Constant Hunger

What would have been the one-year milestone of my (Ultimate Life Fail) ULF recently passed.

In fact, as I’m typing a group of wonderful individuals are together celebrating their mid-point together.

It’s a group that I should be a part of, but because I just couldn’t do it, I’m here, staring blankly at the disappointment of who I’ve become.

All of this led me to reconsider, once again, what happened and what went wrong. I can’t stop thinking about how different my life would be, how different I would be if I were still on that track.

If my circumstances had been different, would I still be there?
Would I be there, celebrating my resiliency, rather than here, wondering if there’s even a shred of resiliency left in me?
Would I still be that strong person that I used to be? That person where bad things could happen and I could take an Eastern perspective and say “that’s life” and move on, unbroken?
Would I still enjoy life?

If I would have stayed and found self-worth through my actions and doing something good, would this hunger that I have for love, acceptance and belonging be as intense? Would finding my biological parents still mean everything to me?

Orphans are always hungry. You can feed them Spam and chocolate bars and poisoned apples all day long and they’ll still complain about emptiness. That’s why the government manufactures cakes made of grass. The cakes have no nutritional value, but they possess a magical property that makes orphans feel full. -Jane Jeong Trenka in Fugitive Visions

I remember how it felt as the plane began its ascent toward Japan; how part of me wanted to do something completely inappropriate so that they would stop the plane and leave me in Korea, or at least buy me more time, because, for as much as I wanted to be anywhere but there, leaving stirred up those familiar feelings of failure and disappointment. You’re leaving. You’re failing your biological parents. You’re failing yourself. Try harder. Why won’t/can’t you try harder?! Do something, dang it! If it’s that important to you, you wouldn’t be leaving, you’d be staying. What don’t you get about this? It’s simple. And yet, you can’t do it. What’s wrong with you? You can’t give them that? You’re a terrible daughter, of course they were right to give you up. What don’t you get about that? You’re humanity has been demeaned; you’re barely human. You’re a monster. And monsters don’t deserve to live.

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“The world is not a wish-granting factory.”

One of the reasons I love reading is that they provide a way for me to articulate how I feel in ways that I’m not (as) embarrassed about admitting. I’ve always been terrible at telling people how I feel, actually that’s a lie– I’ve never really told people how I feel until recently, but the gist of this is that I’m a doer, not a talker. Meaning, I prefer to show people I care, rather than verbally tell them; “talking” is just really uncomfortable to me. (Proof: I’m unable to answer direct questions in situations where the purpose is to answer said questions; thankfully, I have really good friends.)

One of the downfalls about communicating through actions is that when people try to tell you how they feel, it’s hard for you to really believe them because that’s not your primary form of communication. Maybe that’s a broad, sweeping generalization. Maybe it’s just a side effect of my “I’m unlovable” mindset. I don’t know.

What I do know is that I’m finally aware of this, however this doesn’t make accepting things any easier.

I spent Mothers Day trying my best not to think about my birth mother (and parents), or about the whole ‘I’m no longer talking to my adoptive family’ and accompanying guilt thing. Seriously, who doesn’t say anything to their adoptive mother on mothers day?! Of course, I failed, but eventually I decided to dive into a good book.

After downloading The Fault In Our Stars, a book which I was sure that I couldn’t relate to, I set out to block out everything. It was finally time to relax and hopefully get some food down.

Ha.

The book was really great, probably one of the best I’ve read in a long time, but I found myself resonating with two terminally ill cancer patients a little too much. Namely, that they both had timelines attached to their lives; they both knew their life was going to end sooner than their peers and loved ones.

At one point, the main character gets frustrated with her parents and equates herself with a grenade:

“I’m like. Like. I’m like a grenade, Mom. I’m a grenade and at some point I’m going to blow up and I would like to minimize the casualties, okay?”

“I’m a grenade,” I said again. “I just want to stay away from people and read books and think and be with you guys because there’s nothing I can do about hurting you; you’re too invested, so just please let me do that, okay? I’m not depressed. I don’t need to get out more. And I can’t be a regular teenager, because I’m a grenade.”

“I wanted to know that he would be okay if I died. I wanted to not be a grenade, to not be a malevolent force in the lives of people I loved.”

When I read these lines, I completely broke down because I realized that like her, I was also a grenade and that some point within these next two weeks I was going to explode. I realized how selfish I was; how I should’ve gotten away from people before they became too invested. I wanted to run home, pack for Korea, and then live at a hotel for the next week until my departure…all so that I wouldn’t be a grenade, or to at least minimize the casualties.

