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I'm new here, but I have an issue I need all of your help with. My sister (I am adopted child of her natural parents) is right now spewing venomous texts at me causing my phone to go crazy
...
This is what I published on my blog. A blog I just created because I am thinking my family has gone crazy, and I need a reality check:
The tattoo.
This is the second time I'm writing my "first blog post". The first time, I had written what I wanted to say as a starting point, and hit publish using a certain app for Android. It seemed to be successful, but then I clicked on the link to share the blog, and got a "something went wrong" message. First I thought it just wasn't able to share the link to my post, but then I realized the post was gone.
:/
So here I go again. I am starting off with a story about my latest tattoo. I have several tattoos, this is the only one I've gotten in the last decade. I had it done, somewhat impulsively after my birth mother who I will call "T" died this July of lung cancer.
I need to back up a little bit, there's a lot going on here, and it is difficult to understand without some back story. Believe me, I've been here all along, and it still doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
Let's go back to the beginning of my life, I was born near San Francisco CA in October of 1969. Yes, I am about to acknowledge (not celebrate) my 50th journey around the sun. I was an oops baby, my birth parents were not married. Things were hard for T, and she had a precarious financial situation, and a somewhat lax moral code. She raised me, the best she could for over a year. The details of this time are unclear except that we lived on a commune in Oregon, and T had met a man who didn't want to marry someone with a child. She gave me up for adoption after working with the agency to try and find the right family for me.
I was adopted by a wonderful family when I was 15 months old. They said I was somewhat disheveled when I first came home with them, and had scavenger behaviors. They suspected neglect.
I was a very quiet child, painfully shy. I have come to terms lately that what I had always considered shyness is actually social anxiety. My family, for the most part was loving, and supportive. In that way, I have been blessed.
When I was a teenager, I was what parents lovingly refer to as "a handful". I had a difficult time coming to terms with the details around my adoption. I thought there must have been something terribly wrong if T gave me away after raising me for over a year. At the time, I knew even less about it than I do now.
When I was a teenager, I said terrible things to my mother. She had a habit of saying "because I am your mother" when I asked why I had to do something I didn't want to do. I remember the time I responded to that statement by saying "no you're not!". It was a horrible thing to say, and I was instantly sorry.
The tumultuous years ended up with me leaving their house at age 17, months before my high school graduation after a particularly rotten exchange with my Dad. He was verbally abusive, and actually spit on me. I have since forgiven him for that scene, but could never completely forget about it.
Before I met T, I felt like there was a hole in my identity. My parents loved to talk about honoring ones heritage, and family is family no matter what. I had a hard time with the "heritage", because their heritage was not mine. "Family" on the other hand was important to me, and still is. I do tend to have a broader definition than many people, however.
When I was in college, at age 23, I received a message from the Boys and Girls Aid Society in Oregon. This was the agency through which my adoption was arranged. I had registered with them when I was 18, hoping to be connected with T. The message was "your birth mother has registered with us, and are you still interested in meeting her?"
I was what you might call obsessed with my sense of identity in those days, and had a problem with the hole I was dealing with. Many of my artworks at the time were created in an attempt to process my feelings surrounding this. So when I received the message asking if I was still interested, it seemed like a no brainier.
The first time I met T as an adult, she travelled by Amtrak across most of the continent to stay with me and my oldest son who was in preschool at the time. We had an interesting visit, she shared photos, and home movies. It was the first time I have ever met someone who resembled me except for my son. The hole in my identity vanished. This was also when I learned the reason she had decided to give me up. She also said that the decision had haunted her afterwards.
Soon afterwards, she began to overstep her bounds by telling me how I should live my life, and raise my son. I told her in a letter "I already have a mother, so I really don't need someone else trying to run my life". We parted ways for many years.
My son and I travelled to Oregon once during those years, to attend her wedding. During that visit I met my biological grandmother, and two half sisters. My biological grandmother tried to maintain contact with me and my son, sending birthday cards, and gifts occasionally.
Many years later, T and I reconnected on Facebook. Many of her family members including my half sisters were also on the site. When T's mother died, I decided to travel to Oregon to attend the memorial. My oldest son also travelled with me, and the two of us had a wonderful time exploring Portland by ourselves before T drove the 2 hours from her home to the area. I asked her if she would pick us up to go to the hotel, but she said it was an inconvenience, so we took public transportation all the way across town. This ended up taking way longer than 2 hours, BTW.
At the memorial, my son and I were welcomed by all family members with open arms. We were included in the generational photos taken at the event. The next day was to be the only full day my son and I had to spend just with T. We met up with my half sister and her fiance, and baby son, and coincidence determined that T's cousin and family were at the same coffee shop. We began discussing how to spend the rest of the day, when T's cousin's husband said he really needed a massage after sleeping in the hotel. T decided that was a fantastic idea, and scheduled one for herself, too. I was stunned. Suddenly the one day that we had to visit was going to be interrupted by a massage. Once we got to the massage therapist location, she decided to add on an acupuncture treatment. So basically she was going to be busy for the next two hours. My son and I walked out into the 95'+ heat and tried to accomplish the souvenir shopping we had thought was to be part of the time with T. Later, after we were reunited, we had a picnic dinner at a local park, and then T asked her cousin if they would drive me and my son to the airport so she could get a start on her journey home. They didn't have space for our luggage in their rental car, so T seemed bummed out that she had to take us.
