What I am about to write brings to mind the phrase “a slippery slope” because with each thought, I am struggling with whether to write what I am feeling and risk slipping into too many emotions or to abandon the topic, release the knots in my stomach, and begin breathing normally again. With a sigh, I have decided to move forward and share my thoughts on what I have learned to this point and how my experiences have lead me to navigate connections . Eventually, I will publish my thoughts, but right now, who knows how shallow or deep I will be able to go. I only know that it will not be an easy endeavor.
My first connection was not to my birth mother or father but to a woman who adopted me the day I was born. Prior to my birth, an agreement was made that my birth mother would move into a rooming house, give birth, relinquish me, and for the most part, exit my life. Within the agreement, there was verbal acknowledgement that my birth mother could, if she called ahead, come for visits. And so it happened. I was born and I connected to my adoptive mother who I called momma and she was without a doubt, my mother. The first eight years of my life were spent in a family that included, my adoptive mother, her two sons and a daughter (also adopted), and my adoptive mother’s mother whom we called “Mother Dear”. I lived the life of a child growing up in the late 60s – early 70s. I played and did normal kid things. We did not have a lot of money because my mother did not have a consistent job. She periodically took in people with mental disabilities that needed a home, which allowed her to have an income. She also sometimes worked as a DJ at a radio station and when she did, Mother Dear and I would wait in the car while she worked her shift. I would consider my upbringing at that time, “normal” because I had nothing to base it on other than the people around me and they were all treating their kids the same way. As kids, we spoke when spoken too, were beaten when we did not abide by the rules, and as long as we asked permission, we played and did kid things. As the years have passed and I have spent more time thinking about this phase of my life, I have asked myself, “Did she love me?” and I have always come away with the same answer, “Yes, she did in the only way that she knew how.” Then, during my 3rd grade year, I came home from school and found my momma “sleeping” on the floor. I stayed with her that night and then, the next day, my aunt called and when I told her the situation, she arrived at approximately the same time as the ambulance. Two weeks before my 9th birthday, my first connection to love died of a stroke. She was my only connection to love, attention, and emotional attachment for many years.
Following my momma’s death, I was adopted by one of her sons. Yes, I have been adopted twice and I like to say, I am one of the lucky ones despite some of my early experiences. This son, was always described as “the good one” so I thought it in my best interest to go with him and his family when the question, “Who do you want to live with?” was asked. I really wanted to go with my sister but at such an early age, although she and I were very close, I knew her lifestyle and was well aware that no good could come of living with her. Besides, I do not recall seeing her after momma died and I doubt anyone would have tired to find her if I had asked.
The “good son” was in the Navy and took leave from his assignment in Spain to quickly deal with the death of his mother and the future of his little sister. So, after what I recall being a few weeks, we boarded a plane and headed to Spain. For a while, I called them by their first names and then one day, and I remember this very vividly, I was playing outside and he called me over to say, “The adoption is final so you need to start calling us mom and dad”. For years, every time I thought of that conversation, I felt a little sick inside. You may notice that no where in this have I mentioned a conversation about the circumstances that led to my momma’s death. One day, I was at home with her laying on the floor, then she was dead, then I was asked who I wanted to live with, then I was in Spain being informed that it was time to call my brother and sister-in-law, mom and dad.
The “mom and dad” connection did not work out very well. There was no connection for the next 9 years or throughout my adult life. Did they love me? I would say that he did in the best way that he knew how and I will say that, to this day, he tries but the guilt and regret from those years presents barriers that he cannot overcome. For her, I would have to say that she did not. For many reasons, that I will explain in another post, I will say that whatever her issues, there was and is no way that she can ever love me. I am not sure that she has ever really liked or loved herself and when that is the case, it is not possible to “get there from here”. As a child, I absolutely tried for the connection, I often thought, I just want you to love me, and straight from the textbooks, I did some good things to get her attention and some things that were not good. When things were not good, her attention came through beatings. When things were good, her attention came in the way of no attention at all. We did not talk, we did not share, we never touched. Basically, there were no interactions between us. I can remember the one time that I hugged her. Yes, one hug that I can recall from the day they adopted me until I graduated high school. First, I had to be told to hug her and it was simply awkward and uncomfortable. What did I learn from this family?
Being the person who pushes my feels down and keeps it all inside, I learned to simply suppress it all. My favorite mantra, “It doesn’t matter”. These years taught me to fear attachment and closeness. I felt that I was not good enough to be loved. I was never kept in the dark about my first adoption and was always told that my birth mother “had a bunch of other children” then, the mother in the next family seemed to dislike me immensely (actually prior to the adoption, I heard her say those exact words, “I do not like Carolyn.”) So, why would I think anything other than, what the heck is wrong with me that makes two of three mothers not want anything to do with me? I must really be a terrible person. Despite these thoughts, I never stopped hoping.
Fortunately, there are good, emotionally healthy people in the world who help me form loving, meaningful connections. People who thought that I was good enough and that I was worth their time and love and they gave it to me unconditionally. These are the people who help to form me into the person that I am today, a person who can make connections that include love, touching, emotion, feelings and all of the things that I was not conditioned to understand, expect, or have any level of comfort with. For instance, I had to train myself to hug and not feel that I was repulsive and wonder why anyone would want to touch me. In the past, every time I was in a situation that required hugging, the most negative thoughts about myself would go through my head. Fortunately, I was one of the lucky ones and the kindness of strangers helped me overcome the barriers that I have, with a lot of work been able to develop and maintain emotional, loving connections.
I know that I am ending this abruptly, but as I stated in the beginning, the slope was slippery. There are many times that I wanted to abandon this post and I definitely took several breaks. However, for the last few days, I have thought about where my life is today and the amazing connection that I have with another person and I cannot stop thinking about where I came from to arrive at a place where I fall asleep with my head on someone’s chest listening to their heartbeat. How much I want to touch and hold another person and have them do the same to me, knowing there was a time in my life when I could not have done this and that I would have cringed if another person attempted to do it to me. Life is full of surprises. Thanks for reading and see you soon!