Thursday, January 28, 2010

hole in the Sky II

“Not to know is bad; not to wish to know is worse” Nigerian Proverb

So, I think that I realize part of why I get such strong reactions when I express my anger, hurt, pain, frustration, confusion, etc. regarding my experience as an adoptee.

When I express such “negative” or “dark” albeit natural emotions, I think my family and loved ones take it personally. Although it has nothing to do with them, it feels as though it has everything to do with them. And I can understand that, and I want to be considerate and thoughtful, in the same way that I would hope they would be considerate and thoughtful toward me.

It’s not that my family didn’t love me enough. It’s not that I don’t love my family. When I express anger or hurt, it’s not because of what they have done or haven’t done, it’s because of the loss and grief that I feel over what happened beyond anyone’s control.

But when I say something like “Whatever punk decided that being adopted is a happy story with happy endings makes me want to vomit and kick a hole in the sky” it offends my family because they think I’m saying something about them.

For the record, then, I’m not saying anything about my family. I am grateful for them, and I love them.

The thing is that some wounds run so deeply and so pervasively, that they may never quite heal. And I need to feel safe enough and have freedom enough to feel the pain and the emotion that comes from feeling that pain.

If someone breaks an arm or gets a big gash in the head or has to undergo bypass surgery, you don’t condemn them for feeling a mixture of emotion. The person will feel everything from fear to anger to hope to gratitude. One emotion is neither wrong nor right. It just IS.

I often feel condemned or judged when I express the “darker” emotions that come with being adopted.

People only want to focus on the “happy” side. They feel offended and perturbed when I take the liberty to talk about the sadness and confusion, the anger and the hurt, the misunderstandings and presumptions.

When I say adoption is COMPLEX, this means it includes ALL of the range of emotions from happiness and gratitude to sadness and anger. And hence, I should be allowed to experience and work through each and every one. I don’t enjoy feeling hurt or sad or angry, but being shut down or shut out for feeling such emotions makes me feel condemned, trapped, judged, rejected. It perpetuates the notion that I’m only allowed to be happy and full of gratitude.

I can be happy and full of gratitude while also feeling deep grief and a sense of confusion. That’s exactly what makes the adoptee experience COMPLEX and hard for others to understand. It’s not a one-dimensional or even two-dimensional emotional journey. It’s multi-dimensional.

It’s hard for people to understand that an adoptee can feel a vortex of mixed emotions all in the same moment or over a period of time.

Well, I’m here to explain, that yes, we can feel more than one thing at the same time. I can feel deep love and gratitude for my family here while simultaneously feeling a deep sense of grief and sadness over having lost all connection with my biological family.

* * *

When a wife loses her husband, it is understood that the grief and loss will always be a part of her life. She may go on to remarry and live very happily and fully with another man, but the fact that she married again does not erase the loss and grief from losing her first husband. The loss is always there. And an unwillingness to acknowledge such seems cruel and uncompassionate.

The same emotion and thinking applies to losing a parent. When the parent is lost, the suffering and pain is intense and deep. No one ever expects the child to “get over” the loss. It remains. The child learns to live and learns to carry on the memory of the lost parent in productive ways but nothing ever “cures” the child of the loss and nor should anyone expect such. Again, to place such expectations on someone who has lost a parent seems cruel and heartless.

I’ve witnessed my own Mom get teary-eyed over her mother. Certain memories or instances trigger deep emotions in my Mom even today, although it has been over three decades since she lost her mother. Do people tell her she should just be grateful that she had a mom and that she should pull it together? NO, they understand the emotional process that comes with losing a parent. They have compassion, because they understand that a loss like that is deep and lasting.

Or in the horrific instance of a parent who has lost a child—again, the world seems to understand how to show compassion and patience with such tragic circumstances.

But when it comes to the loss and grief experienced by an adoptee, the world glazes over, and becomes hard and cold. It tells the adoptee to be grateful and to be quiet.

