If you think more positively you may find happiness

Earlier this morning, a dear older friend of mine slipped a note in my hand, saying that she had to leave church early but wanted to give me the note after reading the introductory papers to my memoir that I gave her last week.

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After reading her note, I wrote her the following letter:

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January 4, 2015

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Hi L,

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Thank you for your sweet note.

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Please continue to call me “Joan” since that is how you know me! “Doris” is the name I had at birth, and I use it to make the point that all adoptees lose the name they were given at birth. I know it confused you, for that, I am sorry. My legal name, Joan, has been the name I’ve had for 58 of my 59 years of life.

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Thank you for expressing condolences for my plight in life.

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However, I’m not bitter. I’m bitter for what happened to me, but I am neither angry nor bitter now. My writings express it to get the points across, but no, I am quite happy.

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In the last 4 years, I’ve been the happiest I’ve ever been because I no longer have to interact with hateful relatives. The last two of my parents died in 2011 and with that came relief – relief that their suffering was over, and relief that the negativity of the relatives associated with my adoptive mother and with my natural father was over for me. I no longer am forced to deal with people who have been cruel to me.

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There are positive relatives whom I miss, some I let go because I don’t want to interact with the rest of the relatives, and others are still in my life. Believe me, there are adoptive relatives who have never treated me cruelly, and there are a few cousins from my natural mother’s family who also have not treated me with cruelty.

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I surround myself with positive people. I have good friends at church, at the YMCA where I exercise daily, and at various live music venues where my musician friends perform.

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So, the papers I gave you explaining my life were meant to share with you why I joined the United Nations Envoy Team – where you and I met last year. With my knowledge, I want to join forces with existing programs to help make the world a better place for women and children, particularly poor women and poor children, especially women persecuted for giving birth to illegitimate children, and widows and orphans. I want to stop the trafficking of poor children in international adoption and to protect our own vulnerable pregnant women and their children.

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Yes, I’ve lived through unbearable trauma. But being in touch with adoptees worldwide through email and Facebook on the Internet, and with mothers (and fathers) who lost their children to adoption, I am contributing to make the world a better place. I am living our UU Principles of social justice! Networking with others to foster understanding of what each of us (adoptees and parents of loss) has lived through is energizing for me. We create legislation to change laws statewide, and we write books, we appear on TV and radio to talk about our lives with the goal of raising awareness of the realities of adoption. So you see, I am not alone in writing about my life.

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Yes, I do see the truth in your statement: “Who knows, behind every turn, life holds treasures that you can’t foresee at the present.” In what you perceive as bitterness in my papers on my life, please keep in mind that writing these specific pieces: “About the Author” and “About the Book”, are meant to be brief highlights of what my memoir is about and a short bit of what happened to me. It all happened in the past – being transferred from one family to another, I lost my family, and my name at birth and my true birth certificate.  Yes, the first years of reunion were filled with confusion and anxiety for me. But please do not believe I am not happy today. I am. It makes me happy to explain my life so that no other child – no other person – has to go through what I did. There are lessons to be learned – that is why I wrote my memoir. And as I said, it is currently being professionally edited and formatted and will be re-published this year.

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It’s amusing to me that you think I don’t accept the things I cannot change. See, I have been the only one doing just that: accepting all of my life. It is the rest of the people in my families (adoptive and natural) who have not dealt with the realities that created the trauma of all of our lives where my adoption is concerned. It is also the general public who does not want to hear the realities of adoption; they’d rather believe in the myths of adoption.

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It makes me happy to do the things I do. While you may not realize this, I am one of the pioneers in the field of adoption reform. I’ve been writing about adoption since 1975. I am one of about 500 to 1,000 activists around America and thousands throughout the world.

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It may seem to you that I am not happy since my story is tragic. I am, in fact, very happy inside myself, knowing that I am trying to change what I can to make this a better world.

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Blessed Be,

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Joan

6 thoughts on “If you think more positively you may find happiness

  1. Well said, Joan. You make an important point here: You can be angry about adoption and still be a happy person. I lost my first son to adoption in 1968, and I found him in 2012. Our reunion has been a most glorious, most difficult experience, and I have felt rage unlike anything I ever felt before, rage at what was done to me and my son, albeit with the best intentions. A great literary critic once wrote, “Great literature was not created by a bunch of happy chuckleheads.” Life is filled with pain; no one escapes. Adoption pain is unique (all pain is unique when it is yours), and working to end it for yourself and others is not an expression of bitterness but of mental health. Living lies and putting up with rejection and cruelty are not healthy. Acceptance of wrong is not healthy. Anyone who believes that natural mothers and adoptees should forget the past and just get on with life are not for the most part mean-spirited; they are badly misinformed. The truth shall set you free–as true for adoptees and natural mothers as for anyone else.

    1. Thank you, Pam, for your comments. Yes, reunions are a combination of joy, excitement, anger, rage, confusion, juggling all types of personalities, running through a maze of different religious views, different economic and social norms, different cultures and family traditions. No reunion is the perfect reunion and, no, it is NOT wonderful to be in reunion. The point underlying reunion is that the adoptee should not have been permanently separated from the natural family to begin with. Only the adoptee and the natural parent know how that feels. Communicating to non-adopted people what that means is not easy. The general public may not be mean-spirited in their lack of understanding of adoption issues – socio-economic, psychological, legal, but many are anyway. Many members of my own adopted family and natural family actually were, and are, mean and cruel: to this day. Which is why I have no contact with them. As for my sweet-old-lady friend at church, the one who inspired this blog post (and letter), is simply misinformed. As for you and your son, I cannot say that time will heal, as that is a tired old saying as well. The system of lies and rejection, as you say, is not healthy. I cannot imagine how you feel to know you are not your son’s legal mother. The contradictions of legal reality and biological reality in adoption come together in mental health when everyone faces it head on.

      1. You’re right. My son and I should never have been separated. When I read a recent blog post by a happy adoptee who was grateful to her mother for placing her with a wonderful family, I had to ask myself, What if my parents, in an effort to obtain a better life for me, had allowed a Rockefeller or a Kennedy to adopt me. I’d have had more advantages, a better education perhaps, and plenty of financial security, but would that really have been better? It’s all relative, and just as it’s unthinkable that my parents would have given me away, so it’s unconscionable for society (the adoption industry, adoptive parents, adoption brokers) to spread the lie that adoption is a “beautiful choice.” You may end up loving the spouse your parents arranged for you to marry, but most people (in western culture anyway) prefer to choose for themselves. Adoptees, especially babies, are given no choice yet are expected to be grateful. Doesn’t that go against everything America is supposed to stand for?

      2. Your question to yourself raises the bar a bit higher, one perhaps non-adopted people might begin to understand. Lower-middle-class and middle-middle-class people cannot afford to keep TV, cannot afford gas in the car, let alone a vacation, might not be able to send their kids to private schools, so, by the standards of the upper-middle-class and the wealthy class, these are sub-standard conditions in which to raise a child. Therefore, it does make sense that children of the lower-middle-class and the middle-middle-class be up for adoption by those people who can truly provide that “better life” for all these in-need children. I say, we start recruiting those kids right now. Maybe then society will wake up to the suffering of mothers of adoption loss and adoptees who were torn apart because of poverty and society’s cruel standards.

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