Birthday Dinner

Every year on my birthday I think more about my first mother. Over the years, I have honored her presence in my heart with either a thought, a prayer, or a birthday wish as I blew out the candles. This year I did something a little different.

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It was just a few years ago that I met a woman via Facebook. She shared her stories of when she was a young Brigham Young University student volunteering at my orphanage in the 1990’s. The one detail that I kept dear to me was the food the women, mothers, and children ate; “dal and rice almost every day.” The budget was tight, but if they had extra money, they added vegetables.

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So this year, I decided to spend the evening of my birthday alone, honoring her by making dal, rice (not pictured here) chapatis, and coconut chutney. I said a prayer and sent a lot of love around the world.

 

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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

Birthday Blues, Episode 2

My 33rd birthday passed last weekend. As usual, I didn’t think much of it and casually started talking about how to celebrate it with friends.

When brainstorming, I consider what I haven’t done before and what I could do on short notice. The idea to camp in Yosemite was explored and became my birthday destination!

I invited a few friends,  but since all of my dear friends traveled long distances to my graduation two weeks prior, they all gracefully declined.

It was all good because I was going to go anyways, which turned out to be the best outcome.

I packed by bags, picked up camping gear from my sister, set my GPS and hit the road.

I arrived on Friday, set up camp, hiked a bit and meditated. Being that I am from a country where there is at least a 12 hour time distance, I find myself thinking of my first mother the day before my birthday. I thought about her all day in fact. Its not uncommon for adoptees to some how include our first families in our thoughts at this time of year.

This year seemed the same as last. I was not really in a celebratory mood or really desired a lot of attention.

Saturday morning arrived and it was officially my birthday. My mother and stepdad came to my camp for the day. As soon as they showed up, they wanted to rest and take a nap. I took off and began to explore northern Yosemite on my own. It was a magical moment to be out in the wilderness on my own. I breathed, cried, stared at the waterfalls, prayed, and sat in silence.

Throughout the whole day, I thought about my first mother and what she could possibly be thinking about, feeling, and if she was imagining me as a 33 year old young woman. I missed her. I mourned because it is truly unlikely that I will ever meet her again and have a relationship with her.

Last year on my birthday, I was in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The city was full of Catholic churches. It was nice to have a piece of Goa with me on my birthday. https://theadopteediary.com/2015/07/02/birthday-blues/

This year was similar. I wasn’t surrounded by Catholic churches, but I was surrounded by beautiful Indian families. It was nice to have a visual reminder of my first home on my birthday. indians in yosemite

It was nice to be alone, on my own, and free to not celebrate my birthday in the traditional sense.

 

American Adoption Congress Conference

Like I previously mentioned, I was asked to attend the AAC conference and share the film, YOU FOLLOW. I was ecstatic because I had heard nothing but great things about the conference and not so great things about the conference. Attending has been something that I have been wanting to do for the last few years, but due to finances and the dates, I never really made it possible.

To be asked to attend to screen my film was something truly special. I felt that I was really making an impact on the adoption community and given the space to not only make my mark on adoption reform through my experiences and film, but to also connect and be seen. I am so thankful for the experience and to connect with so many other adoptees and professionals that were not only supportive, but also role models. I came out with a sense of pride to be among so many talented writers, creators, performers, filmmakers, poets, actors, screenwriters, and activists that share the same common threads, Adoption Reform and solidarity.

So now the real experiences come forth. What I knew going in was that the conference was challenging, emotional, and educational. Some of my friends couldn’t attend the whole conference and had to leave the second day due to intense triggers. Some respondents mentioned that the conference was predominately older white folks, although that is currently changing.

Along with their opinions, I was going  in knowing how I felt from the last adoption conference that I attended, PACT An Adoption Alliance. Talk about emotionally triggered at every moment you are in contact with the other attendees, and adoptive parents.

I packed my bags, the DVD’s, my oil diffuser and I was off. I arrived only a few mins after my dear friend Reshma, began her presentation on grief in adoption. She is a fellow Indian adoptee and is currently editing and producing her documentary, Calcutta is My Mother. She gave her audience a shout out about my film screening the next evening as I was trying to walk in discretely with a huge travel backpack and side bags. So sweet and embarrassing. I loved it!

I finally got to hear her story and actually get to know her since we first “met” on Facebook. Gotta love FB. The one thing that I appreciated about her story is that she proved the “your mother was probably poor and a child prostitute ”  dialogue that some Indian adoptees hear. Well, believe it or not, that is not always the case for female Indian adoptees!

