A Taste of Jealousy

For ten years, I have been reading about other adoption journeys, the common struggles and joys we experience, and of course stories of reunion. I find myself reading non stop about how mothers find their children, adults finding their parents, families falling apart after reunion, and how closed files keep identities sealed.

Before throwing myself in books, I just didn’t think that it was possible for me let alone anybody else to find any details about their first family, their first life.

Being that I am an adoptee from India and having my adoption take place thirty three years ago, the idea and hope of reunion was probably never considered by the facilitators. The lack of possibility became my narrative. My narrative that was passed down to me were based on assumptions, books, fear, and uncertainty.

It was the stories of domestic reunions that began to change my narrative about my own reunion from impossible to maybe, just maybe.

Years went by and the opportunity to search came and I began to act. I followed my instincts and shared my friends belief that it was going to happen. Www.youfollowthefilm.com

Since the release of the film, I have become friends with many other international and domestic adoptees. We all have shared our stories through either film, books, solo performances, poems, and blogs. Their vulnerability to open the doors to their most private and personal history is admirable.

Reunions are the goal. Pictures are valuable. Files are requested. Acknowledgment is crucial. Reattaching the psychological, physiological, and spiritual bond that we share with our mother is a biological necessity.

Understanding these desires, I can’t help but want the fantasies and dreams of reunion to come true for my dear friends. For some, they have. It usually never goes the way that they anticipate, but nonetheless, they know, and knowing is all I want.

All I want to know is who she is. All I want is a picture. All I want is my file. All I want is a conversation. All I want is the TRUTH.

The once possible is slowly becoming the impossible again and it’s not fair.

I continue to hear about my dear friends and their stories of reunion or gathering any pieces from their first family.

It’s all so bittersweet.

I will admit that jealousy is my immediate response. I can be looked at and judged in many ways, but I’m going to be quite honest here. I am not only happy for reunions that my dear fellow adoptees experience, but I am also very jealous. I am jealous of the pictures, the acknowledgement, the open files, and the relationships. I am even jealous of the pain, the tears, heartaches that sometimes come with reunion.

I understand that knowing all or some may not be the best for everyone that has access to their history, but I want it all.

I want to find my family on Facebook, or by putting a letter in a file, or joining a website, or hiring an investigator. I want it to be easy where cultural barriers don’t exist, where female babies are honored, where we share the same language, where I don’t need to hide and lie in order to meet my family and where my mother has no fear or shame in saying yes, I am your mother.

I want it to be simple. It should be simple. It needs to be simple for all of us.

Through Her Body

Born, Never Asked.

Zoë Klien

CounterPulse.org

San Francisco, CA

August 11th-13th, 18th-20th

These last few years I have been manifesting new relationships with transracial adoptees. There is something that is quite strong between my fellow adoptees and myself. This feeling of validation and solidarity.

At Pact Camp this year, I was assigned to share a room with Zoë Klien. I got to know  Zoë throughout the week and learned that she is a performer traveling around the world. It was her first time at camp and my third. I was able to see how my first time experiences overlapped and aligned with hers. I wanted to learn more about her truth as a transracial adoptee.

The desire to know more and support a fellow adoptee took me to San Francisco.

Born, Never Asked. sheds light on the complexity of international adoption through scrobatics, dance, spoken word, and visual imagery. Born in Colombia, raised in NY, choreographer Zoë Klien embarks on this personal journey in order to question the importance of bloodline and how to achieve wholeness in the face of conflicting loyalties between lands, language, families, and cultures.”

With a heart full of gratitude and love, the lights dimmed. I took a deep breath and I teleported into the aircraft where she was being relocated from one country to another. From Colombia to New York, NY . The story of her birth.

Her limbs and toes stretched as if her mother was feeling her foot push through her belly. Her mother prepared for birth. Moments before the plane landed.

I saw her body suspended and stretched far in the air. She and the other performers told the story of detachment, attachment, loss, trust, all that is so common with other adoptees.

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A deep tone of red covers the stage allowing the audience to interpret their feelings, without knowing that their shared interpretations are very quite similar.

Her words resonated and caused vibration throughout my body once I heard her soft voice. If I remember correctly, she spoke, “World traveler at 30 days old,” and “who is saving who?”

With very few words verbalized, I understood her story. As shared during the Talk Back, Zoë noticed that there are not too many, if any performers sharing their story with only a few words spoken. That was the space she wanted to create and fill.