So of course I tensed up when he touched me. To be with him was to hurt him—inevitably. And that’s what I’d felt as he reached for me: I’d felt as though I were committing an act of violence against him, because I was.

 

It’s the reason I don’t like people in my bubble, especially people I care about, because in the back of my mind I always know that I’m going to hurt them; I know I’m incapable of giving people myself.

Everything about this trip, I realized, had been framed with an “I’m not coming back” mentality. I had written letters and made plans. I was pretty certain about how things would play out.

All of this was until yesterday, when I was forced to talk and to listen— listen to the impact that my actions would have and listen to people telling me that they cared…a lot. I’d be a grenade with a wide radius, a wider radius than I would have ever anticipated.

As I sat listening, I realized that these people actually meant what they had/were saying. They communicate like the rest of the human world, via words. The problem is that I’m not someone who has the ability to let messages like ‘we care for you’ and ‘we love you’ in. It’s not that I doubt that they do because I know that they’re authentic people who mean what they say, but I still can’t help but have my doubts. It’s an inability on my part. I’m just incapable of accepting and feeling these things.

All of that said, I don’t doubt the repercussions (which means that on some level that I can’t acknowledge yet, I’m letting myself realize that they do care), and realized that I’ve got to come home because I care more about these people than I do myself.

I gave them my 100 percent promise that I’d come back.

It’s really uncomfortable, and a bit disempowering, to have people care about you.

(why.am.i.so.weird.)

Because of You: A response to Bethany Christian Services

Bethany Christian Services released a series of three videos for what they refer to as “birthmothers day.” Contrary to the opinions of many others, I’m not upset that they decided to label it birthmothers day as opposed to mothers day because it helps distinguish and spread awareness that yes, adoptees have (at least) two mothers. Many people, if they are not adopted themselves, tend to forget that an adoptees’ adoptive mother is not his/her biological mother. This is not a fault of their own, nor is it careless. If anything, its a sign that the adoptee has assimilated quite successfully into whichever context they were placed.

All of that said, what does upset me are the nature of the videos that were released and encouraged by the organization to be sent to individuals’ birth mothers. Aside from the lack of authenticity, the videos are further propaganda (yes, propaganda) to be used by the organization, at the expense of birth mothers and their children.

The beginnings of Holt International are rooted in this same propaganda, propaganda where the real message is ‘your child can only have a good life away from you.’ The founders of Holt have often been accused as baby stealerssnatchers and other similar names, as many of the early adoptions were haphazardly explained to birth mothers. Many birth mothers were under the impression that they would still be able to communicate with their child throughout the years and when they realized that this was incorrect, they were overcome with grief.

The acquisition of children was usually done by talking about Christianity, asking if they (birth mothers) had ever considered sending their child to America, and then proceeding to show pictures of their country’s (in this case, South Korea’s) children, happy and smiling in America. Can you imagine what impact this must have on an already vulnerable, single woman?

I can.
It manipulates their view of themselves and their ability to raise their child.
It provides even more guilt for something that a woman already feels embarrassed about, covertly saying ‘you were selfish, now be selfless.’
It demeans her by saying ‘you’re not adequate to provide for your child.’

With these messages being sent, is it really any wonder why adoption agencies were, and are, so “successful?”

Unfortunately, this model of adoption has had a lasting impact. Agencies all over the world are using the same ‘look at this happy child!’ form of propaganda. (Some may argue that this is transparency, but transparency gives both sides of the story, not one.) Bethany’s most recent “birthmothers day” videos are just further proof.

Here is the transcript from the adoptees’ video:

Because of you I’m alive. I’m blessed and I have an awesome family.
I am thankful for you because if you didn’t make the choices that you did, the people that I call mom and dad, would have just been known as Pam and Lou.
Because of you I have been able to share a lot with others, about my faith and god’s providence.
Because of you I have a great mom and dad and brother and I love them all.
Because of you I feel protected and I’m home.
Out of all of the things that you could’ve done, you thought about me and what would be best for my future.
Because of you I know what it means to be a strong Christian woman and even though I’ve never met you I will never stop loving you.

Can you figure out what being said says, what really is being said here?