When I told her about my feeling like we were an inconvenience, and how that hurt my feelings, she lashed out telling me how selfish I was, and that she just wanted to spend time with her cousin.
Less than a year later, she was diagnosed with lung cancer. Less than 9 months after that, T was gone. While she was in the hospital, I travelled, once again, to Oregon to see her for one last time. My son, who had since moved to Portland also went to see her. We were very impressed by the many people who came to visit T in those final days. She was a member of many groups, a choir, a plein Aire painting group, an exercise group, and a pagan community. She was surrounded by caring people who loved her.
When she died, my son his friend, and one of the pagans cleared out her apartment and storage unit. Nobody in her family came to help. I contacted T's sister who wasn't far away in Vancouver WA for help, but she wasn't willing or able to.
I was determined to attend the memorial service she had arranged with the pagans. My youngest son agreed to travel with me, and I felt it was important to show my sons that this is how you honor family. The timing was terrible, and I really shouldn't have spent the money on the trip, but it was important that I model proper behavior for my sons. It turned out that we were the only kin in attendance.
So I got this tattoo…
It wasn't my most rational decision, admittedly. But I felt grief for this woman who had given birth to me. I was astonished by not only the physical resemblance but by how much T and I had in common. We were both artistic, and preferred 3D media. We both were seekers of spiritual truth. Through my own quest for a spiritual home, the closest to any particular group I felt was with the pagans, although even their chanting in unison freaked me out- just like the other religions I had witnessed chanting rotely memorized dogma in other houses of worship. You may say I am against organized religion.
So this tattoo… it is Gaia, the Goddess of the earth. I chose this image to honor the commonality of our spiritual journey. Yes, the mother image was important, as was the pagan moon symbols of maiden, mother, and crone. There is also a bear and a dragonfly in the image. The bear was T's spirit animal, and the dragonfly is a symbol of strength and resilience.
T had a shitty life. She was on the receiving end of a thorough karmic spanking. I am sure that her debt has been paid in full. She was rejected by her family, for many many years. She and I had shared the agony of forced separation from our children.
I thought of the tattoo as an impulsive act, and although I like the image with all of the amazing details my tattoo artist put into it, I don't care for the large black patch it became on my arm. Would I do it again in less emotional times, no.
I worried about showing it to my mother. My first instinct was that she would say "what are you going to do for me?" So I prepared my answer. I waited until it was finished, and healed, and then I mustered up some bravery, and said I have something I need to show you. I explained what it meant, and why I got it. Her first gut reaction response was exactly what I was expecting, but then she said "Nevermind, I don't want you to get a tattoo for me. I don't understand the tattoo thing. In fact DON'T get a tattoo for me"
I thought that was the end of it, in the meanwhile I travelled to Portland and back. When I returned from the trip, I noticed that I was getting the cold shoulder from my parents. I thought they were feeling insecure because I was at Terrye's memorial. I thought it would pass. Two weeks into the silent treatment, I finally texted "are you mad at me? Did I do something wrong?"
My mom's response was "We are upset, hurt, disappointed and confused. Dad and I think the only way to resolve the issues is to meet again with (the therapist) and try to work it through."
"What did I do?" I asked, genuinely confused,
"It is not something to discuss in text messages. We need to discuss it with a mediator."
I found out from my sister that they were angry about the tattoo. She was under the impression that the image was a portrait of T, and that I had shown it to my mom expecting her to like it. I explained that it wasn't the case, but she seemed to be having a hard time understanding why I would feel a connection to "my abuser".
Yesterday I went to the session with the "mediator" but I was so angry about how my parents had handled the situation, that I was unable to keep my cool. I was focusing on "how long would it take for you to tell me you were angry if I hadn't asked? You just stop speaking to me with no explanation?". Then the only thing they were able to focus on was my "tone" and the volume at which I was carrying on the conversation. When my mother refused to look at me, clearly not listening, I decided it was pointless to stay.
T, for better or worse, was family. I felt a connection with her in many ways. If I had been the sort of person who shunned family members when they did bad things to me, I would have never forgiven my Dad for his behavior when I was a teenager. Another more recent outburst of rage from him left me shaking and sobbing uncontrollably. I forgave him, he is my Dad.
Why don't they understand? Why do they feel threatened by my connection with MY heritage, when my whole life they taught me to honor heritage?
The last thing I tried to tell my parents at our session before realizing nobody was listening was that it wasn't a case of "either or". That I had enough room in my heart for them, and for T. I just wanted them to give me permission to feel the way I felt and not take it personally, because I really couldn't help it.
What a sad, yet beautiful story. Your adopted family, as well as your birth mother, are lucky to have you as their daughter. Even though part of your journey may have been painful to your adopted family, and certainly for you, remember you were truly a special gift to all of them. You found what you were looking for, and your adopted mother's feelings will recover in time.
Thank you for sharing your story. Peace to you and your family.
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Thanks for taking the time to read my story, I'm sorry it was so long. Things have not improved much with my parents yet, but I am hopeful.