Months ago, in therapy, I told Dr. R that I had some emotional fantasies about reunion allowing me to close a chapter in my life. Allowing me to move on to the rest of my life, clean and simple. In some ways not pursuing reunion feels like it is holding me back. Not being in reunion or not attempting reunion makes me feel stuck in some partial state of myself, some incomplete phase that has not fully arrived. Reunion, even if it isn’t active (i.e. having a relationship) means progress, emotionally, or maturity. It feels like a milestone in some ways, like turning 16 or 21. It’s almost like if I can’t do it I don’t get to keep progressing.
I hadn’t really verbalized this feeling until Dr. R encouraged me to think about what I want out of reunion and why I am pursuing reunion. A month or two after I received that early morning Skype call from Southern India, I declared, in therapy of course, that I planned on following through on Arun’s suggested step of traveling to India and confronting this woman who denied being my birth mother. It was a somewhat predictable declaration on my part. I generally don’t like conflict and highly value situations with discrete options I can choose from (i.e. go to India or don’t go).
I made this declaration in a way that explicitly and implicitly communicated that I felt I had no other options. Dr. R pushed back through a series of questions I found incredibly irritating. I’ve come to learn that, in general, the more defensive I get in therapy the more likely it is that I should dwell on that space and unpack what’s underneath that defensiveness. It is often times an incredibly uncomfortable space to enter. In my normal day-to-day interactions (including much of therapy) I rehearse most of what I am going to say before I say it (oftentimes dozens if not what feels like 100s of times). When unpacking identified areas of defensiveness I oftentimes have not anticipated this conversations and therefore have not rehearsed my feelings. I speak rawly. My speak is clunky at times. My heart kicks up a notch and I fidget more than my normal routine of shifting my weight and tugging at my facial hair touching my chest.
This time I really didn’t want to entertain Dr. R’s questions. I felt I had made a decision, the decision to go to India to confront this woman. It felt like the only option, it felt that after so much waiting and uncertainty that a viable option had presented itself and how could I just not go? She didn’t question the outcome of the decision, to go, she questioned my sense of inevitableness around the decision. I sensed she knew I was frustrated by the exercise and didn’t want to participate. Towards the end of the meeting, I agreed, somewhat reluctantly, to think a bit more about the sense of inevitability around the decision.
Over the next few months that initial decision has unraveled in ways that have been frustrating yet illuminating. Seriously considering what it would mean to not follow through on Arun’s offer/suggestion has helped me articulate why I do feel strongly about going to India.
I want to know she is ok. I feel guilty. I want to know that things were ok. I don’t really know what ok means, but I want, maybe need, to see her. It’s hard to believe she is real, that she exists, and is not just part of my childhood fantasy. I need to know she lived, or is alive. When I think about my experience, the experience of relinquishment/surrender and separation I’ve mostly only articulated my side of that experience. Now, thinking about the importance of any type of reunion along the spectrum, I find myself mourning, grieving the loss she felt or feels. I feel like I wasn’t the only one who was abandoned, who was left alone.
It hurts not knowing what her life was like, not knowing the pain she has experienced, not knowing what support she may have or not had. It is hard not knowing if the act of relinquishment was willing or not. I know that seeing her or speaking to her will likely not answer those questions. I likely will never actually know those answers, but maybe seeing her, even if she continues to refuse to acknowledge me, will give me some comfort and “proof” of her existence, even if I can’t know the substance of that existence. I want to know she is ok.
When I first began talking to friends about going back to India to follow through on this next step I got a fair amount of push back/skepticism. Friends seemed baffled that I was so sure that going was the “right” decision. One friend, made it clear that she thought it was absurd, if not entirely reckless. Although these reactions did give me some pause, it was this same friend’s advice that I think has helped lead me to where I am now. She told me that if she had learned anything in her 15 plus years of marriage is that uncertainty rules all. If you can learn to lean into uncertainty and create situations in which you anticipate or expect that uncertainty it can make it easier to deal with the content of those uncertainties.
Choosing to go to India to potentially meet this woman is certainly a risky step to take but acknowledging that there are reasons and things I need out of it and they are more related to actions rather than specific outcomes is my own way of allowing uncertainty into this process in a way I’ve hitherto been able to do. It feels good at the same time as hard. It feels like I’ve actually come to a decision about something I want. It feels selfish in a way that I don’t oftentimes allow myself to feel.