Saturday, May 31, 2008
When a woman is strong in her instinctual nature, she intuitively recognizes the innate predator by scent, sight, and hearing ... anticipates its presence, hears it approaching, and takes steps to turn it away. In the instinct injured woman, the predator is upon her before she registers its presence, for her listening, her knowing and the apprehensions are impaired -- mainly by introjects which exhort her to be nice, to behave, and especially to be blind to being misused.
"Women Who Run With the Wolves" by Clarissa Pinkola Estes
I am a child of the 50’s, and like most women of that era, was raised to be ladylike, sweet, and to please; to judge my own self-worth by my perception of how I was viewed by others. I was raised to be the perfect daughter and wife , first and to follow my own aspirations only if they did not interfere with the desires of others, most especially my family’s. I was taught a lot of "rules" or "shoulds" all aimed at educating me as to what was expected of me and how I was to behave. And, if I strayed from the path, family and society were there to let me know how ashamed I should be, and that repentance and a return to the proper course were to be my only salvation. Oh, and lest I forget, they would be ever vigilant in reminding me of past transgressions.
Oh, I tried to be good ... I really did. And, when I took an ill-advised course as a teenager, in a last act of rebellion, the results were dire, further reinforcing in me that "they" were right. With this as my back- ground, it was small wonder that I found myself, in my thirties, in an abusive relationship and not having a clue as to how bad my situation was, nor how to extricate myself from it. I had long ago learned to martyr myself for others... after all, wasn’t this a noble thing for a woman to do? My life appeared to outsiders to be that of the perfect person. I remember when a friend asked me what it was that made me happy and, I responded when those around me were happy. "But", she asked, "what makes just you happy, what is it you want just for you". I realized for the first time that I could not answer this question. I had denied my own feelings so long that I barely felt at all. I just functioned as a mirror of the feelings of those around me. When they were happy, I was happy. When they were upset, then I was upset and would do everything I could to make them happy again. My happiness??? What was that?? I was so out of touch with my feelings, my intuition had been silenced, and I had lost the ability to make the decisions I needed to make for me.
Fortunately for me, there were a series of occurrences that were so traumatic, they broke through the shell I had formed around myself and forced me to feel. And, as excruciatingly painful as they were, this renewed ability to deeply feel allowed me to begin to get in touch again with my intuition ... my inner voice.
Intuition ÷ This is the voice that men laugh about, calling it superstition or female overreacting. This is the voice that speaks to us at the back of our minds warning us about things we cannot "prove" in the physical world. It is the voice that caused millions to be burned and slaughtered. It is the hand of our dark sisters/brothers guiding us through the unknown.
It has been predominately granted as women’s sight, though many men also have such gifts. They, however, have been more stringently taught to suppress it, to deny its existence. We are taught that the only valid form of decision making is to rationalize, yet look at what this "rationalization" has done to our world. When we reclaim our dark siblings, and embrace them, our inner voice begins to return and we begin to again understand the truths contained in the darkness. Our eyes begin to penetrate the masks that are used to deceive.
I have finally learned to listen carefully to that inner voice. I travel with excitement into the dark recesses, searching through the bones, digging in the earth and using the lessons of the past to fertilize the seeds of the future.
Throughout generations of routine obstetrical, hospital, and adoption practice in this country, the attitude has been, "Why would the separation from its mother affect a newborn baby?" But with the advent in the last twenty years of prenatal and perinatal research, we have astounding findings about what a fetus experiences in the womb, what a strong connection it has with the mother long before birth, and how intelligent, aware and remembering a newborn is. Researchers currently feel the more appropriate question to be, "Why wouldn’t separation from the mother to whom he or she was connected for nine months affect an infant in fundamental ways?"
"Many doctors and psychologists now understand that bonding doesn’t begin at birth, but is a continuum of physiological, psychological, and spiritual events which begin in utero and continue throughout the postnatal bonding period. When this natural evolution is interrupted by a postnatal separation from the mother, the resultant experience of abandonment and loss is indelibly imprinted upon the unconscious minds of these children, causing that which I call the ’primal wound’." So wrote Nancy Verrier in her landmark 1993 book, The Primal Wound Understanding the Adopted Child. Rather than deeply question whether the experience of separation in adoption is traumatic, we as a society tend to believe that enough love and care can make everything right. But psychologists have taught us that the first stage of psychological growth includes the development of trust, as a foundation for secure relationships with others, and ourselves. Babies who are separated from the only connection they’ve ever known-their primordial biological and psychological matrix—have had their nascent sense of trust deeply violated.
