The Adoption Fairy Tale

It is easy to get lost in all the chaos and unfairness we are currently experiencing in our nation and across the globe. However, there are times when it does one well to look a little more inward and spend some time focused on things maybe a bit more personal and internal in nature. I was struck this morning listening to an interview with Padma Lakshmi, most well known for her time on Top Chef. What rang true for me in listening to her today was her conversation about the sexual abuse events in her youth and how life altering they were, the main point being no matter what, that experience and the associated feelings are never too far away. At some level it is not something that is a surprise or something that took me to “wow, never thought about it that way”. There is an obvious understanding that bad, traumatic events in our life can, and most often will, lead to lifelong impacts. People deal with these events in many ways, some good, some destructive and some just in a way that fucks up a part of your life, whether it be in relationships with others, how you view yourself, where you take your life, etc. etc.

My connection to this is not a result of something bad or some obvious trauma or injury. My connection is something that most would view as a good event, something positive – and to a great extent it is good and it is positive in the bigger picture. However, as with most everything in our lives, there is rarely something that is entirely good. I think the issue is that when something happens that is good, and particularly that the alternative seems not so good, there is little effort or thought as to the darker side. That “good” thing is being adopted. And in most cases it is a very good thing but it does not come without cost or extra weight one must carry – and it is never ever really too far from your daily walk through life. As I’ve used this blog as an internal sounding board since it started, I thought this might be another opportunity to share on a different level, especially in the unlikely case where someone else with life experience in the world of adoption might see something in a new light.

“I was adopted. I wasn’t chosen. I was abandoned. At times I feel angry. At times I feel sad. At times I feel blessed. At times I feel thankful. I am adopted. And it’s complicated.”

My adoption was, in most ways, one of those great adoption stories. I was adopted within weeks of my birth, of course to a loving and warm set of parents unable to have children themselves – the beginning of the great adoption lie. Not sure how you measure it but my adopted parents weren’t really the warm and loving type. Open adoptions were pretty rare in 1953 and given efforts to protect the birth mother/parents, most all information was sealed and unavailable to the adoptee. Today, 68 years later, adoption records remain legally sealed in 19 states. Records are accessible but with restrictions in 21 other states. In most cases, at least in my mind, this is there to protect the adults in the process but at what cost to the child. I knew essentially nothing about my adoption details until much later in my life when I was in my early 40’s and even then, despite more detail on ethnic and family background, the information read more like a made up story than anything else. Might be my snarky view of most things but I always read most of it as putting the best spin on the details – and at the time why not? No one could validate. The only information with any real “detail” was on my unmarried birth mother side as my birth was one out of wedlock with no intent by my father of considering a family. So my birth mother was put in a special home for girls in her situation until the baby was born and the adoption processed. Up until this point in my life, I had little or no interest in finding my birth parent(s) but now with kids, a bit more background was more important so when the various ancestry services (like 23andMe) came on the scene I shared my DNA and got my initial glimpse into some additional background data. Still not like having a sit down with a parent or relative to get the real details of your family history but at least a bit more “health” background. In 2017, when adoptee birth records opened up in NJ, I requested my original birth certificate and for the first time was able to get the “real” adoption information. That opened up another story but that is not the point of this day’s blog.

“Will this feeling of being unwanted ever diminish? Is it possible for the positives in my life to outweigh the sadness that I feel?”
—Confessions of An Adoptee

So, what’s my point on all this? I think we believe that once something is seen as a “good” thing, we tend to ignore other aspects of the situation or event. In the case of adoption there is another side. I recognize it in me and I see the thread of impact in other adopted individuals as they grow older. For myself, I’ve spent the vast majority of my life feeling that I never fit anywhere. I had no real footprint anywhere. I was told I was adopted as soon as my parents probably felt I should know. Not entirely clear but I know that by the age of 5 or 6, I had the first knowledge I was different. I heard the adoption fairy tale right from the beginning of “you were chosen”, “you were special” and “you were really wanted”. It was assumed (and probably rightly so) that the adopted child was better off. But the psyche of the adopted is not assuaged with that possible reality. There is no foothold. There is no looking around and seeing where you fit. There is no sense of belonging. There is a missing connection that becomes very obvious as one goes thru school and you do reports on your heritage or your family tree. I heard the nasty remarks from other children I played with that made it clear I was different and unlike them. The response I got when I told my parents was that usual adoption fairy tale. I don’t remember ever meeting or being aware of another person that was adopted until I was much older – another reason to feel pretty much different. I expect they were out there but it wasn’t something people really talked about in casual conversation. All I know is that I spent much of my first three decades of life (at least until I was married) with the idea that I was an outsider and didn’t fit anywhere. I had no roots. I had no history. I was “special” – I wasn’t like everyone else. I didn’t have the “connection” that most everyone else took for granted. Over most of my lifetime, this feeling permeated almost everything in my life. Even through my career which had me interacting with many, many people over the years, I managed to not really ever connect. I did very well in most things I did but no one ever really got close to knowing me. I most always got along well with others but never too deep. Was it all due to being adopted? Can’t put it all there but when you spend most of your formative years feeling like you are different and less than others, it impacts trust and confidence. I’ve probably spent too much time over my life being defensive of things trying to protect me from those feelings (and still do to this day at times). It has had dramatic effect on my personality and my ways of dealing with things and people around me. It took more energy than it deserved but self-preservation is a strong force and we all have things that we need to overcome – or not.

