Letting Go

As I started to picture the trees in the storm, the answer began to dawn on me. The trees in the storm don’t try to stand up straight and tall and erect. They allow themselves to bend and be blown with the wind. They understand the power of letting go. Those trees and those branches that try too hard to stand up strong and straight are the ones that break. Now is not the time for you to be strong, Julia, or you, too, will break. — Julia Butterfly Hill

Denise is correct in her statement that I am in the process of letting go of things. Items on the list include a few hopes, dreams, aspirations and quite a few control freak tendencies.

For example, the most recent thing I have let go of and found myself feeling quite refreshed and lightened for doing so is the overwhelming need to control who contacts my daughter, what they say to her, what she says to them, and all other related ridiculous obsessions.

Let me explain.

I found my daughter 4.5 years ago. I shared her photos with a few, news items about her with a few more, but her name, contact details and location with NO ONE. 

I routinely shared certain emails my daughter sent to me with my mother or my younger sister. They were usually the nicer emails. The hurtful angry ones I kept to myself. (Keep that fact in mind). When sharing, I would always strip off the email address and identifying details.

My belief, at that time, was that I was protecting her and indirectly all those that came in contact with her. I was terrified that a) my family would say something hugely moronic and incredibly insensitive to her and that would ruin our chances of reunion and b) she would say something hugely moronic and incredibly hurtful to them and they would think badly of her and by extension, me, once again.

For example, immediately after finding my daughter my nieces (who are a few years younger than my daughter) were thrilled and got all excited and gooey about seeing her, meeting her, learning about her. One of my nieces (who bares the same name as my daughters amended name) friended my daughter on myspace after I shared (regrettably) the link with niece. 

Daughter ignored my niece. Niece was quite upset and offended. “But we are family! Why wont she even friend me on myspace? Is she stuck up? What is her problem?” she whined in her then 15-year-old voice.  Niece knew nothing of adoption trauma, adoptee psychology, etc. For her, to her, it was a simple as “we are family”. If only.

I was intensely conflicted.  I was angry at my niece and hollered at her. Emotions ravaged my body. On one hand I felt protective of my niece who was (and still is) a wonderful young lady who wanted nothing more than to know her cousin.  On the other hand, I was enraged at this same young niece fearing she may have upset my daughter. I was terrified daughter would be angry at me for sharing the link to her myspace site. Angry at niece. Angry at Daughter. Terrified of the actions of all. Feeling the need to protect everyone from everyone else so that I could live in some fairy land of a reunion. Feeling the need to control everything. Feeling the need to believe that what I did in reunion would make a difference to my daughter, as if I really had some influence. Ha.

It was a frantic state of being.

I was, in essence, trying to control everyone’s feelings and wanting everyone to be happy and loving as if doing so was some sort of insurance policy that guaranteed a good reunion.

Ha again. (You can laugh here too).

No doubt I was disillusioned about many things in early reunion.  No doubt I still am about many other things.  However, one thing that has become painfully clear to me is that I am not responsible for my daughters behavior, manners, likes, and dislikes nor am I responsible for my mothers, sisters, nieces, or anyone elses behavior.

I am only responsible for mine.

As we approach nearly five years in a reunion that is not really a reunion but more like a “finding”, my family no longer asks for her information. It is rare for anyone to even ask about her. I suspect strongly they are still recovering from my earlier policing activities and keyboard slappings. They know that their inquiries will either make me burst into tears and/or they will be shut off, down and out and not granted access.  Today they would be wrong. While I still get choked up when someone asks about my daughter, I am no longer choking them when they do.

I have let that need go. Controlling it clearly had little effect on my reunion. It did not make it better. It did not seem to make it worse.  Why am I continuing to freak out about this?

Whatever will be will be.

Oh, I am not about to go run and give them the info and tell them to contact her or rappel off roofs in Brooklyn to spy on her. However, should they ask again in the future, I am no longer holding back. They are her cousins, grandmothers, aunts, etc.  They have an existence/relationship with my daughter that is separate from me.  They are responsible for their own actions as my daughter is responsible for hers.

And I am responsible for mine.

10 Thoughts.

  1. Ha ha, we had to stop at my parents’ house to return Wii games to my little brother and I spent the whole walk up to the house saying to my partner “And don’t mention anything about the adoption yet and don’t say blah blah blah,” which used to pretty much guarantee she’d say it so you’d think I’d learn. Letting go can be so hard, and I think this is a place where the coming out analogy works. When I was coming out in high school, I kept a little notebook with a list of who knew until at some point it didn’t matter anymore and I knew it was general knowledge. At first, though, I needed that security of having a formal conversation and being the one in control of the information. But information doesn’t work that way, and I’m glad you’re not being too hard on yourself here.

