Saturday, August 05, 2006
Echoes
Thanks to my faithful readers for your concern about my unexplained absence, and I am sorry if I caused anyone worry.

I have been trying to explain it – for days – but the words don’t come. “Writer’s block” doesn’t provide an explanation, as I have plenty of things to write about. I even have articles on standby I could have used to fill in the gap. But they didn’t fit my mood and, thus, looked artificial, plastic and pretend.

I began this blog to work through my own issues – some adoption related, some the product of a traumatic childhood. I throw in the funny, the anecdotal, the rants and raves and feel-good stories too, because I don’t live in my past traumas, despite how often they are able to encroach into my present day life.

There are times, despite all the work I’ve done to address those childhood experiences I still carry with me, despite all the painful “soul work,” the writing, the therapy, the reading, the changes I’ve made in my life allowing me to be who and what I am, the echoes from the past still manage to become so loud their reverberations drown out the sounds of my immediate world.

Usually, when I hear those echoes, I listen, apply logic, visit the past and grieve that which needs to be grieved, and they soon retreat to just a low whisper, losing their ability to deceive me into thinking they are the sound of my present day reality.

But, there is one echo capable of reaching a disorienting, fevered pitch, full of trickery and illusion. It doesn’t come uninvited, but is triggered, usually, by some, accurately or not, perceived violation of trust from someone in my immediate world. It is that echo drawing me away lately from the things I value. It is that echo inviting me into old patterns, those that tell me not to share, not to trust, to build tall walls of self-protection.

One of my former students was an adoptee who reminded me very much of myself at her age. We spoke a lot about her adoption experience. I ached for her as I watched her struggle with growing up adopted. She was skilled at giving the party lines she’d been coached to believe, but the pain in her eyes, the look on her face, always exposed her true feelings. She had echoes too – and I was fortunate enough to be the person she turned to when they became too loud. But, she moved to another school and I moved across country. We kept in touch for a short time, then fell out of the habit. I’ve missed her and think of her often. It’s been six years.

Last week, she found me, making contact through email. She’s now nearly eighteen years old, a grown woman. And, she is struggling. Her life is not going well.

She asked me about trust; wanting to know if my adoption experience had damaged mine, sensing a damaged sense of trust sits at the core of her own struggles. How ironic she found me, asked this question, while I was trying to fend off the sounds of my own echoes.

She is now the age I was when I built my walls.

I was seventeen when my adoptive mother sent me to foster care. I cried for days, wailing, with all the vulnerability of an abandoned child. And, with no empathic ear anywhere nearby, no one to help me see it wasn’t my fault, I finally had to shut it off, flip the switch on the unbearable amount of emotional pain I was experiencing.

I did it by promising myself I would never, ever trust anyone again; I would never, ever love anyone again and I would never, ever allow myself to be loved again. For the most part, I kept that promise. For thirty years. I surrounded myself by relationships that were mostly superficial, designed to guard my vulnerabilities.

With the exception of one person . . . a former junior high school teacher, who took me in, told me it wasn’t my fault, and nurtured me until I got back on my feet. I’d reached out to her, as my adoptee friend is now reaching out to me.

She has learned all the tricks I used to know . . . all the ways to stay numb from the pain. And, here I am, immersed in my own echoes, being asked for help. I hope I am up to the task. I hope I don’t let her down.

Because I want her to learn what took me thirty years to learn – that when you don’t allow yourself to love, you cannot be loved; that when you deny your authentic, feeling self, your life becomes an endless exercise in pretend; that being numb might protect you from pain, but it denies you the beauty of life, of feeling anything.

And I say this in the midst of my own echoes, the temptation of returning to numb pressing against me. I haven’t been here writing. I haven’t been here reading. I haven’t engaged in any of the things I usually do – the things that bring human interaction and feeling. At 38 years old, I am still as vulnerable to turning off my feelings as I was at seventeen. It only takes the right trigger.

So, my friends, that is where I’ve been . . . lost in my own echoes, feeling vulnerable and fighting the temptation to slip into un-blissful numbness for a while.

But, I can’t. I can’t because I want myself available for my adoptee friend, and anyone who reads these pages who might relate in some way.

Most importantly, I can’t because I need myself available to myself.

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