Snapshot

Adoption, Uncategorized
reticulation

On ANU campus, reticulation checks. 19 Aug, 016. Photo by the author.

There’s not a better way to visualise the unruliness of my adoption baggage right now.

Every so often it does this, bursting forth in torrents, uncontrollable and unpredictable.  I wish it was as easily fixed as the reticulation, and that I had the emotional and spiritual equivalent of the hort staff that you can see there on the side in his safety fluoro.

But there isn’t.  Perhaps I’ll write about the trigger for this over the weekend, because if I write now I’ll collapse and I have to keep my shit together and pretend I’m OK and pretend that I care about what I am paid to do.  Always pretending.  So much pretending in this adopted life.

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Ancestry and adoption

Adoption, Belonging, emotions, Genealogy

I’ve had another moment of bibliographic grace.  You know.  When the right book arrives at the right time.  This time the book was called It didn’t start with you.  Even the title gave me a little taste of unwinding.  The author is Mark Wolynn and is readily available by which ever book buying method you prefer.  (I’m a paper girl).

i read it from cover to cover on Monday night, and it prompted a fresh surge of genealogical activity.  It’s been a while since I visited the biological family tree and with the speed at which material is being digitised, I hoped I might find photographs.  I’ve never seen any photographs of any of my ancestors beyond one picture of my maternal grandmother.

I found one.  Not who I was hoping for, but nevertheless a 100% improvement on where I was.  My great uncle was a pretty handsome guy actually, and his pre-embarkation photo made me weep for what lay ahead of him.  A fit and attractive young man who would be discharged from the army with neurasthenia, a difficult condition to describe.  It’s modern day equivalent in former soldiers is PTSD, but as I understand it, it’s not quite the same.

Perhaps worse was to come.  James was a twin, and in a few years time, his sister, my great grandmother, would take her own life.  I discovered that Gertrude had killed herself only after her daughter, the only person who could have told me anything about her mother, had died.  That’s how adoption works you know.  So many secrets, and such destructive silence. My great grandmother’s death in 1923 is still reverberating four generations down the line.

I hope that by trying to reconstruct this branch of my biological family, to tell Gertrude’s silenced story, I can bring some peace and healing, not only for myself but hopefully for them too.

Allergic to work???

Adoption, Cancer, Diabetes, emotions, Family, Uncategorized, Work

I think I am allergic to work.  No, seriously.

I have spent the entire day forcing myself to pay attention, with my eyes skittering off the page like a toddler on too much red cordial.  The trouble is, this is the latest of a long line of jobs I have loathed.  My first job was when I was in high school.  That was decades ago.  I still feel exactly the same about work as I did then.  It’s tedious, exhausting, unrewarding and generally, a crapulous experience.  Hence, my conclusion.  I think I am allergic to work.  We’ve certainly had enough people over the centuries praising it as virtuous, character building,  blah de fucking blah.  But I have to ask myself, are they perhaps not shouting a little too loud?  It certainly seems like it to me.

It’s hard to avoid the modern rhetoric about the importance of work and career.  Indeed, I am conscious of the fact of the ongoing struggle of some women to even be able to participate in the workforce on anything like equal grounds.  I feel churlish about complaining about my lot, which has a window that opens, a door that shuts and plenty of freedom and flexibility.

Not enough freedom and flexibility, however, to be able to run with my essence.  I woke up this morning feeling like shit, and didn’t want to leave the house.  It’s nearly the end of the day, I still feel like shit and I want to be at home.  In bed.  With the cat. Period.  But I am not in any position to honour these feelings, to give them space and work with them.  One of the lessons of that I think we all need to learn is to honour our emotions, however challenging or difficult they are.  I have known too many who haven’t and in the process tend to have had more trouble, both within their own lives and with others, as a result.  Maybe if I’d stayed at home and accepted how I felt, I might have gotten through it quicker, and then when I got to the office, I’d have been ready to actually do some work.  But I’ve not been able to achieve a thing, because the urkness inside still wants its day.  So, end result is that I still feel like shit and I’ve also achieved nothing.

I do have good reason to feel this way.  My mother does indeed have cancer, in addition to heart disease and diabetes.  I’m crapping on the universe for giving me two mothers with cancer to deal with.  Such a lucky little adoptee.  But even despite this profoundly good reason for wanting to crawl under the doona and NOT COME OUT EVER AGAIN, I feel the same about work.  I felt like this before I got the news about my mother.  It has just made me feel my feelings about it even more strongly.

