Chemistry Lecturer at Cal Poly State University in California. An acoustic musician - singer/songwriter - having produced 2 CD's. In the picture is my 16 year old Lab and best buddy 'Tucker' who left this universe in April of 2011.
Posted in Adoptee Journey on February 15, 2012
Got a sweet tooth? Try this treat for a healthier alternative: 1/2 cup carob chips, 1 tsp. organic peanut butter, 2 tablespoons almond milk - melt over very low eat. Cut up a couple of bananas into bit size chunks. Dip into melted chocolate. Place on tray covered with wax paper. Sprinkle with unsweetened coconut. Freeze for 2 hours. Enjoy!
Posted in Adoptee Journey on September 23, 2011
It must be fall. The coastal fog is retreating, local vegetable stands are selling pumpkins and the Cowboys have already played the 49ers (and beat them in overtime thank you very much!). Every single fall but one has meant school of some sort for me, since the age of five. That’s forty-seven falls of shifting from the relative leisure of summer living to the intensification of attending to details – a process that my body and brain adjust to more slowly each year, and this year in particular. Or maybe it’s a sign that the therapy is working: I am less keen to adapt.
By the grace of goddess (aka my partner Beedie) and “Jobs & Gates” (who peddled the technology that now provides the bulk of our income), I now pledge half as much time to the university. But I find it is still an acclimatization process. Long dog pack walks with Katherine and her poodles, yin yoga classes, cooking marathons featuring carefully harvested garden herbs and unhurried mornings in bed blogging with my netbook must timeshare with repetitive explanations of how chromatography and spectroscopy might be used in concert to cinch the identity of dyes in a colored coating.
I haven’t blogged in several weeks now. It must be fall.
Posted in Adoptee Journey on August 31, 2011
I apologize in advance for using the Christian verbiage but I really intend “God” to stand for any monotheistic benefactor. Besides, once we understood that god is simply dog spelled backwards, who could resist adopting this handle for one’s favorite deity?
This is another one of those 2 a.m. epiphanies I woke up out of my sleep intoning: “God on a Silver Platter”. And I knew what it meant. Of course I had heard it said in myriad ways before (see Killing the Buddha): the only recipe for salvation is the one you cook up yourself. Looking back over my history of ‘epiphanies I awakened intoning’ – and I mean speaking out loud – this is in the company of such utterances as “It’s All Impermanent”, which I literally sat up in bed one night telling myself.
Somehow the process of articulating my most crippling beliefs out loud to “Kay”, my therapist who specializes in adoptee issues, and then exploring what’s underneath that belief from the perspective of a ‘motherless child’ and how an unsullied thought process might proceed, I am suddenly privy to something mysterious and undeniably true. And it is visceral, not cerebral – which is why its mainlined dose threads through my veins with my cerebral cortex switched off: Salvation is an inside-out gig.
Each of us has our own garden of funk growing between our toes. Sure, sure, you can ask Jesus to forgive you or detonate yourself for Allah. But how much soul-progress can be made on your behalf by an external force? It’s like hoping your personal tennis game will be rescued by watching Djokovic on Google TV.
So I awakened from a dead sleep inhabiting the reality that no one can serve us salvation. Nor can we serve it to another. One must make this journey solo. It is an unwinding of the conditioning that has been imprinted upon us by others’ conditioning.
Posted in Adoptee Journey on August 15, 2011
I consider it a great privilege to be able to explore my black bag of shadow material (ala Robert Bly) with an experienced professional who has a lifetime of working with the ‘adoption triad’ and who is herself an adoptee. Like my sister and me, my therapist “Kay” (as I refer to her in this blog) was not told until later in life that she was adopted, which I learned in this week’s session. She said she actually considered this a gift. Unlike adoptees who know throughout childhood and inevitably cook up fantasies about their exalted biological parents, waiting at the curb for their real mom to whisk them to safety after every skirmish with their adoptive mom, this gets circumvented when you are not told until, say, forty. For me personally, it seems much more like a double-edged sword.
Never is this more apparent to me than when we attend to my favorite coping mechanism: shutting down when a hurtful zing sails in. Recently I have been more conscious and have managed to stay present to some degree. Instead of immediately going to “thinking” and relying on intellect to solve “the problem”, I am beginning to sit with my feelings. No need for reaction or even action; in fact things go better without that. It’s trite in this age of Eastern philosophical influences to say “Breathe and Stay Present”, but there is a reason the phrase is so often echoed. The view is much clearer from there.
I felt as if another epiphany was burbling up. I imagined my shoulders hunched over in a protective posture when confronted with negativity. I could see the mechanism as if viewing myself on a movie screen. Body in shamed demeanor, wondering what I said or did that was wrong, needing space and time to ‘think about what just happened’ and to weigh whether it was them or whether it really was me who crossed a line, impulsively grabbing the escape route from feeling my feelings and being present with them. For the first time I got it in my body: I’ve done this since I was a child.