Because of you I’m alive. I’m blessed and I have an awesome family. Something that I would’ve never had with you. I certainly wouldn’t have lived?
I am thankful for you because if you didn’t make the choices that you did, the people that I call mom and dad, would have just been known as Pam and Lou. Thanks for making your choice. I’m so thankful that I can call them my parents, and not you.
Because of you I have been able to share a lot with others, about my faith and god’s providence. (Um…wait, this isn’t a good thing…)
Because of you I have a great mom and dad and brother and I love them all. Again, thanks! You never could have been a great mom.
Because of you I feel protected and I’m home. Something else you couldn’t provide.
Out of all of the things that you could’ve done, you thought about me and what would be best for my future. Or, you at least listened to what the agency fed you.
Because of you I know what it means to be a strong Christian woman and even though I’ve never met you I will never stop loving you. I never would have been a strong person if I grew up with you. 

No one would ever want to send such messages to someone, yet these are exactly what the birth mothers are being told. (I’m really interested in the parts that weren’t included in the video. By the emotion of some of the individuals, you know there was more to it. Do you think Bethany will ever release the outtakes?)

This time next week I’ll be on my way to Korea. One part of the trip is a visit to an unwed mothers home, where we adoptees will be paraded in front of unwed mothers as living propaganda. I really hope there are others there who realize the impact our words can have on these vulnerable women.

We need to be advocating for birth mothers to keep their children, not give them away.
We need a gentle way to say no one can replace you.
We need to show them how much their children will love and need them.

If I were to create my own video it would say the following:

I wish you would have kept me.
Regardless of how difficult things could have been, at least we would have been together.
Because of you, I’ll always be searching for home, a place filled with love and belonging.
Because of you I have never experienced more pain, pain that I’ll never be able to move beyond.
A lot of people say that you gave me life, but you may also be the reason it ends.
I want you so much.

October Baby

In the middle of making a list of “things to do to keep busy,” I landed on a website looking at showtimes for movies…since going out to a movie is a quite effective distraction-from-life tool.

When it comes to movies, I tend to be a ‘judge the movie by its poster’ type person: does the movie have a catchy poster? If so, I continue on and read the synopsis.

One of the movies, October Baby, was particularly striking for numerous reasons. You can read the synopsis here. Once you do, you’ll probably understand what caught my attention.

The quick synopsis is this:

Girl collapses due to a complicated birth –> finds out she’s adopted (after a failed abortion) –> becomes angry and confused –> goes on a journey to find her “hidden past and find hope for her unknown future.”

Ha. Now THAT is a coincidence.
Is this really a movie that’s in theaters right now, seriously? I realize I don’t really matter in the world, yet at the same time can’t stop feeling like I’m important enough for the world to go out of its way to make me miserable via throwing the topic of adoption in at every turn.

While browsing the reviews and the movie website, I learned that it’s a Christian movie (read: it has an agenda) and one its supporters is Bethany Christan Services (which is one of the partnerships for the trip I’m going on). Other supporters include Focus on the Family (gag) and Heartbeat International, among others. Given what I know about Holt International and Bethany Christian Services, I can imagine what the main agenda is– give your child up for adoption! It’s god’s plan! And it’s what’s best for you and your baby!

Although the movie looks like a bad lifetime movie, which means it must be pretty terrible, the allure and the reason I may pay close to $10 to see it, is the “find hope for her unknown future” line.

I’m at a point where I’ll read and/or watch almost anything if it gets me even a little closer to (re)finding hope, which is why I’m still going to Korea even though I’m dreading it…because maybe it won’t be that bad at all. I feel like being in Korea is my only chance at rediscovering the peace and hope I once had, like it’s my only way toward the possibility of healing.

There’s an urgency of needing to find out now if this will resolve things because I can’t hold out much longer.

And I’ll only know if I go.

“It’s comforting to know Chris was here,” Billie explains, “to know for certain that he spent time beside this river, that he stood on this patch of ground. So many places we’ve visited in the past three years—we’d wonder if possibly Chris had been there. It was a terrible not knowing—not knowing anything at all.

Many people have told me that they admire Chris for what he was trying to do. If he’d lived, I would agree with them. But he didn’t, and there’s no way to bring him back. You can’t fix it. Most things you can fix, but not that. I don’t know that you ever get over this kind of loss. The fact that Chris is gone is a sharp hurt I feel every single day. It’s really hard. Some days are better than others, but it’s going to be hard every day for the rest of my life.” –Billie McCandless, from Into the Wild


I’m really hoping that going to South Korea will bring some sense of comfort, although right now, thinking about constantly wondering have my parents been here? seems like a dizzying nightmare.