I wonder how many people would genuinely continue to go to their job if they didn’t need the money to pay the bills and feed themselves and their family if they have one?  Would you still do what you do if you didn’t get paid?  My answer is no.

Yet, if you were to consider my CV, you might think that it couldn’t possibly have been all that bad.  Maybe it wasn’t.  I certainly have met lots of kind, intelligent and wonderful people, some of whom have been become treasured friends.  I’ve found that I get to spend perhaps half an hour a day enjoying the company of my colleagues, and the remaining majority of the hours I’m locked to a computer screen.   Some of my work may possibly contribute to making the world a better place.  Emphasis on possibly.  Certainly that was my intent but you have no guarantees.  Did I enjoy the processes of work? No, not really.  Not enough to counter the depression and the exhaustion.  Am I in the wrong job?  Clearly the answer is yes.  What worries me is that there is no right job.  And that I have to show up here, day after day for at least the next two decades.

Oh happy thought.

 

Roses for revelation

Adoption, Diabetes, Family, Health, Roses

If only all revelations were as beautiful as this rose. Like many roses, she has multiple names. I found her by searching under the term ‘revelation’, with her full name of ‘Sweet Revelation’. She is also known as Chimene, Sue Hipkin or Hipken, and as Lady Jane Grey. She was bred by Harkness, and released in 1998. Harkness describes this rose as growing a metre high and sixty five centimetres wide, with a powerful scent and a unique bronze colour. In their catalogue, she is Sue Hipkin.

Photo by George Seguin, photographed in the Bagatelle Garden, Paris.  http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Rosa_%27Chim%C3%A8ne%27#/media/File:Rose_Chimene_20070601_2.jpg

Photo by George Seguin, photographed in the Bagatelle Garden, Paris. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Rosa_%27Chim%C3%A8ne%27#/media/File:Rose_Chimene_20070601_2.jpg

This post started because I’d had an unwelcome revelation relating to my diabetes. While researching something that I thought was entirely unrelated, I discovered that my risk of developing diabetes had always been higher because I had never been breastfed. Children taken for adoption in the secret era usually weren’t.

Add another black mark to the experience of adoption.

What really astounded me was the coincidence between this rose’s names. When I was in primary school, I would often stay at my grandparent’s house where I liked to read their old books. That was how I discovered the story of Lady Jane Grey, Queen of England for a mere nine days. With ruthless manoeuvring, her parents put her on the throne following the death of Henry VIII’s son Edward in an attempt to keep Henry’s Catholic first born daughter, Mary, off the throne.

My grandparents were fiercely Protestant, or fiercely anti Catholic, and Jane’s story has been largely cast against this political background religious hatred and intolerance. This is not what struck me as a kid. I was being brought up to be irreligious, and the words Protestant and Catholic were just that, words.

Through her mother’s family, Jane had kinship with the Royal family. She and Henry VIII’s heir, Edward, were cousins. This lineage of hers turned out to be deadly. Jane might not have been beheaded if it were not for her father, in particular. His refusal to give up his ambition for power is what cost his daughter her life. It was the first time that I truly understood, with both my head and my heart, that family can indeed be dangerous.

While I was troubled and fascinated by the story of Jane all at the same time, the revelation helped me. It gave me a safe historical context to think about the purpose of families, and about how parents were supposed to behave. Not that this is a topic which I would ever have aired within my adoptive family. The subject was strictly verboten, and as the Australian research shows, those children who did not feel encouraged to talk about it, were more likely to have mental health issues later in life. So I struggled to find a way to come to terms with the knowledge that my parents had given me away. The concept that ‘family is dangerous’ that I formed after learning of Jane Grey’s fate helped me to understand that maybe the fault wasn’t with me. Just maybe, I was the innocent party instead of fault laden, defective child that I thought I was.

Was it a sweet revelation, as this rose’s name suggests? Ultimately, they both were. For the first, I feel more exonerated of the shame of having developed a chronic disease at so young an age. For the second, I remember the relief of my child self. It didn’t solve the situation I was in, and remain in, but it gave me a different, and more positive, perspective.