I realize many children have their intuitive feelings invalidated by secret-wielding adults who tell them “No that’s wrong” when in fact it is right. Nor do I believe my adoptive parents’ denial of our adopted status was the only killing field of intuition from my childhood. One teacher in particular, the principal of the private parochial school we attended until high school, ruled her minions with an iron will. And she appointed me the official class snitch. I often found myself in her office facing the unsavory choice of telling her which boys were popping the girls’ bra straps at recess or who brought The Woodstock Story Book to school in exchange for release from the solitary confinement she threatened.
So it is that we must undo the sins of our ‘role models’ in order to clear the path.
Posted in Adoptee Journey on August 8, 2011
It has often occurred to me as I observe myself and others move through the world that our habitual ways of thinking and being become who we are. I once dated a brilliant and well-read attorney who had Sylvia Boorstein books lying about her upscale townhouse, and she could quote the dickens out of Sylvia. Yet she was consistently rude and condescending to ‘service people’ – at restaurants, at her ‘yacht club’, in retails stores. I was about 40 then, and I got it at a somatic level: who you practice being in the world is who you are. It doesn’t sound particularly profound but at the time it hit me like a ton of bricks.
I had another enlightening session with my ‘therapist who specializes in adoptee issues’ and whom I call “Kay”. Each time we meet I seem to leave with a nugget, a kernel of wisdom.
I have said this in previous blogs. But it bears repeating that one common persona adoptees assume is ‘the pleaser’. The pleaser does not want anyone to think poorly of them, has a hard time expressing anger or hurt feelings and does not do well with displeasure coming from another.
When I feel negative vibes coming my way, I go into ‘deer in the head lights’ mode and freeze more often than not. Frequently I can’t even recall details of conversation immediately preceding or following the incident and I usually shut down, eager to get away from the ‘scene’ so I can think about what just happened and try to make some sense of it.
“And how do you feel when someone gets angry or says a hurtful thing to you?” Kay inquired.
“I don’t really feel,” I said. ”I usually start thinking about how I can get away from it and take care of myself. Either leave for a while or get out of the relationship.”
“So you believe you must get out of a relationship to ‘take care of’ yourself?”
“Sometimes that is what I believe,” I concluded. ”Like the little kid standing up in her crib grabbing the side rails and proclaiming ‘I can’t count on anyone so I’m going to have to count on myself’, that premature ego development thing kicks in. It is the other side of the ‘fear of abandonment’ coin.”
“But Carol, what if taking care of yourself could also look like calmly stating your feelings in the moment? Could this also qualify as taking care of yourself?”
Each time I hear this it is like an epiphany. And, change is not easy after a lifetime of practicing habitual coping – even when we recognize that our beliefs are the lens through which we view and react to life’s events and that they are conditioned, not absolute.
To quote Tich Nhat Hanh, my actions are my only true belongings. (Or maybe that was Sylvia Boorstein.)
Posted in Adoptee Journey on August 2, 2011
My adoptive mother had 10 siblings, including a sister that even mom referred to as the ‘black sheep’. Ironically her name was Faith and my memory of her is that of a thin, lily-white laughing woman in short shorts and high heels, high ball in one hand and lit cigarette in the other. She was an endless fountain of high-pitched hyperbole, to say nothing of her nocturnal activities. She spent the last years of her life pushing around an oxygen tank and to this day I can’t hear the word ‘faith’ without thinking of her.
I’ve had some lessons in faith these past several years. At the time of my sister’s car accident and then again when my mom went head-on with a tree, I was flung into a veritable panic. Whatever happened to each of them from that time forward was in my hands. I recall distinctly in each case pacing around the house for days, wringing my hands, unloading my anxiety on anyone who would listen, feeling completely overwhelmed at the raft of decisions facing me, not sleeping or eating much.
The amazing lesson from those years is that serendipity happened. People exhibited good will, obstacles were overcome and issues gradually resolved. Bodies healed to the extent they are going to and acceptance began to take root. After the due diligence you have to let go. Life provides the whetting stones against which we sharpen our awareness of the paradox that one’s will, as the poet David Whyte says, can only take you so far and cannot be the primary driving force in a life well lived. A few pushes must occur: get out of bed, get into the shower, repair the broken doggie door. But surrender, the huge act of faith, allows flow to come back in and dance us through life.
When a new obstacle presents itself there is always anxiety. I don’t know if my early childhood experiences predestines me for more of it than the average person. But I do know that the abject panic has lessened. The boulders are now more appropriately rocks – not pebbles yet but certainly deployable. As Gandhi said, “Faith is not something to grasp; it is a state to grow into.” I’m feeling ya Mohandas.
Posted in Adoptee Journey on July 25, 2011
I am truly unapologetic for writing another post inclusive of our new dog Blaze. The parallels between this guy’s anxious way of being in the world and that of many adoptees are so clear. There is the fear of trying new things (NO WAY is he pushing through that big chunk of plastic we call a doggie door; he has survived thus far without one thank you very much). There is the hyper vigilance (Where are my care-givers? Where are my care-givers? Where are my care-givers?), which is so often repeated in the literature as being characteristic of adoptees – along with the idea that while we do form ‘attachments’ to new adoptive care-providers, it is an ‘anxious attachment’ in that we do not see our true biology mirrored and reflected in subtle yet significant ways (and, we are freaked out about our last numero Uno vanishing into thin air!).