This seems unkind and narrow-minded.

Not only have adoptees experienced an incredible loss akin to losing a spouse or child or parent, but they also often have no way to heal or find any amount of resolution because all the pieces are missing. (Take for example, a wife whose husband is reported as MIA. Imagine the confusion and all the emotion she would face—trying to figure out how to move on but never really knowing what had happened or whether he is still alive. The lack of resolution, the unknown and the stress of not knowing…But then say, she remarries and tries to live on, until one day, all of a sudden, he is found and returns…What to do then?). Some might feel frustrated with me using such an analogy, but it’s the closest thing I can find to try to help others understand the EMOTION of what an adoptee like myself experiences.

Why is this so hard to grasp? Why does the world resist accepting this? And why am I condemned for wanting to know what happened and then experiencing a range of emotions as I find out the truth. Am I a bad, ungrateful person for wanting to know the truth? For wanting answers? No one would say that to the wife whose husband is MIA.

* * *

It seems that perhaps a part of the resistance to acknowledging the “difficult” side to adoption are the implications that some may assume, even if inaccurately.

Basically, what it comes down to is that the adoptee’s receiving of a new family does not magically sweep away all the wounds and hurt and loss. It doesn’t fix what has been broken.

My brother seemed bothered that I stated that being adopted is not a happy story with a happy ending. He said that it has a happy ending for him because “you’re my sister.” And this is true. It makes me HAPPY that I’m his sister. It makes me HAPPY that he’s my brother. I cannot imagine my life without him. He has remained one of my best friends throughout life.

But as I explained earlier, I can feel many things at once. And feeling hurt and angry does not diminish from the love and gratitude I feel for my brother. It’s simply and complexly that I feel it ALL.

It is as though I am pulled in several directions all at once. And it's maddening.

But this is hard for others to understand. How can I feel both angry and grateful at the same time? That’s the COMPLEX nature of being adopted. I have both lost and gained. I feel seemingly contradictory emotions at the same time because I am going through seemingly contradictory circumstances simultaneously.

It’s comparable to what I felt after our recent car accident. As we sat there in the car waiting for the ambulances, I felt a host of emotions all at once. I felt afraid but grateful. I felt angry yet compassionate. I wanted to cry and laugh all in one breath. That makes perfect sense to most people.

So, why can’t it be that I feel a host of emotions all at once when it comes to the LIFETIME experience and journey of being adopted?

* * *

And that leads me to another point I’d like to make. There is another assumption or misconception that I’d like to address briefly: the journey of an adoptee has an end. That’s another reason I said what I said at the end of the post previous to this. Although there are happy experiences that occur, being adopted is a lifetime journey filled with ups and downs. The only point at which it comes to an end is death. But until that time, an adoptee’s story doesn’t come to an ending at a certain point or age. It continues on until the grave is met.

A good book to read, if this is hard for you to understand is “Being Adopted: The Lifelong Search for Self.” (There is a direct link to it on my blog under “More Blogs & Resources”). Although I don’t necessarily agree with every word in the book, the overall theme of the book recognizes that the adoptee experience stretches through a lifetime, and does not end in adulthood.

It is very difficult for me when people assume that now that my biological family has emerged, I then, also have arrived. That all is well that has ended well.

But that’s the thing. It hasn’t ended. It has just begun, AGAIN. A new phase, a new chapter, whatever you want to call it. This is just a different phase in the journey that is a lifetime one.

And again, there are HAPPY things that have happened, and again, it makes me very HAPPY to have the family that I have—my Mom, Dad, and my three brothers. They ARE my FAMILY. And I’m not looking to change that.

But just as much as there are happy times, there are equally sad times and confusing times. Is that so bizarre? Is that so wrong?

The emotions that I experience in response to this convoluted and intertwining process must be allowed to emerge. They’re natural and normal for such circumstances. And they’re not a personal attack on anyone in my family. They’re just the natural outpouring of emotion that comes with the journey that I’m on.

