Atelophobia

[dropcap]O[/dropcap]nce again Jenna prompts me. Her post, I Want My Daughter to Like Me, brought much to my mind and frankly, choked me up a bit reading it.

Do you like me?

Right after I found my daughter, about eleven years ago, daughter did email me a few times. She even once chatted with me once on AIM.  During one of our conversations, I asked her if she liked me.  The memory makes me shiver and cringe with embarrassment now.  What a stupid question for a mother to ask the daughter she gave away.  Do you like me?  It sounds now (and likely did then) so teenagerish, so full of angst and neediness.  She was kind enough to respond.  She said “Well, yeah, sure, I guess. I mean it’s not like you are a meth head working at HotTopic. You seem fine.”

Her phrasing made me laugh but later wonder if that is what she was expecting me to be? A meth head?

Do you like me?  Really, Suz?  She should have answered “well, you apparently did not like me, did you?”

Second memory triggered by Jenna’s post?

Will I ever be good enough?

Since the day I surrendered my daughter I have been on the furiously fast hamster habitrail going…well, somewhere.  Finish school. Build a good career. Buy a nice house. Be a good mom to my parented sons. Make good money.  Be healthy. Lose weight. Go to the gym. Decorate the house. Do the yard work.  Buy plants for the yard. Be a better cook.  Do this. Do that.  Do not stop. Go. Go. Go.  You must improve yourself.

I am not joking about the intensity. The desire for self improvement is overwhelming at times.  I can always be better, right? I should keep working on myself? I cannot idle.

Whoa.

Wait.

What is wrong with me right now? I do have a nice home, a good job, great sons who are doing well, a good husband.  I am getting my health under control.

So what is with this intense desire to make myself, well, something other than what I already am?

Type A Overachiever or something else?

Back to Jenna (and where I start to cry).

What if she does some day agree to meet me?  I have to be good enough to meet, right?  I was not good enough to parent her so why would I ever be good enough to meet?  Maybe if I am prettier, smarter, thinner, more educated, more therapized, I will finally get the golden ticket to a meeting, right?

Did I make good use of our time apart? Did I make myself into something or am I that meth head working at Hot Topic?

I realize this all sounds sad, or pathetic, or something.  I also realize it is illogical.  Yet knowing those things does not make me feel them less.

I am the young girl furiously preparing herself for prom hoping someday she will be asked to the dance.

While I regularly say getting dressed is the best part of going out, I sort of do not want to prep anymore.

Or do I?

 

 

13 Thoughts.

  1. “The desire for self improvement is overwhelming at times. I can always be better, right? I should keep working on myself? ” I can’t tell you how much I (an adoptee) can relate to this. I want to be good enough, too. Good enough to not be ashamed of. Good enough to want to tell people that I exist. Good enough to want to see me when she comes to my city to visit her (other, legitimate) daughter. All that. I can relate. And just UGH to all of this, to not feeling good enough or likable enough.

  2. Sorry for the triggery posts lately. But thank you for sharing your truth and your story too. I didn’t ask M if she liked me on this visit, but I did ask her some hard questions. It went well-ish.

  3. God Suz… your words reach right into my my heart and my throat, squeezing and twisting till tears threaten to spill. For you. For me. For all of us moms. Is it all sad? Pathetic? Illogical? I don’t know, I don’t think so. I think it’s normal. For us. Adoption is illogical, how can everything that follows not be also?

    You are good enough. More than. I wish that your daughter would allow herself to find that out.

  4. This all reminds me of the quote at the beginning of Fitzgerald’s “Great Gatsby”:
    “Then wear the gold hat, if that will move her; If you can bounce high, bounce for her too, till she cry ‘Lover, gold-hatted, high-bouncing lover, I must have you!'”

    Suz, you are good enough for your daughter, you do not have to prove anything. Perhaps you may have damaged your chances for reconciliation with her by saying way too much about her in this public space, but the person you are is a good person, a good mother, if she were to get to know you outside of this blog. You have already proved that by living a good life and helping others.

