People will often ask me, “Are you looking for your birth family?” Over time I’ve developed a pat answer and even a go-to facial expression. I just give a half-smile and reply, “Oh, you know. When the time is right . . . ” What they don’t know is that it makes me extremely uncomfortable to discuss the search.
A large portion of my discomfort is due to the simple fact that I rarely, if ever, discuss deep-seated issues with superficial surface-level friends, and there is nothing in this world closer to my heart strings than the search for my birth family. For people to know how I feel about it would mean for them to know my feelings about the most sensitive and most vulnerable place of my heart. When it comes to that issue I am completely defenseless. I’m like a turtle on his back. Wide-eyed hope is the only way I can think to describe it. I very much want to find my tribe and find my mother but there are several reasons why I haven’t set off on that journey.
The first reason is the possibility of rejection. Nothing in this world terrifies an adoptee more than the possibility of being rejected. Notice I make a distinction between the actual rejection and the possibility of said rejection because “rejected” has come to be my natural state. When I experience a rejection I can dull the pain by saying, “Why should today be different?” or “Hello rejection, my old friend.” My true fear lies in the uncertainty. That scary middle ground where I am forced to speculate on all the reasons she could possibly reject me.
An adoptee with an imagination as vivid as mine can think up thousands of reasons why I’m not good enough or why I don’t measure up. And in the time between me asking to meet her and me getting an answer, I know myself and I know that I will drive myself to near madness. If I was to begin searching in a serious way I would need to have a much stronger support system than I have at this time. I would need women in my circle whose emotional support I could fall back on in the event that things weren’t all peaches and cream. I truly believe that there will come a day in my life where I am emotionally prepared to head west and begin my search. Today is not that day.
Another major component to my hesitation stems from a fear that it’s too late, that I’ve waited too long. Maybe she’s passed away? Maybe she’s moved out of the country? Maybe she’s had an accident and is in a coma and might never wake up? If this is the case, then I’ll be forced to deal with the fact that I let my fear delay me and if I’d have only shown a little more courage I could have met her and everything would have been perfect. The longer I wait the more this fear grows, but that doesn’t motivate me to push through it. I feel insane and trapped in the insanity. I have the ability to step outside of this decision and look at it rationally. I can see the contradiction. If someone was telling me exactly what I just wrote I would tell them to make a decision or stop complaining . . . but I’m scared. All I can do is have faith that powers greater than me will work everything out in the proper timing.
Perhaps the darkest part of my resistance to the search is the fear of what I’ll find. Maybe I’ll find a woman who never got it together. Someone who’s working as a cashier in some mom-and-pop grocery store and smoking two packs a day and has 6 cats named things like Mittens and Patch. Maybe she’s living in the screened-off portion of her aunt’s patio eating pork ‘n’ beans out of the can and watching Jerry Springer reruns on her days off . . . and I would love her and thank her for my life. But if I go on this journey only at the end to find a married woman who has a white picket fence, 4 kids, 9 grandkids, and is baking pies and doing yoga in the park, I’m going to be angry. I’m going to be hurt. I’m going to be confused. If I find out that her life got drastically better after she gave me away, it will send me to a very dark place in my heart. If she had other children that she kept I won’t know how to handle that. It will churn up some scary emotions. Over time I’ve built a sturdy little dam to hold everything nicely in check, but that would be like Hurricane Katrina’s meaner and angrier older sister.
I know myself well enough to only take bites of life that I know I can handle. When I decide to go looking, it will be the biggest decision of my entire life. I will be surrounded by people who love me and I will be completely centered in my own self-worth. I need to be sure that no matter what I find at the end of the journey I can still be okay. I need to be sure that I’m starting this journey in search of answers, NOT validation. Until I can be sure of that, and I mean really sure, I’m going to keep working on me and taking the small steps I need to take in order to prepare myself for the truth. No matter what it might be.