Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Adoption Game: It's Craptastic

Honestly, I do start to feel like I'm a messenger of negativity at times. I start to grow weary and burdened by my own observations and discourse. I want to tell myself, "Okay, okay, enough already, just shut the heck up."

I look at my life and all the good in it, and I can't help but wonder whether what others accuse me of is true--maybe I am a whiny, self-centered ingrate? I begin to doubt whether I have the "right" to ask the questions I ask, to say the things I say. I begin to almost believe the critics and doubters to the point of internalization, and in turn become my own worst enemy.

And especially as of late, these doubts are surfacing fiercely as I try to manage my relationships with my four parents, specifically in the context of the recent birth of our son. The doubts creep in as I begin to question whether all of this "enlightenment and awareness" are worth it--is this "adoptee awareness" worth the strain and turmoil it brings to my relationships with my family, whether openly acknowledged or harbored within.

It gets so complicated and messy trying to emotionally triage the conflicting obligations and desires I face from within and without as an adoptee, and in my case, as an adoptee in reunion. All the sensitivities and offenses to consider tempt me to just give up and return to ignorance. Well, obviously, in reality that's impossible--so, more accurately, I am tempted to stop trying to work toward authenticity and just play the adoption game--the game I've played most of my life, the game with which I am all too familiar and hence, uncomfortably comfortable, if that makes any sense. I know the rules, and I'm a seasoned player. So, it's easy to just jump back in.

And to be honest, I haven't actually ever completely given up the game. I still throw on the uniform and run back onto the field when things get tense or awkward. It's easier to me at this point than trying to deal with the penalties and repercussions of not playing the game, of not abiding by the unspoken yet unquestionably enforced rules and regulations.

Fellow adoptees know the game to which I'm referring. It is the game that requires you to be the happy, compliant, bright-eyed adoptee with not a peep of criticism or dissatisfaction to utter regarding your experience as an adoptee. It's the game that expects you to gloss over everything with a thick layer of sticky sweet high fructose corn syrup to make certain that everything you say and do is pleasantly palatable, especially for your parents and family.

The game where you smile and laugh and play along--pretend that you're okay with the current dynamic, as though you're okay with not expressing how you're really feeling or what you're actually thinking--better yet, fake as though you have nothing to say or feel that might question the status quo.

It's the game where I am expected to be solely grateful. It's the game where I cannot express equal loyalties and affection for both my American and Korean families. It's the game where the regulations dictate that I must avoid referring to my Omma and Appa as Omma and Appa and must refer to them as "biological mother" and "biological father." It's the game where all my hopes and desires for having a merged family must remain unspoken, buried, because such wants and expressions are almost heretical.

And despite how awful playing the game can feel, I still find it easier and less frightening at times, than the alternative, to simply concede and comply and take my position on the field--where everyone else, including myself, knows my role and what to expect.

Even now I wish I could go into more detail to elucidate more clearly the context. But what's the point? I already feel defeated, because I know I would absolutely get red carded and be thrown out of the game once and for all, never able to return. Why try to reason with the ref, coach, or other players when it's clear that their understanding of the game is inflexible?

And you say, well, that would be a good thing--go for it, get yourself thrown out of the game.

But in my case, at this point, it's not so simple, it's not so easy. It might not turn out to be such a good thing, because--as much as some of you may cringe and cry out "coward!" or "hypocrite!" --playing the game seems to be the only way I can be close to those I love...and I do love them, all of them.

Still, as far as "processing" and "speaking up" as an adoptee, I can't stop, despite the danger it poses to my relationships. I am compelled to press on even though I wonder why I do.

And yet ironically enough, as a result, I get so weary and so insecure, so full of doubt and uncertainty that it becomes easier at times to play the game than to fight for authenticity--despite the fact that playing the game is equivalent to choosing to be a hypocrite and a liar for the sake of maintaining a pretense that has caused me a lifetime of confusion and strife. Talk about contradicting myself. It's like I'm taking crazy pills (and too many metaphors).

Just another way in which being an adoptee--to borrow a word from my husband--is the most "craptastic" endless cycle of that wonderfully contentious state of quandary we all hate to feel-- Catch 22.

And there I go again--being "aware" as the "messenger of negativity"...I guess I just can't help myself...because I suppose I just can't stop being an adoptee, and more specifically, an adoptee who simultaneously loathes and embraces--well, of course--being an adoptee.


Anonymous said...

Perfect, perfect analogy of the dance we have all play in the game called adoption - was that too melodramtic?

This post highlights exactly why we speak out for the next generation - hopefully they will not feel this conflict.

