Monday, August 9, 2010

outsider among outsiders

I often feel like an outsider among outsiders, an outcast among outcasts.

I walk the fence at times, which is anathema to those on either side of the fence.

Adoptive parents hope for me to see adoption one way, while adult adoptees hope for me to see it another way. Adoptive parents hope for me to be "that" kind of adoptee, while adult adoptees expect me to be "this" kind of adoptee. And when I am neither fully, I find myself a loner once again. I find myself once again being expected to choose a side, to choose to whom I will be loyal. Being in between is considered unacceptable, inviable, limp.

There are those adoptive parents along with unidentified others to whom I am not grateful or happy enough. There are those adoptees and unidentified others to whom I am not angry or indignant enough. And still there are others who would say, why the heck do you care about what others think? If only what others think about us did not affect the way they treat us.

I am supposed to jump down from the fence to one side or the other. I am not permitted to climb back and forth, because those from either side would choose to believe that they are inevitably incompatible.

And it is this inherent human tendency to dichotomize, to separate, to compartmentalize that makes me both loathe and despair any attempt to synthesize what it is that I might think or believe or want regarding adoption.

I am angry, weary, frustrated at the ongoing misunderstandings, at the dissension, the politics, the cliques, the arguments, the sides.

Sometimes, I don't know what I think about what I feel or what to think about what I think or what to feel about what I think. I just know that there are times that I want to scream and tell all the different voices and opinions clambering for attention to be silent once and for all.

Sometimes, I just want to forget. Forget everything that I know about adoption.

Supposedly, hope awaits at the bottom of the box. Yet there are long moments when the bottom seems more an abyss to which there is no end and in which I will never glimpse nor reach that which I seek--

that is, if I ever come to understand what it is that I am seeking.


Raina said...

My friend, I was beginning to wonder if I had accidentally deleted you from my reader. Thankfully, you are still here.

There is no fence. You don't have to choose. And I'm right there with you, which makes you... not alone.


Yoli said...

I was going to tell Raina about this post but she is right here with you. I agree with her, you don't have to do anything and you are definitely not alone.

Von said...

Ah the joy of adoption.

Kristen {RAGE against the MINIVAN} said...

I can't imagine how frustrating that must be. I feel some of the tension you describe - but it is different as an adoptive parent. I read here often and I always think you hold an amazing balance. Unfortunately, with so many things, the loudest voices are not the most balanced. Politics, religion, etc . . . so true in matters of adoption as well. Even more true in this internet world.

I think you see the complexities of the issue and articulate them so well. I also think you help many others to see the complexities. I hope you keep sharing.

Jessica said...

I am a people pleaser. Always wanting to make everyone else happy before I am happy with myself. Not a good strategy for happiness. As a future adoptive parent, bring on the real emotions, positive, negative, whatever. You words are important to "hear" no matter what.

Sandy said...


I was getting worried about your absense but now perhaps? know the reason why.

Every single one of us is unique individual with different life experiences and will feel one way one day, and other ways other days, and perhaps if we get really lucky all will feel the same way on the same day.

And combine that with the life long processing of what adoption means to each of us - the positives and the negatives - we each have to just live our lives honestly in the moment of the day.

You bring your honesty to the table - no one can or should ever ask for more than that - adoptees or parents.

You do a lot of good with your blog and I hope it is only a few who make you feel like you need to be on one side or the other - where you are is just fine - better than just fine in fact. And if I have ever made you feel that way I apologise.

Take care and be kind to yourself most of all.

Kris said...

I read your blog and several others, primarily because it is REAL and civilized and reasonable. As an AP, I have a lot to learn from adoptees, but I find my mind snapping shut when I read that adoption is abuse, that APs are kidnappers, and that international adoption is child trafficking. Just as my mind snaps shut when I read a PAP saying God meant for them to have a child that a scared, pregant single woman is feeling forced to give up and how dare this woman change her mind!

Both points of view are too extreme for me yet those are the voices you often read on the internet.

I love your blog because you are able to explain the realities of adoption without the hate and vitriol. I have learned much from reading it.

Haley Ballast said...

Just wanted to add my voice to the others saying how valuable it is to find someone being truthful to their own experience, without mistaking their part for the whole. Thanks for your willingness to do the difficult work of being honest -- when both "sides" are unsatisfied I'd say it's a good indication that real, unpolished, non-propaganda truth is being spoken.

Paula O. said...

Oh yes, I know intimately of the disconnect of which you speak.

At times I used to think that was the adoptee's cross to bear: We seem to always be caught in the middle - whether it be between our families or our cultures or those affected by adoption - and it always seems like we have to choose.

I understand what you're feeling completely.

Lots of hugs,

Julia said...

I want to say very respectfully to the other adoptive parents here, and with appreciation that you all come with good intentions and have said what you have said in the hopes of offering comfort, that I don't know if it's terribly helpful to praise Melissa for being balanced, lacking vitriol, not speaking propaganda. That is, in some ways, it feels like the underlying message of such statements is "thank god, you're not one of those awful angry adoptees." And it seems to me that, in communicating that, we've just put up yet another fence or we've made the existing fence higher... Am I making any sense?

