The personal and the political.

I started this blog with the intention of focusing on my personal experiences as an adoptee, specifically regarding search and loss. Part of my motivation was therapeutic, because telling my story to others who might understand (adoptees, mainly) might help me come to terms with finding my mother eight years too late to meet her.

I was also motivated by the desire to help provide the resources that I had found so profoundly lacking. I know it’s dumb to turn to the internet to deal with your personal problems, but it sure is easy, and all I really wanted was to hear stories of others who had gone through what I was going through, just to know I wasn’t alone in it. Instead, I found a few blog entries written by someone who had found a grave over ten years beforehand, reassuring me that I would get over it. Well, that’s nice, but I already knew that, and such cheery reassurances along with actually mentioning the “bright side” of at least having answers struck me as rather inappropriate. I think she had very good intentions but was writing too far after the fact to provide the validation that someone just starting the grieving process needs, especially in the rather bizarre circumstance of mourning someone you have no memory of.

(Since then I have also found Found and Lost Support, which is a very helpful and supportive community, but I still think it’s important to have stories out there for others.)

I started this blog with these goals in mind, and so I was rather surprised by the degree to which I was writing about adoptee issues in general, criticizing (and occasionally lampooning) things said by adoptive parents, and taking interest in the culture of adoption. Yes, adoption has a culture. It has its own literature, it has its own language, it has an internal social order, it has clear ways of distinguishing members from non-members, it has its own history, it even has its own poetry and music (all of which is horrible or funny or both).

I was worried that I had deviated too far from the very personal and support-oriented function I had intended for this blog. I had even started to write an entry stating that the nature of this blog had changed so much that I was considering splitting it into two blogs, one for adoption commentary and one for dealing with first family loss.

But then I realized that everything I had written in this blog was part of my personal experience as an adoptee. My response to thoughtless adoptive parent remarks was the result of me seeing those remarks and being offended by them as an adoptee. My lampooning of bad adoption poetry was the result of reading bad adoption poetry and being disgusted by the way it cheerfully glossed over the unavoidable central tragedy of adoption, of my adoption. Closed records laws have hurt me personally, by preventing me from meeting my mother while she was alive (a meeting she wanted, too), and could have hurt my daughter by preventing her from ever knowing that her grandmother died of breast cancer, a disease with an established genetic link.

I have also realized that a great deal of dealing with the loss of my mother depends on dealing with being an adoptee. There are so many ways that being an adoptee has affected my life, but I had remained oblivious to many–perhaps most–of them. I guess people call this adoption fog. On some level I was aware of them, but I think I was depending on someday reuniting with my natural family, especially my mother, as the way things could be fixed. That was enough to keep me going without worrying about them terribly much. It probably wouldn’t have worked out that way, but it doesn’t matter now.

In any case, dealing with being an adoptee requires dealing with adoption. That means I have to write about adoption in this blog, and I have to read up on adoption and discover all kinds of things that will probably have me on blood pressure medication shortly, and I have to read what others are saying about adoption because it would be a terrible mistake to be a part of a culture (which adoption is) and not be a part of its discourse, which is how the culture constantly reshapes itself.

So I have to talk about adoption, and this is where adoption would turn into a big hairy mess if it wasn’t one already. Adoption is not an isolated issue. It’s tied to plenty of other things that are also big hairy messes. I can see why politicians are reluctant to take on adoption issues other than repeating the prevailing mantra of how wonderful it is and then ducking into the limo. You simply cannot talk about adoption without talking about class, about patriarchy, about race, or about globalization. No wonder nobody wants to deal with it.

Strangely, the one issue I feel you can (and should) leave out when talking about adoption is abortion, but that’s the one everyone wants to bring up first. So we can’t even leave that one out, really.

Considering all this, it’s amazing to me that my blog has remained even remotely connected with the issues that prompted me to start it. But of course, those issues are the ones that I can’t stop thinking about. And they’re not really “issues” in the sense that that word tends to depersonalize things. They’re just my thoughts, my problems, in my head every day.

I miss my mom. I missed my chance to meet her and now she’s dead. It hurts, every day. It is a sadness that lurks behind every joyful moment, every day. And that is so screwed up. Nobody should have to go through this. Or if they have to go through it, then they can at least go through it without people writing godawful bad poetry about how joyful it is, or putting goddamn countdown widgets on their blogs to celebrate the impending tragedy. If we have to have adoption, then we can at least give it some dignity.


5 Responses to “The personal and the political.”

  1. 1 joyjoy June 27, 2007 at 8:37 pm

    I am really sorry about you not getting to meet your mom, and I know what you mean, the themes of my emotional world, created by my adoption run through all my work.

  2. 2 Mark Diebel June 28, 2007 at 2:09 am

    Thank you for your post! I have only just gotten hold of the fact that my father… who I hadn’t met either… died in 1970… he died. I can’t talk to him. I have no real idea what being with him would have been like. How do I grieve him?

    I feel like I have to form some sort of imaginative picture… fill it with whatever I can find… know him and then lose him again.

    You always manage to say something I haven’t thought about… keep it up.

  3. 3 iBastard June 28, 2007 at 4:25 am

    Mark, I’m so sorry. And you hit on exactly the worst part: we can’t talk to them. All those things we imagined saying, even a wordless embrace, none of them are possible.

    I’ve been finding myself mourning what might have been, largely because I still know so little. Every time I learn something new, I have to grieve and it’s terrible. Yet I keep checking my mailbox for another letter from my aunt, so I can know more, so I can grieve more. Because not being able to grieve is much worse than the actual grieving.

    Support is vital for this. Most people don’t understand, but you really did lose a parent even if you never knew him. Let me know if there’s anything I can do, and consider joining Found and Lost if you haven’t already.

  4. 4 Cath June 28, 2007 at 7:50 pm

    Dear Mark – I am very sorry to hear this.

    I run a search and support group for adoptees and (bio) families who are searching in Ontario. The sad statistic is that approx. one third of adoptees find a grave at the end of their searches.

    I beg adoptees to start looking a lot sooner, only to be told by many that they are not ready yet. I was even told by one adoptee – age 80 – that he fully expected his (bio) mother to be alive because he had only just decided to search. He was 80!!
    We don’t have the power to will ourselves to live a very long time just because someone wants us to – if only we did!

    I have to remind them that mothers are only human too – and (bio) mothers tend to have shorter life spans because of the damage that grief and depression can do.

    I must admit I am stubborn and was determined that my son would not miss out on meeting me and his father (we are reunited). I would not wish what you are going through on anyone.

    Please take care of yourself – here is one bio mother who is thinking of you.

    Use your grief and anger to change things – don’t let it be in vain.

    It helped to get the records opened in Ontario – it can help do it elsewhere too.

    I hope you can get the support and understanding you need at this time in your life.

  5. 5 Valentina July 5, 2007 at 3:19 pm

    Your grief is fresh, iBastard. I wish I could say something to lessen it. I am sorry for your loss.

    While my understanding is that specific help for adoptees who find a grave isn’t in her book, Ambiguous Loss: Learning to Live with Unresolved Grief by Pauline Boss (which I have not yet read, I’m awaiting an interlibrary loan, so please forgive me if I am incorrect) has reviews that suggest it might lend some small comfort.

    I see you found a group specific to your situation and imagine they will provide your best comfort and support. I wish such a group had existed in ’97, I watched an internet friend and other adoptees go through this and am sure they would have appreciated such a group.

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