  2. Wow, Suz!

    Of everything I have ever read of yours, I think this one hits the closest to home with me and makes the most sense because it so deeply reflects my own experience, my own need to control what was, and even sometimes, still is, said to my son, to make sure it is all “okay.” That nothing messes it up and nobody says the wrong thing that might make them be angry with him or him angry with them.

    Even now, even with adoptiong my son back, I still struggle with this at times – though I have learned to step back and let what happens . . . happen. But there are still those times when I feel as I have to be the mediator, the one who watches closely everything that is said and done on all sides so that nobody gets upset and makes things worse.

    I don’t want anyone to ever view my son as anything but the wonderful amazing person I see him as and I don’t want my son to see his family/my family as anything but the great people I believe them to be.

    So it can be a juggling act, a hard thing to let go of but much needed, I get that because I still find my struggles there too.

    I’m much more relaxed and not as concerned with thsoe who have been a part of this reunion in some way or another from the start or close to. But, like this summer, when we traveled to Montana for my son to meet his Great-Grandfather, aunts, uncles and cousins there, for the first time, I found myself again having to listen in on every conversation, watching carefully their interaction. Be aware of anything that might affect the reunion. I was so tensed and worried about everything that I didn’t enjoy as I should have this moment in my son’s life.

    I should have taken your words of wisdom with me and remembered they are who they are and I have no control, and shouldn’t want control, over that.

    And in the end, it was a great visit that I think I would have enjoyed so much more if I hadn’t had that need to control how everyone interacted with one another and just allowed everyone to be who and what they were and worried only about myself and who and what I was.

    Lessons learned.

    Great, wonderful post!!!

  3. Cassi – First, as always, awesome on adopting your son back. That always makes me smile.

    Second, I could go on about this control topic for hours. I think too much. : ) In summary, besides wanting a positive reunion, I think for me, I go overboard on control since I had NONE when my daughter was born and surrendered. It is often a knee jerk reaction incited by fear.

    I have worked on it for quite some time. This latest realization/letting go is just one of a series. Glad it resonated with you! Always find comfort in the company of others!

  4. Suz,

    Great post again, and again so many common feelings/thoughts. Even in your comments to Cassi ~ I also think too much, and have also wondered if I go overboard on the control issue because I had none when I gave my son up for adoption.

    Sadly, as you say above: I am finding comfort in the company of others.


  5. Suz,

    Nice to hear from you! In response to your question ( was it rhetorical? Sorry if it was!) I can only offer you my own thoughts. As I’m sure you know, the thoughts on these issues are all so spread across the board that it’s nearly impossible to pin point a “truth”, though I’m sure we’d all like to. One thing I’ve noticed , though, is that my own feelings regarding my own adoption are very often not based on reality at all. But instead, the reality that I had constructed in my mind- the one that society has given all of us.

    I mean, take a look at the mantras we hear everyday:

    “Good mothers love their children, people who you love are the ones you keep around you, you will do anything for your children, for your loved ones- you will never leave them. Family is the most important thing.

    And, if you grow up in a Sicilian family like I have, “never betray the family.” (I’m kidding.)

    But growing up with all that ( I know I sure did) where does an adopted child find themselves? Where does that leave all of us? (those who are affected by adoption, regardless of which catagory).

    Good mothers love their children, we never leave the ones we love—
    ……..our mother loved us, but purposefully made a plan that severed all legal ties? Our mothers should never leave us… but she knowingly and willingly relocated, or perhaps dislocated, us from her and her family, our family?

    Adoption is a world of contradictions.. in many ways I feel it’s rather unnatural, the whole system. If I had a nickel for everytime someone said to me, ” I could never do what your birthmother did,” or, the ever popular, “I could never imagine living with someone other than my parents, I could never imagine my mom giving me away.”
    Adoption, regardless of how we know it, places us in a world that, although it is often portrayed in the media, is evidently unimaginable to those who are not living it.

    I have proof that I am lovable, that I am worthy, that I am not inherently flawed. My parents have shown that to me. When my first/birth parents decided that they did not want to parent me, that they could not or would not take the responsibility to raise me– two other people desperately wanted to, and did. I agree with what you said about it being a difficult concept to grasp for adoptees, the “loving and leaving.”

    “I often wonder if it is simply too difficult to grasp for adoptees – that they were loved and they were wanted – for then they would have to look at the horrors of the world around them, their adoptive family part in it all, and not just cast the blame on themselves and their birthparents.”

    There is something that differentiates me from the majority of the children in this world. It was nothing I had done- I was still little, still blameless (though I have not remained this way.) It was not my physical self; I was small, perfect, pink- just like every other baby in the world. It’s nothing I’d said, done, or left undone. The flaw lay in my circumstances, in the place my birthparents found themselves in when I was born. But my experience and my culture and my heart tell me that nothing should be more important than our children… I am secure in the knowledge that my parents would do anything to keep me, anything to love me, anything to be a part of my life forever.