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The awareness of this space parallels Nancy Verrier book, “Primal Wound.” She confirmed my feelings and experiences around the severed bond and relationship between my mother and I after 40+ weeks in utero.

Once again, these experiences are aligned for me and I recognized the Universe was present with me. Or I with she.

As an artist, Zoë uses multiple media to share her life. Not only does she dance, choreograph, run the show, but she also writes, paints, photographs, and digs deep to her truth. Her soul was celebrated with paintings and photos of her journey back to Colombia.

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Zoë is an artist to follow. She is story teller to follow. The one thing that I can truly appreciate is that her show will change as she changes. She will reflect the stages of her relationships, growth, awareness, and mourning. The stages of adoption. I am honored to witness a visual performance that mimics my truth.

Attend, support, and follow the art work and story telling of Zoë Klien
CounterPulse.org

UC Merced FREE Film Screening of YOU FOLLOW: a search for one’s past

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Thanks to the South Asian Student Association, the Global Asia Working Group, and the Center for Humanities at UC Merced for hosting a free screening of my film, YOU FOLLOW: a search for one’s past. Food and refreshments will be available on a first come, first serve basis. No tickets needed.

I will be attending and available to answer any questions after the film.

I hope to see you there!

Date of Departure

As an adoptee, there are some privileges that I don’t have. One of them is truth. As I become more involved with my history, my story, my narrative, there is still a little part of me that doubts what I have been told or what I have discovered. There has, and I am sure there will always be gaps and holes in my personal story. I am hoping these gaps are not created intentionally by those that have determined my destiny and path up until now. Although, even as a 30 something adult, I have had to accept the fact there will be truths to my story that I will never be able to uncover due to secrets and reputations held by key players in my adoption. I am not alone here.

Since the release of my film, YOU FOLLOW: a search for one’s past, I have connected with other trans-racial adoptees via Facebook. Aspects of their adoptions come up every now and then on my feed. Over the last couple of years, there have been a common trend of other adoptees celebrating the date of arrival into their family. This date is the day that their adoption became final, when they got picked up from the airport, when they met their adoptive parents for the first, etc. However their first meeting played out, that is the day that is usually acknowledged and sometimes publicly celebrated.

For me, my date of arrival was never really important to me. I always knew that it was sometime in December. Within my family, there was no acknowledgment or celebration. I never felt the need or desire to mark that date as an anniversary or a special day. At least not until recently.

It was the acknowledgment by my fellow adoptees that got me curious one afternoon in mid December of last year. I got the intense urge to find out because I did want to honor that day of the year.

The first thing I did was call my mother. No answer. Then I called my father. No answer, so I left a message. He took a couple of days to call me back. He stated that he looked through all the paperwork that he had but my day of arrival was not mentioned anywhere. He casually suggested that I look at my Indian passport.

At that moment, a loud DUH! went through my thoughts. I happened to be sitting at my desk and my handy plastic container with all my important documents was conveniently placed next to my chair by surprise. With my dad still on the phone, I lifted the lid off and my Indian passport was on top of everything else. I opened up the pages and found the stamp from the Bombay Airport Immigration dated December 29, 1983. I flipped the page and the same date appeared on the US Immigration stamp. There it was, the date that I left my first home and arrived to my next one.

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I told my dad that today is my anniversary of when I first arrived to the US. He sounded pleased and happy of course, but I on the other hand felt the opposite. I felt sad, very sad. For me to find out my original date of arrival exactly 32 years later on the very same date was already unreal. These feelings of grief came over me. I acted like I was okay and said my goodbyes.

I sat and rode the waves of emotions for awhile. I stopped what I was currently working on at the time. I didn’t answer calls. I just sat with myself.

I cried.

I missed my first home. I missed India. I missed by birth mother. I missed a life that I could of easily had. I missed not having a choice.

Its odd, but I felt I was taken away. Almost against my will.

To think that my life could of unfolded any other way because of someone else’s decision. This someone that I will never meet and who refuses to answer any of my emails. This someone that holds so many secrets to my life so she can protect her own reputation.

Since there are so many uncertain pieces and secrets to the first six months of my life, I must hold on to the pieces that I know to be true. I can now add my date of arrival to my story.

 

 

Throwback Thursday to 2014

I contributed these words to a dear friend, writer, a role model.  Submitted 9/27/2014

  • How old ere you when you first began getting together with other adopted people, and discussing what it felt like or meant to be adopted?

