Several weeks ago I was approached and asked if I wanted to contribute to a book that someone was considering writing. Or taking our stories and making into a book, would be a more exact way of putting it. Not having any experience in collaborating on a book of adoptee contributions, I thought I would do some research and see if anyone had done it already. And so I discovered the collection of adoptee reflections “Rooted in Adoption” by Veronica Breaux and Shelby Kilgore.
I have only read a few pages of it, but I was hooked from the very first words written in the foreword, which was written by Jules Alvarado MA LPC, a healing expert in the field of trauma. She sums up my grief that I wrote about in How does an adoptee start grieving?
“The experience of the adopted child is often overlooked. We celebrate completing families. We have big adoption parties that fail to realize the devastation, suffering, longing and primal loss of the child at the centre of attention”
I think I am going to enjoy as well as be challenged to read this small book. It has less than 100 pages, but each page holds a nugget of wisdom, of honesty and of pain. Written by adoptees who have their unique story to tell of relinquishment, adoption, pain and healing, as they explore what the whole process has done to them as individual people.
The very first sentence in the book, even before we got to the foreword says:
“To adoptees, some of the strongest people with the most beautiful souls. We lost so much, yet we continue to give. Thank you for sharing your experiences with the world.
OK I’ll start with an admission. I don’t actually know how many weeks there have been of flourish, but we have reached the end of four months together, or a third of the way through the year. Some weeks have been very tough going, but today we had a lighter session. We were asked about “Living the Dream”.
Q Imagine you are in full ownership of your life, at the wheel, in the driver’s seat. What car are you driving? Who’s in the car with you? What three things do you throw out the window as you drive into your best life? Where do you go first? What song is playing?
Well the first thought was that my car is actually a chariot, like Boudicca’s, fighting for the freedoms of the people, from the oppressors. It was more like a past life regression, but it is what came to mind, so I went with it. I am alone in my chariot, but I am surrounded by like-minded people, all who want common law reinstated. The freedom to chose who you see, what you do and understand that you body is your body and only you get to chose which risks you take with it, who you allow to penetrate it, and what with. We do not judge those who prefer to stay at home in the farms, we cannot all be warriors. There is nothing to throw away that has already gone, warriors take little into battle, all things in the chariot are necessary. Any un-necessary item would go flying, in the heat of the battle, but to be unprepared is equally folly. Preparation is key to ensure that the load in the chariot is what is needed to take up the mantle. Nothing more, nothing less. The best life is one where freedom is not a dream but a reality. Free to wander, freedom of speech, freedom in bodily autonomy . First I go to the troops, to plan and communicate the plan, forewarned is forearmed. To inspire confidence that this is a battle worth fighting for, that some will die for the cause, but without it, we are all dead, even if we survive. The song is a rallying cry, Flower of Scotland, Scotland’s National Anthem, which will get the blood surging through the veins of all those who accompany me on this journey.
This post has little to do with adoption and I am not quite sure of it’s relevance, but it has great parallels for where I am in life right now. We have a fight on in our country, and embracing the courage of Boudicca is certainly something that I would encourage to all who have taken on the fight to support our freedoms in this country. Our Party Election Broadcast can be seen here.
Maybe my next post will be a reflection on this post and I will allow my imagination to run riot, as I jump into the car of my dreams and drive into the sunset.
The election campaign has taken over my writing for the time being, but I feel compelled to write this, after coming across an article, orginally published in The Independent on 27th September 2017. It had the headline “Adoptive parents say “extraordinary lack of support has driven their families to crisis point” written by their social affairs correspondent at the time, May Bulman. As I read the article, I thought that the heading would have read better if it had said “Adoptive parents totally mis-handle the children they have taken in” as the article showed no understanding, of how to deal with the trauma that relinquishment instils!
The article starts “We always felt that our love and commitment would prevail.” How many times have I read that? “We love them, that is all it will take” mentality. It goes on – more than a quarter of adoptive families are in crisis, parents with adopted children tell the Independent, they are overwhelmed. Around 5,500 children are adopted each year in the UK, they tell us at the very end of the article – so 1250 families, if we assume that some siblings are adopteed together, are in crisis because of how they do not understand how the child feels.
We read about Sarah and Dave, who adopted a baby boy when he was ten months old. We are told that Ollie* not his real name, was adopted when he was ten months old. We are not told how many times Ollie was relinquished in those ten months, but my guess would be twice, but more is a distinct possibility. He may have been relinquished by his mother who gave birth to him, very close to his birth, and then taken to a foster family whilst the adoption process was being finalised, before arriving at Sarah and Dave’s home. In the early days his development followed a normal course, but issues soon started to emerge. Again we are not told of the parenting style of Sarah and Dave, but I can’t help wondering if Ollie was ever put on the naughty step as a way of managing his behaviour, because I can tell you, as an adoptee, he would feel abandoned again, triggering his emotions that he probably couldn’t verbalise, so he would have a tantrum. Rather than investigate why he was showing signs of ADHD and autism, it was put down to his birth mother’s use of heroin during the pregnancy.