“Being adopted is like having blank pages in the first chapter of your book of life.”
—Adult adoptee

Even today, that feeling of alone often persists, despite a wife who over 40 years has made it clear how special I am to her. Our relationship, a successful career, kids who have made their way in the world, my life in general helps me realize I did okay. I’ve been able to get close (most of the time) with my immediate family and my connections over the years with them – despite the occasional ups and downs – have been pretty strong. I was extremely lucky to find someone as a partner who not only helped me progress and grow over our time together but also has accepted all my shortcomings. She has had to tolerate quite a bit as I’m far from the easiest person to live with. I’ve had relationships and deep conversations with my children that were never experienced with my parents. Unfortunately I had to retire to probably make the most progress. I finally had time and distance from the stress of all those years of work and raising a family to see things a little clearer. Are all those feelings of being alone and different gone? Never will be but I can now talk and feel more secure and less focused on that hole that has accompanied me throughout my life. I remember to this day seeing my daughter being born and for the first time in my life seeing another living thing that was part of me. Not a big deal to most but one of the biggest events in my life up to that point – one that I still get emotional about when I replay that morning. I’ve come a long way. I can joke now about how Jon Snow and I have the commonality of both being bastards – and I can say it without any real emotional tinge. The fact that I never really saw myself with that label before tells me I wasn’t ready. That hole also got a little smaller after the NJ adoption records were opened. Through that data and the DNA data from 23andMe, I was provided with some unexpected connections to my birth mother’s family. Those connections have not really progressed too far, mostly because at this point it makes very little difference in my life and will change nothing and partly because that “family” I missed ends up not really fitting into where I am and who I am as a person. As my son quickly realized, despite the shortcomings of my adopted parents, they probably saved me from a much less fulfilling life with my birth mother, who managed to give me another half-brother put up for adoption and four more half-siblings who, aside from genetic material, live in entirely different worlds than I do. Is there an intellectual curiosity about those half-siblings? Without a doubt but my life as it has happened and as it exists at this point is more than I could have ever imagined.

So my point in all this? Highly doubtful that anyone following or reading my blog deals in the adoption world but if they do, let’s not continue the adoption fairy tale. While not always so, adoptions are just another form of trauma that should be out there and discussed from the beginning. Americans adopt approximately 140,000 children a year and overall there are around 7 million adopted people in the US. Adoption is no longer entirely a private, closed process as today, almost 60%-70% of domestic adoptions are now open adoptions, which means there is a degree of openness and disclosure of information between adoptive and birth parents regarding the adopted child. This alone should help with that “hole” that was there in years back. For the sake of all the adopted children out there, there is also a case to be made to push reticent states to open access to adoption records. It is important that no-one assume because a child is adopted, that all is good. More information is good. It is a topic that should be approached as a necessity of the child’s growth and development. Adopted kids are still special but not really due to them being adopted. They are special because they are individuals with unlimited potential – like any other child. We are special, not due to where we started where we had no influence. We are special given what we reach for and what we achieve.

It has gotten easier but I’ll remain working on it forever. I still have my moments but I’ve never been better.

Assholes – We can’t get away from them

I will admit that “asshole” is undoubtedly one of my “go to” words as it seems to pretty much encapsulate my thoughts on much of what I see around me in this increasingly fucked up world. It has been suggested to me numerous times that I might want to spend a bit less time looking at the news but not viewing something doesn’t make it change or go away. Given how bad everything appears, I have come to a conclusion that there is little I can do at this point in my life. As I approach 70 years on this earth I realize I owe an apology to all those “old” people I thought had no clue as I moved thru my earlier years – particularly in my 20’s and 30’s. I now realize that just time and participation in whatever we are here to do provides insight and what can be seen as a bit more wisdom as more and more context is part of your experience in the world. Not sure if it is just more years of experience or observation or something else but I can’t remember a time with more assholes than I see at the moment.