Adoptees may unconsciously feel that it’s too dangerous to love and be loved authentically and deeply; all of the love and care parents give them sometimes has a hard time "getting in" past the child’s defenses against the hurt and abandonment that they are internally "hardwired" to expect. As Verrier says of her own relationship to her adopted daughter, "I discovered that it was easier for us to give her love than it was for her to accept it."
The trauma of newborn separation is registered largely on the physical level, leaving the nervous system predisposed to getting stuck in survival mode: fight or flight,or freeze. In babies, these powerful feelings are thus expressed physically, through inconsolable crying (or the other extreme, virtually no crying at all), extreme startle responses, arching or stiffening at being held, "spacing out" or sleeping all the time, severe colic or other illness. The primal sense of loss, abandonment and rage that results from the trauma of separation is overwhelming to a newborn, who hasn’t yet developed an ego, much less ego defense mechanisms. Left unacknowledged or unaddressed, these unresolved nervous system patterns permeate the psychological and personality realms, and can manifest in such ways as hyper-controlling behavior ("the little tyrant") and intense emotional volatility, or the opposite, a superficially cheerful adaptiveness ("the pleaser").
Children often split themselves off from the injured parts of their psyche, and develop a functional,acceptable, "falseself." This concept of the false self is often the explanationbehind what seems like "wonderful adjustment" on the part of an adoptee, or traumatized child who has responded to the deep fear of further abandonment or trauma by becoming compliant and adaptive to the needs and expectations of the parents or caregivers. But their grief and anger is simply buried in the unconscious, curdling their social and emotional lives.
One of the most powerful healing forces is available to everyone, free of charge: empathy. Empathy allows a person, even a tiny baby, to feel their feelings, rather than repress them, so they can be released. Adoptees need to express their feelings of grief and loss. They need our help to do this, and this help needs to take the form of active empathy saying the words, out loud, and let them know that what he or she is feeling makes sense and is allowed.
Learning to howl requires that we tap into the deepest recesses of our soul, and that takes courage because what lies that deep is not always pretty or sweet smelling. Else it might as well be out in the open... Anyone who has ever heard a baby howl, knows we are born with it. No social niceties or barriers lie between what baby needs and her expression of that need.
But then things happen... we get hurt, sometimes deeply; or we are told over and over that we do not have what it takes: we are not tall enough, or smart enough, or kind enough; or we are told simply that "this is how it's done". Then, that close union with the One, the source of our spontaneity and creativity, the deep river where we quench our thirst for life, is buried deep and nearly forgotten, becoming a subterranean trickle of muddy water covered with brambles - like the she-wolf's coat at the end of a long hard winter...
But the deep river never dries up. The little insistent voice at the back of our mind, the subtle gnawing feeling in the pit of our stomach will not be smothered. It must be the basic ingredient of our DNA. The ones who don't know of or do not believe in this, resign themselves to live a semi-life, shadows of what could have been. But the one who knows... also knows that no matter how difficult or painful or tedious, the task of calling out, assembling, and then singing over the bones, is worth the effort. Only after the pain of that birth, our second one, can we know the full joy and freedom of being.
As it is said in the book, the job of reassembling the bones of our soul self is lonely; it's done when nobody is looking and for nobody else's sake. To fuse with the One is essentially to become alone, because the One is not two. When you dare to assemble your skeleton and sing it or howl it into life, you know that nobody else will think exactly like you or act exactly like you or feel exactly like you... ever again; although there is some consolation in the fact that you are bound to meet, and attract and be attracted to, those who are only exactly like themselves. And it takes a lot of courage and a lot of hard-working soul search to assume the place that is reserved for you; to dare to be simply who you are, with no artifices and no complications.
The fastest way i know of connecting with the deep river is through meditation. But the fastest path is often also the steepest... and there are as many paths as there are stars in the universe, if not more, and they all lead to the center. We can call it a "path" or a "personal religion", or abstain from naming it; it is something everybody can realise; we are born with that seed, that potential; it is our basic human right. Whether through prayer or dance or poetry or any of the arts, or crafts, or through sitting in a cathedral or mosque or mountain or beach, through any creative techniques or ideas and skills such as raising a child or a puppy, a flower or a bridge between two shores or an agreement between people.
