Friday, February 29, 2008

Really Bad Parents

Had another episode with my narcissistic adoptive father.

I wrote about it at my other blog,

And I was just picking myself up and dusting myself off...preparing to work on a project...when he calls and complains that I'd goofed by sending him the wrong brand of chocolate covered raisins. He was pretty steamed.

I have to be honest.

If I just hear the words, "chocolate covered raisins," one more time I'm gonna scream. The man has me sending him candy shipments almost every week. If I wasn't afraid of taking the express elevator to hell, I'd wish he'd choke on a fucking chocolate raisin and release me from my misery.

William F. Buckley just died and he didn't have half of what ails my adad. Why do all the mean people live so darned long?

But here's the deal.

After that encounter, I felt worthless. I'd just been taken out by a parental figure of authority and told off. Doesn't matter if I'm middle aged. Doesn't matter if he's losing it and over 80. It's the father-daughter dynamic and he's once again just told me how useless I am.

No surprise. I then felt useless. And I couldn't work on my project. I slumped into a depressive episode and took a nap. It zapped the life out of me. And this is after therapy. I'm aware of the triggers and I do my darned best to emotionally detach. But this stuff is hard.

And, by the way, I'm fully aware of the repetition of this theme in my posts.

As you can read, it just keeps happening! Today I made the mistake by returning his agitated call...just wanting to get it over with. In retrospect, I should have called AFTER my work was done. Or not have called back at all. Maybe there's a masochistic, martyr element to being the adult child of a narcissist. The adaptive role of enabler?

Having a narcissistic parent is a lifelong nightmare.

Being handed over to a narcissistic adoptive parent is like handing over a sacrificial lamb to a monster with an insatiable appetite for braised shanks. I was handed over 47 years ago and I'm still paying the price. Thanks social worker!

Honestly, testing for narcissistic traits should be one of the first things that social workers do when checking out prospective adoptive parents. Besides making sure they aren't criminals.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Word of the Day: Altered

Here's a word I don't think I've ever used in trying to describe what it's like to be adopted: ALTERED.

Hopewaits left a comment, in which she wrote, "I believe all of us who were adopted have been so altered (even if you don't know it and think everything is O.K.)"

What an awesome, perfect word!!! (Thanks, Hopewaits!)

Besides, "to change or to make different," altered also means, "to adjust for a better bit."

And that, folks, is exactly what happened.

I simply did not fit in with my adoptive family. In looks, temperament, intellect, disposition.

My adoptive mother kept trying to make me fit. She gave me haircuts that did not suit me in an attempt to make me "match" her. She dressed us in matching outfits until I was nearly thirteen. She even tried to tell me what to feel. Clearly, whatever I was and felt were not acceptable.

With no other options - where else would I go? - I also made painful adjustments in an attempt to fit in. I pretended to be a party girl because my adoptive mother was a determined anti-intellectual. In high school, I became fashionable because she cared, greatly, about make-up and clothes. I never discussed the books I read or what I'd learned because, she complained, these topics were boooring and I was acting,"all snobby." (Using a big word in a sentence got me a mocking at the dinner table)

Pretending to be something you are not leaves little time for discovering who you are.

Not all adoptees have adoptive parents as woefully undereducated, ignorant or self-centered or insecure as mine. Of course. But, faced with an entire cohesive family system, the adoptee stands alone. And tries to fit in. What other choice does she have? All of her energy, most of it subconcious, will go into making tweaks and adjustments because the fit needs to be improved. She is out of sync, even if nobody else notices it.

And when, finally, she leaves the adoptive family system and strikes out on her own...that's when things can get tough. What does she do with all these quirks of character that she may no longer need? Who is she without these modifications? Who is she when she meets her first family and sees the bits and pieces of herself that she may have had to deny or suppress? How does she go about reassembling herself? How does she know what parts are real or fake?

The good thing is, if you had controlling adoptive parents and have left them and the pretense behind, you have more time to figure out who you actually are.

But there's no getting away from the fact that adoption alters the adoptee in a way that does not impact the adoptive parents or the first mother. And I'm not talking about pain or suffering or loss. I'm talking about the identity development of the adopted individual. It's like trying to make a rich soup without broth.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Reframing the Past

When I started blogging, I didn't imagine I'd stick with it for long.

My ability to commit to long term projects is pretty weak. Many times I've vowed to stop blogging because it's taking away time from working on my novel which, no surprise, is about family secrets and the Closed Era of adoption.

But blogging has proved powerfully irresitable and the readers amazingly supportive. The best part is reading a comment that says...hey...something like that happened to me, too! And I know I'm not alone. That my experience as an adoptee is both extremely personal, yet aspects of it more sadly common than I'd once imagined.

I was reading a review in the SF Chronicle today about Carrie Fisher's solo show, Wishful Drinking, in which the funny Fisher tells us her (sex-drugs-booze-bipolar-disorder-fame-family) life story. "What she wants to do, she tells us, is take control of her life by framing her own narrative."

I guess that's what I've been trying to do. Slogging away at blogging about growing up as an adoptee who had to pretend she was her aparent's bio child.

I had no control. Over anything. Whether I was given away. With what sort of people I would be tied to, forever, by a document I didn't get to sign. What sort of questions I was allowed to ask about my family of origin (none). Even what I felt about adoption. Telling you, in great detail, how you should feel about being adopted is something not limited to adoptive family members. The non-adopted, who have no idea what it's like, are experts on the subject and are more than happy to tell you to buck up, get over it and, their favorite refrain, be grateful (you weren't aborted/at least somebody wanted you/you could have been raised in an orphanage).