Anyways, the next morning I said hello to all the familiar faces I could find and met new adoptees, birth/ first mothers, professionals, search angels,  and adoptive parents. I jumped in as presentations as possible. All the topics that were presented interest me. I learned about how we, adoptees are four more times likely to commit suicide and/or be admitted for mental health/addiction issues. I learned more birth/first mother’s stories and how to identify micro/ macroaggressions.

The evening arrived and it was time for me to meet my dad, stepmother, and brother. I invited them to attend the screening and by my surprise, they were able to attend. It was important for me to have my father see me share the film to an audience and listen in on the Q and A. They enjoyed the final cut of the film, my brother handled the merchandise table, and my stepmother shared what she has learned about adoptee’s perspective. They were proud of me. There was so much that I learned at the conference, so I highly recommended that they attend another adoption conference because as my parents, they would learn so much! There didn’t seem to be much interest when I mentioned it so I can only hope at this point.

I was relaxed and calm the whole time. My essential oils helped but I did notice that as I was sitting in the presentations, I would find myself rocking back and forth. I seemed to have slipped back to the moments when I rocked and soothed myself. I think my surroundings also contributed. To my surprise, I was not all tense and on edge like I was when attending PACT. The reason was that most of the attendees were adoptees and open professionals. I was surprised because most of them could be prejudged as adoptive parents. Ha, I got fooled. The demographics were different and it made a difference. Not a huge difference, but a difference.

Going back to how I mentioned that the presenters are becoming more diverse, I could actually see it. In the previous year at the conference, some writers from The Lost Daughters presented as well as a few other POC. More POC presenters was an intentional choice and the board member’s level of awareness made it possible. I felt very welcomed and emotionally safe. I was proud to be part of other adult adoptees of color contributing to the adoption movement, not only via #flipthescript, but also in the educational realm of adoption.

Although I did enjoy myself, I left with suggestions of course. I mentioned in the survey I was asked to fill out that POV’s from adult adoptees that are experiencing an open adoption would greatly be appreciated. For me, there is a lot of support and advocacy for open adoptions, but I personally don’t know of a group of adoptees in an open adoption advocating that it worked. Also POV’s from non-adoptive siblings would also be beneficial because within the research and blogs, there seems to lack a space for them to share how adoptions has affected their life. They are an equal part of the family where adoption influences their family role and relationships. I would like to know what my sister may be feeling before I ask. Seems weird, but I think it would help.

Reflections and suggestions aside, would I attend again? Yes, I would love to attend again!

 

YOU FOLLOW film review by Adoption Today

       Soon after I returned from the American Adoption Congress Conference (more about that experience later), I was contacted by Adoption Today‘s editor, Kim Phagan-Hansel. She asked to watch and review the film for their monthly magazine. She attended the conference but was unable to  attend my screening. I passed along our film and by my surprise, we were published in their May 2016 issue. I was only given the PDF of the article, so here is the article copied below. Please visit our website for more information about the documentary!

YOU FOLLOW: a search for one’s past

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Gazillion Strong
Saywhatfoo Films, 2016, 91 minutes, www.youfollowthefilm.com, $20 DVD, $10 Digital 

Eager to connect with her birth country, Nisha Grayson and several

of her friends set off on a journey to India, which they chronicle in the film,“You Follow.”In order to make the trip more meaningful,the friends decided the focus of their trip should be on helping Nisha locate her birth mother. When they arrive, they begin their mission. Along the way they run into many roadblocks and challenges, however the group continues to push forward on their mission to find Nisha’s birth mother. 

A chance encounter with a local street vendor named Tony changes everything as he decides he will take it upon himself to find Nisha’s birth mother. For more than two years, Nisha searches for her birth mother with Tony’s help, culminating with Nisha returning to India to meet her birth mother. Unfortunately, the meeting is not what Nisha had hoped for.

 “You Follow” is a glimpse into a portion of one adoptee’s mission to find the missing link, her birth family. The film shows the raw emotions of excitement, frustration, sadness and so much more as Nisha lives through the search process. The film is definitely an eye-opening opportunity to understand the mixed emotions that adoptees feel and the difficulties in living between two worlds. Woven throughout the film are interviews with various adoption professionals, adoptive parents and others involved in the adoption system. These interviews allow for a broader perspective of the adoption experience overall. The film was an official selection of the 2015 India International Film Festival and the official selection of the 2014 La Femme International Film Festival. “You Follow” is an insightful film that provides a valuable glance into the real experiences of adoptees and others touched by adoption. It’s definitely a must-see.

 — Reviewed by Kim Phagan-Hansel

 

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!