Wednesday, November 30, 2011

the phone record saved my sanity~

So I have this old, old friend---the oldest friend I've got. We go way back. Painfully so. We know each other's darkest moments and times in our pasts so much so that I think this is why...we don't have a functioning relationship. I'd say we circle around each other every so often but most often we're apart. And I hate to say this, I wonder if we're becoming more comfortable this way.
But I miss her. All the time.
I won't get into all the gory details of our lives that tore our friendship raggedly apart, but let's just say that life handed us some lemons and sometimes we've just gone and made lemonade out of each other.
I'm writing this post though because I'd been thinking about her a lot lately. Well, I always do, but lately especially. I had this crazy dream about her, always trying to reach her, always missing her by a mile. She's the most connected-disconnected person I'm connected to, I'd say. I'm not sure if she feels the same anymore, but I'll take a risk here and say she does.
I felt pretty abandoned by her shortly after I told her MAC and I were pregnant. I never heard from her when I gave birth, then suddenly this box of amazingly heartfelt handmade-with-love gifts shows up on our doorstep a few months after our Bird was born. So I called right away to thank her, wrote a thank you card right away. Never heard anything back.
This is where the explanation for this post lies:
I do think she called me once a while after that, and I think I called her back quite quickly. But I don't completely remember. Life gets messy, I'll be the first to admit to that. I do remember just feeling really hurt and confused as to why this old friend whom I'd reconnected with pretty well after all our teen angst and 20-somethingness...was, well, seemingly now disinterested in pretty much the most important thing to happen to me in my life.
But then I called her again. Just in case it'd indeed been my own hurt feelings getting in the way; that I should retrace my steps to where we'd left off and offer [yet a thousandth] peace offering. Then, for some odd reason, I checked my online T-mobile account's call history from waaaaaay back. I don't even know how to do this. But when I went looking tonight, it was like my hands were being guided on the website.
Sadly, I saw that yes, indeed I'd been the last one to call.
Funny how instead of feeling vindicated, I just felt more bummed. It doesn't always feel good to be "right". A major flood of disappointment came over me.
My point is this: how many more chances do you offer people who never call you back, never write you back, and yet get mad so easily at you for...not calling or writing or "staying in contact"? In healthy relationships, you meet in the middle. You do your own work. I've often felt this friendship tended to be dependent on my overly-extroverted communication skills. This is not a good thing. It just means I feel like the one always holding the thread between us because I'm just a loud mouth.
I feel drained and hurt all over again. Why did I bother? I'm a glutton for punishment. Well, I guess because I had that crazy dream. I took it as a sign for reconnection. But she just never seems to be able to stay in relatively good contact, I don't know why. She often said things like "I'm busy", "I don't like phones", "I don't like email"...but how else are people supposed to stay in touch? I hate it all too and wish we could just walk down to each other's houses and talk! But we can't.  And, we're all busy! Good god, who's not busy?!
Sigh. I'm not sure why I had to post about this. Perhaps for catharsis. Perhaps in the hopes that some answer will float out into the universe and come back to me. Perhaps to wash my hands of it, cleanly this time, knowing that I'm done trying. It's gotta be a sign of the dysfunction in all of it, you know?
It just hurts. And it really hurt to know for sure that I did indeed try to contact her the last time. Maybe it should've stayed the last time...that last time.

But I miss her. All the time. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

i am not who i say i am and other identity crises~


To me, I am just myself.
Emily.
Bear with me while I get all existential, because really, this post has an important point.