To Estes, one arrives there "through any activity which requires an intense altered consciousness". In my experience, it can be that altered (though often very ordinary) consciousness, which in turn alters our perception of every activity, every movement, thought or feeling, allowing us to see it in its perfect uniqueness. It is the process of deprogramming other people's views or dreams of who we are, and of reassembling the bones or elements of who we really are. It is manifest in our houses, in our web pages, in the friends we choose and, unconsciously, in the families we don't choose.
For those who pay attention, it can be glimpsed in the slightest tossing of wild head, in the way we say "thank you" or "get out of my way". It can be heard in the mightiest, most earth-shattering howl ever let out by a free spirit, in the full moon night of our awakening. It is our essence; our birth right. Deep grunt of lioness, belly howl of wolf or powerful river song of human, expressing - hey. I''m here. I'm whole. I am .
Was spell checking an email on Yahoo mail today.
It kept highlighting the word, "adoptee."
No such word exists. Or so it implied.
The spell checker gave me some nifty options:
Oh, the irony. I was feeling a little invisible today. (I swear, adopters are always well represented...in media, as lawmakers, as spokespersons for adoptees and now...on spell check)
Well, shoot. Maybe I'd misunderstood. Maybe that's what I was supposed to be all this time.
An adaptee. (And no, I'm not anti-adoption. Just anti-adoption-is-wunnerful-no-biggie-pretense)
A journal of Nina De la Fuente's continuing struggle as an adopted person.
I know the rebel in me is ever so present, just waiting and plotting to break free.
Caged, locked and tightly hidden, for fear of others discovery.
But I say to myself, why hide it? Why not show the world its presence?
So, from this day forward, I will make its presence known and shall never shun its glorious form.
What exactly is a rebel? A rebel is different things to everyone, mine is freedom of self expression from myself. I'm rebelling against me. The me who wants to be liked by everyone to the point of saying, wearing, doing what others expect of me? In the years of self reflection, I have discovered that total self expression is freeing. I feel totally myself. As I've told friends of mine, I'm a student of life...meaning that I'm learning everything I can from life. Life has a lot to teach us and it's up to us to open our eyes and have an open mind to new ideas. Ideas that can move us forward and not backward. Ideas than can help mankind have a peaceful world and tolerance for each other. Ideas that will help our environment. And it starts with one person, me, you. We can't change others, but we can change how we view the world and everything and everyone else around us.
From now on, I'm going to be true to me, and not be afraid to be the person I know me to be. For so long I felt like I have been hiding behind a facade, a mask. Why? Because I have been doing it so long that hiding has become a comfort zone for me. But part of me is angry because I'm not real. I hide myself because it's part of my defense mechanism, the only way I felt I could fit in in my surroundings. This is something I have learned from a young age because I've never felt like I belonged anywhere before. I've always felt like a fish out of water, but not so now. I feel more comfortable in my new skin...or at least the skin hidden from the world in the past.
I'm not afraid of not having friends now, so I think that's why I have more courage to simply be me. I just want to lead a simple life. I want everything to be simple and have less complications. I won't wage battles with myself anymore and do whatever is comfortable because who really cares. I know I'm a kind person and I'm thoughful, and I"m always going to be that way. I won't deliberately hurt others feelings, but I'm not going to shy away from telling people my true opinions about things like I did in the past. I'm not going to worry about what others say or think about me.
Perhaps my professors from school influenced me to think and probe deeper within me to find the answers to who I am/was and what I deemed important in life. Once you get a glimpse of who you truly are, there's no turning back. Going backward will only bring you unhappiness because your new self will no longer be satisfied to continue to think the way you have in the past. You can only keep moving forward and discovering new things about yourself. It truly is like a light bulb just lit and you begin to understand what life truly is all about and you begin to realize the important things in life and that you have been traveling the wrong path all along and what you once held important were not really significant in the scheme of things.
I no longer am a rebel. I'm simply being me.
the safer side of sadness
a cold rock of fortitude
tasting your own thoughts
a beacon for an unsafe harbor
signaling lost travelers away
those who also are mislaid in the fog
needing comfort from their storms
as do you
do not be craven
avoiding all flares of hopes, imaginings
is it so difficult
were you hurt so bad
you are not dead
take hold of the helm;
steer towards that light
your beam of brightness
reach out to someone
be their symbol of hope
Thursday, May 15, 2008
"We know that throughout American history others have had to struggle to gain acknowledgment of their civil rights, and now it is our turn. The half-century- old system of sealed adoption records must end and our right to records of our own births restored. As long as this system based on secrecy and lies continues to exist, an aura of shame will cling to adoption."
