme way, like "are you mad at me?" nonsense that I can obsess over for absolutely no reason at all). Hence, I've had a terrible time of being an emotional doormat to certain people in my life, and only in the last 2 years can I honestly say I've learned how to let go of or even necessarily get rid of toxic people--- and not feel bad about it.
I also have a tendency to be a workaholic. Always busy, it can actually be hard for me to justify having fun (!) I kid you not. As in, maybe I'm not worthy of it and need to always be doing something "productive"---like it creates a value on my place in the world...and so now I matter. Adoptees after all, often feel like they somehow crashed somebody's party and had to be well, removed.
And so, taking a break to "just" be mum and have the luxury to be at home to raise my family for now has taught me to relax and have fun because that's how babies learn and grow into wonderfully unique, intelligent, trusting, loving human beings. Not because you did Baby Einstein.
In the most amazing journey, the last 7 months (since I had him) have been the most healing and exhilarating. They've also been 7 of the most simultaneously fast-paced and slow-paced months of my life. Wanna learn to live in the moment? Don't take that Buddhist meditation class, just have your first child.
Of course you can imagine how searching for my birthmother put me on this entirely new path that also felt like an old one. Old questions of self-worth, identity, disconnection---all these things bubbled up and surfaced again in a whole new way because not only was I facing something I'd never imagined dealing with in my life, it was when I was pregnant with my first child.
So, as I continue my story post by post, I'll stop there for today.
But let me just say this:
She was a hard woman to get a hold of.

one moment~

Today I had this moment with a friend at the park. We were discussing childbirth and my birth and everybody's birth. Just birth.
After I admitted some fears I was having about having another baby in a couple of years--- due to some things that occurred in the birth of my son and how I feel I need a major level of flexibility in an OB and a bulldog of a doula. She just looked at me and said the most wonderful thing. Imagine it in a british accent too, as she's from England:

You've really got to put all that you want out there. It'll come back to you. The universe'll just soak it up and send it back to you just the way you need it. You watch; all the right people and support will just start flooding into your life because you put it out there, really wanted it, and asked for it to come into your life.

This really meant a lot to me because it's reminiscent of the familiar "Ask and you shall receive" passage I heard growing up Catholic. I've always believed that what you put out there, you get back. But I loved how she worded it today. It's also a reminder not to send out negativity into the world because not only is it toxic to others, it's bound to come back to you and cause grief.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

i have this hankering for pittsburgh that i just can't shake~

I think you can see all those bridges in that poster. The City of Bridges. Maybe I'm a little obsessed. But bridges are built when you can't cross something otherwise. Bridges mean water.
And man, do I miss water.
My desert living experience has been amazing. The fragile and subtle surroundings, the wide open space. The incomparable peace outside the city just by driving 30 minutes. It all equals head space. I needed a lot of head space when I moved here years ago. I purposefully asked to come here (I was active duty in the military at the time...go ahead: laugh hard, snort loudly, roll your eyes like you don't believe me, but it's true!) But that's a whole other blog post; nay, it was a whole other life.
But now I'm craving the city I was born in, the city I left so quickly after high school (read: we're talking immediately) that I never got to know her as an adult. Only when I went back on military leave. And that hardly counts because:
1) it was always freaking freezing winter cold.
2) I had no car and could only do things with my family (go to church, go to my uncle's house for Christmas dinner, go to church, eat at The Ground Round, listen to people endlessly reiterate the same non-dynamic political views, go to church, visit graves, oh why the hell not: let's go back to church).
3) No one knew how to act around each other anymore after high school so we did the same things as before: met at Eat n' Park, drank coffee and ate crumb buns, stupidly made out with ex-boyfriends and called it reconnecting, went home: repeat.
I suppose, at the time it was relaxing---to do very little while on leave. Maybe I should be more grateful. But now it's different. I've become a little obsessed with my hometown. Well, not enough to follow football [here insert image of me ducking from rabid Pittsburgh Steelers fans throwing empty beer cans at me] After planning so carefully our pregnancy (I have type 1 diabetes) we got to thinking about that whole new parent paranoid question: now where the hell do we raise this kid? Terrifying question, absolutely terrifying. I can now understand some parents' desire to protect and bubble and sanitize their child's upbringing.
Ok, I only kind of get this.
So Pittsburgh came up on our list of possible cities because it's affordable, beautiful, fun, green, academic, water-y, has a terribly trashy but intriguing accent, down to earth inhabitants, and most importantly, is family friendly. At least I think it is. Maybe I just want to think it is at this point in my life.


Saturday, September 24, 2011

another blog~


I write a blog about living with type 1 diabetes over at The Misadventures of Peabody. But that blog, as much as I cherish talking about living with a chronic disease, is limiting. Or maybe I will find that I can eventually create a website to combine both. We are all integrated beings, whether we like it or not. Compartmentalization feels so good sometimes when we can't do it in "real" life, right?

So I wanted to start this blog in order to have a bit more freedom, more maneuverability with my words, my topics, my thoughts. Some major things have changed in my life (one just yesterday---I kid you not when I say life changing) and so it was in that moment I knew my idea of having a separate blog became absolutely necessary. Well, that and the fact that I couldn't create a label under my other blog entitled "adoption" (talk about a tease).

Why "ViewFinder"? In the simplest terms, I loved my View-Master as a kid. I'd always put in the image cards of bugs or places to travel. Even then, I was such a nerd! It's also a way of talking about that compartmentalization issue I mentioned above; a way of moving on to the next thing. You can pop out the image cards, put another in, and voila! you enter a whole other world for a while. A tinier world, connoting big things. But you can move on or change out the Big Things you don't like seeing in your View-Master.
But life isn't like that, is it?
Life is just so damn bigbigbig at times, we feel like we barely have time to take a breath, let alone change anything we happen upon. But I never want to be like this, I work so hard in my life to live as much in the moment as I can. Having a chronic disease teaches you this. Having my first child taught me this. Connecting with people in a real way does this.
With this blog, I hope to capture some of those moments in my viewfinder; jot them down so I and anyone else who comes upon my writing, won't forget.