memoir

I did not fully understand the impact of adoption on my life and relationships.

Happy Saturday! Today, I’m going to take a departure from what I typically post to promote my first book, Beyond Two Worlds: A Taiwanese-American Adoptee’s Memoir & Search for Identity. As we prepare for National Adoption Month in November, I invite you to listen to the voices of adoptees and to those who relinquished a child, first mothers and fathers. I believe that you will hear a different story about what adoption means.

For many years, I did not fully understand the impact of adoption on my life and relationships. I had little insight, no voice and felt a deep sense of isolation. As I came into contact with many other adopted persons, I began to see that that we shared common feelings of loss, grief, shame, confusion and anger surrounding our experiences of adoption. Today, there is a growing movement of adoptees writing and publishing their stories. The adoptee memoir has blossomed into its own literary genre. Our voices are gaining strength and being heard, yet there is still more work to be done.

Beyond Two Worlds is centrally a story about loss and gain, rejection and acceptance. My hope is that by listening to adoptees and reading our stories, hearts and minds will open to a different perspective that is not always seen, heard nor understood. For a signed copy of Beyond Two Worlds, jump on over here. Other editions can be purchased at my author page on Amazon. Book reviews are also available to read. I invite to explore this work and share it with others ❤️ Many thanks!

Photo credit: Anna Wu Photography

Cheers

姐妹

You are blood. You are sisters. No man can break that bond.

In 2012, I reunited with my birth family in Taipei, Taiwan. I had been searching for them for nearly three years before making contact with my oldest sister via email. I had the help of a social worker who was also Taiwanese. Going back to Taiwan, the country of my birth, was one of the most profound and beautiful experiences I have ever had. To walk the streets of my home town was simply magical, and the ten days I spent with my sisters were extraordinary.

My sisters are older than me by ten and eleven years. I also have an older brother, a niece and a couple of nephews, and an Uncle, who is the patriarch of our family. Unfortunately, our parents had already passed away, so I did not have the opportunity to meet them. I continue to keep in touch with my sisters, brother, and niece via social media and hope to return to Taiwan next year.

The drawing above is of my sisters and I – my second sister is to the left and eldest sister to the right. I’ve been wanting to do a sketch of the three of us for awhile now, and after a visit with a dear friend of mine from Arizona, I was inspired to finally put it to canvas.

If you’d like to learn more about my reunion, you can actually read my memoir, Beyond Two Worlds: A Taiwanese-American Adoptee’s Memoir and Search for IdentityContact me if you’d like an autographed copy, as I have a few soft covers still available.

To my sisters, you are an inspiration.

Quote above by Kim Boykin, A Peach of a Pair

lucid

For adoptees, the journey is never over. It evolves, it twists and turns, but it never ends.

I reunited with my birthfamily in Taipei, Taiwan, in January 2012, during the Lunar New Year. I can’t even begin to express what a life-changing event it was. I met my two older biological sisters, their spouses, my older brother, nieces and nephews, and our Uncle, the Patriarch of our family. I did not have the opportunity to meet my birthparents, as both had passed on years earlier. I learned that my birth father died around the same time as my adoptive mom.

Lucid_Light sketchGrowing up, I never entertained the thought of searching for my birthfamily. My adoptive parents hid my adoption records, which I later found after my adoptive mom passed away. My adoption record held information that was quite contrary to what my mom had shared with me. To this day, I’m left wondering if she lied about my past. After learning the truth, I was struck with an insatiable curiosity. I set out to find answers. That led to a three year search for my birthfamily. I won’t go into all the details, but will share an incident that led up to my search.

After my adoptive mom passed, I attended a Bonny Method Guided Imagery & Music (GIM) training at Arizona State University. Briefly, GIM is a type of psychotherapy utilizing classical music to assist individuals in uncovering unconscious material and emotions. Watch a brief video about GIM here. My classmates and I were graduated music therapists. We were paired up and were each given the opportunity to be the “client” and the guide, or therapist. I went into the training worried because my adoptive mom had recently passed away, and I knew that the training might cause more grief to surface. At the same time, I was also concerned that I would not be able to “travel” as they call it, or be able to conjure any images while “travelling.”

When it was my turn to be the “client,” my partner and I found a spot on the floor. I was lying on my back, and he was kneeling near my head. The music began. Eventually, images began to flow. I entered a room that looked like a library. There were bookshelves with hundreds of books. Several minutes in, a cloaked figure emerged in the distance, its face was hidden by the hood of the cloak. Initially, I was afraid, as the figure appeared ominous, its cloak was as dark as charcoal. Barber’s Adagio for Strings was playing. If you’re not familiar with this piece, it is intensely beautiful and mysterious. There is also a yearning and a sorrow underscoring this composition. I highly recommend giving it a listen here.

As the figure drew nearer, I knew in my heart that it was my birth mother. She reached out to me. I remember her long, graceful fingers, which were gloved in grey. We embraced. It was a feeling like I’d never experienced. Joy, sorrow, disbelief, mystery. I then saw my adoptive mother. Her face was lit up, and she was beaming down at me. The first thing she said was, “I’m okay!” By this point, I’m sobbing. I sensed that she wanted to tell me something vitally important. She wanted me to know my birth mother. It was time. It was like she was trying to connect us. I didn’t know at this time that I would eventually set out to find my birthfamily – that did not occur until months later. My birth mother and I held each other for what seemed like an eternity. She told me that she did not want to give me up and that she had given me my musical abilities. I later learned from my biological sisters that our mother loved classical music and learning, which are two of my favorite things.