Sarah says he had terrible issues making friends. Darling Sarah, do you have any idea how it feels to be a child who has been abandoned and rejected by your mother? You take that experience into life – if your mother didn’t want you, no-one wants you to be their friend either. In our tiny tramuatised minds, we crave friendships and relationships and yet we push people away, because it is easier for us to reject you, than wait for you to reject us. We hold the cards that way.
At secondary school he sounded like he was in his own little war zone in his head, struggling to deal with the social elements. Sarah had eighteen months going between services, being bandied about. “It took an extraordinary amount of resilience to fight with all the services” she said. I have three questions to ask her, or any other person who is struggling to deal with their child’s behaviour.
Have you spoken to an adoptee? One who has come out of the fog, as an expert on how your child may be feeling and why they are acting the way they are, at any given time.
Let’s take birthdays as an example. In general we adoptees don’t like our birthdays. It is nothing to do with the heroin our mother’s may or may not have taken whilst they were pregnant with us. We don’t like them for the very reason that we see them as the day that our mother abandoned us, whilst you, dear adoptive parent, see us as the answer to your infertility problem. So while we want to grieve the loss of our mother, you want to celebrate. Grief and celebration really don’t mix too well in our tiny minds.
I am so sorry Ollie, that Sarah and Dave had absolutely no idea how you would feel being sent away to boarding school. They promised to love you, and instead of trying to understand you, they did the most hurtful thing imaginable, they rejected you and sent you away and went to the newspapers to say we did everything right, but social services didn’t support them.
“In order to maintain his place in the family” you sent him away. Please don’t be surprised Sarah and Dave if he never comes back to take his place in your family again. You sent him away, why on earth would he want to come back to take his place? He doesn’t have a place in his eyes.
I couldn’t bear to read much further as Sarah went on to say how she made 20-30 phone calls, and goes on to say “parents already going through such trauma”. Not one mention about the trauma that Ollie went through prior to arrival at their home.
I have reached out to Adoption UK and offered to speak at thie conference, they haven’t replied to my reply. I have also reached out to the journalist and The Independent, offering to write an article about how society can help adoptees. They too have failed to respond. Until the adoption fraternity start to engage with adoptees, I fear that more and more “Ollies” are going to be let down. Please engage with us, we want to help you stop causing children more issues than they already have, because adoptive parents and the adoption world beleive that all you need is love. It is what we need, but we also need you to understand us. Reach out to us, if you are serious about the mental health of 1250 children a year.
So yesterday was the submission date for the book proposal and it has past. I didn’t submit but I am okay with that, and if you read yesterday’s post you will know why. I now have a countdown for the next one which is on the 30th June 2021 and I will be much more focussed for it. If I am honest I never realised that the book proposal would be such an involved process. There is much more work to do, to submit a proposal to a publishing company than I ever thought, but I am determined to do a good job when it happens and it will. If you have any tips or advice then please leave them in a comment.
For now I am fully focussed on doing all that I can for the Freedom Alliance campaign, leading up to 6th May. When I mentioned to my husband how much I was actually enjoying working with a team of people, he rolled his eyes. He has heard me so many times talk about how people are winding me up. He often says to me “Joy their way is different, it doesn’t make it wrong, just different.” Today he commented that my Flourish group must be doing something good, for me to actually say that I am enjoying working with other people. As an adoptee, I have become so used to working on my own, making my own decisions and sticking by them, or altering the direction I was going, becasue I wanted to, not because it was the whim of another person. Could it be because for the first ten days of my life i lay in the nursery on my own, only having the presence of another person when I was being fed or changed, and left alone for another four hours until the feeding and nappy changing routine was repeated? Who knows but as a result of Flourish I am mellowing as a person, and learning skills that will transfer over onto the book tour circuit.
With the election just 3 weeks away, my writing is going to take a back seat for now. Today I spent the day with another candidate for the South region of Scotland, hoping to win votes for the Freedom Alliance party, a brand new political party put together without any politicians in it. It is people power. We the people have had enough. It is going to be a challenge, but whatever the outcome I will be able to say that I tried my best to do what is right.
This is not the planned post that I was going to write, but I have just come across the blog Psyche Cafe that had the image of the book The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk MD on it. This is the next book on my list of books to buy, as part of my research to write my own story of healing, and so I diverted my attention away from writing, onto reading. It’s what we adoptees do, think of doing one thing and end up doing something else. Ask my husband.