Well done!

violet07 said...

I don't have children or the reunion experience, but so much of what you write resonates with me. Thanks to your blog and those of other adoptees, I realize that it is okay and even "normal" to feel sad/angry/confused/etc. about the entire adoption experience. I completely agree that "feeling grateful for being adopted" is an incredible burden/insult for adoptees. I find as I get older, that I feel the strain more.

The Byrd's Nest said...
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The Byrd's Nest said...
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Susie said...

Not long ago my son & I (reunited) had a misunderstanding regarding something adoption related. I said one thing, he read it as another. In the end, we agreed that adoption was just a big Catch 22.

To answer your questions ~ No. You are not a whiny, self-centered ingrate. I'm sorry that you are in the midst of yet another "adoption tornado" of twisted feelings, words and thoughts.

Thank you for your honest and heartfelt post. I so appreciate this look into life as an adoptee. I hope that I never cause my son to feel that he can't speak/live his truth on account of me.

Von said...

The goal you keep going for is your integrity, we all do when we speak out and want to be authentically ourselves however that works for our adoptee selves living adopted lives which are complex, tiring, confusing and have already asked too much of us.
Those who ask or expect us to pretend, to live out the adoption story have asked and expected us to live lives of pretence and it is too big an ask.
We all have times I think when we play the game for the sake of simplicity and weariness.Nothing wrong in playing those rules briefly, in order to do something for ourselves for a change.Not much of it is about us after all.
Good wishes, hope all is well and sleep is happening.He's beautiful! x

Reena said...

"I must avoid referring to my Omma and Appa as Omma and Appa and must refer to them as "biological mother" and "biological father." It's the game where all my hopes and desires for having a merged family must remain unspoken, buried, because such wants and expressions are almost heretical."

Melissa this reality for you breaks my heart! Not just for you but also for your son. I so wish that all of your family could begin to merge in the way you desire.

As wonderful of an event as the birth of your son-- I can only imagine the 'added' pressures you are feeling from all of your family. Maybe I am reading into your post.

Parents often tell their children that the birth or adoption of a sibling will not detract from the love they (the child) receive, but add to the love in the family.

I wonder why parents cannot apply this same reasoning to themselves in the situation of adoption and reunification.

One last thing, I consider you to be a messenger of wisdom-- not negativity.

The Declassified Adoptee said...

Melissa, I have felt this very same way many times. When people are unsupportive and discouraging in-general or when they treat me as if I am making a big deal out of something they consider small. Or, when I am taking baby steps trying to, like you said, integrate my two families and live authentically in terms of how I feel about adoption and one step seemed too big and I get overwhelmed with not feeling understood.

The inability of others to see adoption as anything other than all-positive or a non-issue is not your fault, Melissa.

Is a woman who blogs about workplace issues and inequality "whining?"

Is an individual who blogs about institutional racism "whining?"

No, because we acknowledge that those things are huge problems in society.

Are you "whiny" to another person because you really are? Or because they are the ones denying the issues in adoption?

The urge to play the game is ever present because it makes us happy when we make others happy. But the catch22, as you said, is that lacking authenticity and the ability to express what we really feel will detract from our happiness. Loyalty in relationships isn't about one person meeting everyone's needs. It is about everyone involved being loyal, including to you. We have just as much of a right to expect that those in our lives will uphold our needs as much as they expect the same from us.

People who call you whiny or suggest essentially that your relationships should be one-sided where you forsake whats important and authentic to benefit others have not overcome the adoption stigma.

Samantha Franklin said...

You put it into words so well...thank you. I clearly remember this after the birth of my son 6 yrs ago...and still feel it.

Campbell said...

Having a baby is a perfect opportunity to take charge of family dynamics, to dictate how things are going to be. If it's too frightening to have expectations of your family for yourself, have and make them known on behalf of your son. You are in charge of what goes on around your child. Let everyone know how it's going to be from now on and they can either get on board, or not. My guess is they will. Good luck, cheering for your team.

Pix said...

You are right. There ARE times when you play the game, and the reasons for playing are valid. Convenience, emotional protection, whatever. Do it on your terms. But the more you are authentic with yourself, even though it sucks and it's hard, the more authentic life you will live. For the record, I dealt with many of the same issues (the game playing) after my parent's divorce. I tip toed around folks, using different names for them depending on which group I was with, etc., until one day I decided to call it like I saw it. It didn't go over well and was a painful endeavor, but I'm glad I was honest with myself and all of them. I think a lot of the angst I felt was based off being angry with myself for not standing my ground. Good luck on your journey.