Cindy Bertrand Holub
Many years ago, one of my university professors mentioned that "windowsill" was voted the most beautiful word in the English language. Being an armchair linguist, this factoid naturally stayed with me. Words have enormous power. They can make us erupt into laughter or bring tears to our eyes. They can influence, inspire, manipulate and shock. They can build and destroy. Some words have different effects on different people. One such word is humility. It is one of those words that are seldom in neutral gear. Some, like me, love the word and all it stands for. Some almost fear it and interpret it synonymously with lack of self-confidence or timidity. The dictionary defines humility as modesty, lacking pretence, not believing that you are superior to others. An ancillary definition includes: "Having a lowly opinion of oneself, meekness". The word "humility" first struck me in the context of leadership when Jim Collins mentioned it in his seminal work We often confuse humility with timidity. Humility is not clothing ourselves in an attitude of self-abasement or self-denigration. Humility is all about maintaining our pride about who we are, about our achievements, about our worth – but without arrogance – it is the antithesis of hubris, that excessive, arrogant pride which often leads to the derailment of some corporate heroes, as it does with the downfall of the tragic hero in Greek drama. It's about a quiet confidence without the need for a meretricious selling of our wares. It's about being content to let others discover the layers of our talents without having to boast about them. It's a lack of arrogance, not a lack of aggressiveness in the pursuit of achievement. An interesting dichotomy is that, often, the higher people rise, the more they have accomplished, the higher the humility index. Those who achieve the most brag the least, and the more secure they are in themselves, the more humble they are. "True merit, like a river, the deeper it is, the less noise it makes". (Edward Frederick Halifax). We have all come across people like that and feel admiration for them. There is also an understated humility of every day people we work with who have the ability to get the job done without drawing attention to themselves. Something interesting happens, too, when we approach situations from a perspective of humility: it opens us up to possibilities, as we choose open-mindedness and curiosity over protecting our point of view. We spend more time in that wonderful space of the beginner's mind, willing to learn from what others have to offer. We move away from pushing into allowing, from insecure to secure, from seeking approval to seeking enlightenment. We forget about being perfect and we enjoy being in the moment. There are times when swallowing one's pride is particularly difficult and any intentions of humility fly out the window, as we get engaged in a contest of perfection, each side seeking to look good. If you find yourself in such no-win situations, consider developing some strategies to ensure that the circumstances don't lead you to lose your grace. Try this sometimes: just stop talking and allow the other person to be in the limelight. There is something very liberating in this strategy. Here are three magical words that will produce more peace of mind than a week at an expensive retreat: "You are right." Catch yourself if you benignly slip into over preaching or coaching without permission – is zeal to impose your point of view overtaking discretion? Is your correction of others reflective of your own needs? Seek others' input on how you are showing up in your leadership path. Ask: "How am I doing?" It takes humility to ask such a question. And even more humility to consider the answer. Encourage the practice of humility in your life through your own example: every time you share credit for successes with others, you reinforce the ethos for your constituents. There are many benefits to practicing humility, to being in a state of non-pretence: it improves relationships across all levels, it reduces anxiety, it encourages more openness and paradoxically, it enhances one's self-confidence. It opens a window to a higher self. For me, it replaces "windowsill" as the most beautiful word in the English language.
Monday, May 12, 2008
Being found is only a first step and a baby one at that...no pun intended.
Why is it that I am so fearful of my reunion with my son? I suspect the answer is complicated and there is likely a multitude of reasons. One reason would be that I have been conditioned for so long to stuff any thoughts and feelings about adoption and being a birthmother as far down as they could go. If I remember right, as birthmothers we were told we would forget...I am still trying to figure that one out! If I was to think about my son in times past I would be picking at a wound. The scab never really healed and always bled just a little.
