I was in my favourite Health Food Shop the other day- favourite because it has everything I need and more and often surprises me with new goodies. It is not large or overwhelming, is well stocked and everything is reachable. Making my way round the store I was aware of being observed by a woman a bit younger than I and eventually I sat down on the seat of my walker to fill a bag with dates, Medjool of course, still the best and I put up with the food miles for the quality. She could keep silent no longer and informed me that I looked ‘competent’. It was a surprising remark and certainly not one I have ever had directed at me before. I blurted out one of my usual pieces about making the best use of what we have and dealing with the rest as best we can. She appeared to be happy with my answer although I sensed there were other questions she’d have liked to ask. I live in an area where strangers regularly talk to strangers and it’s not thought odd to do so. Women trying on clothes frequently compliment each other or give feedback in a friendly way. It’s altogether how we do things, but this was different and I’ve been mulling it over ever since, wishing I’d taken more time to understand what it was she really wanted to know. What is wrong with me perhaps or why I’m using a walker – I’ll never know unless we meet again and then I may find it was something completely other. What is wrong with me is that I have a number of conditions like Rheumatoid Arthritis or something very like it, Fibromyalgia, severe vitamin deficiencies, auto-immune disease, an hiatus hernia, a very prominent double maybe triple hernia, due to a gallbladder removal and so on. My balance is precarious, my health unstable and my physical health frail. I mention that as background information, not because I need pity, which is so disempowering, or sympathy or assistance. My life is well organised, all bases covered and my new ‘normal’ dealt with, or at any rate a work in progress. It has always taken me a long time to work out the meaning of people’s actions on occasions, at other times I ‘get it’ rapidly and am quite astute. I’m still trying to work out why my afather rejected me as a teen and even more profoundly as a young adult. My imagination has provided hundreds of answers, none of which can be checked, even supposing he was around to tell the truth. The red herring he fed me when I was 32 served to stop me from finding my biological mother for decades, but corresponding with another woman of the same age and with the same name, born in the same place and probably of the same family, if I cared to research it closely.
Adoption has many synchronicities, confusions and departures from truth. I have no regrets, bitterness or sadness about my journey. I found both sides of my family, I have all the information I need and I have no desperate longing for connection or extra relatives. I have all the family I can cope with, have had a full life and long ago tired of being told by adopters who were strangers to me, how to live my life. I have often been amazed at the gall of someone who doesn’t know me, telling me to do something useful, get a life and speak only about ‘good adoption’, whatever that is! We adoptees are regularly warned to shut up and sit down, to not tell our stories unless they are how adopters and mothers want to imagine they are. Very few seem able to cope with the reality of the adopted life with all it’s complexity and confusion – even just to read about it. Few can imagine how it is to live that life. Some might say they wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but I have loved my life with it’s diversity, complications and stranger than fiction elements. I have loved and been loved, I have achieved things I never expected to and I know that I did that for myself. I acknowledge the love and support I have received and I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve been presented but I am responsible for my decisions, my life and how it has turned out. Yes, adoption is wounding, the loss of a mother is traumatic and the scars remain, but they are my scars and I value what they have taught me and who they have made me. Frail as I am physically, I know I’m in good company and I value the friendship of the strong men and women in my life, those who also bear life scars but who stand strong and proud. A few nights ago I listened to an interview with a woman who was the mother of a young child. She had suffered from a very treatable cancer and had written a book about it for her daughter. Her struggles were very poignant, painful to her and the anguish in her voice could only cause concern for her future. She was so knocked about by her experience that you had to fear for her strength for any future struggles and survival. It is tough being a victim but sometimes even tougher being a survivor.