March Madness

“I’m not suppressing my feelings, I’m just having a really hard time blocking them out.”
(eruption of laughter)
“Wait, that wasn’t supposed to come out like that…”


With the month of March quickly approaching, the term March Madness has taken on an entirely different meaning. To say it’s turned me into a bundle of nerves might be an understatement given the insomnia, hives, nausea, and headaches that have overtaken and consumed my day-to-day life. The nausea is the worst, as it interferes with things like work. It’s not easy to tell people ‘I’m okay, really, just try to ignore the sound of my vomiting…’

I’m dreading having to live through the days that have become important life landmarks– the days that mark my entry and exit into/from the United States, and all of the days in between, most of which mark days which should have been “lasts” for at least a couple of years. The juxtaposition between where I was this time last year versus where I am now is a lot to come to terms with; my failures are a lot to come to terms with and most days in March bring me face-to-face with them, leaving me thinking “I should be there.”

In addition, March is the month that I anticipate I’ll hear news about if my birth parents were able to be located and willing to be in contact with me. Every day I wonder about this day– what news I’ll hear, what it will mean, how I will handle what it will mean– and become incredibly anxious.

I just want to know now.
The sooner I know, the sooner I can get over it.

Thankfully, my unconscious has been (a little) more positive…

The other day I had a dream that both of my birth parents had been located, given my letter, and had decided to contact me.

It was one of those dreams where I physically ached to stay asleep and to never return to reality, mainly because I knew that reality couldn’t compare to the feeling I had for those brief, fleeting moments…the feeling where everything felt okay, like life was going to turn out fine after all.

All of this has left me longing, even more, for the day when I can actually experience them and be able to permanently hold onto that okay feeling.

Dreams are always crushing when they don’t come true. But it’s the simple dreams that are often the most painful because they seem so personal, so reasonable, so attainable. You’re always close enough to touch, but never quite close enough to hold, and it’s enough to break your heart.” –Nicholas Sparks, 3 Weeks With My Brother

One step back for three steps forward?

Yeah, right.
Try three steps back with one step forward.
That’s exactly how I felt a few days ago.

Last Saturday, while at a park I ran into three really nice women who instantly identified me as “Korean.” They began questioning me on what I knew about the language and culture and each time I answered with a half-ashamed “I’m working on learning.” After realizing I knew very little about South Korea’s richness, they invited me to attend their Korean church the following day. Although at the time I was enthused (mainly for the food afterward…), the enthusiasm soon turned to reluctance.

I felt that it was too soon to 1) be in the church environment again and 2) be around other Koreans.

Nonetheless, when I woke up the next morning, I convinced myself to go because I knew that if I didn’t just ‘get it over with,’ I never would. January would turn into February, February into March, and on and on.

So when 12:20 pm rolled around, a friend and I jumped into the car and headed to the Korean church for their 12:30 pm service. I was a little anxious, but was able to keep calm by continuing to talk and make jokes.

That is of course, until we pulled into the parking lot and searched for the entrance.

As soon as we walked inside all of the anxiety I had been working so hard to keep at bay came on with full force. The pastor came up and greeted us, followed by the three women I had seen at the park the previous day. Everyone was super friendly and welcoming, but when you want to make yourself invisible, super friendly and welcoming is the last thing you want. Especially when they hand you a “first time visitor” card and request that you fill it out. I remember looking at the card, trying to figure out how to politely say “actually, I don’t want you to know anything about me…” when my friend took initiative and said that she’d fill hers out first. So following her lead, I filled it out too, however I must admit that I wrote somewhat illegibly with the intention of people not being able to read it…(filling it out counts for something, right).

Thankfully, once the cards were filled out, the woman who was waiting on them left us alone in our empty pew.

After we were alone in the pew I tried to get myself to relax, but to no avail. I began breaking out in hives, and in between squirming around in my seat to not-so-ambiguously scratch, I began to notice that I was actually surrounded by other Koreans, people who looked like me…for the first time ever.

Then, as a familiar song began to play (one that is often played at my former church), everything became too much to handle. Something about the merging of the two contexts/environments, my adoptive parents (church and the accompanying sentiments) and my biological parents (other Koreans), left me with a sense of urgency that I had to find my biological parents.

And with such urgency also comes the disappointment surrounding “what if they can’t be found?”

This is the point where I started tearing up, became really nauseous, and realized that I needed to get out and far, far away from the church.

When I got the okay from my friend, I rushed out of the building, completely ignoring the nice woman at the door who was trying to say something to us, never turning back.

Cool experience, huh? As you can imagine, the rest of the day was a bit rough. And I have no intention of going back, ever.

There’s my three steps back…
but thankfully, I think I might actually be moving forward…slowly.

Thanksgiving Reflections

Being thankful and expressing gratitude has never been hard for me, however this year I found it incredibly difficult. Actually, it was nearly impossible.