I still wonder at my place in his life. I asked once what he thought of me and our reunion. His answer was if he didn't like it I would know. That was very early on in our reunion and since then I have felt him warming up to me. We have had a few heart to heart conversations about adoption, how it impacted him as a child or what he thinks of having me in his life now. I do read between the lines a lot and there are some good lines to read. I know that he is condsiderate of me and is thoughtful of me. He is polite and caring by nature I suspect which is always good, especially for me. I believe in my heart he would never hurt me and I do believe he considers me to be a part of the family. I am the grandmother to his children and that gives me a comfortable name. But am I his mother? I didn't raise him and he struggles not so much with what his adopted mother would think or feel , but I think he struggles with his acceptance with his siblings should he embrace me. Over the past years that we have been in reunion he has become comfortable that at least one of his siblings hase embraced me themselves. I am like a mother to her as well. She has welcomed me into her family circle to be sure. Not talking about adoption is like not talking about the elephant in the room at times. Acceptance aside, I struggle to know my place in his life although I assume it to be an important one and I suspect he struggles to know his.
I still have not answered my question. Why am I so fearful to bring up subjects of emtional and personal meaning surrounding adoption with my son? I cannot help but think that I am afraid that if I push too hard, if I sound like it is an issue I will loose him. It is crazy because he has given me no cause to think he could be so easily turned off or driven away. I do know that the way I was made to feel about myself and how unworthy I am makes it hard to believe that he would accept me unless I was a "good girl". That is something I will likely never get over. The damage cause by loosing my child to adoption is permenant and the scar is deep. My struggle will be to live around it and not cause it to hamper my current relatonship with my son or our future together. I am afraid to call him, I am afraid to bother him, I am afraid to ever loose him again. Yes, that is the reason I move forward so hesitantly. I am afraid to ever loose him again. The pain of living without him for thirty-five years is still so fresh in my mind. I could not live through it again. Fortunately, I do have a sense that my son does care about me....I felt it in his hug at our first f2f meeting . I just have to close my eyes and think about his hug...
Friday, May 2, 2008
La Loba (Wolf Woman), the old one, the One Who Knows, is within us. She thrives in the deepest soul-psyche of women, the ancient and vital Wild Woman. She describes her home as that place in time where the spirit of women and the spirit of wolf meet —the place where her mind and her instincts mingle, where a woman’s deep life funds her mundane life. It is the point where the I and the Thou kiss, the place where women run with the wolves.
You can dent the soul and bend it. You can hurt it and scar it. You can leave the marks of illness upon it, and the scorch marks of fear. But it does not die, for it is protected by La Loba in the underworld. She is both the finder and the incubator of the bones.
Clarissa Pinkola Estés
Lost instincts. I don’t know when I lost mine but they had been buried for so long. I had given over my life, thoughts, needs, and dreams to others becoming complacent with how things were in my life. I feared speaking out saying this is what I want. I let others offend me and I took it with a smile and a nod. Outside looking unfazed, but inside crying and hurting, but speak out and sing my song, forbid, I show this side of me.
I wrote, but hid my work. I drew, but showed it to no one. I had opinions, but didn’t share them. I had needs, but did not let them be known. I had ideas, but did not play upon them. If someone said I couldn’t, I didn’t. If another said you’re too old I agreed. If one said, woman aren’t supposed to do that, I said, You’re right.
Though I was the woman with no voice I still healed many hurts myself, all quietly inside me having to create this space for my own survival. But the hurts that slowed me as a woman, well I did not know how to heal them.
I wrote my stories always in the third person telling of passed hurts and healing, of fun childhood’s I never had, of a woman with visions I feared to see.
I needed a pack. I needed woman. I was at an age when I needed to let go, and be free, but still, because of lost instincts, I did not realize this was what I was seeking, but I did know I needed to Sing My Songs of my life. I had the medicine magic to find my instincts but didn’t know how to use it.
I found a pack, wild women, hair flying, breast bouncing, faces creasing, eyes snapping, wild women wolves, we gathered and circled, snarled and licked, howled and whimpered, and in time, my song came more forwards in my soul. Until one day, one day most unexpectedly it burst forth, and everyone stopped and listened and my hurts finally became important to someone other than myself, through my stories other women came before the fire and said to me , "me too, it happened to me too." Sing louder, for there are others who need to hear that song. And I did, and I entrusted my pack with my inter-most secrets and instead of applause at the end of my song they validated me. My words became important, and understood. My tears got to mingle with others. My Singing became a story of importance, as each woman who has sung her song since.
I no longer am afraid to stand up for what I believe, even if it is not popular. I have more energy than I did 8 years ago. I have learned I am important. I have something to say. I no longer fear the sound of my voice. I am no longer the woman with no voice.