Power Trip

I think she said it five times.  The first time she said it she was introducing herself and sharing that this was only the second time she had spoken publicly about being adopted trans-racially.  The second time she said it was during her response to one of the moderators questions related to triad relationships.  The third, fourth and maybe fifth (I could be wrong on the count) was in later conversations.

She was afraid of herself.

Afraid of herself? What did that mean she was afraid of herself?  I was startled by the statement the first time she said it. The second time, having been given more time to ponder it, I found myself beginning to understand, at least in my own way.  Yet I still wanted to ask her to explain in more detail.

I have been afraid of myself.  I am not adopted but I am very aware of a power, a rage, and an anger that resides within me.  I am afraid of it. I keep I contained. I mind my emotions, my language, my relationships, my situations.  I keep the anger on a short leash and work hard to keep him (funny I consider it a male) contained.  It is the male part of my psyche. My animus.

I am fearful of the powerful aspect of my personality. I know what it can do, the havoc it can wreak, the ease with which it can decimate the ego of another human being and the desire it has to do so.

I know what is like to be afraid of your self.

Yet I don’t think she was referring to that. I don’t know. As I think more about it I reflect once again that adopted children, later adults, are incredibly powerful beings – sort of.  Oh, they aren’t powerful enough to obtain their own birth certificates but they hold power – magical as it may be.  Consider the following.

My unborn child had the power to make my mother cry, my father call me a dirty c*nt whore that could not keep her legs closed.  My unborn child had the power to make the neighbors gossip and the family whisper when I walked by.

My unborn child had the power to destroy my life.  The instant she sucked in her first breath of oxygen outside of my womb she would, allegdgedly, suck in my future, my ability to succeed, my intelligence.  She would damn me to welfare lines and food stamps.  She would erase my exceptional intelligence much like a scene from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. She would prevent me from ever being loved by another man. The instant the spark of life turned her into a shapeless zygote she took away my ability to be considered “marriage material”. She tarnished and branded me.  She was an incredibly powerful infant even if she could not walk, talk or feed herself.

While she had the power to destroy my life, she also had the power to repair the broken lives of stranger couples. She could heal the wounds of infertility. She could turn the unproductive productive and the fruitless fruitful and in certain cases make the breed less breed.  How many couples magically are able to conceive once they obtain the child born to another?  What power these abandoned adopted children have! They can fix ovaries! They can help sperm swim upstream and shake hands with ovum. They can make real children be born to real families! They help God implement his plan! Wow!

Such power.

(Clearly I am being a teeny bit facetious.)

Voltaire, a French dude I am rather fond of (see quote top left of my blog), is quoted has having said “with great power comes great responsibility”. Think about that in terms of the magical power we give these helpless children. Society gives them the magical power to destroy mothers’ lives and fix the infertile families lives but what unspoken or spoken responsibility does that come with?  What burden?

Is that why the panelist was afraid of herself?  Did she understand the power and suggested responsibility that society, so wrongfully bestowed upon her?  Was she speaking in terms of being responsible for fixing her parents, making them happy, ensuring she was the solution to their fertility problem? Was she fearful of her feelings in relation to situation and what it might mean to the greater good if she were to object to it? Was she afraid of what else that power might be capable of? Or was she terrified of what else society might expect of her and her fanciful powers? Would expressing her feelings to be so powerful that they would systematically undo what her original power had allegedly done?  Or was she simply expressing my own sentiment – she was afraid of the power of her own feelings, in my case, anger.

Clearly I don’t and cannot know. What I do know and feel is appropriate for me to suggest is that society needs to discontinue ingesting the idea that children, new born helpless infants hold the power to make or break families.  We do that. You do it. I did it. My mother and father did it. Easter House Adoption agency did it.  Man continues to do that. The Law does that.  In realizing that we need to also accept responsibility for what we do to adopted children – past, present and future.

8 Thoughts.

  1. Excellent post, Suz. I too have been “afraid of my self.” Meaning the sadness and rage that lies beneath the surface of my normally calm and practical self. As a mother, not an adoptee. And that I never thought of as power. More I worried about losing myself, and all control, if I let it out. You’re right, we can’t know what the speaker meant. But I still get it.

  2. Interesting take on the person “afraid of herself”. I was there when she spoke as well, and also was taken aback the first time she said that, especially as she was extraordinarily beautiful. My interpretation of what she said was that it also had to do with her racial identity and being raised in a military family that did not address racial or adoption issues at all. She was quite literally the embodiment of the Asian “enemy” while at the same time being raised as a faux white American girl. That had to be a difficult split, especially as none of it was ever addressed and she could not speak about it within her adoptive family. The context of what she told us about how she was raised is important to trying to interpret her startling statement “I am afraid of myself”.

    I can see how as an adoptee she could also be afraid of herself in the way you describe, and this might apply to many adoptees in the sense of the old idea of “bad blood”, that they were “saved” by being adopted from some unspeakable hereditary taint, that still might lurk somewhere in their subconscious and rise up if not feared and guarded against. . With international and transracial adoption, this ugliness has a whole extra layer of racism and xenophobia on top of the “bad blood” and fear of the “inferior” original family that domestic same race adoptees have to deal with. That kind of thinking and upbringing might lead a sensitive person to hate and fear their real self as she did.

    It was both heartbreaking and enlightening to hear her speak of her inner conflicts and fears and I admired her courage for speaking as she did.

    • also had to do with her racial identity and being raised in a military family that did not address racial or adoption issues at all. She was quite literally the embodiment of the Asian “enemy” while at the same time being raised as a faux white American girl

      Excellent point and observation Maryanne. I agree with your suggestion and the remainder of your comment. Of all the speakers (and you were all fabulous) she really touched me and when that happens I always ruminate and wonder what it might be telling me about myself – either in my own experience, avoidance, denial, growth or other.

  3. The author of Wake Up Little Susie and Beggars and Choosers was at the conference I attended last weekend in Toronto. I am reminded of her saying that while we and our babies were powerless we were perceived as having the power to destroy our families.

  4. I totally agree with Maryanne’s understanding of the speaker’s comment; that was how I interpreted it as well. However, I really like where you went with this piece. Shining a light on yet another paradox…

  5. Oh wow. Powerful words. I had to read it a few times to let it all soak in but wow…you have a way with words.

    I am terrified of myself without a doubt. I was terrified I couldn’t be a good or worthy mother and let that rule my decision to place. I am terrified of my anger. I cannot and have not ever had the ability to get angry. I know I am angry, I just can’t and don’t know how to get it out in a constructive way. I am terrified I do not have the capability to finish my degree. I never actually thought I would ever graduate from college and now that I am so close, I fear I will just not be able to pull it off. I fear that I may not ever be the person I want to be. My fears about not being the person my birthmom wanted me to be have already been confirmed. My fears about being rejected by my afamily and my bfamily well…have come true as well.

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