As you can see in Exhibit A to your right, that is my original social security card. I blurred out the number, but on some level, it doesn't really matter because that number means nothing to anybody anymore because that name means nothing to the federal government anymore in combination with that number.
What I am saying is that person no longer exists.
Or do they?
To M, my birthmom, that name means something. It means life and memory, disconnect and loss, too many hopes and worries, and ultimately... rebirth.
To my birthfather, it was a glaring, permanent reminder of a mistake he made that he wanted nothing more than to put behind him.
To me, well, the name on that card is so foreign to me that I don't even know if we're talking about the same person.
Are we?
I cried when I opened the mail with the little note inside saying, Emily, some more pictures for you... and a surprise!
What exactly was I crying for? Because paper always makes things final for me? Ink? Ink on paper?
I think part of it was I was shocked she had given me his last name. After everything she'd been through, after everything and nothing he had done to her and for her, she still wanted me to have his name.
I sat down on the floor to get my bearings. I started to imagine myself with that name. As in, having this complex, gorgeously and heavily authentic ethnic name all these 31 years of my life:
Hi, nice to meet you! My name is Reem. Reem Marie Mussallam.
I tried to picture myself then shaking the other person's hand, making eye contact, taking in most likely their interest or confusion over my name...
I'm not exactly sure what would come after that, but I'd like to think it'd still be pretty close to introducing the rest of the person I consider myself today.
Or would it? Does a name hold that much power?
According to this article, names indeed do hold that much power. Gosh, I wonder if all my self-esteem woes would never even existed if I'd just kept my name! (I don't think so) Maybe I would've been smarter! (I highly doubt it) Surely, I would've felt more unique (and not always in a good way).
Would I have felt more connected to my Saudi heritage? I always felt intrigued. But it'd be difficult to merely be intrigued with a name like that. Because M has admitted to me that she too struggles with Catholicism's er, um, approach...I wonder if I'd been raised by her if I mentioned I was interested in being Muslim if she would've supported that? And I wonder if how much of that interest would've had to do with my name?
I wonder if I would've been treated differently? By teachers, elders, peers, professors? Would people have taken me more seriously? Less seriously? How would I have felt with that name post 9/11?
When I was in the military I was a medic. This was obviously before I searched for my birthmother; before I even knew my birthname. But whenever people I worked with found out I was half Saudi, they always said things like "Oh, how beautiful! How interesting! I always sensed you were something exotic." This was before 9/11.
The day after 9/11 I went into the mess hall to get lunch and a random, concerned person approached me and kindly removed the surgical tape secretly pasted to my back that read in glaring, accusatory black letters the word "ARAB".
And this occurred with my current name. Interesting how people's feelings about you change so fast.

I have to say though, not once in my life have I ever been ashamed of being half middle-eastern.
So I guess all I can say is, yes, I like myself. I like how I turned out. I like knowing that I sit between two stories, two families, two contexts created by two seemingly different groups of people---but that at the end of the day, I'm still me. I can literally picture myself at either family dinner table, thinking about my homework, my bike ride, my late dues on my library card. My hopes that I would someday escape the cycles set forth in front of me. Most importantly, I think I would've still been passionate about the socially marginalized, wanting to travel to learn about cultures and learning other languages; having an incredibly deep love for people and desire to understand others. I think about my two "families"---and how between the two of them, I'm still very different from both and how strangely enough (they may not like to admit this someday)---they're actually more similar than they are different.
So I guess the ultimate question still begs, "where have I come from and where am I going?"
That certainly has yet to be fully seen, but from what I've learned about my 'past' so far, I've been on quite the journey and have many more adventures to come.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

it's just around the bend~

So now M and I are at this point that I don't know any other way to call it except well, blissfully interesting.
We fell easily and gradually into this pattern of talking to each other twice a week. Only she always beats me to it. Once during the week, once on the weekend. The funny thing is (and I'm not making this up) she always calls me right when I think, "hey I should call M today" and then she does. This strange coincidence means more to me than you will ever know or I can ever express.
You see, I've spent my life chasing people that mattered to me. I say mattered and not matter because it gets to a point where they're burning you and you just need to back off. Whatever their problems are, whatever it is that they are dealing with---it can become so big that who you are in the relationship is getting pushed out. It's sad because it's often not malicious, they just can't see what they're doing to themselves and everybody around them. There's no longer any room for you or anybody else in that room of theirs. It's taken me up to this point in my life to step back and evaluate my feelings about certain people and admit to myself that it was ok to let them go. And I literally mean "let" because I didn't push them away. They were going and now...well, now they're finally just gone. But they'd checked out a while ago, sadly.

But M...she's so different. She's redeeming herself and, rather than spend the next year in our reconnection playing mind games and beating around the bush and walking on eggshells with each other, we're playing it straight. From that very first phone call we've been like this, another thing I can't be thankful enough for. I say that she's 'redeeming herself' because she just gets it. She gets this whole adoptee-goes-looking-for-their-birthmom thing. She understands what my psyche went through to find her: the fears of rejection, anger, and blame that I feared might very well come my way. I didn't know her at all. And all she knew of me was that I was the baby she gave up. So I think she calls me and not the other way around for now because well, let's be honest: I didn't leave myself at an adoption agency 30 years ago.

Are we close? It's getting there. I'm not holding anything back and as far as I can tell, neither is she. Now if I could just convince her to stop smoking I could guarantee us many, many years to become even closer.