Thursday, May 20, 2010

"agony is the easiest": a letter from my Appa

I want to feel peace and resolution over the life I now live--that is, life in "post-reunion."

I don’t want to fester or grow bitter. But, wow, I am beginning to wonder whether it's even possible to process all that has happened and all that continues to happen? Even with all the emotional work I push myself to do, I never cease to hurt. I never cease to grieve.

I have been feeling so restless.

I find myself just wanting to be DONE with being an adoptee. I'm tired. Exhausted. Frustrated. The list is endless. I want to be through with trying to “process” all these maddening emotions that make me feel like I’m being ripped in two, and then the two being pulverized into a heap of innumerable, unrecoverable bits of dust.

Sometimes, I wish that I could just walk away. That it could be as easy as that. But I can’t just walk away.

It's not like someone served me a bad meal, upon which I can send it back and request something else. I think it's evident that I'm dealing with a permanent arrangement.

Lately, I haven’t known how to put into words what I’m feeling. It’s more than just restlessness. It’s more than just exhaustion. It’s this sense that I should simply be at peace and full of contentment. And yet, I feel such turmoil and unrest.

I feel as though something is gnawing at me, but I cannot identify it. I feel on the verge of tears more days than not, but I cannot say why.

Deep down, I think I know. And I think I've tried to say it in more ways than one, and more times than I can count.

But I want so desperately to be through with it all that, at times, I just don’t want to expend any more energy trying to give any more thoughts or any more words to an experience that can feel so elusive and daunting.

I am so weary of trying to "work through it."

I wish I could simply close my eyes, take a deep breath, and when I opened my eyes again, things would be different. I don’t even know in what way.

But perhaps something more manageable. Something simpler.

* * *

In light of all this, I received another letter from my Appa a couple of days ago in which he wrote (keep in mind that these are the words that the translator chose, and I get the sense that in the actual Korean, his words were much more eloquent):

“…agony is the easiest and happiness is the most difficult thing to have in life. Emotional suffering is the easiest performance of human emotions, and to be happy is the most difficult. I hope you don’t get defeated by the emotional stirrings, but to win it over and be free from it. From now on, our goal is to make the right judgments about our actions with higher pride to lead our future.”

There is so much that I could say about what these words of his mean to me. For now, I will say that he and I certainly share the same gene pool (and we have the DNA test to prove it). Even though we barely know one another, his words resonate with me deeply and make me feel known by him and him by me.

And yet, a sadness lingers.

It is true, at least for me, that to feel agony is more natural. I am a naturally melancholy personality with a propensity toward the dramatic. Although it feels good to feel happy, it is not necessarily my default state, while the circumstances of post-reunion lend themselves quite well and very easily to feelings of melancholy and emptiness.

My Appa having a sense of this, wrote later in his letter:

“…let’s laugh a little. Here’s a funny quiz [riddle]. It might not be too funny, but oh well.

Right now, a man from Mars is driving a truck with 100mi/hr on a hwy of Georgia with apples, bananas, grapes, peaches, and watermelons. Suddenly, a police officer stopped the truck. (What do you suppose that dropped from the truck?)

The rest will follow on my next letter. If you are really curious, send me a text message.”

I couldn’t figure it out, and of course, I was really curious to know the answer, and couldn't wait until the next letter. So I sent him a text, and this is what he sent back to me:

“Speed foll down…Speed dropped. Ha. Ha. Ha.”

He does make me laugh--and cry--more than a little...


Von said...

Have to agree it is very wearying, exhausting to be an adoptee and have to process all the time, but the balance is joy and peace.
Have you read Evelyn Burns Robinson's books on reunion?
It is possible to live a happy, fulfilled life with joy but it doesn't make the scars go away or stop the processing, just gives balance.
of course as you get older things change adopters are dead so technically I guess I'm no longer an adoptee!A freeing thought.
You are fortunate to have good people in your life with whom you have the possibility of developing an ongoing relationship.

Third Mom said...

I wish that I had read things like this before we adopted our children. I honestly can't say I would have made the decision not to, but I would have known so much more, so much earlier.

Then again, as I read this, I wonder if it would have made any difference at all to my kids if I'd been smarter about adoption in the very beginning. I'm coming to understand that there's really nothing an adoptive parent, probably anyone can do, to change an adopted person's divided reality.

And I hate that I made it happen in my kids lives. I really, really hate that.

Gayla said...

Oh, that was painful to read.

But beautiful.

