decomposition


Adoptee activist friendships are super charged and hyper-sensitive.  They are intense because everyone is exploring sensitive issues in parallel, but not always in sync.  The losses and the needs left in their wake keep emotions close to the surface.   These relationships are especially caffeinated and challenging.  They’re passionate, political, and often don’t end well.

People ask me, why don’t you call A up, or write her, or explain?  It’s such a shame you aren’t friends anymore, can’t you patch things up?  I thought you liked and respected her?  You used to say such good things about her…

USED TO is the operative word.  Opinions change over time.  They get more informed over time.  Assessments degrade and decompose as you get to know someone better, and respect erodes as you sort a person out.   A put me on a pedestal I could only fall from.  And I watched with horror as she talked negatively about people, abused people, pushed people, nagged people, smothered people.  I began to dread our get togethers, as they became one-way exchanges where A sought comfort and unloaded but never listened or provided comfort.  And the anger fueling all of this was really toxic to be around, suffocating me.  A proposed something selfish, something that would have hurt the entire adoptee community, and I looked up and asked myself, “Who are you?”  I realized I didn’t like that person, and that the smart part of me had known all along to keep some emotional distance.

So A didn’t listen when I articulated my boundaries.  And recently, I didn’t hear B when they articulated theirs (ironically, about expressing my frustration with A).   Me with A, and B with me, we both waited too long to express ourselves:  waited until things were said that can’t be repaired.  This seems to be the way late-acquisition friendships go, when history is so short.  Instead of repair, we move on.  It is especially the way of some traumatized adoptees (including myself) who don’t understand their own needs well, don’t communicate them well, and have no models of healthy relationships and especially not the forgiveness necessary to perpetuate them.  Part of being angry is blame and blame does not allow much room for forgiveness…

And it’s also about commitment.  I never made a commitment to A:  I made a commitment to work hard.  I made a commitment to B.  But it takes two committed people a relationship to make.   There’s a phrase to describe such friendships, and it’s called conditional love.  And the condition usually has something to do with – don’t make me question myself or what I hold onto.

I was accused of being jealous of A , which was/is the farthest thing from my mind.  I am critical of A‘s conclusions and motivations.  I was accused of wanting to be a “star” in the adoptee community, which also is exactly what I don’t want.  I just see holes and try to fill them because nobody else is.  I was also accused of copying A, which is not as if A has a copyright on providing services.  The fact is that A stands on the shoulders of many before her, just as I stand on hers and others I have met, and is a “star” because of C, D, and others who get no press.  And then it occurred to me that the accused are generally inclined to be guilty of what they are charging…

And people wonder why I am so negative about the adoptee community… It’s just a taxing place to hang out in.  The bulk of adoptees are (I’m borrowing from someone else here) in the first phase of identity exploration, and it’s a hysterical place to be.  And then there are many who live here who are still in that phase of identity exploration, only they’ve developed a whole language around it and made it their extended stay residence.

I don’t fault people for coming here and exploring, it’s something we all must do.  But I don’t want to live my life as the injured and maligned who let the past rule their present.  Euphemistically they call themselves survivors but they’ve hardly got lives to speak of.  To live like that is too black and white, simplistic, and really not very imaginative or rich.

So strangely, I’ve very little sense of loss over these finished relationships, though I am extremely frustrated when wrong assessments follow me.  And, in their absence I have met other adoptees who are managing the infinitely more complicated feat of balancing their multi-faceted lives.   We won’t have passionate relationships and we won’t have expectations of synchronicity and we won’t ask the world of each other.  And that’s really okay.  In fact, it’s beautiful.

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