I read “Adoption said, I’ll label this one as mine and handed me a mask. Don’t worry honey. It will stretch as you grow. Put it on. And keep it on. And we won’t talk of this……..I’ll tell you when it’s safe to take the mask off.”
And so I thought pensively about the mask that I may have been handed and worn for much of my life. I was often accused of being funny at inopportune moments. It was like I couldn’t tell what was comedy and what was tragedy. My brain had been wired differently to others. I laughed out loud at my sister’s funeral, as the ladies of a certain age discussed picking up an aerosol cannister thinking it was hairspray only to discover that pledge doesn’t hold the curls quite like swartzkopf does.
And so my mind wandered to what the world has been doing for the past year. Governments and society have been trying to tell us when to wear masks, and more poignantly, when we can take them off, and like the average adoptee, I have rebelled. They cajoled us with “face coverings” it didn’t need to be a mask, you just had to cover your face. Now as someone who has years of experience working on an infectious diseases unit in a past life, masks when an infectious disease is concerned are contaminated clinical waste, and are disposed of and sent for incineration, not scrunched up and put back in your pocket or handbag, nor is it worn under the chin when outside for ease of pulling back over the breathing orifices when required. If people could only see the mites that might be crawling on their skin, they may think about not cradling their chin with a chin warmer, before replacing over their nose and mouth, to breathe those microscopic critters in. I resisted, I resisited to wear a paper mask, and a cloth one, a glittery one or even one that turned itself into a necklace when not needed to cover the face. Thinking about it that might be preferable to perching it under the chin, I would need to see the risk assessments done on the two designs to compare.
No I resisited because the logic and science says that masks don’t work in a respiratory virus, and yet still the people wore them. Nor did it seem logical to introduce mask wearing when they did. We weren’t told to wear them at the beginning, although advised, we had the choice. I chose not to. Then after 3 months in the UK they told us we needed to wear them when going to the shops, it was mandated unless you had an exemption. I do. I have panic attacks when I think about putting a mask over my face. I wore a mask for many many years, I now chose to show the world the real Joy, maskless, smiling communicating with the whole of my face. Is my body keeping the score of the mask that it wore for years.
The mask of “put a brave face on, don’t let others see that you’re not coping”, whatever coping means. Can I still feel the imprint of that mask that I wore for so long? Is it imprinted on my Soul in the same way as the primal wound is imprinted on it? Recalled but not remembered. Now I so want to buy the book to see what Van Der Kolk MD has to say? Where’s my credit card? Is it hidden under the mask in my handbag, that I bought back in Summer 2020, just in case?
Blessings and Joy, Joy
PS Go check that blog out and read more of what Psyche Cafe had to say.
Where am I not in ownership of my own time, money and energy? This was the question I was asked in the Flourish group this week. I have done a pretty good job in being in ownership of all three I thought, but I will reflect further now and expand on the jottings that I got down in the five minutes allowed in the session.
I knew that five minutes was not going to be long enough to delve into the question fully, that it would take more time that that to do it justice, so I scribbled a few sentnences about knowing what makes Joy happy, and therefore I can spend time money and energy being happy on my own, but that can come at the detriment of my relationship with others.
I struggle to remain present with others when they want to do something that I don’t want to do. Take shopping as an example. I find no pleasure in shopping and so I deny myself time with my daughter who loves to shop. For me, my judgemental mind says that she doesn’t need more clothes, she has plenty and so to buy more is un-necssary. When we do go shopping, it breaks my heart to see her go for the reduced sale rail, as I then think that she doesn’t see any worth in herself, that she is only worth reduced items, when I know she has great value. Bargain yes, pay over the odds No! I too struggled with putting value on myself as to what I was worth, to buy clothes to clothe myself. It took me years to be able to easily buy myself something at full price, and when I do buy them I am not comfortable showing them off. I secrete them into the house and hide them, I cannot show them off and take ownership that I deserve them.
A few weeks back I shared with you how I had bought a painting and kept it hidden for a week as I wasn’t sure how my husband would react and feel about me spending money on it.
I am very selfish with my time. I know what makes me happy and I know that I am not happy if I am unhappy. By that I mean I don’t find it easy to go along with doing stuff that I don’t like. I have become better at spending time with my husband recently. It’s not an effort but I have to really check in and remind myself to spend time with him as it is important for our relationship.
We are not big talkers. I am, he isn’t. I talk, he mainly listens, occassionally we discuss by which I mean discuss big issues, not what we are going to have for the next meal or whether or not we want a cup of tea. I’m talking feeling big issues. Today we discussed how two siblings may have very different views and explanations about the same event.