So this is where we finally, finally, get to make sense of all OUR mixed feelings and emotions about something that happened to us. Because if you are adoptee, adoption is something that HAPPENS to you.

I like the control I feel when I get to talk about all this adoption stuff.

I'm finally getting to tell my own story.

It's a powerful step among many. Reclaiming ownership. Some have said more adoptees should spend their time trying to reform adoption instead of whining on blogs. Not everybody is cut out to be an activisit. Some are and are damned good at it. Others, well, aren't. But reframing our own life stories, whining included, is especially important to us: a subgroup of citizens denied their original birth certificates...and so much else.


Friday, February 15, 2008

Settling an Old Score?

A heartfelt thanks to those who left such amazingly understanding and supportive comments to my last post about my mixed feelings toward my first mother's placement in a nursing home. And her wish to talk with me. Not that we haven't talked before. And I don't think she has anything special she'd like to say. But who knows.

Every day I vow to call her.

And then I don't.

I'm just not ready. Not yet. If I do call in the mood I'm in, I'd call out of guilt. I want to call because I want to. I'm tired of having guilt as the main driver behind all parental encounters. (Honestly, I have no idea of what it's like to actually want to be around one's parents, because I've always dreaded any sort of contact with my adoptive parents. And like my aparents, after I've spoken with my mother, I nearly always feel stirred up and diminished because she's more than a little self-centered, too.)

There's something else that bothers me. Maybe it's something that should give me comfort. But it doesn't.

My non-identifying info. says that it took my then 37-year old mother several weeks to sign the relinquishment papers because she felt terribly guilty about her decision, against family pressure to keep me. That's what the papers said. That my mother was consumed with guilt.

I think that is at the root of what's bothering me. What has bothered me. That she knew giving me away was wrong, but she was determined to do it anyway because she needed to. For herself. Which means, putting it baldly, that the both of us can't blame anyone else. We do not have the comfort of pinning this decision on coercive practices, unsupportive grandparents or other family members or an abusive husband. (Maybe we could just blame the times?) My mother cited her sickly teenager as one reason. That it wouldn't be fair to my half-sib or me to bring me into that situation. But my half-sib was living with an aunt and not my mother. My mother would marry, up, less than two years after placing me for adoption.

During those two weeks of feeling guilty, my mother did not question where I was during this time. Bizarrely, the non-id says this, too. Where was I? I do know that at one point I spent a month in a foster care.

So what's the point of fretting over this now? After all these years? What possible difference could it make to me in middle age? Because I see babies all the time, being toted around like precious bundles of gold, being fussed over by the mothers. And I know my mother had no idea where I was or who was caring for me and didn't inquire. Maybe she thought she had no right to know.

But I'm now beginning to suspect I'm waiting for several symbolic weeks to pass before I call my mother. That this tidbit of information has stuck in my head and heart and now I'm making her wait for me, in some sort of (before unconscious) tit for tat.

As Elizabeth oh so wisely wrote, adoption is a mindfuck.


Friday, February 08, 2008

Now She Wants Me

I knew this day would come.

I suspected it might be triggering.

And it is.

My over eighty first mother was put in a nursing home.

A bio-relative kindly called to let me know and to say my mother was looking forward to talking with me. Which is nice.

I will call her.

After I'm over having my mini fit. When I've finished having my baby temper tantrum.

Oh sure, now she wants me. Now that she's alone and scared in some new institutional type of place.

The same woman who didn't want to see or hold me when I was born because she didn't, "want to get attached." The same 37-year old woman who had no idea I was placed in foster care for a whole month. Where was she when I needed her? When I was helpless and scared and wanted my mother?

Now she wants me?

On the one hand, it's very nice that she's worried I'd call and get a disconnected number. It's nice she wanted me to know where she was. Of course. But my half-sister isn't all that sympathetic with our shared mother. I know what my mother is looking for. A sympathetic ear.

Here's the trouble. After a lifetime of being the emotional caretaker of my narcissistic adad and garden variety self-centered amom, I'm all worn out. And I'm suspicious. Is my mother reaching out because she values ME or because she needs someone. Anyone?

Sheesh. I just reread this entry. It's quite a nasty, spiteful little post, but I'm committed to being honest so I'm going to let it stand.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Powerlessness of Adoptees

This evening, I had one of those moments.

As usual, it was triggered by talking to my (narcissistic) adoptive father. Actually, he does all the talking. I do the listening.

And while I've learned to emotionally detach, mostly, I was suddenly overcome by a feeling of helplessness. Powerlessness.

My mother gave me up. I had no voice. A social worker placed me with a totally unsuitable couple so desperate for their very own baby that they made me pretend I wasn't adopted. I had no choice. I had no choice but to play along with the whole I'm not adopted sham.

And here I am, in middle age, still pretending to be the good, dutiful daughter when I feel like an abductee and not an adoptee.

I call the shots in the rest of my life. I'm a take charge kind of gal, maybe to make up for the fact that I was never really in charge of the big stuff. Being transferred. Ending up in a home I didn't like, where I felt like an outsider. Pretending to love parents I secretly couldn't stand. Smiling all the way. What other choice do you have when you're a kid? Where else can you go? It's survival. When I hear of other adult adoptees who've drifted away from their aparents, I wonder, what happened to them? Did they feel like that, too? Do these intermittent, yet powerful feelings of powerlessness ever fade?