When it came time for my birth mother to leave, she exited slowly, walking backwards. I cannot begin to tell you the sorrow I felt in watching her leave. Later I watched as my adoptive mom was taken away by white beings. I can only describe them as angels. The music had changed to Mozart’s Serenade in B-Flat. The angels moved to the beat of the music, lovingly carrying my adoptive mom away until I could no longer see them. Both my moms had left me. I should say that because I had such an intense experience, one of the facilitators came to my side to help me through it. They had purposely selected the piece by Mozart because of its ability to contain strong emotion in a way that felt safe and comforting. There was much more to this event that I don’t have time to share. Suffice it to say, it was truly transformative.

The drawing above is an imagining of my birth mother. I never saw her face during the GIM imaging. It remained cloaked in darkness. My biological sisters gave me a picture of our mother when I went back to Taiwan, but she was much older when the photo was taken. My sisters said that I look like her when she was young. Unfortunately, they no longer had any photos of our mother when she was a younger woman. So I’m left to my own idealized imagination and creative intuition.

I believe that the experience that I had with GIM was only the beginning of a journey that led me back to my roots in Taiwan. For adoptees, the journey is never really over. It evolves, it twists and turns, but it never ends.

 

anger

I still do not manage my angry feelings well. Deep at my core, I’m still a people pleaser and hate conflict.

I’ve been exploring anger lately. It’s an emotion that I’ve tried very hard to avoid most of my life. My adoptive mom exploded in anger when I was a kid at any given time. It got worse as I became an adolescent, as I became quite rebellious. To this day, I don’t know why she carried so much anger. I often wonder if she had an undiagnosed mental disorder or illness, like depression. She and my adoptive father drank a lot. Of course, many from their era drank socially. My father joined the Air Force at the age of 18 and was a pilot in World War II. He flew a B-24. My parents loved their martinis and cigarettes.

I feared my mom because of her anger. I seem to gravitate toward people with similar personalities to that of my mom, quite unconsciously. Through therapy, I’ve learned that it’s common to attract what we’re most familiar with, even if it’s not particularly healthy.

Therapists and others identity anger as a secondary emotion. In other words, anger lies beneath another emotion, like sadness, emotional pain, loneliness or disrespect. I think, however, that anger can also exist as a primary emotion. When someone cuts me off on the freeway, and I have to slam on my brakes, I’m pissed. I think that you can genuinely feel angry toward someone else without the presence of a secondary emotion.

I’m learning to own my anger and that I feel angry a lot more often than I realize, or allow myself to acknowledge. Anger tells me that I need to explore the root – that’s the part I don’t like because it means I have to do something to resolve it. Like confront. Throughout my life, I’ve let others take their anger out on me without doing anything about it. It typically just sinks deep to the bottom of my heart. I can recall times when my mom terrified me with her anger. She once ripped the cord of my telephone in my bedroom out of the wall when I was talking to a friend (we didn’t have cell phones back then) and threw it across the room.  On another occasion, she pushed me onto my bed and proceeded to shake me by my shirt. I was a teen when both incidents occurred. Other times, she just yelled and screamed and that was enough to send my heart tripping. She demeaned my father by calling him names like dumbass and asshole. I yelled back, but I also felt so fearful, and that was never resolved. I became a people pleaser. I put on a smile, learned to be kind and passive. It did not serve me in the least bit, except to avoid conflict. I learned to live in fear like it was a normal, daily experience.

There are a couple of podcasts that I’ve listened to recently that explore anger. One is Adoptees On by adoptee, Haley Radke, where Pamela Cordano, MFT, talks about some of the reasons why adoptees legitimately feel angry.  I highly recommend listening in to this episode, especially if you’re an adoptee. She also discusses different types of anger and gives some practical exercises to work on. The other is The Creative Superheroes Podcast by Andrea Scher. Guest, Juna Mustad, a Life Coach, Intuitive, and Group Facilitator, discusses relationships and the Drama Triangle, which very much resonated with me. She also wrote a book called, The Good Girl’s Guide to Anger, where she talks about healthy relationships, confrontation, and dealing with anger.

Something made me really angry last weekend. The piece above came from that anger. I still do not manage my angry feelings well. Deep at my core, I’m still a people pleaser and hate conflict. I have grown and am growing, but still have much more growing to do and fears to overcome…It’s crippling to not deal with anger. I’m so grateful that art gives expression to those difficult emotions.

dear adopted one

Ours is a sacred community of individuals who rise up, speak out, and overcome.

I love that social media allows people all over the world to connect. I remember the first time another adoptee reached out to me in 2011. She was adopted from the same orphanage. It was profound. Social media has allowed me to connect to many adoptees in the U.S. and abroad. I see photos and posts daily that clearly communicate the trauma, loss, woundedness, confusion, and rejection felt by so many of us. And yet ours is a sacred community of individuals who rise up, speak out, and overcome.

My beautiful biological sisters have always said to me how happy they are that I was adopted and experienced a better life, and out of love and respect for them, I don’t post things that I feel may be upsetting to them. They are genuinely compassionate, kind, and forgiving. This morning, I felt inspired to create something adoptee-related. The piece above is part of an angels series I’m creating. To my fellow adoptees, may you know that you are truly precious. And, may you know that your angels are always singing love over you.