It’s an effort for Blaze to live large, free and unencumbered. Something always spooks him. He can’t feel reassured enough that his ‘primaries’ won’t bolt. Yesterday we left him for 6 hours – the longest stint alone in the house yet. And though his toilet needs had been cared for, he projected his pathology as a lovely Rorschach splotch on the living room floor.
Granted, I have never done that. But I feel his need to be safe and reassured.
According to Nancy Verrier‘s wonderfully enlightening books, one of the most common injurious dynamics set forth early in an adoptee/adoptive mom relationship is that of the grieving child exhibiting various unsavory behaviors and the new adoptive parent ‘reacting’ to this, taking it personally, being unconscious of the reality that their infant or toddler needs to process the harsh cutoff from biological mother that spooked him or her in a hard-plastic-doggie-door king of way, and then some .
It is up to the adoptive parents to stay present and give comfort when the adoptee is an infant. As the child gets older it is imperative that the separation trauma be openly explored and grieved, and that the adoptive parents do not get swept up into their own fears about ‘losing their children’ or their ego attachments to these beings as their personal possessions, as belonging to them now. My adoptive mother was still making comments such as “you got that trait from your father” after she knew that we knew we were adopted (which we did not know until we were in our forties). All of our lives she tried to snuff out reality by attributing both physical and personality attributes we possessed as being inherited from her, my adoptive dad, or another family member. These attempts to falsely stamp a child as your own flesh and blood resonate deeply with the adoptee as not just false but as unsound.
Posted in Adoptee Journey on July 18, 2011
Another excellent session with “Kay” my ‘adoptee specialist’ therapist. She has a way of getting to the heart of the matter, as I reeled off a holy host of ‘stuff I am worried about and have looked at from every conceivable angle except, I fear, the one angle that will ultimately do me in’.
“Carol, do you have any sense of what the real issue is here? I believe it is trust. Can you trust yourself to be alright wherever you land? You will be – alright wherever you land. A certain benefit comes from looking ‘down the road’ and asking all the ‘what if’ questions – and you have an amazing capacity for it; but at some point a paralytic effect sets in and ‘trust and faith’ get lost in the shuffle. This is self abandonment. It is not a gesture of compassion to yourself.”
Something I appreciate immensely about Kay is a quality I can only articulate this morning after googling Thich Nhat Hanh quotes. ”Compassion is a verb.” (One thing about the eastern mind: what appears to be simple is inevitably deep.) I believe when compassion is skillfully modeled one feels as if we are all in this together, all struggling to get past the same illusions. Kay never douses my stories with the kerosene of blame and ironically in that container I am better able to burn it up myself.
As anyone who has been through trauma can attest, transformation is easier said than done. Transforming the arrows of self-doubt, fear and mistrust into the flowers of acceptance and faith is a bit like tending a physical garden: a little attention every day, just a little, and soon it is a magnificent sanctuary. But no single day, no matter how labor-filled, can replace the effects of small daily efforts.
Posted in Adoptee Journey on July 11, 2011
After much processing about who did what to whom, when – and why and how it has had its effect on them, on me, and on those closest to me, I take a breather in the form of a ‘tail’ from the life and times of our anxious adopted pup.
Our old dearly deceased lab Tucker was a low maintenance dog. He was not a finicky eater (read: ate everything in sight, including eau de chocolate – disposed fair trade wrappers in open trash receptacles, kitty poop – a favorite among canines, and used feminine hygiene products – to give the short list). He would practically eat in his sleep. You could dangle a morsel in front of his slumbering form in the general region of his proboscis and the chameleon tongue would dart out to claim the offering. This trait made it quite simple to administer oral meds: just roll the pill in scented dirt. He was a ‘swallow first and taste later’ kind o’ guy.
Mr Doodle (Blaze our new labradoodle) will turn up his nose at fried bacon. I am not kidding you here. Woe be to the master who gets stuck administering pills to this fellow. Although my friend Katherine has demonstrated how to administer pills to an unsuspecting fussy canine: open hatch, place pill at back of tongue, gently hold hatch closed for a few seconds and voilà! – the swallow reflex kicks in. This is the sort of knowledge you have undying gratitude acquiring as a pet owner.
My partner Margie and I have inadvertently stumbled upon a kinky bent in Blaze boy. After 16 years with “Tucker the Devourer”, nothing but dumb chance could have enlightened us to this: if Blaze is hungry enough and you (as in one of his masters) hover around an area where one of his many food-filled bowls resides and pretend that you are not paying attention to him and simultaneously pretend that you are absorbed in a task that will cement you to the general vicinity indefinitely, he may begin the painstaking enterprise of obtaining his nutriment. *Never give him eye contact as this will botch the entire mission.*