I feel for Billie, and for everyone who ever feels this way.
It’s terrible not knowing anything at all.

And yet, in my life, I’m doing the exact same thing to people.
I’ve often wondered how people can be so cruel to one another, but sadly, I get it.
Sometimes our ideals are bigger than we are.

PostSecret

Sundays are the days where the first thing I do, after arriving at a nice spot, is check PostSecret. The reason for this is simple, as Frank Warren, founder of PostSecret, stated in his TED talk: “Secrets can take many forms. They can be shocking, silly, and soulful. They can connect us with our deepest humanity, or with people we’ll never meet again.”

It’s one of the only ways where I can allow myself to be reminded that there really are other people who feel the same way. It’s a source of peace and comfort, albeit small. Throughout the years, I have collected the secrets which resonated with me so that I can always go back and think there’s at least one other person who feels like this and this is proof.

During his TED talk, summarized here, Warren shares a variety of secrets, one of which was the following:

Inspired (okay, inspired isn’t the right word…), I wanted to express another angle of this secret, so I created my own PostSecret.

Thanks to stringent copyright laws, I’m certain that this will never be able to be published, but it gave me a more creative outlet to express what now feels like.

“Adopt me!”

This morning I came across an article about childhood actress, Mara Wilson, which briefly described why her acting career was short-lived. The content of the article is actually really irrelevant to this post, because it’s the picture that immediately caught my attention, reminding me about one of my favorite childhood movies: Matilda.

The movie is about a little girl, Matilda, who’s parents are less than perfect– the father is a manipulative used car salesman and the mother would rather focus on her own vanity. Matilda on the other hand quickly finds a rich love for books and the stories and knowledge they contain. Unfortunately, her parents don’t understand her passion for learning and would rather her stay at home and mindlessly sign for packages. One day, at the age of 6 or 7, she convinces her parents that she must go to school.

She’s able to go to school, however the school is more like a prison and place of torture than a school. Fortunately, amidst the dark practices and punishments of the school’s principal, Matilda is able to find encouragement, inspiration and comfort in her teacher, Miss Honey.

Her teacher recognizes her potential and delightfully shares her praises with Matilda’s parents, who could really care less. Realizing that Matilda’s parents are preoccupied with other things, namely themselves, Miss Honey and Matilda begin to form a special relationship that continues to grow throughout the entire movie.

Toward the end, the two are sharing tea when Matilda’s family arrives and demand that she leave immediately. They claim that the FBI are onto her dad’s business practice (selling cheap, broken cars as great offers), so they need to get out of the country.

It is at this point that the following conversation ensues:

Matilda: I love it here! I love my school… it isn’t fair! Miss Honey, please don’t let them…
Harry Wormwood: [interrupting] Get in the car, Melinda!
Matilda: Matilda!
Harry Wormwood: Whatever.
Matilda: I want to stay with Miss Honey.
Zinnia Wormwood: Miss Honey doesn’t want you. Why would she want some snotty, disobedient kid?
Jenny: Because she’s a spectacularly wonderful child and I love her.
Matilda: Adopt me, Miss Honey! You can adopt me.
Harry Wormwood: Look, I don’t have time for all these legalities!
Matilda: One second, Dad. I have the adoption papers.
Zinnia Wormwood: What? Where did you get those?
Matilda: From a book in the library. I’ve had them since I was big enough to Xerox.
(some dialogue is occurring here)
Zinnia Wormwood: You’re the only daughter I ever had, Matilda. And I never understood you, not one little bit… Who’s got a pen?

When I was younger, I would watch this movie over and over again (and I still get happy every time I hear this song). I would act out the movie and dance around my room by myself, daydreaming about the day when I would find my Miss Honey…the day when someone who understood me would adopt me and make me theirs.

A few weeks ago I had a conversation where at one point another individual threw up his hands and said “that’s it! We’ll adopt you!” Unfortunately, this didn’t offer the kind of solace I had once imagined because now things are too complicated and too complex. I’ve internalized you alone are the only person you can depend on for far too long, and this legal action wouldn’t be able to change that or any of the other messages which I’ve internalized.

Although I’d love to believe that you can choose your family, the reality is that you can only do this to a certain extent because at the end of the day you’ll once again realize that you’re alone– that this family really isn’t yours, you don’t belong– and that you’re lacking in some essential way.

If only there were a simple solution for all of this.