Mila said...

Margie, I will say that it makes a huge difference when the parents are at least aware of the issues adoptees face, and even more of a difference when the parents cultivate an ongoing environment that allows adoptees to speak openly with the parents about their thoughts & feelings regarding adoption without fear of rejection or emotional withdrawal from the parent...

Part of the reason I feel so divided is that I am in a place right now in post-reunion in which my two families are resistant (somewhat euphemistic word choice) to one another...

At this point in post-reunion, I am unable to talk with my parents about how I feel and what I think, which aggravates the guilt, betrayal, split, etc. that I already inherently feel...

I know intellectually that "I am not a traitor."

But emotionally, that's a much harder statement to grasp...

* * *

Gayla, thank you for reading this post. Indeed, it was painful to write, and all the more to live...

* * *

Von, I have not read Evelyn Burns Robinson's books on reunion. I'll have to look into them. Thank you for the suggestion...

I am encouraged that you express that "balance" can be attained. It definitely seems so elusive at times...

I will say, however, that when my [adoptive] parents do one day pass away, it will only make the pain and loss of being adopted surface all the more...thinking of them no longer being here is not a freeing thought for me personally. It's a devastating one. I dread the day I am without them...

It is true that I am "fortunate to have good people in your life with whom you have the possibility of developing an ongoing relationship." And I certainly never want to take that for granted...

But as you wrote, "it doesn't make the scars go away or stop the processing, just gives balance."

Still waiting for the balance. Right now, things just feel so askew and teetering...but that's just the way it has to be for now, I suppose.

Debbie said...

Melissa - what a beautiful and heartfelt post. My heart just aches for you. I hope that you will be able to find that balance and feel at peace.

While our circumstances are totally different, I can relate to much of what you said. Our infertility struggle has been all-consuming, and the sole focus of my life for several years now. I too wish I could close my eyes and wake up in another place. And just when I think I have a handle on my emotions, the smallest thing can set me into tears. It is absolutely exhausting to be in a state of such emotional turmoil.

While there is so much that neither of us can control about our given situations, I pray that we both can find peace and comfort in our hearts someday, and I hope that our families will provide us with the unconditional love we need and deserve to help aid in finding that peace.

Mila said...

Thank you, Debbie. Although different circumstances, we are both on very emotionally intense journeys...

I can completely relate to what you wrote, "And just when I think I have a handle on my emotions, the smallest thing can set me into tears. It is absolutely exhausting to be in a state of such emotional turmoil."

Thank you for sharing your thoughts so openly.

YoonSeon said...

I haven't reunited. But I still know how you feel and I know what you're talking about. Sometimes you just want to throw in the towel and go "give me a new life. One where I'm not an adoptee".

As bad as this might sound, I guess this is part of the reason why I'm scared to reunite and even find my family. I'm sure it won't "fix" anything... I'm just scared it'll open a whole different can of worms...

Denise said...

Hi Melissa, haven't been here in awhile, but your posts always give me moments of extreme angst of what will the future be like for out adopted daughter. I have to say that I will welcome all of her feelings and questions and would actually love to see her reunited with her birth family one day. Not only for her, but for her birth family to see how she has blossomed and grown with us. I know that this is far down the road for us at this point, but I am thankful for those who have gone before her to help to guide her through. Have a great weekend~

Denise said...

Excuse all of the mistakes in the previous should not be playing Dora Memory and blogging at the same time!

Mila said...

Yoon Seon, you are insightful and mature not to romanticize reunion. I say this simply because I think I did romanticize reunion a little, even despite my best efforts not to do so.

However, in spite of all my "moaning & groaning," about the realities of it, I think I prefer the complexities of knowing both families over the unknowns I had to manage before finding my Korean family.

Yet, what you stated still resonates with me and often remains how I wish things could be, that somehow I could have "a new life. One where I'm not an adoptee".

Mila said...

Denise, you wrote "your posts always give me moments of extreme angst of what will the future be like for out adopted daughter."

I can only imagine how scary it may be as a parent to encounter the rawness of such emotion and thought as expressed in my posts.

Although you may feel angst and fear initially, I hope, however, that ultimately what I and other adult adoptees share will equip you to understand and hence, be better prepared to be there for your child.

I try to help parents to understand ultimately not to fear what your child may face. As with any child, whether adopted or not adopted, parents must strive to do what they can to raise their children to face the realities and challenges of growing up. This doesn't mean they will be able to prevent their children from facing difficulty, but hopefully, they will be able to equip their children to manage such difficulty when it comes.

