[I wrote the following on January 5, 2011]
Over the months, something within me has been building or dismantling, whatever way one wants to view it. I feel as though I have been living life harder and fuller than ever before--feeling and thinking, experiencing and encountering, to the deepest depths and to the highest heights.
And with that, I think I am ready, or just about, to let go.
Let go of what?
I'm ready to let go of the pain.
Scary words to utter--that is, at least for me. Frightening, really. And I'll explain why, for me, the "letting go" of the pain associated with my adoption is a scary thing, and even exactly what the "letting go" means, because I have no doubt it will be misunderstood and misinterpreted by many.
First of all, let me state what I DO NOT mean. When I say that I'm ready to let go of the pain, it does not mean that the pain is gone. It does not mean that the pain doesn't still affect my life. It does not mean that somehow magically I've "gotten over" it all. And it does not mean that suddenly I love being adopted and think it's the most fabulous thing to come along since the horseless carriage.
It does not mean that I will no longer need to talk about the pain or feel the pain. It does not mean that I still don't cry about all that has happened and continues to unfold. It does not mean that I feel as though I am finished or that I have arrived. It does not mean the journey is anywhere near completion. It does not mean that I no longer deal with the ongoing consequences of my adoption. And it certainly does not mean that everything is now resolved with my Korean and American families.
What I do mean is that I am ready to allow the pain to no longer threaten or control me. I am ready to accept the good and the healing as well as the pain and the sorrow.
I think for a while now, I have needed the time to dwell in the pain, in the sorrow, because I have needed the time and the opportunity to grieve--unabashedly, without constraint. I was and have been denied all of my life the "right" to grieve, to deal with and face the pain and sorrow. And even still there are those who continue to deny me--but, I am ready to let go of them, too.
And now, after having time to seize the grief and finally making it my own, I feel that I can finally be at peace with it. Being at peace with the pain, however, does not mean that it is gone or that it does not still affect who I am and who I am becoming. The pain will always be a part of me. The sorrow and grief is always in me and with me. But it is not all of who I am, and it is not what compels me to live.
Yet the reason I fear letting go of of it, and even more so attempting to share this with all of you is because of the danger of misunderstanding and misinterpretation that likely comes with expressing my desire to let go of the pain.
I've had enough encounters with folks who say things to me that discount and invalidate the depth, intensity, and longevity of the pain, sorrow, and grief inherent to being an adoptee. By expressing I am ready to let go of the pain, I fear that doing so will only increase such ignorance and presumption.
I fear that by letting go of the pain, adoptive parents and the like will use it against us--against adult adoptees--to justify adoption by saying the ends legitimize the means.
I can hear it now--sighs of relief among adoptive parents and the like, brushing their brows with the backs of their hands, thinking to themselves or uttering softly, "Thank God, another adult adoptee who finally came around, got over herself, realized all the good adoption does."
Or, "See, Melissa, everything has worked out great for you. It all came out in the wash in the end. Sure, you've had some hardship. But ultimately, you were adopted into a great American family, and later, when the time was right, you got to reunite with your Korean family. Now, the picture is complete. The void is gone. Your family is coming to completion, especially now that you have an amazing husband, a son only days away, and an amazing life. We're so glad you finally realized all that adoption has done for you!"
Again, this is NOT what it means to let go of the pain. And this is not what adoption is or ever will be for me personally--an end to justify the means.
I know this sounds harsh and judgmental to some. I do not intend it to be that way. To be clear, for me personally, adoption is not solely evil. I am not purely anti-adoption.
However, when others frame adoption in such a way as to dismiss the loss and the grief of the original mothers and adoptees affected or to discount or even justify the circumstances and questionable practices that often lead to adoption, because they believe the "end results" are all that are worth considering or all that matter, not only is my heart pained, but I believe that to do so is dishonest and cruel.
Ultimately, I know folks won't understand what I mean or where I'm coming from--they'll interpret what I say as they wish. And that's in part, why at times, I just want to walk away from trying to share my experiences and views--because they get twisted, warped, and picked apart in ways that I never intended.
But again, that is part of the letting go for me--to understand that just as the pain will always be with me, so also will the misunderstandings and misconceptions.
I'm sharing this both for others and because it is emancipating for me. And I'm sharing it ultimately, because I know what I mean, and I am beginning to feel more and more secure in that, regardless of what others imply or assume. And then, of course, there are the few who actually do understand, and they are a great comfort to me.
Furthermore, and perhaps more importantly, I am sharing this, because I want our son to grow up with a mom who is secure--who isn't driven by her pain, but rather is driven by her hope--the same hope that Helen Keller so concisely yet powerfully expressed, because, well, the woman lived it:
"...although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it."
Meaningful words written by someone who knew what it was to suffer, who knew what it was to be trapped in darkness, who knew all too well what it means when life is unfair and circumstances beyond one's control take away what every human takes for granted...and yet, she overcame.
I want to overcome. But overcoming does not mean forgetting. Overcoming is not one-sided. It is complex. Overcoming the pain, the grief does not mean ignoring it or discounting it--no, rather, it means embracing it and recognizing that it will always be there. And yet, it need not threaten me--not any longer.
It need not be something I try to control or suppress or minimize or hide.
And that's what I mean by letting go of the pain--to no longer fear it, to no longer be uncomfortable with it, to no longer try to control it, but simply to let it be what it is.
And I suppose by letting go of the pain, I am also letting go of the fear, ultimately. Pain often causes fear, and in healthy amounts both can help us.
But when pain and fear become so overwhelming and so dominant that they take over one's life and obscure everything in darkness, then they have lost the glory and beauty of their purpose.
So, I am ready--although I will still feel fear, I am ready to no longer give way to fear--to no longer fear that those I love will leave me, to no longer fear that those I love will be taken from me, to no longer fear that I was never enough.
Not that these things cannot happen, but that I need not fear should they happen, because what has made me weak has also made me strong. What has alienated me and isolated me has also surrounded me and filled me--with a depth and richness of life and people that although at times I forget, I cannot deny.
And again, I want my son to be able to grow up trusting that he can overcome his fears and his pain, that he can overcome the injustice and unfairness of life--not by ignoring it or by suppressing it, but by facing it, embracing it, and allowing it to teach him that he can make a difference in this world.
I don't want him growing up with a mom who is always afraid, because she is ashamed of her pain, of her sorrow, of her story. Conversely, I also don't want him to grow up with a mom who is too proud and so calloused, because she has chosen to harden her heart and deny her pain, and hence, the pain of others.
Rather, I want him to have a mother who although knows pain and shame and sorrow, she also knows healing, redemption, and hope. I want him to have a mother who lives life with certainty--not a certainty that life itself is certain, but a certainty that life is worth living and feeling deeply and fully, whether it be pain or joy, tragedy or victory. I want him to know he need not fear neither the heights nor the depths of life, but that he can face them honestly and truthfully.
And that is what it means, to me, to let go...
And that is the truth that I hope our son will grow to know and to trust...