The three natural siblings of my adoptive parents have never really spoken to me about how it felt to have random babies come into their home. How did it feel to their 10- 8 1/2 and 7 year old selves. How many babies did come through their home? I was the last, and stayed and was adopted, but I actually have no idea how many there were who were fostred before me. 1? 10? 20? Did my siblings feel that we were taking what was rightly theirs, in their eyes? Their parents time, money and energy?
One thing that my husband and I did discuss was that my feelings aren’t unique to adoptees, non-adoptees can also feel that they don’t deserve to have money spent on them, they cannot accept gracefully when someone wants to but them something, without feeling obligated to buy something in return. I know that on the call today that this reflection on my ownership was going to take longetr than five minutes. I have promised to spend some time with my husband this evening, watching a film with a G&T in hand. So I am going to honour that promise and call it a day here with my writing, and pay full attention to the film he has chosen and switch my laptop off.
What sort of relationship do you have with time, money and energy?
Yesterday I met with my accountability buddies. I am still commited to my 100 posts in 100 days, but I also need to get on track to get my story out there for the benefit of those who are relying on it to find the joy in their lives following adoption. So I will leave you with this quote:
As I try and focus hard on writing my book and getting a book proposal in to Hay House publishing, I am still on track to write 100 blog posts in 100 days. My posts are currently being prompted by the suggestions that Hay House pose for us, in the writer’s community. I am currently on the Aspiring Author pathway, and was recently asked “The most important thing is…..? So here is my response to that question:
The most important thing to me is:
To be authentic. I would like this story of mine to inspire people that there is hope that they can lead a fulfilled life after adoption.
Adoptees are so often tuned into the emotions of separation ie guilt, sadness, shame etc and I want to provide them with a tool and a resource that they can tune into the emotions of connection, of love, kindness, compassion and forgiveness. It is not an easy path to tread but it is extremely rewarding. It is important that by writing my story, I can give them a role model, or scaffold by which they can build their own lives to discover who they were truly meant to be, to use the hardships, trials and tribulations that have happened to them, to bring out the gem that is hidden below the layers of hurt.
We had no control over our adoptions. We had no control over who raised us, who we were raised with, whether or not we could blend in or whether we stood out based purely on our facial features or skin colouring. We took what we were given and made the best of it, but for many it was not a family that reflected us.
It is important to me that the world understands how adoptees feel about themselves and how they filter and view the world. This would help them enormously to be understood by those who surround them. Isn’t it the hope of everyone to be understood by all who come into contact with them?
Ownership: What does it mean to you? We were asked in our latest Flourish meeting.
Ownership: What does it mean to me?
I was asked on Sunday where I was in ownership and where I wasn’t. I think I am much better at being in ownership than I was. Adoptees are good at being chameleons and learning to blend into their adoptive family, and it was only when I left home and emigrated to Australia that I started to discover who Joy was, what she liked to do, where she liked to go and what she liked to see, that I then would only do what I wanted and hadn’t learnt to negotitate. Prior to my move to Oz I let everybody else make the decisions for me. In Oz I took control.
I don’t take the blame for what others have done to me, the blamegame doesn’t really get you anywhere, apart from unhappy. It has been a very long time since I blamed anyone else about how I felt, not since I learnt to take ownership over how I feel. No-one has the power to make me feel anything, only I can do that. I can be unhappy, sad, guilty, resentful, bitter or happy, joyful, gracious joyful, fulfilled. Only I can decide which set of chemicals of emotion dominate my life, and I chose the emotions of connection.
I take ownership of the fact that any success I achieve comes from hard work, application and faith. Being on facebook, twitter or other social media outlets aren’t going to make me a successful author. With targetted posts it might build an audience, but what is the point of a platform with nothing to give them? I need to take ownership that today I spent far too much time on my laptop and too little time on the creative writing side, and that isn’t going to get my story told. Why am I not focussed on writing my story? Why do I hesitate to write my story, even to outline the chapters, further than the headings that I’ve got down. Is it because I think it will be too painful, too emotional, too draining? What am I scared that I will uncover?
Do I only kid myself that I am taking ownership, when I keep myself at home, isolated from humanity, connected via a keyboard. I surround myself with very few people, unless it is on my terms, as in my work. Am I just kidding myself that I take ownership? Hidden away at home, on retreat, or am I just hiding behind a nice wall? Am I still putting walls up around me? They are smaller walls that in the decades gone past, in fact they could be considered hurdles. Hurdles that can be jumped over. This month delving deeper into ownership with my Flourish family is going to be interesting.