It’s not anger toward my family that I feel. It’s anger regarding the circumstances and all the confusion and lack of understanding, all the hurt and pain, all the loss and lost time. It’s so many things.

And I get the feeling it will never really make sense to anyone, other than the few who choose to want to know.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

hole in the Sky

I want anything. Anything. That I can find, do, throw, pound, kick. To make this stop.

This avalanche of emotion that is threatening to crumble and bury me beneath it.

But maybe that’s secretly what I want. Maybe then, I could close my eyes and go numb, and feel nothing at all.

Now, I feel everything. The weight of everything. Of this life that I did not choose. Of this identity that was given to me. That I cannot undo.

This being trapped somewhere in between. This feeling of not knowing where to go or what to do. And there is no way out of who. I am now.

There are no words, there are never the words. I cannot find them. I can only throw them, and scream them, and scrape them across the ground. Stomp them and crush them and toss them into the ocean. Burn them. Burn them until they are nothing but black ash and the scent of what has been scorched beyond recognition.

Maybe these words sound like terror. It is only the terror within me that scratches and moans to find its way out. That must claw its way out. That needs space and a place to exact its havoc and furor. Before it takes me with it.

Before I get carried away with it.

* * *

Last year was such a marathon of one emotional event after another that I had to just keep going. Now that things have slowed down, finally, I am discovering that I am basically an emotional wreck. Hence, the scary tirade of emotional writing you encountered above.

I’m having trouble focusing at work, and my emotions feel raw and sore. All it takes is just a tiny bit of pressure, and I feel on the verge of a torrent of tears.

* * *

I snapped at my husband today while I was trying to find a dimmable floodlight, and then I wanted snap myself off.

I told him, I feel so much pain but I don’t know what it is.

He aptly replied that I’ve had no time to process all that happened last year.

So, I have a year’s worth of emotion stored up, and it is only now that it’s finally getting the chance to trickle out. And I am terrified of what is to come, because I am most certainly not a lightweight when it comes to duking it out with my emotions.

I get the sense that I’m in for the fight of the century. And my fists are already bruised and bloody. But maybe that’s just the problem. I’m trying to make peace with a beast by hitting it in the eye. And the beast wasn’t attacking me in the first place. It was just nudging me in the side, looking for a pat on the head and maybe a snack.

Maybe this time, it’s not a fighter that I need to be.

* * *

Whatever punk thought up the notion that being adopted was a happy story with happy endings makes me want to vomit and kick a hole in the sky.

[Click title, "hole in the sky II," for a follow-up post to this statement.]

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


She always thought that once she was found, well, that she would no longer be lost. But she began to realize that being found didn’t mean that you were no longer lost. And in fact, as ridiculous as it may sound, she discovered that being found could often make one feel even more lost than before.

* * *

Take for example, a seed. If you lose a seed, you may find it again. But when you do find it, it may look quite different. You will not find the seed itself, but rather you will find what the seed became.

Or you may have a rock collection, and say you lose a rock from that collection. Maybe it’s a piece of rose quartz, maybe it’s a piece of obsidian, or maybe it’s that block of pyrite. Whichever one it is that you happen to lose, when you encounter it again, you may not even recognize it.

It may have ended up pulverized and paved into a sidewalk or street. It may have been eroded and now is part of the ground that feeds the seed that became a flower or a tree. Or it may still be sitting in the place in which you dropped it, buried deeply by the changing of seasons.

The point here is of course the reason that she still felt lost even though she had been found.

She was not that seed any longer. Her form and shape had changed drastically over the years. Who she was now seemed nothing like who she might have been.

She was the sidewalk now. Or the street. Or the flower. Or the tree. But she was no longer the little seed or the tiny rock that once belonged to a young couple’s dream or a small child’s collection.

She was grown-up now. She had been pulverized and paved. She had been scattered and transplanted, and now pieces of her had gone every which way, so that when she finally was found, well, there was no way to truly gather her and put her back together.