My personal opinion is that there needs to be room for all adoptee voices, whether we like what they have to say or not. And I don't think that it's the fault of adoptees that this space doesn't exist. It seems to me that adoptive parents could do a lot to make more space by being open to listening to all adoptees, and not creating dichotomies like balanced vs. angry, or honest vs. propaganda-ist. I suspect that adoptees who shout the loudest are the ones who didn't get listened to from the get-go. And I suspect that there would less of this "you're not angry enough" stuff among adoptees if every adoptee could count on their individual truth being heard and respected.

I don't know what to say except that if there was a way for me to come sit up on the fence with you, I would want to do that.

Haley Ballast said...

Thank you Julia. You are indeed making sense! Slowly, slowly I am learning.

Kristen {RAGE against the MINIVAN} said...

Julia, I think the intention was to affirm Melissa for staying above the black-and-white, polarized thinking since she feels alienated for doing so. Not some attempt to edit her. Melissa, I'm sorry if it felt that way.

Kris said...

I agree with above. My intent was not to congratulate Melissa for not being one of "those adoptees" (I read "those" blogs too, daily). It was to let her know I appreciate reading intelligent, well-thought-out criticism of adoption.

No disrespect intended and I apologize if my comment came off that way. I really didn't mean for it to.

Campbell said...

I can relate to much in this post, thank you for it.

Julia said...

Oy. I have more to say about this, but I think I won't, because I feel like this conversation is starting to feel a bit like a conversation about Melissa as if she isn't here. And I think I unwittingly created that dynamic in my comment above. Melissa, I'm sorry about that, and I also worry that it may have seemed that I was trying to speak for you. I apologize. That is alienating in its own right.

I meant to encourage APs to consider how we contribute to the polarization. But perhaps it was not my place to do that either, as this is your blog, Melissa, and it's up to you, not me, to set the agenda.

Peace to all.

Melissa said...

No worries, my friends. No offense has been taken. I always want my blog to be a place where folks can sincerely express their opinions & feedback. It's true that I write this blog, but the discussions that ensue are just as significant & important. I appreciate each of you for your insight & comments.

And there is actually an additional, quite significant reason for my decreased activity in the blogosphere as of late, which I will address soon in an upcoming blog post...lots of emotion these days...

Thanks everyone for taking the time to read this blog...

Mia_h_n said...

Missed you, friend.

Liv said...

Thanks for this blog, Melissa.

There is room, thank god, for many adoptee voices online, if not yet out there in the day to day world. By being true to what it is you feel moment to moment, you are contributing towards greater understanding and room for all adoptee voices.

Your only work is to speak your truth, and to be 100% supportive of yourself in knowing that every detail of that truth is not going to remain static.

I'm glad you're here writing. As an adoptee who's looked at a lot of adoption blogs, I have a great appreciation for yours!

Mia_h_n said...

I forgot to say that I believe what you are seeking is your self.

I've felt out of sorts like you describe and didn't know what way to go, but as I have learned and come to terms with what and how I! feel about things it has become increasingly easier to stand firm in that belief and to tune out the critics.
Mind you I'm not always successful ;) But I know that it's due to weakness and not confusion and feeling lost.

Maybe you do have to choose, but why not wait until you can choose what YOU want, not others? And why should you only get to choose once? Don't most people evolve and change throughout their entire life in so many areas? And have different moods and feelings even on a daily basis?
So why shouldn't you allow yourself to make new and perhaps different choices all the time? As long as they are true to you.

I could never just be one and the same all the time in regards to my adoption. Things are way to complex for that. Don't you think?

Third Mom said...

Just want you to know that this AP reads and learns. Thank you.

Sarah said...

Thank you for speaking about your perspective so honestly and candidly. As a Korean adoptee and a birth mother of a daughter in a happy, open adoption, I could relate to a lot of what you said and understand many AP comments. My life path has taught me to listen and respect the stories of others, especially those different from my own. I feel a sense of sadness and loss from your stories, and I hope you are caring for yourself before pleasing others. Having an adopted brother has helped me cope within my own family, and I feel blessed to have his perspective in addition to my own. Thank you for sharing; please know, you have support from this reader.

Melissa said...

I don't doubt that you do, Third Mom.

And Sarah, thank you your comment. As you wrote in your blog, " views of adoption and myself change daily." I can definitely relate to that statement at times.

Similarly, Mia, as you so insightfully asked, "Don't most people evolve and change throughout their entire life in so many areas?" So true. I am definitely not the same person that I was 5 years ago, even a year ago...and my views of adoption have certainly metamorphosed over the years as I continue to accumulate and process experiences and knowledge...

Diane said...

"Sometimes, I just want to forget. Forget everything that I know about adoption."

I get that. I see the same frustration in my oldest daughter who is now sits deep inside and I feel her struggle to just throw adoption out of her equation. As if adoption is a tumor that merely needs excised to move forward and be free.

If only.

(FYI- I love writers who challenge my vocabulary. Anathema is a new word to me!)