When I first got the idea to seek out other adoptees and support, I had just returned from my first trip back to my country of origin, India in 2009. I had spent two months in India searching for my birth mother and when I came back, I had a lot of emotions, thoughts, fears, insecurities, uncertainties that I needed to process. I was in search for people who I could have a conversation with that could give. I was already surrounded by people who listened, but had nothing to contribute, and that was what I was in desperate need for at that time.

  • Had you been wanting to have this experience before it actually happened? (ie., did you seek it out and how?)

 

Yes, I wanted to always know other adult adoptees. The desire to know other adoptees felt like just another fantasy. I was never really motivated to search out others or support prior to 2009. I always felt I was fine and that I would get over it soon. Ha, well that didn’t last long at all.

  • Did you know other adopted children when you were growing up? Did you ever discuss adoption with them?

I have four cousins that are also adopted, but I would rarely see them because they are all older and we don’t live close to each other at all. We would only see each other at major family events and those would only last a short period of time so our conversations never went to that level.

  • What was it like to be adopted BEFORE you had this experience of meeting other adopted people?

Being adopted was confusing growing up. What I mean is that all I heard were the great things about adoption, “you are so lucky,”” this is your only family,” “love is all that matters,” and “your life is so much better now.” While hearing all this shit, I was feeling just the opposite. I felt lonely, sad, disconnected, empty, broken, isolated, and hurt. Something just didn’t add up for me. I remember crying to my best friend in college about how I hated being adopted. She had nothing to say, and that’s when it clicked for me… she doesn’t get it. Nobody gets it.

  • Describe your relationships and interactions with other adopted people. Are these relationships part of an organized community, or individual? 

Oh my goodness, I love my adopted peeps! I feel such relief that it’s literally indescribable. A few words explain a lifetime of experiences. A few words validate a lifetime of feelings. A few words provide a safety net for personal expression. A few words create healing dialogue. A few words spark a commonality that doesn’t need words. My relationships with other adoptees have been made possible by adoption organizations like PACER and Pact an Adoption Alliance. Through the sharing of my film, I have also created some friendships with other adoptees via social media, but there is nothing like meeting and talking in person.

  • Is there any specific “sub-group” of adoptees that you are involved with, either formally or informally (international or transracial adoptees, parent adoptees, domestic, foster alumni, etc)

I am a part of the transracial adult adoptee subgroup. My relationships with other transracial adult adoptees stem from Pact an Adoption Alliance.

  • How often are you in contact with other adoptees, in your everyday life? How often do you speak with other adoptees about adoption issues that come up for you?

I am not in physical contact with other adult adoptees on an everyday basis. There are PACER meeting that I enjoy attending when I am not in school. I connect with my transracial “tribe” via social media, emails, text messages whenever possible and I reach out whenever I am in their neighborhood. I mostly send out an email or text message to friends that I think about in the moment. I am interested and trying to plan an adult adoptee dinner/gathering every couple of months or so just to stay in contact and develop friendships/bonds.

  • What is it like to discuss your adoption experience with non-adopted friends or family?

Discussing my experience is quite difficult. Growing up, my parents, family, or friends never really brought it up and if they did then it wasn’t really an authentic conversation. I never felt safe to discuss my adoption with my family because for some reason, my feelings would be mistaken as an attack which would cause family members to get defensive; I would immediately withdrawal. At this point, now that I have my adult adoptee tribes, I don’t really feel compelled to share too much with those that are non-adoptive, unless they ask of course, then I will be more than willing to share how I feel about my story.

  • Can you remember the first time that you were first in the presence of a group of other adoptees? What was that like for you?

The first time I was with a group of adoptees was when I attended a PACER meeting back in 2009. It was a triad group and it felt great to not only be around other adoptees, but also birth mothers. The women that I met made my birth mother real for me. Their presence pulled my birth mother out of my fantasies and made her real, with a story, with feelings, with heartache, with grief, sadness, shame, pain, and anger. The truth that those women spoke helped me realize that I was never abandoned or given up.

