These two concepts are recurrent themes in my life. I’ve spent a considerable amount of effort trying to break down and analyze just what they mean and how they’ve manifested themselves. I have written many times about the win/lose nature of adoption. Deconstructing and conveying my thoughts on this was an important step in understanding my own sense of loss and my perpetual mourning of it. Paradox is a subject that I will more than likely revisit many times, because everywhere I turn, there it is staring me in the face.
The circumstances of my beginnings is something out of a weird novel, not yet written. How many people do you know who have been supposedly adopted by their own supposed father? For those of you who have no clue as to what I’m talking about, I posted a sort of explanation here. My point is that sometimes I feel like I have three or four sets of eyes, and I’m not always sure which ones I’m using. I’ve often described myself as having “two halves” but in reality, I could break it down even further.
Vietnamese? Amerasian? Adoptee? Bastard? TRA raised as white girl? It’s like having split personality disorder except one consciousness remains dominant though the lenses may change. My life experience is that of a Vietnamese orphan/TRA so that is what dominates my thinking. However there are areas in which the lines blur.
I could try to avoid the whole thing by proclaiming myself as ambiguously human, but that just doesn’t work. If I don’t struggle to define myself, others will do it for me. So when people ask me, “What are you?” I give them an answer. The thing is that deep down, there is still a big question mark, because I have yet to confirm and consolidate all my identities into one tangible entity.
Even after my father claimed to be my genetic forbearer, I was still unable to think of myself in any other way. Since his claim has yet to be verified, it only adds to my reluctance to revamp my identity. In the movies, similar scenarios mostly end with tears, repentance, resolution and a happy ending where everyone feels absolved and accepted. In my experience, it has been the exact opposite
When my fellow adoptees use to tell me how finding their genetic parents gave them no sense of closure, I could understand on some level. As they talked about the newly opened doors and accompanying volume of questions, it made perfect sense to me. The really odd thing is that I never actually related their experiences to mine. Sometimes, it takes the pieces a while to “click,” and I still have no idea why it took me so long. Maybe it just took my brain a while to adjust to the new lens. Perhaps it was simply some kind of denial.
Suddenly, I understood what they were saying on a deeper level. There were questions that I wanted so badly to ask but couldn’t. “Why?!” “WTF is wrong with you?!” “How could you be so selfish and thoughtless?” And the questions just kept coming. “Why was I the expendable one? Why was I the one who had to be condemned to be saved?”
I know there will be some out there who’ll say, “Are you insane? Do you know how many Amerasians born during the war would love to have their fathers claim them?” All I can say is that from my experience, it’s not exactly like it seems it would be. Even with the thought that it might be true, there are numerous new hurdles thrown up before me. Like I need more. That’s part of where the anger comes from, because most of it could have been avoided if he’d just told the truth.
I have long since come to understand his situation, but resolve doesn’t always come with understanding. Am I unforgiving? No, I can forgive also, but that doesn’t absolve him of his responsibility. It’s not as if I’m demanding he be punished. I only want to truth. Things are made even more complicated because after too many lies, too many secrets and too many deceptions, I have lost trust. Just because you are a parent doesn’t mean you get it by default. I don’t expect it from my kids either. Sure, I’m earned a certain amount by just being their mother, but even that only goes so far.
The funny thing is that I can again switch the lens and become the adoptee. I realized this when commenting on a fellow TRA’s blog. Again, I remembered the adoption paradox and came upon another. Often some adoptees struggle with a similar kind of paradox in terms of their value as human beings. I have experienced these feelings as well.
On one hand we are the precious, bundles of joy. We are chosen, yearned for and cherished. On the other, we are the expendable ones, given up because, in our minds, we weren’t worth the bother. As my fellow KAD blogger, on who’s blog I commented suggested, many times adoptees were the ones “sacrificed” to make the way easier for their genetic parents. We are touted as the “ultimate sacrifice” from a parental point of view. One must remember however, that being a “sacrifice” is not necessarily a good thing.
People also sacrifice sheep. Bahhhhh! I don’t think so.
Hugs and huge thanks to MHP for inspiring this post.