I’m almost finished reading Found: A Memoir by Jennifer Lauck. It is the story of Jennifer’s life and the journey of how she overcame the demons of her past. Part of it gives me hope, but the remembrance that ‘that’s her life, not mine,’ leaves me disheartened.
Nonetheless, as I was reading it, there were various passages that I found which resonated within me. Here are the passages (italicized), presented more like a narrative than a series of unconnected passages.
It starts at the beginning, from the day I was born. My thoughts drift to my mother as I imagine that I would have also listened, intently, for the timbre of her voice; I would have tested the air for her scent; I would have reached out to make contact. When these sensuous experiences were nowhere to be found, when the woman who I had been tied to for months was nowhere to be found, I wonder if I was like many babies who lost consciousness…over and over again. What is not commonly known—although it is common sense—is that within moments of separation from the mother, a newborn will experience outrage, panic, and eventually terror. Within forty-five minutes, studies show a baby will go into shock and lose consciousness. Once the baby awakens, she will use her senses to search for her mother again and if the mother isn’t there, the baby goes through the same process. Imagine what this shock must do to the brain. The only mercy for the baby (and the brain) is amnesia—shockbased unconsciousness. I’m not sure about the supporting research, as this sounds a bit dramatic, but I do know that my first compass, my first sense of being in this world, had been as an abandoned child whose mother did not hold her and later, did not search for her. Unloved. Yes, I had a strong sense that I was unloved and unlovable. I know these sentiments all too well, as they accompany me throughout the day and well into the night, often disturbing my slumber as their full realization bears down with an insurmountable weight. It’s unbearable.
And it’s nothing that anyone can help with because how do I not take it personally? How do I not make a leap and say it must have been me—that I was lacking or worthless in some essential way? How do I overcome these feelings of lack in order to find my true human value when my own mother placed no value on my presence in the world?
So all I knew at the age of twenty was that I was in pain and no one could help me. I considered suicide as an escape. But instead, I’m doing my best to cope. To cope with the pain I have been feeling for most of my life and have been denying and redirecting, I drink way too much wine late at night. Or, I get my bike out of the garage, pedal hard, and sweat myself blind as if in training for the Iron Man competition. Or, I press Spencer and Jo to my sides and read silly books like Captain Underpants and Bad Kitty. The latter is the only way to actually still the fury. Warm bodies, sweet breath, steady hearts, and the familiar sound of their laughter. They are whole and loved and kept children. Their proximity makes me whole and loved too—for a while.
The closer I get to finding my parents, the harder it is to effectively cope. I’m actually doing a terrible job, yet I’m still pressing forward. I was now getting very close to someone who had never searched for me and had potentially locked me away—as a deep secret. To bury something as powerful as life, which includes identity and selfhood, is to beg for it to explode to the surface. I am motivated, very likely, by the very power of the polarized system in which I exist. I am reaching for the light of my truth. One more moment of being suppressed is unbearable to me. It isn’t me that creates the condition of urgency. It is actually Catherine, by her denial of me, who provides much of the momentum.
As I press forward, I realize that I just want the person who has denied me all these years. I want my mother and father. And I want to tell them “Love me. Take me home with you. Don’t leave me again.” I need to find that happiness that can only be filled by unconditional love.
Just like I need to find a way to be whole, okay, and right. “It’s as if you have put yourself on hold—from a sense perspective—from the moment you were born, and the only one who can take you off hold is your first mother […] if you find her and spend some time in her presence, you will find your Self begin to take truer shape. You’ll establish a firmer base than you’ve had—you will stop being so defensive and so afraid. You’ll be able to move on. It’s as simple as that.”
Moreover, maybe I’ll be able to find (more of) an identity. One thing that Jennifer learned was that she lacked a Self. When asked a series of rather mundane questions such as favorite book, favorite food, favorite ice cream, favorite flower and so forth, all of her responses were inconclusive and she realized she didn’t have any “favorites,” crediting this to too many choices. However, she soon realized that there was no “I” in “me” and her questions finally pinned me down and brought me face to face with the horrible truth. Maybe this explains why I have such a difficult time answering the same questions. Or maybe I’m merely trying to make myself feel okay about having the annoying inability to make simple decisions and provide simple input. (I’m guessing it’s the latter.)
Regardless, I just hope that this journey is helpful and not harmful.
All of these passages help me understand why I am who I am, although I’m not sure of their scientific accuracy. It helps me think ‘maybe that’s why I’m like this…,’ even though I’m a strong believer that you create who you are (yet another large contradiction). Still, I can’t help but hope that at least some of it is slightly accurate, mainly because I need a reason to be okay with who I am, one that is outside of being fundamentally flawed.
SHE IS WICKEDLY SMART. She is hysterically funny. She is fantastically gorgeous. Not necessarily in that order. And yes, there is even more—good things, every single one—but she won’t allow herself to consider herself in such grand terms. If she thinks of herself with any kind of praise, a feeling of itching anxiety sends her running to organize a drawer, fold laundry, wash the floor on her hands and knees, or clean out the refrigerator. As she fritters over these meaningless tasks of order, she fills her head—like a countermeasure—with all that’s flawed. You talk too loud, your rear end is too big, your nose—what a honker on your face, and you’re not really that smart, no, you’re just street smart. You’re scrappy. The voice in her head is a combination of the voices she’s heard throughout her life: Richard, Peggy, Deb, Auntie Carol. And the voice is also unique. It is her own. The voice is like a form of protection—a firm taskmaster that needs her to lay low. It tells her she will die if she brings attention to herself. The voice believes that to know her merits is dangerous. Such knowledge would put her one step away from becoming arrogant or proud and both of these very human qualities would then lead to her standing out in the crowd. To be outstanding would bring attention, and to bring attention would make her a clear target. The voice tells her she is most safe when she is below the horizon line and behind the scenes. When she tidies up, helps without complaint, and follows the rules, all is well for her. Anything else, any large expression, is disaster.
But deep below the surface of herself, there lives another truth. It is a seed, awaiting the mysterious conditions necessary for a new self to emerge. One day, those conditions will exist and the voice in her head will stop ordering her to drop down low and she will rise from her hiding place, scramble over the edge, and stand to her full and glorious height. She will dust the dirt of the past off her shoulders and legs and then, she will take flight. A phoenix rising won’t be her metaphor. Such a suggestion will be too puny and passé. She will be without a name, an awe-inspiring sight, and will rise as bright as the sun. Right away, in one blink, she will merge into that light. Most won’t see the ascension of the small human who once lay so low. When people finally look, trying to see this magnificent sight, she will be no more than a speck in the forever blue.