While thinking about the perfect words to express what I’m thankful for (for a Facebook status of course), I realized that all of the words felt empty and meaningless, like something being said merely for the sake of saying something. I had lost the ability to articulate, or even come close to articulating, what I’m thankful for. This was deeply troubling, as what does that say about someone?

Slowly, I realized that I still felt a tremendous amount of gratitude, however due to all of the contradictions and conflict occurring within, I couldn’t find a way to clearly express everything (nor did I feel right in doing so).

This entire search process is being conducted in secret; only two other people know. As such, I’m constantly carrying around an overwhelming sense of guilt when surrounded by friends and family, as keeping something this big a secret is nothing short of inauthentic…and I have a big problem with that.

But, perhaps the worst part about this search is that it juxtaposes the feelings I have toward my birth parents with those toward my adoptive family; pulling me closer to one and pushing me further from the other.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, my adoptive family and I are not close…at all. I know that they love me and I love them, but we’ll never have that deep love for one another that is only achieved by truly knowing the other. I’ve come to terms with that and sadly, I’m well beyond the point of wanting it. (And I get that this admittance makes me a horrible person.)

While eating Thanksgiving dinner I saw a stream of pictures of my brother with his sister-in-laws, each picture accompanied with a full recount of the corresponding memory. Watching the happiness beam from their faces and hearing their laughter as it reverberated throughout, I couldn’t help but feel happy for him; happy that he had found a sister(s). I can only hope that having found them helped fill the void that I (might have) left, and that it has given him peace (that is, if he was ever conflicted by our lack of a real relationship).

This led me to thoughts about my parents and how thankful I am that they have a son that they’re able to be close to; someone to receive that treasured parent-child connection from. Nonetheless, I’ll always feel guilty for not giving them that relationship from me.

The next day, while eating leftovers with my dad I became inundated with sadness. As we were silently eating I looked over at my dad and noticed how he would turn his attention to the television in the background and then back to his plate, rarely looking up at me. While his eyes were downcast, I could see and sense his sadness at the display of how distant we were– two people, not talking and not even looking at each other. His sadness instantly became part of me, and as I melded it with my own, this image of the epitome of sadness forever etched itself into my memory. It was enough for me to want to breakdown and say “I’m so so so sorry,” but as the sadness of it all overtook me, I found myself hurrying to escape the room.

All of this is occurring in the context during a point where my mom and I aren’t on speaking terms. After hearing about things she has said regarding my current life decisions, one of which being that the reason my ‘life-fail’ occurred was because I “no longer had Jesus,” I find myself actually angry for the first time. I feel cold. And I hate that; it’s so uncharacteristically like me.

Needless to say, this Thanksgiving has been rough and has left me hoping that the holidays hurry up and pass.

The faster, the better.

Handling it

…or something like that.

The past couple of weeks can be characterized as overwhelming (which I can finally admit). I’ve broken out in hives a couple of few times, am unable to sleep, and seem to have a constant headache. The times when I’m least stressed are when I’m out riding on my bike, focusing solely on enjoying the ride and the beauty of nature. After riding I’m always headache free for a bit and able to dig up the happy-go-lucky part of me that’s been absent for far too long, however within hours everything comes back.

And I’m not even sure I know what everything is.

There’s the disappointment that I wake up with (life fail), along with everything that accompanies that (guilt, confusion, etc.), followed by the disappointment in myself for letting the former disappointment have such a hold on me.

There’s this search and everything that it means to me; there’s a lot at stake. What if I can’t find my biological parents and never find that feeling? What if I never resolve things? What if I can’t even make it to Korea because of the fear that it might be too much to take in alone? I can’t imagine having to be in such an emotional place, physically and mentally, being surrounded by strangers who want to relate and be vulnerable with one another, yet wanting nothing to do with that. Given my trust issues, I’d much rather be alone, than alone in a group where I shouldn’t feel alone– think of the whole ‘have you ever felt alone in a crowded room’ overused pop-song lyric– as that would only point towards my own flaws. And of course, it would be hard having to hold such a facade for a couple of weeks, so I’m sure I’d start blocking and not really experiencing.

There’s the growing list of things that are wrong with me and need to be fixed, the latest of which was realizing that I don’t let anyone get close to me (although there have been recent exceptions, which I feel were a little out of my control). I don’t have a problem with genuinely loving and knowing people, but I don’t have the capacity to be loved or known. It’s just really uncomfortable. If my life were a puzzle, then the broken parts are the pieces which have been torn apart, and rather than fixing them, I’m just haphazardly trying to shove the pieces somewhere, anywhere, regardless of if they fit or not, forever leaving a less-than-perfect puzzle.

There’s all of the internal contradictions– openness versus closedness, living intentionally versus living in fear, value of relationships versus denying fundamental relationships, and so forth– all of which leave me questioning my self and authenticity, which I find particularly troubling.

There’s the holiday season and all of the inadequacy, guilt, tension, and conflict to be felt.

These are the main contributors to everything, however I’m sure there are a lot more at work that I either 1) don’t realize or 2) won’t let myself realize.