Lucky Me

When I was younger I put my stress in my stomach, but as an adult I largely put it in my neck and shoulders. This can cause blistering headaches, and I’ve had one to varying degrees of severity since the day I discovered. It had been waning a bit, but a new emotional challenge presented itself today and brought it back with a vengeance. I decided to go have a massage to try to work out some of the tension before my skull burst and freed the angry bees that have apparently taken residence in my head.

Within a few minutes of the start of the massage I began weeping. I was aware that might happen and warned my masseur that it was likely. Once it started he offered that he was a good listener and it might help to talk it out. I said simply, “I found out two weeks ago that I was adopted.” He said, “You’re lucky that your parents gave you a good home. You shouldn’t feel sad.” So yeah, reasonably good at massage but a pretty major fail at “listening.” Pro tip: Never, ever utter those words. Just. Say. No.

He chatted away and I half-listened, but mostly I was ruminating on his comments. The idea he presented is a common one, and I’m assuming meant to comfort, but reveals a stunning disassociation with essential human nature. To say that I was lucky to have been adopted is assuming that my life with my biological family would have been significantly worse (neither he nor I have any data on that subject), and that my particular adoptive parents did a great job of it (I have data on this, he had none). Moreover, it reduces the entire thing to a transaction with me the goods, and I am supposed to be grateful that I was sold to a kindly massa. Imagine if that idea was workable in a general sense: that anyone with the means (and yes, it would always boil down to who had the money) could just walk up and take a perfect stranger’s baby under the assertion that they could give it a ‘better’ home. What the Fuck.

And, more importantly, entirely misses the point. I am not unhappy and un-tethered because I had a rotten childhood. I suspect if I had had some nightmare childhood, learning I was adopted might have been something of a relief. No, it is because I suddenly have lost connection to the ideas about “me” both conscious and subconscious that I had ascribed to genetics.

I’ve had two daughters… I know what it means to hold a newborn and do the prerequisite toe-and-finger-counting before searching, searching over tiny face and fingers. ‘Dad’s eyes, mom’s chin,’ we say, ‘grandma’s skin, uncle’s feet.’ We are programmed to identify and celebrate our genes expressed in this new life; to assert their belonging to us, and us to them. How many features of my children did I ascribe as genetic heritage of my adopted family? How many of those things were a stretch, at best – a kind of genetic wishful thinking. I feel foolish now. No, my daughter’s red hair is not a long-recessive family trait, nor is my other daughter’s diminutive stature. Maybe someday I will know truly where these things originated.

I continued to weep through the massage, but I kept my tears to myself and reminded myself to be wary of those that consider me lucky.

2 thoughts on “Lucky Me”

  1. I know what you mean. Before I found my bio-family I was told by many people that I was lucky to be chosen by my parents (to be chosen you have to be relinquished first) and that maybe my bio parents were losers and I was better off not being raised by them, blah blah blah. They couldn’t understand why I was so negative. I had good parents, what’s the problem? Unless you are in our situation you don’t understand. Nobody wants to be adopted. Everyone would rather be raised by the family they were born into. When I located my bio family I learned that they were not losers and that my bio mother tried getting me back. My brother and two sisters were raised on a farm on Manitoulin Island. They had a good childhood surrounded by family. Even though I had a good life and good parents I still feel somehow robbed.

    1. Marianne, you hit many nails on the head with this comment, thank you. It seems to me that the most likely reaction from people is exactly what you said, and it feels to me like a knee-jerk defense of the idea of adoption, coupled with an equally knee-jerk dismissal of your need to at least know your biological family, good or bad as the case may be. As if there’s something unnatural in that need – but you and I and anyone in the adoption constellation feels it intrinsically. I’ve read reunion stories that run the gamut of bio-family situations, but none of them expressed that they wish they would not have searched, even those that were dismayed at what they found.

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