    Contrarily, my birthparents made the choice to leave me, to give me away to others to raise. On one level my birthparents gave everything to me in the act of relinquishment- it’s a rosy idea and sometimes I’d like to believe it. But my reality is that I do not find anything particularly noble in what my birthparents did. I have two sets of parents, politically and emotionally and genetically speaking. One set who chose to leave me, and another who chose to embrace me. The situation, reduced to such simplicities, leaves little room for argument in the “adoptee” part of my brain that functions almost exclusively on emotion. I don’t like the term “placing blame.” That implies that I am somehow condemning my birthparents for their choice. It WAS a good choice, it DID work out, I AM happy, and loved.

    But I suspect this is where our difference in opinion lies. I look at my birthfamily- parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, siblings, etc- and I see the clan that I used to belong to, that I might have belonged to, and in some messed up way- I SHOULD have belonged to. The fact that I now have my own separate clan is of no consequence, it is a separate issue in my mind. “We love our family, we’d do anything to keep them with us, we’d do anything, everything,” …. but not my family. I see them, and I see me, and I see that I am far away, that I am separate- that somehow I no longer belong, I never did belong, and I never will belong. And it is with that feeling of displacement- that feeling of alienation from my own past and future- that I use the word “betrayal.”

    My birthparents would tell you a different version of the story. So would my parents. This is my opinion. Based on facts and evidence? Not really. I know exactly why I was placed, logically. But logic has nothing to do with it. I cannot emotionally grasp it, or excuse it, or forgive it- because when I think of how my birthfamily in its entirety embraced some children and cast out one? I can’t help but feel sad.

    • The words may be correct in your situation but I want to talk about them in general terms

      One set who chose to leave me, and another who chose to embrace me.

      By using the word “leave” arent you setting up that sentiment that they are bad (or you were) and that your adoptive family was good and saviors? Again, this may be true in your case.

      The words we choose can dictate so much.

      Why do we say leave? Or abandoned? Why do we never see it as the way it might have actually been things like “chose to give you what they believed at the time was a better chance?”

      Does that make sense?

      Again, in your case, this may be true but I was struck by the word that you used, as well as so many others used.

      Are you choosing to believe this because it fortifies the safe story in your mind?

      And as noted in facebook, I dont mind discussion or debate as well. I do mind name calling, attacks, etc. See my comment policy. : )

      There is lots of good stuff in this comment of yours. More to come.

  6. Ps. thankyou for your lovely comment on my blog. I love discussion! I think we agree on more than you might think, given our first encounter. Thankyou for your kind words, and I hope you can see mine as merely discussion creating rather than condemning. It’s very difficult for me to speak in generalities- almost all of my feelings on the subject are generated from my own personal experience.

  7. Amanda – I think all of us torched by adoption speak from personal experience – how could we not? How can you possibly separate yourself from such horror when discussing it? It is a double edge sword in my mind. That experience gives you street cred yet at the same time takes something away from ones ability to discuss it. It can be too painful and too emotional at times and we cannot think. Very tough stuff.

  8. You’re 100% right, Suz. My word choice is extremely reflective of my own feelings and thought process regarding my own adoption. Neutral language, such as ” chose to make an adoption plan,” and other things like that are the most accurate, factually.

    But can the same not be said for your chosen terminology?

    “Why do we say leave? Or abandoned? Why do we never see it as the way it might have actually been things like “chose to give you what they believed at the time was a better chance?”

    I believe there is a lot of validity to your statement, but I tend to see things from my point of view, as in “they decided to give me up,” whereas you see the “we gave you up to give you everything,” part of the deal. Ahh the complexity of language. Logically speaking my word choice doesn’t make sense, but I wrote from the soul rather than from the brain on that one.

    Ps,I read your comment policy before posting- had my last post offended you on some way? Or were you just generally discussing your rules.

  9. No offense taken. I am trying to make the point that our words tend to create our reality, at the very least influence it. Cognitive Behavior Therapy in a way.

    If I say “you abandoned me” it sounds ugly and makes you the demon. If I say “you had no choice and did what you could but it still hurt me” it makes the situation, the world bad and not the people involved. It leaves room for some healing and relationship and does not construct barriers that cannot be overcome.

    Does that make more sense?

    Why would any adoptee want to have a relationship with someone they continue to view as an evil abandoner? It seems counter intuitive or something. No wonder it is so difficult.

    Bad example, not adopted related, well, maybe it is.

    My parents clearly failed me in my unplanned pregnancy. They chose societal values and religious beliefs over caring for me and my unborn child (and I went along for the ride of course). I could forever continue to focus on how my parents failed me (and hate them and be bitter and conflicted) or I can see they were victims of the times (as was I). I can choose to have the best relationship possible or I can repeat over and over in my head how they failed me and are horrible people. Does that make sense?

    Again, its word choice and how the words we use so deeply effect our responses, feelings, etc.

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