Validate Rather Than Dictate

My back hurts and I’m tired of staring at my screen, tired of having all of my life feel like it is now connected to a screen. Work, my classes, socializing, connecting with family, writing, fun, all of it is now tied to these damn liquid crystals blinding me day and night. My back hurts likely because my hips hurt. My hips hurt for different reasons but some of my older stretches and new strengthening exercises seem to be keeping the worst at bay. I can still enjoy a masked stroll or two each day without too much pain and whatever tiredness or tightness that does accrue is easily alleviated with a hip flexor or quad stretch.

This is all to say, I haven’t been writing much lately. Or, I haven’t been writing here lately. I’ve been writing a lot for work. I’ve been reading a lot instead of writing. I find myself in a place where there are so many many things I want to do with my time, so many little projects, so many bigger projects, so much I want to devour politically and emotionally that I oftentimes feel overwhelmed and don’t do much of any of it. I’m also trying to be kind to myself, let myself wallow a bit, wander and stray from the productivity path and venture into the unstructured hours of the day more openly.

I have also stopped going to therapy. My therapist and I decided, or I guess I decided through discussion with my therapist, that it would be good for me to stop attending for a while. It’s not that anything was wrong, more the opposite, that things seemed to be going well. I guess you could say I’ll all healed! Yeah right. In all seriousness though, I’ve been going for 4 years or so and it has been quite helpful. I both wanted to stop and didn’t want to. I felt that the space that we created was incredible valuable and healing for me but also felt that it might be getting in the way (or I at least perceived it was getting in the way) of me developing emotional closeness with others. Its hard to know whether or not that is true but I suspect with time I’ll have a better perception of what some of the other barriers are to me being more willing to commit to others, particularly romantic partners.

I moved into a position so my back is better supported and less of a distraction, it still hurts though. I’ve been reading a lot since the lockdown/quarantine. I had been complaining to myself that I wasn’t creating enough space/time in my life for reading at the beginning of the year and now I’m chugging along. For me finishing a book a month is fast reading, but I’m on pace to read about 6 books just in May which is more books than I’d read some years of my adult life.

I’ve been listening to Game of Thrones on tape, reading a memoir (The Magical Language of Others) here and there and finally have dug in and am going to my adoption reading list. I started out light and easy with a reread of Shannon Gibney’s See No Color which was a quick read that helped situate me back in the psyche of my adolescence. I dove in after that and order The Primal Wound by Nancy Verrier and began The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe V. Wade by Ann Fessler.

The Girls Who Went Away was one of the most heartbreaking compilation of stories I’ve ever read or experienced. I bawled my eyes out listening to these women recount what it was like for them in the 50s, 60s, and early 70s to become pregnant and then ultimately have to relinquish their children. The emotional pain, the trauma, the long last impact it had on each and every one of them was devastating. It also illuminated the callousness of middle class cookie cutter American in the post-war period and Civil Rights era. Social stigmas and norms were so violently enforced in regards to becoming pregnant out of wedlock. Calling the way unwed mothers were treated during that period despicable is an understatement.

Although my story has very little overlap with any of the relinquished children in these stories the pain from separation was quite evident. I have, in my more recent years, tried to better connect with the experience of women who have had to relinquish their children. It is hard for me to be open to that connection and when I do it is mostly an intellectual empathy that I am employ, not an emotional one. I ache for their loss and am angered by the power exerted over them by unwed mother homes, school principals, parents, clergy and the like.

It feels too much to bear to fully place myself in the place of the relinquished child and to acknowledge that my case bears at least some similarities, if nothing else than that there was a separation and a two way loss (three way if the father and other family are to be considered, if they were even aware). It is too much to bear. It is easier to believe that my mother voluntarily relinquished me without coercion and has felt no regret of that decision and only thinks of me to wish me well. It is excruciatingly painful to consider (although quite likely) that she was coerced just as, or perhaps more severely, than the predominately white middle class American women in The Girls Who Went Away. When I have the strength I hope to write in more detail about this.

Eight years ago when I began reading about other folk’s adoption experiences in an effort to exit the fog I kept hearing about this book called The Primal Wound. All the cool adoption bloggers would reference it, or suggest I pick it up once I started my own writing. The title of the book alone terrified me. The title implied that adoption was not as simple as I had wanted to believe it was, it made explicit what I had been trying to avoid for many years, that adoption begins with trauma, loss and emotional turmoil. Now, having fully pulled my head above the fog and invested so much energy, time and money into my own searching process (both in the hope of reunion with family and self), I feel somewhat equipped to read the more psychological and “coldly” analytical words that Nancy Verrier has to offer.

Just 80 pages into the book I’m floored by how specific and accurate many of her observations are in describing experiences, behaviors and cognitive tools that I have or utilize in my own survival quest. Why did I wait so long to read this book? Because I was scared of learning something about myself I didn’t already know, I was scared of someone else knowing me better than I know myself. It feels much more comforting in a way to have her writing validate my feelings rather than dictate them. Even though I think it was generally the right decision to wait to read this book, I wish I would’ve read it while in therapy because I think it would’ve been a valuable experience to hear Dr. R’s perspective and have her explain some of the concepts I don’t quite understand. At any rate, my review after 80 pages is that its phenomenal and I looked forward to writing more about it in the coming weeks.

My back still hurts and its late and I’ve got a packed day of work tomorrow but I’m glad I sat down and tip tapped out these thoughts for the first time in months. It feels good to be processing as well as absorbing new information now.

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