Closed Minds

The words which flow about adoption may never end. As each new generation of adoptees finds their voice and their way to be heard, I hope we will hear new words, new thoughts and new ideas about adoption and how to heal from it. I am so heartily sick of being told how to speak, how to manage my life and how to heal and I’m even sicker of seeing other adoptees being lectured, dominated, badgered, harassed, ridiculed, insulted and scorned, because they have views of their own, lived experience and actually know better than those who are doing the commenting and advice giving who are not adoptees but somehow think they know better! Why should this be so? It can only be a remnant of our old friend stigma at work, treating us a second-class, not worthy, not smart enough, not able enough to have learned from our experience. Much of the stigma is I believe unperceived by the commenter, often themselves the victims of stigma and sometimes, quite often, it is deliberately included as a way of putting us in our place, knocking us down, letting us know we’re getting above ourselves. Brought to mind is an early experience, in which I had obviously got a bit cheeky with my amother and she said, “Who do you think you are?” meaning ‘Who do you think you are to speak to me like that?’ It has stuck with me through the years because it was unusual for us to have this sort of exchange and obviously it was waiting in the memory bank for a blog to post itself in! My answer, later on, might have been “I wish I knew!” She was rather keen on lineage and was the descendent of a rather smart, humorous and well-loved Member of Parliament who had 10,000 loyal followers at his funeral when he died at an unfortunately young age, having achieved only a small amount of what he was capable of doing. Had she only known my lineage she might have been more respectful, of my ancestors anyway! My ancestors’ tombs fill a tiny churchyard in rural Somerset and the plaques in the church are covered in my name – what a surprise that was when my dear friend who lived locally photographed it for me!
Underlying all the comments is often a bitterness, a spiteful thread of nastiness, which has been so obvious over the years in so many forums, I use that word ‘forum’ loosely. No mother has yet been brave enough to publicly define it, to ‘come out’ and explain. How much better it would be if they would, because we’d then have something to work with, something tangible to get hold of and discuss. In the meantime we can only speculate and be criticised for doing so, slapped down for attempting to understand. I wonder sometimes how we will ever move forward productively and usefully when these undercurrents intrude, hijack and derail our intentions.
From adopters we frequently receive lecturing, advice on how to live our lives, how to speak and express ourselves and what to say, when and where. We are treated as if adoption is our whole lives and we do nothing but think and write about it!! If only they knew the breadth of our living, the complexities of our lives and the volume of living we do! Many adoptees have young families, study, careers, wider families to juggle, as well as dealing with adoption and it’s effects on our lives. Some of us have lived long adopted lives, in my case in both Hemispheres, encompassing many adventures and seeming lifetimes. I’ve been an activist in one arena or another for 50 years now, written and been published in all sorts of places, set up support groups, done paid work in adoption connected areas, followed my heart and my principles and lived life to the full. I can live with myself, I have few regrets and I certainly don’t set myself up as an expert in anything, because there is always more to learn, someone to learn from and something new to do. I am about to enter yet another new phase of my life and I look forward to it with interest, excitement and anticipation.
That’s the underpinning of our activism, our writing, our film-making, theatre work, creativity and so on. Some time ago I set up the group on Facebook called Adoption Information, to reflect that breadth of achievement, skill and reach, but it seems lately to have begun to be hijacked! Time to get it back on track! How many arenas are there which reflect adoptee’s achievements, celebrate our skills and our sometimes super-human attempts to live the adopted life? It sometimes takes heroic efforts to get through a day, with the triggers lurking around every corner, the traps for the unwary, the ill-thought out questions, the careless remarks, insults and the unkind cuts, the stigma which is alive and well, often kicking! When we write words such as these, we are perceived as grizzling, whingeing, whining and told to shut up, be grateful and be thankful we were saved and oddly enough to not be thankful we were saved. As if life in an orphanage would somehow be better. I know some adoptees who believe it would have been!
If only people could be more honest – orphan ministries are about saving souls, the orphan numbers are wrong, inflated, and the adoption industry is alive and well. Sometimes we are criticised and attempts made to disempower us, when we are told we don’t understand our own history, our own lives, motivations and agendas. We are analysed by people who do not know us, will never know us, because in ‘real life’ we wouldn’t let anyone with those views, motivations and toxicities come anywhere near us. We have other adoptees held up to us as role models, because they have, for business purposes, made themselves visible and accessible, available to mothers and we have not, because we operate in a different way, in a different country with different ideals, principles and agendas. It is unbelievably offensive, rude and disrespectful. It also provides much material for blog posts, our books and writings! There are times when the beliefs, prejudices and insistence on rightness by others, shuts down any meaningful discussion, progression or new understanding. Closed minds are quick to take offense, diminish others and insist on their own correctness. There is much to be learned from them.

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