The state in which she was found was certainly her, but what she came to realize was that the “her” that had been found would always to a certain degree be lost. The act of being found could not magically recover the pieces of her that had been lost or trampled or scattered over the years.

As absurd as you may think she is for thinking such a thing, she did for quite some time hope that being found would somehow mean that all the little pieces of her that had been lost would somehow resurface and find their way back to her—that the simple act of being found would mysteriously yet concretely make her whole.

But now, as time passed since being found, her sense of being lost, although it had diminished in small ways, only seemed to grow in larger ways.

She would find herself on hands and knees peering beneath the car to make certain she was not hiding beneath the carriage. She would stare into the mirror, thinking that if she stared long enough, she would find the answer to all that still felt lost.

She stood in corners and hid under covers. She cried in the bathroom and wept in the shower. She could not quite explain why, other than the disappointment and despair that she felt when the act of being found turned out not to be the undoing of her being lost.

* * *

And this state of being found but still feeling lost has created quite a quagmire for her personally and socially, for the world she lives in views her now as being found. And with her fortunate state of being found, the world she lives in expects her to behave accordingly, to act according to the protocol of one who has been found.

So, she conducts herself as best as she knows how, now as one who has been found—that is why she feels obliged to sob only when she is in the bathroom or taking a shower, when no one can see her or hear her.

But all along, silently and increasingly, she knows that the charade will begin to falter, and that her containment will begin to bulge.

She can only go along in life for so long in a state of being found but feeling lost before the absurdity and incongruity of it all begin to warp and crack the surface of the world in which she lives.

She knows that eventually she will find herself slipping through the little cracks and buckling at the bending surface.

She and the world all the while thinking that she had finally been found will come to realize that all that she had so carefully assembled to resemble her self would once again be lost.

Hence, to be found does not mean to no longer be lost. But to be lost does not ineluctably mean one needs to be found.

Perhaps, she will one day find peace, knowing that she will always remain as both.

Monday, January 25, 2010

the Tower

I walled myself in.


I crawled into the tower and


the key.

Watched it.

slip off.

the edge of the window

And thud to the ground.

I was starving myself. and

Giving her exactly.




her ravishment is all that i have known—

she became the breather of fire i was attempting to


And the rage.

i was hoping to snuff out



my nostrils

Into. my eyes

Into. my fingertips

and all the lies,

flamed whispers,


their way onto my tongue.

Until they danced their way into

A Song,

that I recognized as

Something true.

Something truer than the truth:


she wrapped her mouth around it,

it turned to ash,

then a gray dark paste,

then a dull black jewel—

crooked and cruel.

it cut its way into

her stomach,

then dug itself into—

the weakest


until she began to choke.


i began to bang.

my feet against

The wall.

In my tall,



where i became the monster—

the only fire-breather.

i have ever known

who can survive such hunger.

who can swallow

such Doom.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


I recently found the following "post" in my "possible blog entries" folder, and realized I never got around to actually posting it.

It is dated July 31, 2009, which indicates that I wrote it soon after returning from our first trip to Korea during which I met each of my biological parents for the first time.

To read it functioned to remind me of the hope and wonder of the first meetings, of the first steps toward finding, toward knowing--how new and startling it all felt...

how I had waited for so long, aching and longing to do something as simple as sit down to eat a meal with the people who first gave me life, or walk down a sidewalk together, knowing that we belonged to one another...

so that when I finally found myself reveling in such circumstances, it felt so much like a dream that it almost seemed as though this could not be happening...

* * *

July 31, 2009


This is really happening.

* * *

I have to keep telling myself that this is really happening.

* * *

I continue to comb through the photos with my eyes. The believing disbelief never ceases.

The awe only seems to proliferate in vastness and penetrate more intensely as I ponder increasingly that this is what is happening.

* * *

That which was dying has been given new life.

That which was obscured has been revealed.

