Friday, November 21, 2008

Secret Selves

One of the things that has always struck me about myself is how much I try to accommodate myself to my circumstances.

I have been thinking recently about how I don't feel as though I'm really myself around my (adoptive) parents. I think I would feel better about my visits home if I could be more myself around them. The problem is, I have trouble articulating what that is. I don't know what I would have to do differently in order to feel as though I were being "myself."

One of the things that my reunion has done (in part, anyway) is to undo some of the damage done earlier on. I have long been unsure of who I am, as though I lacked a well-defined sense of self. (I may have talked about this before, but I keep thinking about these things in new ways.) Meeting my original family, getting to know them and where I came from, has settled some things in mind.

Even that is hard to express, but I think it's made me more aware of when I'm not being genuine, when I'm putting on an act for someone else's benefit. It's as though my reunion put me back in touch with a part of me that I had long hidden from anyone, so they couldn't hurt me. So they couldn't see who I was, decide they didn't like it, and leave me.


I know that probably sounds pathetic. But I don't care. That's how I felt for so many years. I don't feel that way anymore. Or at least, I don't feel as strongly that way. It's not really that my mom gave me some explicit knowledge of who I was. It's that meeting her, knowing her, having her in my life, freed me up to get back in touch with that part of myself that got put away so long ago.

The reason this seems to impact my family more than anyone else is that I still try to relate to them the way I always have. Those patterns of behavior are pretty well entrenched. Breaking them seems so threatening, even though the reason for them in the first place seems to be gone (mostly).

Still, this is a better problem to have than not feeling like I know who I am.


Anonymous said...

Hi Phil,

Your posts always make me think, but I'm not always sure how to respond, you know if it's appropriate because I'm not adopted and don't experience things from that point.

Having said that, your post reminds me of how I've been feeling lately as a mom. During my son's recent visit I really got a dose of validation as his mom. I've always thought of myself as his mother, and there was nothing in particular that was said or done, it was just the time together. I've felt for so long that I didn't deserve to be his mother, and I hear so often that adoptees are not looking for another mother. Those things have made me very reticent to act like a mother in some ways. I've been scared of over-stepping boundaries because I don't know what or where they are.

But with the last visit I felt a little bit of myself expanding into this area of motherhood -part of my self, part of my identity - which I never allowed myself to do before. I felt confident, I felt important, I felt that I could glimpse the person I would have been had I raised my son.

I guess all I'm saying is that I find that I am able to be me when I'm with my son. He brings out something in me that nobody else can. I can see myself in a different way, in a way that I've denied for so many years.

I think "secret self" is a very apt description, and I still carry a very hefty one around with me much of the time. I hope that with time you and I and everyone who carries this sense of self due to adoption loss can shed a bit of the burden.


phil said...


Your perspective and your comments are always welcome.

You said something that got me thinking... I've already posted tonight, but you've sparked some ideas about this whole "not looking for a mother" thing. I need to sit with it for a bit, but I may post on it tomorrow.

In any event, I'm glad visiting with your son allows you some access to that lost part of yourself. I hope that my mom feels the something similar. I think she may. But it's nice to hear it from another person, like you.



maybe said...

I can SOOO relate to Carol's comments.