    My surrendered son and family recently came to my house for the first time, which caused me tremendous anxiety beforehand, would they hate it, I have so much tacky stuff and thrift store furniture, would they notice what a lousy housekeeper I am and sniff in disdain,cat hair all over, would I burn the hamburgers and reveal that I am also a mediocre cook? In short, would I and my lifestyle be “good enough”? This despite having been to their house several times, not especially neat and couch torn up by pets, and lots of collections of stuff all over. As it turns out they were fine, the kids were fine, loved the big yard and the light-up football I gave my grandson, and gave me more glass chotkes to add to my collection:-) And everyone loved the burgers, homemade mac and cheese, and carrot cake. My surrendered son and son I raised discovered neither likes raw tomatoes in salad and both are meat and taters fans.

    Many of us feel we have to live up to some standard we set for ourselves that often our kids are not even thinking about. All we can be is ourselves, same for adoptees. That IS good enough.

    • “Perhaps you may have damaged your chances for reconciliation with her by saying way too much about her in this public space, ”

      Interesting thought Maryanne. One that had occurred to me years ago but rarely does today. I am fine with my position publicly and will state (and have) same to her as well. I stand behind my words and filtering and frankly, can I do any more “damage” than I did by giving her away to strangers?

      I strive to live an authentic life and my adoption experience is part of it. I want same for her. Silencing each other, coddling, censoring, does not make change or move the conversations/relationships forward.

      Reality is I have zero influence or power over her feelings but sharing my experience does have the power to help and change others.

  5. Of course it is your blog and your life and if you are comfortable with it that is what matters. To me, there is a difference between what one says to anyone, family member included, person to person in private, and what one says to or about them in a public space, but you see this differently. I feel there is much I might do in the present to hurt and alienate my son beyond the fact of having given him to strangers, much as I regret that fact, and try not to be too public. Again, this is a choice, and we are all different and must all make our own way through our lives as mothers who gave up a child.

  6. Pingback: On Authenticity | Writing My Wrongs

    • I do believe that. What I struggle with is how to stop that internal self talk/need for constant improvement.

  7. Suz, I was really struck by the comment above suggesting you may have “damaged your chances” with your daughter by writing publicly about her. As an adoptee, I strongly disagree and feel that statement was very ironic, considering the topic of this post. Adoption is what caused the rift between you and your daughter. The institution. The fact you both grew up with it as a fact. Adoption, itself, is what prevents MOST from having happy, trouble free, lasting reunions. In most cases, it’s not something the parent or the child “does” or “did”, it’s the impact “Adoption” has on our whole life and who we are. To speak your truth is to own it, to sit with it, to be free of it. To suggest someone hide all or part of their truth, is to put them in a proverbial corner, which is exactly what the adoption industry loves to do to first mothers and why many end up feeling as Suz does, that they need to “prove themselves worthy” by being better than they supposedly were when their children were lost… (not to patronize or trivialize your attempts to better yourself, Suz, I think you can understand what I mean here). You’re a mother who loves her daughter. It would be unnatural to not speak of her.

    • Robin – Your comment reminded me of one of my favorite Judith Herman quotes. Pasted below in its entirety as I believe it is that good.

      “The ORDINARY RESPONSE TO ATROCITIES is to banish them from consciousness. Certain violations of the social compact are too terrible to utter aloud: this is the meaning of the word unspeakable.

      Atrocities, however, refuse to be buried. Equally as powerful as the desire to deny atrocities is the conviction that denial does not work. Folk wisdom is filled with ghosts who refuse to rest in their graves until their stories are told. Murder will out. Remembering and telling the truth about terrible events are prerequisites both for the restoration of the social order and for the healing of individual victims.

      The conflict between the will to deny horrible events and the will to proclaim them aloud is the central dialectic of psychological trauma. People who have survived atrocities often tell their stories in a highly emotional, contradictory, and fragmented manner that undermines their credibility and thereby serves the twin imperatives of truth-telling and secrecy. When the truth is finally recognized, survivors can begin their recovery. But far too often secrecy prevails, and the story of the traumatic event surfaces not as a verbal narrative but as a symptom.”

      ― Judith Lewis Herman, Trauma and Recovery

  8. Suz you said, “Silencing each other, coddling, censoring does not make change or move the conversations/relationships forward.” YES!! We walk the same road in total agreement in this. Hoping for the day when we can all walk that same road.

    Inspired!

  9. “Silencing each other, coddling, censoring does not make change or move the conversations/relationships forward.”

    I agree wholeheartedly Suz. I have such admiration for your authentic style of communicating.

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