As long as you continue to cultivate an open relationship in which your child can trust you and talk with you, that's the best thing you can do.

Prevention is not the goal, rather preparation. Perfection is not the goal, but rather understanding.

Mei Ling said...

"Prevention is not the goal, rather preparation."

I think that is what some adult Korean adoptees have gone back to Korea to do - ultimately trying to prevent adoption from happening so that mothers can be supported to raise their children.

In the case where, well, adoption has already happened, I don't think there is really any specific way to prepare for reunion...

Mila said...

Great points, Mei-Ling. I completely agree that there is no way to fully prepare for reunion. But I do believe that there are always ways to think through things emotionally and intellectually so that one is aware of the realities of any given situation, whether it be reunion or giving birth to a child, beginning a new job or getting married.

And I believe there are ways that adoptive parents can and should prepare themselves and their children for the inevitable emotions and experiences inherent to being adopted.

For clarity's sake, my statement of "Prevention is not the goal, rather preparation" should not be misconstrued.

Mei-Ling, you wrote, "I think that is what some adult Korean adoptees have gone back to Korea to do - ultimately trying to prevent adoption from happening so that mothers can be supported to raise their children."

Please, anyone reading this, understand that my statement was not referring to prevention of children staying with their biological mothers.

That's how crazy stuff is propagated in the media. A statement is taken out of context and is used as a claim that the person who originally said it meant this or that, and in particular, to support something that the person was never referring to in the first place.

Please, folks, do not use my statement about prevention vs. preparation as a quote to say something like, "Well, I read an adult adoptee blog in which the adult adoptee said that the goal with adoption is not prevention but preparation...So, see, adult adoptees don't have a problem with the practices of adoption..."

Let's be clear, that is NOT what I meant by that statement.

So, please anyone who reads this post or subsequent comments, do not use my statement out of context. I do not have any problems with what you stated, Mei-Ling. Please understand that--I am not referring to what you wrote but rather to the instance that my statement was used out of context and is actually not related to your comment.

I can see how someone would misunderstand or misinterpret what I wrote, but I will explain myself (in an additional comment since it won't all fit in this one), hopefully more clearly, to guard against misunderstanding...

Mila said...

[comment continued from above comment...]

In the statement, "Prevention is not the goal, rather preparation," I was NOT referring specifically to reunion or biological mothers relinquishing their children. Rather to the adoptee-parent relationship in general.

Parents' goals with adopted children, in my opinion, should not be to prevent the child from experiencing the pain, loss and grief inherent to adoption (because ultimately, such cannot be prevented). This idea of "prevention" is detrimental and often undermines the very relationship that parents are hoping to cultivate.

I think the "angst" to which Denise referred can often cause parents to shrink back and fear that they will somehow "harm" their children if they initiate and cultivate open conversations about adoption. [And I appreciate parents like Denise who, despite their own feelings, realize that it is crucial that they don't shrink back...].

Hence, my point was that parents need not fear opening up such a dialogue, or in other words, they need not "prevent" such conversations from happening and subsequent realizations and emotions. Rather, they need to prepare themselves and their children to have expectations and knowledge of the realities of being adopted.

And that in fact, by doing so, they will be preparing and equipping their children to understand and face the complex emotional and intellectual experiences that characterize being adopted--certainly not with perfection and not without difficulty, but at least with an awareness that such is valid and true.

Of course, this opinion comes from my own personal experience. I wish that I had been more aware and prepared to understand that the experiences, emotions & thoughts I encounter as an adoptee are NORMAL and NATURAL.

Rather I was completely ignorant until my late twenties, in part, because of the general philosophy of avoidance that was even more predominant in the 70's and of course, in even earlier decades.

I do believe that had I grown up in an environment that cultivated more of an awareness and openness, that fostered "preparation" over "prevention," I would have at least known that what I felt for all of my life was actually natural for my circumstances.

I do believe that I am now better prepared psychologically to manage the complex emotions and experiences of my adoptee experience. However, I simply wish I had grown up with the opportunity to know then what I know now, and that I had a relationship with my family and community that had, in part, helped to prepare me to accept that the things that I feel are valid and normal.

Anonymous said...

this is... without a doubt, one of the most beautiful and touching posts i've read in a long time. thank you for sharing... seriously, amazing.

Mila said...

Epi, thanks for reading, and thank you for your thoughts. Love your blog.