So I was talking with a friend the other day and it was clear that the he thought this adoptee was critical and negative, that my glass is half empty and that I needed a change of perspective: this seems to be a common perception of me, especially to those who aren’t in my environment and especially when I try to explain my observations. To which I told him I prefer the line. I mean, nobody ever mentions the line.
I think the line is a fine place to be. In fact, I haven’t met a half full person that was ever in the least bit convincing: it’s always seemed like a defense mechanism to me, a manic response to avoid looking at the things that need to be looked at. Neither are appearances (or, in my case, sounds – the sound of me grousing) everything. I am in no way half empty. My actions are positive. They balance my criticism. At least to me. Yup. I like residing on the line. It feels healthy to me. I think criticism is important. I mean, don’t get me wrong: I like to laugh. I enjoy things. I am passionate. But what kind of person would I be if that’s all I did? I’ve met my share of these glass half full people, and it doesn’t take peeling many layers to discover they’re often very negative or in reality half empty. I seek balance. I like the tension of that line as well.
Meanwhile, on this rok on which this adoptee lives all around her the world is falling apart: sweet smiling adoptees talk of suicide and bitter rok dwellers add laugh tracks to their virtual lives while trains continue to get thrown off schedule by warm obstacles on theirs. Anger, self-pity, and nihilism surround me.
And I dare to be happy walking my line. I am happiest when I return, as I always do, to embracing existentialism, which to me is every bit as ephemeral as that line which doesn’t really exist, because lines are just a concept. And, like existentialism, I am often misunderstood as being negative when actually existentialism is a really positive acceptance of reality and our place in the world. To me there’s nothing negative about its this-is-all-there-is-folks message. It means this life is a wonder. It means we have an awesome responsibility to care for our moments of consciousness.
So I was thinking this morning about those who want to end consciousness. I fought this compulsion once. It was because I didn’t understand what was happening to me or why I felt pain. I only felt blinding, searing pain and the need to stop the pain. The pain was due to ignorance. And the pain stopped as soon as I recognized its source, which is within me. And damn, that was hard work.
But I didn’t want to end my consciousness to flip the bird to the world, to make a statement, to seek attention, to damn anyone, to make anyone else feel regret or guilt, to prove anything, to cry that nobody loved me, or to punctuate a pointless sentence. Those are manipulative reasons, dramatic sad attention-seeking reasons, and really irresponsible reasons, because they hurt everyone that person has touched. Never mind the laziness of not bothering to seek the name of the pain. Never mind the irresponsibility to oneself to value the wonder of flesh and blood in which thought resides. There is ignorance and then there is a cop-out: an easy way out of doing the hard work. I feel sadness for the ignorant but I just get damned angry towards those who know better but are just too lazy to take a hard look at themselves.
We all know adoptees have higher suicide rates than the general population. Our work is sooo complicated to sift through. We suffer a lot of losses. And because we don’t get grief counseling, we sustain those losses, and for some maintaining those losses is the closest thing they’ll ever have to holding on to their identity as griever, only its negative energy burns up the resources needed to see straight. And some of the most rational people in the world can rationalize blaming everyone in the world except themselves, if it means they don’t have to do the hardest work of all. And we run the risk of anger over our losses becoming our principle identity…
This identity thing is something I’ve been trying to get a handle on for quite some time now. The first time I heard about it, I was like, “What is this identity crisis thing people speak of? How can we lose something so intrinsic to our person-hood? Just what is identity, anyway?”
Lately I’m thinking it has something to do with myth. Joseph Campbell would say that individuals use myth as a guide for personal development, that they are cultural road-maps, and by cultural I mean a shared common wisdom. But for us adoptees, we are separated from those common myths and are handed instead romantic fairy tales: we were born under cabbage leaves, we were chosen, our adoptive culture’s myths that don’t include images of us must suffice. And as blank slates, we are frighteningly free to create our own myths of ourselves, which is what you do when even your name is inauthentic. And so we proceed without compass, obsessed with myth because we are so lacking in confidence over our real identity, because its voice is so tiny.
And this constant reminder that we are not what we should be in all ways creates a psychological mirror-checking neurosis, an unhealthy self absorption, a preoccupation with perfection, a need to please, a need to be accepted, a need to be admired. And recognition of this constant reminder and our inadequacies only fuels frustration and anger.
And so we become tortured artists, or tortured anesthetized vagabonds, or tortured activists or tortured anything because that’s a nice romantic myth we can make for ourselves. And we gather others like us around for confirmation of these constructed selves. Or we become narcissists and sociopaths in an attempt to destroy our insecurity through social supremacy. This is one reason I take issue with some definitions of adoptee community, because there’s not a lot of real caring for each other going on, though there is often a group cry of anguish and anger going on, or a lot of enabling and sympathy. Even if it’s justified anger and producing positive changes, it’s still not healthy how everyone ignores what their real work. Maybe I’m critical for good reason, and not just because I’m a negative Nancy.
To choose a false self, a constructed myth of ourselves, can never fully satisfy. It’s like putting all your efforts into the wrong career. I think this is why so many adoptees kill themselves, because the choice between uncovering our authentic selves and abandoning all the efforts we put into our constructed mythologies means the death of that constructed person and the prospect of having to start from scratch, or rather, that tiny tiny voice so hard to reach.
We all know adoptees have higher suicide rates than the general population. But we also have the potential to understand what matters most more than others. And so I feel blessed. I am blessed for all my tragedies, because they’ve forced me to reach the most catastrophic conclusion and choose life, or rather choose to kill my constructed self-myth, and work hard to find that little abandoned girl and embrace her and feel, could it be peace?
So no, fellow adoptee, consciousness is not your enemy, the choices you make to deal with your pain is.
2 thoughts on “drawing the line”
“And so we proceed without compass, obsessed with myth because we are so lacking in confidence over our real identity, because its voice is so tiny.”
But what does this mean?
Even for those of us who know our “real” names… is that still a myth in the cultural sense, simply because those names don’t fit us the way they would have originally?
This was really well written.