That which sat in darkness has found its way into the light.

* * *

They are alive.

I have seen them with my own eyes.

I have touched them with my own hands.

I have heard their voices.

I have received their smiles.

We have looked into each other’s eyes.

I have sat in the same room with them.

I have eaten with them.

I have walked with them, rode with them, talked with them.

We have wept, laughed, and hurt together.

* * *

I know who they are. And I am known by them.

* * *

This is really happening.


There is no way to sum up this story in a blog.

All that has happened to get to this point. All that is going to have to happen to go beyond this point.

All that has become known and all that will be made known.

* * *

As I eventually tell the story, people may think that I am fabricating details and events. They’re going to think that I fictionalized certain details for dramatic effect.

Just know that this story has no need for dramatic effect. Like that old cliché goes—fact is better than fiction.

Truth like this needs no augmentation. It can stand on its own.

But truth like this needs time.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

why being adopted matters

It’s so hard to try to explain to other people why being adopted is not always the most fun, because basically you’re trying to convince others as to why you have a right to feel sadness and grief, and as to why life is just hard for you at times.

When people smile and tell me it’s “great,” I know that they mean well. But that smile can slice through my heart like a piece of broken glass.

There is this strange tension that happens when it comes to the issue of adoption. Those on the outside expect an adoptee should be grateful and content with the “second chance” in life that has been allowed them, while the adoptee feels a deep sense of loss and displacement that conflicts with this notion that he or she should feel “grateful.”

These well-intentioned yet oblivious folks fail to acknowledge not only the persistent and unresolved loss and grief but also the complex issues that come with being adopted.

When someone loses a spouse or a loved one, people know to respond with compassion and understanding, with patience and gentleness.

Well, for those who don’t know, an adoptee has also lost loved ones. He or she has lost both her mother and her father, and for international adoptees, their first language and culture also. That’s nothing over which to rejoice and feel “great.”

If you meet someone who lost her parents in a car accident when she was 3 years old and was raised by her grandparents, I would hope you wouldn’t respond by saying, “Wow, you must feel so fortunate and so lucky that happened to you!”

Well, when you tell an adoptee, “Wow you must feel so fortunate and so lucky to be adopted,” you’re essentially saying the equivalent of the example I just gave. I know that you mean to say that the adoptee must feel grateful to have a family, but you must remember that the whole reason she or he had to be adopted in the first place was due to the fact that the adoptee first LOST his or her original family. And no matter what, the initial loss is not rectified or undone by the action of adoption.

It’s more complicated than what you may initially think. It carries a lot more emotional consequence, baggage, and difficulty than what you might first realize.

An adoptee didn’t come to be adopted because she decided one day, “Hey, I want to be adopted.” But rather some form of tragedy occurred that left her as an orphan without mother or father or any other family member to care for her.

And although it is the case that she eventually received a family, it does not then nullify the tragedy and loss that preceded her adoption. It does not erase or prevent the hardship that she will face for the rest of her life as a result of the subsequent displacement and ongoing irresolution.

I know there are people out there who feel as though adoptees like myself seem to only focus on the “negative” without acknowledging the “positive.”

I have no problem acknowledging the good things that have emerged in my life. But I do have a problem with the lack of understanding and, at times, the chosen ignorance regarding the adoptee experience.

If my experience as an adoptee demonstrated that people have overall come to understand the hardship and difficulty that adoptees face, I would not feel such a need to “educate.” But it is the apparent oblivion and unawareness, and sometimes even a favored disregard that compels me to continue to write and talk about these “negative” aspects to the adoptee experience.

Things have come a long way. I’ll admit to that. But there is still a long way to go. And I feel almost a responsibility to help it get there.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

the Tide


I am not in control.

I never have been and never will be.

But I always have a choice. We always have a choice.

Pain and regret can either inspire us to fight for redemption or drive us to destruction. It is all a matter of choice.

Everyone faces such choices.

