When I was five months old, I got a mulligan - a chance at a new life - a do over. I became a "Julie," and I learned to call two strangers Mom and Dad.
I have always known I was adopted. It was made to be a very big and special deal in my house. I was chosen. I'm sure I believed in all of that in the beginning, but it didn't take long for fear and inadequacy to make their way between the giant cracks of that foundation.
I grew up feeling, looking, and hyper-focused on not behaving differently. My relationships have always been strained by the pull of projected abandonment, and my fear that once you see me - really see me - you'll leave. I have mastered the art of pretending; all sorts of things. I have spent countless hours studying your facial expressions; adopting your lisp, laugh, or eye flutter. I have tried to be so many different people under the guise of "fitting in." But if I'm really honest with myself, it hasn't always been to fit with you as it has been to fit within you.
Belonging is tricky, because there are just too many variables. I have to want to belong and then must be met with acceptance. Acceptance can seem a dirty word in the vocabulary of just about anyone, but when you grow up having to work for it, it becomes a chore. Plus, acceptance feels short lived when it must be earned, and makes belonging feel terribly exhausting.
I'm pretty sure that last paragraph just summed up much of my life.
Thanks to all kinds of therapies and personal
inventory, I have come to realize and process many of the lies I believe I
was born with. The idea that I am innately flawed, unlovable,
expendable, and replaceable. The belief that my mother chose to walk out of my life, and that it was somehow my fault. If only I had
been a cuter baby... maybe she would have stayed. It's stupid. I know that, and even
as I type those words tears roll down my cheeks; not because I still believe that, but because I ever did.
It took becoming a mother myself to learn what unconditional love is, and it wasn't until my daughter was born
that I could actually acknowledge and understand the incredible sacrifice. Wading through those ten months, rubbing my belly and singing her songs,
trying not to fall too madly in love with her in case something went
wrong. Experiencing labor, the unpredictably exhausting yet empowering journey of bringing another human being into this world. Sitting there, just staring at every
beautiful cell of her tiny little frame. Counting fingers and toes on hands and feet that looked exactly like mine, and finally belonging to someone - to something - I didn't have to control or will.
And then trying to imagine what it might feel like to have to give it all away. That beautiful little angel, all of those feelings and the connection. To have to place that precious gift in the hands of someone else, and sign away all rights to kiss tiny boo-boos and be that one person in the whole world that could always make everything alright.
I cannot imagine the amount of strength, courage, and selflessness it requires to give up a child for adoption, but I do know that I don't have it.
Over the years I have had a myriad of emotion regarding the way my life began. I have felt all the feels and kicked and screamed my way through some of them. I have tried to connect to the world in ways I'm not sure I'm capable, and I have blamed it on my adoption. I have also tried to convince myself that it's no big deal and shamed myself for mourning those connections.
I have accepted it as best I can and not at all. All along it has been the one thing I have struggled to talk about, to be honest about, and to feel, because I don't know how. I hate that I don't know how. My adoption has been the one thing from my past I have been unable to overcome. I don't even know what that might look like. I'm not mad, I'm not sad, I'm not anything about it, and maybe that's what scares me. There's no right or wrong way to feel about it, so I don't ever know if I'm doing it right. I'm a black belt in control-freakism and quite comfortable with black and white. Gray scares the shit out of me.
Adoption feels gray.
I have struggled a thousand different ways with inability and/or
unwillingness to accept things I cannot change, and I do my best these
days to try. I do not know what my life might have looked like had my mother not given me up, and I try not to dwell there. I am a true believer that everything happens for a reason.
It's possible that I will soon have answers to some of the questions I've been asking my whole life. It's possible that I may find some much needed closure and maybe even some peace.
Possible is very gray.