If you’ve read my blog at any point you will recognize the many things I admire but probably more so, the things I find abhorrent. I’ve called out many over the years of this blog as assholes and in most cases I’ve focused on politicians – no doubt an easy target in many cases. The US is ripe with finding these idiots who have ceased paying any attention to the will of the American people instead playing to a base of “trumpists” who have made it clear that not only is there a fool born every minute but that you can’t cure stupid. This group of lowlifes make it clear that there is no bottom when it comes to intelligence and that they, like the proverbial lemmings, can be led down paths even to their own destruction. Their memories are short, their ability to connect the dots is non-existent and they are perfectly comfortable demonstrating their stupidity to those who might actually have a foot in reality and can see the path ahead.

First, let’s look at their “leaders” as we see that everything rots from the head down.

Kevin McCarthy

Here is a man who has been as close to the poster boy of incompetence – Donny Trump – as possible. After McCarthy’s remarks yesterday about the withdrawal from Afghanistan the height of hypocrisy is taken to new levels. And I quote –

“Look, I’m extremely frustrated with the president. As I said, if you want to be president of the free world, you have to have the trust, faith and confidence of the American public. President Biden lost that yesterday,” McCarthy told reporters in a news conference in the Capitol.

“There will be a day of reckoning,” he added.”

I must have missed that period of time where Trump had the trust, faith and confidence of the American public. Must have been one of those times I was in the bathroom.

What a fucking asshole.

Donny Trump

Not to be outdone, former president douchebag still seems to think he is still President. When hit with Congressional requests for information related to the January 6th insurrection, where does he go?

“Executive privilege will be defended, not just on behalf of my Administration and the Patriots who worked beside me, but on behalf of the Office of the President of the United States and the future of our Nation,” Trump said in a statement, without detailing how such an effort would be conducted. (said on Wed August 25, 2021)

Maybe it is time someone inform him that his “executive privilege” days are over.

Ron DeSantis

As hard as it is to believe, there is one person who might be a bigger asshole than Trump. Yup, you guessed it – Ron DeSantis, Governor of Florida.

Not too many in the US doing more than DeSantis to kill off the stupid (and unfortunately many of those not quite so stupid). His only competition are the Governors of most of other southern states – it is just that DeSantis is has been so far up Trump’s ass that he gets the nod for bigger asshole among his peers. Not there quite yet but by the time he is done, the death tool from Covid in Florida will be pretty impressive. Something we should feel bad about – not too bad – they elected him.

I could go on and on as the list of individuals is huge…and obvious. But in order to keep this relatively brief and readable, let’s just look at the American public in general – at least those that seem to have moved to the dark side, the side that is taking America down a deep, dark hole – one that questions how recoverable we are as a country. While it is reasonable to think that we will always have divisions in our people – whether political, economic or social – it is clear the we have a mass of individuals (assholes en masse) who don’t get the severity of much of what is going on. The list is long.

Anti-vaxxers – always assholes but too stupid to understand science. But they take on a much larger presence in the Covid pandemic as they are singularly responsible where we are as a country at the moment as we watch the 4th wave of the pandemic play itself out. The good news is that despite the loss of some that have taken the vaccine, the vast majority of the coming deaths will be among those defining their rights and freedoms as the opportunity to get Covid and have a good chance of dying from it.

To be honest, aside from the impact on children, I’m all for this self-imposed suicide. Less of them is a good thing and might be part of our path back. These are not the critical thinkers among us and many add little back to society. Good riddance. On a another note, many of these assholes are the anti-abortion dickheads that feel they can determine what a woman does with her body.

Anti-maskers – need I say more. Assholes galore. I say “go for it” – If I managed to be a breakthrough Covid case, I would be more than willing to sit down with them – be it at their bar, schoolboard meeting or at their chosen place of worship. Again, less of them is only goodness.

Climate Change Deniers‘ – Cut me a fucking break – rain in some areas of Greenland for the first time EVER. Weather out of control and cutting paths of destruction in places it is historically rare. Massive fires around the globe – Greece recently had 86 large fires in the country – didn’t think Greece was large enough for that many. Average annual temperatures hitting records. High temps not seen previously. Decade long droughts – with no end in sight. Close to 98% of all scientists agreeing that climate change is man-made and getting to a point of unlikely reversal. Don’t know why the younger people aren’t marching in the streets on this one – it is their (and their children’s) future. Stupid and lazy. And assholes.

That’s probably enough at the moment before my head explodes with all this shit flying around our country at the moment. At one level this all makes the disarray of the 1960’s look pretty tame in comparison – at least all the disruption at the time was taking us forward.