My first raw experience of being with other adoptees was when I first pulled up to the Pact Family Camp in July 2014. The first thing that I saw were little black children running across the street to the pool with their white families following. That’s when my heart dropped and I started breathing heavy. I was in absolute awe to see a family built like my very own. I thought I was seriously the only one. After I spent some time alone, getting myself together and prepped for the week, I attended the welcoming presentation that introduced the camp, the facilitators, the counselors, and the weeklong programming. Again I was speechless when seeing all the families gathered together in one large room. When Beth Hall asked for all the adoptees to raise their hand, I began to cry because I was so overwhelmed to see that about 80% of the room raised their hands and they were all adoptees of color. Kids, counselors, staff members, foster care alumni, even parents raised their hands and I immediately felt like I was with my people. That moment was life changing for me, I realized after that week at camp that being connected with other adult adoptees has been the most important, validating, gratifying, peaceful experience that I have ever felt before. The men and women that I have met, and have yet to meet in the future has contributed to my own mental health, physical wellbeing, and emotional stability. I am forever grateful.

Her returned letter read:

Nisha, reading your answers made me cry. Thank you for your honesty. Such a powerful response. I’m overwhelmed myself now!

oxox
Susan

The Casual, Not So Casual Meet and Greet Convo

Meeting new people is always so interesting, uncomfortable and invasive or me. Of course most strangers don’t know that I am adopted, but confusion seems to arise when I answer their basic questions about myself and my family. Over the years, I began to notice that I was disclosing my adoption within the first few minutes of meeting someone, only to relieve their confusion about my answers and not for my own personal desire to want to share. There have been times where I chose to leave the conversation when they get that blank stare on their face just to avoid having to tell them the missing link in my story line. In those moments, I have to decide if my adoption is going to be part of my identity or a part of me that is really no ones fucking business.

A brief conversation I had with a kind woman at my weekly mediation group proves my point. Note: personal thoughts are told in parenthesis

Her: Hello, how are you? You are awfully quiet.

Me: Yes (well, we did just get done with a 40 minute meditation session)

Her: Is this your first time here?

Me: No, I began coming last fall, but had to stop due to my school schedule. I am now able to return because my Thursday evenings are now open.

Her: Great, what are you studying?

The conversation was lead to discussing my masters program and blah, blah, blah. Then it begins.

Her: Are you from Fiji?

Me: No, I am from India.

Her: Do  you speak Indian?

Me: Do you mean Hindi? (For reals? You look to be at least 80 years old and you still think Indians speak Indian?)

Her: Oh yes, do you speak Hindi?

Me: No, I do not.

Her: Do your parents speak Hindi? (Oh shit, here we go)

Me: No, they only speak English

Her: Its amazing how families come over and lose their language, their culture, their heritage and everything that comes with being Indian. (Oh gawd, you’re right. It’s amazing and it kind of sucks)

This is when I tense up and get a reality check about my losses. I quickly analyze the situation before my next move. I seem to go through the same questions before responding. Do I feel safe? Do I want to disclose my adoption to this stranger?  Who the fuck is she? Is she on a need to know basis? Is this a learning opportunity for her? Why do I feel like this? How do I get out of this? Should I just avoid her and nod my head in agreement? What do I do?

With a sunken feeling of sadness and shame, I chose to answer with some honesty.

Me: Well, that comes with adoption. I experienced all of those losses with being a trans-racial adoptee. (There it goes, I dropped the most personal bomb)

Her: Oohh, a trans-racial adoptee?

Me: Yes, I was adopted by a white family.

Her: Oh, interesting.

She begins to tell about a family friend’s child (8 years old) and his recent awareness that his skin is darker than his mothers due to his estranged father being black. I think this is something that is not very common in her social groups, but I respect her for trying to relate. I followed her story about the importance of having dialogue around racial identity during a child’s development and that its usually due to white privilege that white parents are not having these conversations with their children of color. I blatantly said that its doing a disservice to children and during their early years of development.

So, going back to my original point… this was the first time I met this woman and I felt obligated, pressured, and stuck to go deeper with a stranger than I ever intended to just to straighten out her assumptions. Yes, I didn’t have to, and yes, I could of politely excused myself from the conversation, which I have done before. My point is that this is not the first “casual” meet and greet conversation I have had that lead to me telling more than I want. Some other triggers that take the conversation to a deeper level of intimacy is when I get asked if my parents cook Indian food, if I have family/relatives in India, or if they are surprised that I don’t have an Indian accent. I can usually avoid saying too much and I have figured a way to dodge my adoption story, but it’s rare.

I guess this shit is what comes with being adopted. I’m just glad she didn’t mention how lucky I am because then I probably would have lost my shit which is not ideal after meditating. 🙂