Empty Cereal Box

Views From Inside an Adoptee

April 21, 2006

Shadowboxing in the Dark

I think I've always felt clumsy and awkward in this world, a stranger out of place. Many times I've come this close to suicide because I couldn't find a single reason to live another day on this short stay. I know many human beings go through this darkness, adopted or not. It has a lot to do with depression, but also with an existential sense of unreality, that somehow our lives don't belong to us. That they belong to someone else, only we can't see the face of the controller.

Always, always there's this desperate need to feel I have some control of what seems to be my own life when things get spiraling like tornadoes both inside and outside my head. If only I could be my own pilot. All my life, no photos to compare...It's taken me this many years to begin to see that the only thing I can "control" is myself. For me, though, the jury's still out on whether I have free will or not. Religion tells me I do. But I don't get along with religion. I prefer Life itself. Forget the middleman. Maybe Life's patterns decide certain things, so they seem destined, but I still have choices within those patterns. I don't know. But when it gets really dark in my head, it's difficult to remember that I can choose to remember that nothing lasts, that things pass, even these ideas about killing myself. And I hear some voice in my head telling me how selfish and cowardly it would be to do that. So I muddle through somehow, and yeah, I'm still here. I was born a cripple, walking around with this huge hole in my center, like a cannonball left this huge invisibility where relatability should be.

I was obsessed with the Romantic poets in college--Swinburne, Byron, Keats, and Shelley. The funereal splendor, the beautiful corpse, the wild, dark natural settings, the rebellion and the ruins, the graveyards, and the coffins. I went through a decade of black and pale, the gothic lifestyle, with all the music and cultural icons to go with it, the fin de siecle decadence of the 1990s. I crept around in graveyards, dragging my two kids with me as I did gravestone rubbings and lying on top of graves, arm over my forehead like some Greta Garbo on heroin. But looking back on it all now, I see that it was just a romantic fling with an abstraction. Sad, really. Death is actually very mundane and can be slow and ugly. But I don't think I wasted those years of aesthetic exploration. I realized that you can't truly be alive unless you embrace death.I think those years released certain pent-up frustrations. A sort of rebellion against the American fear of death, my repulsion for polyester death. A fury against the fact that there are no systems of emotional support in this wretched thing called "civilization," support when we need it most, is utterly absent, especially for those like us adoptees who've always felt alone anyway. The only support we can have is what we can afford to buy in the form of clinical therapy. How utterly cold and impersonal. "Oh, I see our forty-five minutes are up. See you next week," and all that rubbish.

But I've come out the other side now and am trying to make friends with death on a more personal, minimalist level.

It's not that I never experienced death in my life. I think I was born dead. I mean, when they tore me from my nmother, it was a spiritual death. Dogs and cats I loved died. Gradually my adopted family--grandfather, grandmother, father, and mother--all left too. Each one a repetition of the first abandonment. And when the best friend I ever had died of a brain aneurism at seventeen, I never came to terms with it. I still miss her like it was yesterday. Funny how time is like an accordion. It expands, then folds back in on itself. Funny how we never feel older than those twenty-something years inside. Maybe that's the perpetual age of the soul. I don't know.

One of the many books I'm currently reading is A Year to Live by Stephen Levine. Amazon reviews are mixed. Levine only brushes against death. He doesn't have all the answers, nor is his approach all that practical on a day-to-day level. But I found a few liberating ideas in the book when it comes to the thing that overshadows us all, despite all of our clever means to push away its inevitability. We call it gruesome, grim, and depressing. But Levine uses the cliche to live as if we only have a year to open up some new possibilities to "take care of business" and find healing before we leave. For example, he suggests that we "keep a journal of our most distinct memories as well as the states of mind they engender, their emotions, and their attitudes. " He says this "can become a very skillful tool for liberating old holdings into a new realm of self-discovery. " He writes,
When I began to realize that the only way to become more loving was to explore that which caused me to be unloving, I did not relish the task. Noting which states of mind obstruct my openness, I began focusing on even the slightest arising of these states so they might be met at their inception well before they could eclipse the heart.
I see the anger, the bitterness, the hurt, the pain that lurks deep in that spot that began the day I was born. They turn up in many of my posts. I see that these things are keeping me from living a fullness that is my birthright. I don't know if they'll ever go away, but at least I'm trying to open myself up to them so that they don't have the intense power over me that they've always had. I don't know if I'll be successful, but if ever I've had a bridge to take me toward another side of myself, this blog is it. My heart goes out to all bloggers who've been hurt by adoption. We're all struggling for some sort of real healing, shadowboxing in the dark.


Blogger Charlie said...

I think I was born dead.

I think I was born depressed. But the key has been:

I don't know if they'll ever go away, but at least I'm trying to open myself up to them so that they don't have the intense power over me that they've always had.

[I dislike my stupid cat persona when making a serious reply.]

Blogger HeatherRainbow said...


I can totally relate to that free will thing. I've had that debate going on in my head for awhile.

One thing that I believe, is that the healing is an ongoing process. We can never go back in time, we can never change what has happened, but we can let it out, be one with it, and still find joy in our lives. Whew... roller coasters.


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