Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Inner World of Adoptees

Caught part of the movie, "A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries," based on the family life of writer James Jones. It stars Kris Kristofferson, Barbara Hershey and Leelee Sobieski.

This isn't a movie review.

But some thoughts about adoption.

First, even though it's about the writer's family life...the actor who plays the adopted son got left out of the movie poster. I mean, there's only four people in the family and the dad, mom and bio daughter - or the actors who play them - are featured prominently. What happened to the adopted kid?

Leelee got most of the dialogue and action while the actor who played her adopted brother struggled with inner turmoil. This is hard to show on film. Which means he hardly talks and looks stricken or mortified half the time. Once, he threw himself on his adoptive mother's stomach after she had a miscarriage when he was a teenager. He mumbled his few lines so I have no idea what he said.

So my point is...that's the trouble. Or the challenge.

Being adopted is an inner struggle. A lifelong inner struggle. Just like characters in the movie, nobody seems to take much notice of the adopted kid and how he's reacting or coping. At least in the first half of the movie. Maybe he spontaneously combusts at the end. I have no idea.

But back to the the whole inner struggle. If you're adopted, you know what I'm talking about. Trying to explain what it's like is a frustrating experience because you're likely to hear that it's no big deal and you should just move past it, like it's a big piece of ugly furniture. On the outside, we look okay, seem fairly normal, if we're not trying to commit suicide or hittin' the bottle too hard. I'm not talking about how adoptive parents respond - or not - to their kids. I'm talking about the way society does. All those people in the U.S. who seem to think adoption is so wonderful and a blessing and a great way to raise a family, when many of adoptees say, wait, it ain't so great and let me tell you why. But because we don't look or present like failed social experiments that many of us feel like inside, well, we're dismissed. This is usually where people say how normal we seem, etc., when we feel like three eyed spotted aliens.

The whole inner struggle aspect is nearly impossible to explain.

But this is it.

To me. It just doesn't seem right. There's something not normal about the way I feel or connect to the world, probably because a primary connection was broken off shortly after I was born. And then there's that whole disorienting experience of being raised by genetic strangers aspect to adoption, as if Barbies and Beanie Babies were interchangeable when we know they are not. There's something...off.

19 Comments:

Blogger joy said...

"Which means he hardly talks and looks stricken or mortified half the time"

Sounds like adoption to me!


Wooo HOOOOOO!


signs off looking stricken and mortified.

7:45 PM  
Blogger Nina said...

Signing on looking stricken and mortified, Joy...as it's National Adoption Month!!! Where's the throwy uppy emoticon when we need it???

8:15 AM  
Blogger Sharon said...

I love your comments on this! Im not much of a movie reviewer, but it would be interesting to study how adoptees have been treated in the past in cinema. Or even in writing. I had a friend who was interested in writing a story about an adoptee who was crippled, and I told her to read Primal Wound. Not sure if she ever did.

signed,
Just Sad...beyond mortified now.

10:11 AM  
Blogger Sharon said...

Oh I wanted to say I have linked you to my adoptee blog. I dont post as often as Id like, especially since I like reading the other stories more than I like writing about my own.

http://2btrueofvoice.wordpress.com/

10:12 AM  
Blogger Nina said...

Hi Sharon,


Did you see the movie, Knocked Up. You know how the goofball guys started a website that tells you where to find the dirty bits? Maybe we should start a blog dedicated to movies that feature adoptees! Had a good cry this morning. Watched The Other Mother that I'd recorded on my TiVo. She's my fantasy birth mother, the young pretty kind who was coerced by a nasty nun, her emotionally constipated mother and, of course, Mary the Mother of God who thought she was a big, giant sinner. It makes a BIG difference having your first mother say she tried and wanted to keep you but couldn't...I imagine...in my fantasies! I'll add you to my links too!

3:02 PM  
Blogger Mary said...

glad i missed this one. yuck. can you imagine the industry if we made a real adoption movie?

5:11 PM  
Blogger elizabeth said...

I just don't have the words right now, but I feel so sorry for all of us. {{{{Nina}}}

3:59 PM  
Blogger Eve said...

Thanks for this post, it's interesting and I love that you noticed that they left the adopted son out of the poster. Wow.

I'm working my way backward through your blog, and I'll probably be commenting. So, hello, hello; I love your writing voice.

I want to say this, but at the risk of sounding condescending and of constellating your mother-related emotions... but on the other hand, perhaps you'll be able to hear me in another part if I say this: you girls must find your own, real, loving inner mothers. You will never find your best mother in the mythical, magical "other" of birth or adoptive mothers. I know you will find this impossible to believe because you're young and you probably think this is adoption specific, but I'm telling you something that's not only theoretically true (for depth psychologists, anyway), but something that I have seen work out redemptively in the lives of hundreds of people with abandonment and loss surrounding their births (yes, people like you).

Being adopted doesn't give one a corner on the abandonment and wound market, nor does it mean that every adopted person grows up with a significant psychic wound. But when the wound is significantly felt, it's a most courageous act to stick with the healing work, which is what it appears you're doing (and, of course, correct me if I'm mistaken).

I just want to say that I so admire that you're writing about it and working hard to work it through. This inner work is heart-wrenching and takes such a long time. Bravo for all of you who are doing it; I stand in awe.

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Anonymous Emma said...

I've always felt like a stranger in my own home, and I'm biological. I know I probably know nothing of the struggle, but I was abandoned by my Mother and no one even pretended to be my mother after that.
My father paid the bills, but that was all. I was utterly alone, abandoned, unwanted, and alien; I didn't need an adoptive family to make me feel foreign. I wonder how similar these struggles are. Does an adopted child have it better than an unadopted, unwanted biological child? I dunno. There is no true parental trust, and I've often felt like if I disappointed anyone, I'd end up on the streets. Yet, my mother came over to pose for the pictures at Christmas time, and to tell me how ungrateful I was. Is this how it was for you?

1:32 PM  

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