I used to destroy. Now, I hope.

Perhaps it is choice flapping on the ends of the threads of blood that stream through my heart.

I feel the tide of these threads. Sometimes, they wash me away with them. Other times, I curl my toes into the shore; I will not be pulled into the current.

This time, I cannot afford to drift. But I cannot remain on the shore.

I must wade out into the riptide with purpose yet without conclusion, with direction yet without destination.

I must find my choices then let them go.


As my “reunion” continues to unfold, more knowledge also surfaces. At certain points, it is knowledge easily embraced.

For example, the trip to meet my cousins this past week was in summary, fantastic.

I was nervous and a bit intimidated initially. I was fearful that I would feel like an alien or that we wouldn't all get along. But as time progressed, much to my relief, I found myself feeling at ease and welcomed.

It was a fulfilling experience and one that hopefully will continue to develop in richness and meaning.

* * *

At other points, the knowledge you gain requires a bit more, let’s say, finesse and time. I guess I’m writing this as somewhat of a caveat or at least to depict, in part, a realistic perspective.

These reunions are almost always complicated. And sometimes things happen that, well, complicate matters. And it may have absolutely nothing to do with the adoptee but could severely affect everyone involved.

I cannot go into detail for the sake of privacy and discretion, but I say all this to communicate that reunion, with all its wonder and hope, also comes with its hardship and tribulation.

Feelings of elation will inevitably merge with feelings of consternation; feelings of fulfillment will blend with feelings of loss.

* * *

And it all takes time—so much time. Even though it has already [only] been a year since I was first notified that my biological mother and father had been found, really we are still in the beginning phases of the process.

The circumstances are still fragile and volatile, unpredictable and unknown. Everything is still too new to avoid uncertainty and the unexpected.

I’m not blighting my own crop here. I’m just trying to understand the process properly while tending to it attentively and with care, so that ultimately the harvest goes well—albeit it will never be perfect.


Also, for those of you who may wonder when in the world I’m ever going to write about what actually happened and is happening during this reunion process—you know, the details, like what happened during the first meetings with each biological parent? What did you do while you were in Korea both the first and second visit? What have you discovered thus far about your biological family and origins? How are the relationships going so far? You know, when am I going to get up off the floor and “show-and-tell?”

Well, I’m not sure.

I am thinking perhaps about eventually attempting to write the story in a “book/memoir” form, but who knows whether that will ever happen. It’s an intimidating and overwhelming endeavor at which very few do well and at which even fewer succeed, and even more importantly requires one to actually deal with the emotion of it all.

[Despite what you may think, I am not passively fishing to be cheered on here. I’m really just trying to let those who were hoping to get details on this blog know why they can’t find the details for which they’re looking.]

However, if by chance, I should ever make such an attempt, my intention is to be able to tell the story as a whole rather than in broken pieces, which is what this blog is—a bunch of broken pieces.

In some ways, maybe this blog is a warm-up, a way to slowly begin the process of working through all the unruly emotion and tangled details of such a journey.

And boy, does it feel as though I’m dealing with a wild beast. I guess that’s the reason for all the broken pieces. The beast is still being trained. And until she has been tamed, you can’t show her to the world. She doesn’t yet know how not to shred all that is around her.

The funny thing is that if I met you in person, I could tell you everything. But there’s something about writing it out that makes it feel indelible. And I’m not ready for that feeling yet.

So, fear of indelibleness and wild beasts, at this point, prevent me currently from being able to give details.

Does this make any sense? I’m being a bit ridiculous and gratuitous with all the silly metaphor.

Tossing out all the metaphorical mumbo jumbo, then, what it comes down to is that basically, I’m just not ready. At least not here and not just yet.

But, hopefully sooner than later, I will be able to reign in the beast, pull together the pieces, and get comfortable with writing it all down, and ultimately, with the inevitably crystallizing nature of finally coming to terms with all that is the complicated yet fulfilling experience of blood and family.