I don’t know about you, but sometimes I have a really difficult time accepting things the way they are. For example, I don’t like getting older and all the changes associated with aging, but there’s not much I can do about it. Another thing that I cannot change is the fact that I am adopted. There are things about my past that I will never be able to change. I can’t change the fact that I never knew my birth parents. I don’t have certain information about my past that most people take for granted, like family medical history. When I’m at the doctor and asked to provide a medical, social, and family history, I write, N/A: I was adopted. I don’t know if heart disease or cancer or Alzheimer’s runs in my family, and I don’t have an original birth certificate.
Another thing I cannot change: My adoptive parents told me that I was Japanese and Vietnamese growing up, but that was false. I’m certain that my adoptive parents knew I was Chinese/Taiwanese, and yet they told me otherwise. I will never know why they did not share the truth. The fact is that I’m neither Japanese nor Vietnamese. I’m Taiwanese and always have been. I write about the unexpected way that I found out in my new book. I believe that my adoptive parents were trying to protect me, and that my mom was terribly afraid that one day I’d want to find my birth family. There is nothing I can do about it now – my adoptive parents passed away before I could ask them to tell me what happened. Interestingly, I’m an INFJ according to the Meyers Briggs Personality Test, and INFJ’s do not easily let go of past hurts and/or wrongs done to them. We move on, but tend to hold onto things. Many people have asked me if I feel angry about my parents misinforming me. The truth is, I’ve come to accept that the past is the past. This is probably the one, if only, area in my life that I’ve truly been able to just let it go. That is not to say that I still do not grieve and experience feelings of loss and anger on any given day, but I’ve accepted that there are unknowns in my life that I may never have answers to.
I can think loosely of 4 reasons why I’ve been able to accept these unknowns, not in any particular order :
- My adoptive parents are no longer living. In some ways, the untruths they told me are “contained.” We aren’t able to have any conversations about the truth and why they handed me such a bizarre story. I’ve compartmentalized that part of my life. When I first questioned my parents story, I was full of curiousity more than anything. Why had they hidden my adoption papers? I certainly had a million questions. That is why I searched for my birth family. If things had not happened the way they did, perhaps I would never have found them.
- I know that my adoptive parents loved me and did what they were doing out of love, even though it may not have been in my best interest. I’m a big believer in the truth and authenticity. My clinical supervisor recently told me that I’m truthful to a fault. Well, I can hardly stand lies, but I also believe there is the right approach in telling the truth. You know that old saying, the ‘truth hurts.’ Well, yeah, sometimes it does – how we tell the truth matters. I wish my parents had been honest with me, had given me my adoption papers rather than hidden them away from me. I realize that my parents and I both said and did a lot of things that caused a lot of pain. The pain is still there, but it’s more like a scar now that has healed over time. And, if you’re a parent, you know that your kids can cause some serious pain. My adoptive parents also felt pain. I think that studying social work helped me recognize that pain and deal with my own. It was kind of like kneading dough, rolling it over and over until it became manageable and had substance. Sometimes the taste of sweet leaves a bad taste in your mouth afterwards, but you can still appreciate the sweetness.
- Finding my birth family. The search for my birth family was truly a quest. To go back to the country of my birth, feel the ground beneath my feet and breath in the culture was incredibly healing. Connecting with my sisters whom I adore was a huge blessing. We are blood. For the first time in my life, I accepted being Asian, accepted my birth heritage. For so many years, I rejected it. When you reject such a significant part of who you are, you really are only half living. It’s hard to put it into words, but I guess that’s how I’d explain it. I’m going back to Taiwan one day to visit my family again, and I’d love to take other Taiwanese adoptees along for the trip, like a heritage trip, if you will.
- The support of other international adoptees. Sharing stories and experiences with others who “get it” is validating. I don’t have to explain myself or why I feel the way I do. I can be as snarky and real as I want, and it’s completely acceptable. It’s good to have a sense of humor about things once in a while if not frequently.
These things have helped me accept that I may never know the complete story about my adoption. I can look back over my life and see the losses, yet also see that healing and acceptance have occurred, slowly over the years, and sometimes without my awareness in the moment. Connecting to other adoptees through social media and adoption conferences and writing about my experiences has also been strengthening.
It’s not easy to let go of some things in our lives. Some things are so hurtful that there is permanent damage. Can there be hope or event a hint of beauty despite all of the damage? Is there anything that helps you accept the way things are in your life despite the unknowns or untruths?