Friday, August 3, 2007

Sense of Self

Last night, I spoke with my birth mother for the first time. We talked on the phone for over two hours.

There were awkward minutes. Neither of us seemed to know what to say at times. But we talked more than we sat in silence. And I think we got a sense of one another. Which isn't to say we covered everything. But I feel like I have a clearer picture in my head.

Maybe the hardest part of the conversation for me was when we drifted, however briefly, into the "what if?" zone. I had mentioned, in one of my letters, that my parents had divorced when I was younger. I'm okay with this fact, and both my parents love me and are still very much part of my life. But they didn't work together. I won't pretend there were no problems because of the divorce, but overall, I don't regret the life I was given. I think I had a good life, in general.

But my birth mother, last night, began choking up at one point. She said that she had always imagined that I was being raised by wealthy parents who treated me like a prince. When she found out that it wasn't like that, she had a thought that she could have kept me. And I could tell it bothered her a lot.

I don't like to see anyone in pain. And in this case, I really wanted to allieviate the she was feeling. It isn't my job, but it's how I've been most of my life. However, I felt as though there wasn't anything I could say here. If I agreed with her, in order to sympathize, I would be lying. I do think I had a good home. But if I emphasize how good I think I have it, then it sounds like I'm saying she couldn't have provided as good a home as I had. And I don't know that that is true. It felt like I had to walk a very fine line in reassuring her without sounding like I was putting her down, which I didn't want to do in any case. And, on top of that, I didn't want to deny the very real feelings of loss and regret that she clearly was feeling.

I hope I managed it okay. I don't regret the life I was given. And I don't want her to feel any more guilt or sorrow than she has already lived through.

Anyway, I felt better after the conversation. (The above mentioned difficult portion didn't last long.) I seemed to be less tense, I thought, after we hung up. And it occurred to me that I think some of my anxiety was due to worrying that my sense of self was going to evaporate. I think, once I had pictures of her, and a looming phone call, and maybe even a face-to-face meeting in the near future, I was starting to panic. I started to think that all of this was going to lead to a complete undermining of my identity, with a new person standing in my place.

The phone conversation seemed to ease my mind in that regard. It was as if I realized that this was providing some answers and some pieces to a large puzzle that is my sense of self. And it didn't mean that sense was going to go away, but that it might be a bit more complete in a way it hadn't been before. We had talked, for hours, and I was still here. And I still would be. This changes things, to be sure. But it doesn't destroy them. I'm still me. Just me with more of an idea of where I came from.

That doesn't mean I don't have any anxiety. But I don't feel nearly as overwhelmed as I did twenty-four hours ago. And that is a good thing, I think.

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