Back to the future

I find myself wondering more and more often: how will we ever be able to look back to the future?

How will we tell the stories of our lives? Will we remember things with fondness? Will we be able to laugh at all that has happened between us? Will we ever be able to revisit the painful moments with positive reflection? Will we have anything good to say about it all?

Family is so much focused on retelling.

Sat around the Christmas table, the best man’s speech, pouring over the family album. Each gathering prompts the spilling out of all the personal tales; the moments that made us proud, the embarrassing stories that make us who we are. The successes, the mistakes. The serious and the funny. The adventures, the times shared. The events that make us grow weave a shared past that knits us together without edges or seams. Families explore each other, and gain understanding into how and who we came to be. We laugh, we cry, we get lumps in our throats; we share. All of it.

But how will our future family navigate that retelling? Will we remember all the things we did together differently, and not as shared?  Will we be able to spin yarns about our family’s tapestry without hurting each other with the painful truths that underpin each and almost every event? And how about the parts of our family history that we didn’t share together? The years before we met? How will we find shared meaning in those huge, gaping holes?

Will I ever be able to laugh at the memory of things that – beneath the understanding, and the empathy, and the therapeutic parenting – still felt so hurtful? Will I ever be able to talk about my Love without feeling the sting of sword hidden amongst the pinions*? Without hurting her more? Will she? Will honesty in recounting the events of our lives ever be appropriate, or allowed? Will we ever be able to reflect back on our lives together with anything close to the truth? Will we simply leave out all the trauma from every tale, or dare to open Pandora’s Box on the pain we invoked in each other? Will our memories of events always be tormented by shame (and will our retelling always reopen old wounds, unearth new ones, or create new layers of pain)? Will these ghosts of our past and our present inform the way we can look back on our lives in the future … forever?

When every story we have comes with a dark side of trauma, will we dare to look back to the future at all?

And perhaps worse; in the future, will we even be together to reflect at all?

*thanks Kahlil Gibran

The Keys To The City

As an adopter, looking back to the beginning I understood I’d been trusted with ‘The Keys To The City’.

Those keys represented a commitment to fight for this child. For this child’s rights to a life; a life after her early years, the decisions of state intervention, and the adoption process itself imposed on her a world of pain and trauma over which she had no choice. Each of those keys on that huge and heavy fob represents a life that forcibly handed her more than any person can cope with alone. The keys – I thought – were her pass to access everything she needs to help her through.

What I didn’t understand was that the responsibility for those keys would not be shared. That in truth doors would be closed, barred and locked before us; the keys would become mine and hers alone.  Social services, support agencies, the state, doctors, teachers – all of those people that took decisions which culminated in a life of turmoil – would stop recognizing her past, her present and her future as in any way ‘their responsibility’ from the moment those keys were handed on to me. As if she had suddenly become a different child. As if she no longer needed those keys. As if adoption alone had become the answer – their answer – to the chaotic life their decisions had once taken a part in creating.

I do not understand this. I do not understand how the fight I was trusted with also includes fighting for support from the institutions who time and time again work against her, add to her trauma. Institutions that now see her as the problem. Institutions who choose to forget what made this child, and their role in that.

When ‘the process of adoption’ allows society to relinquish the keys and close the doors to our children’s progress, then it’s time to question the process of adoption.

Because it takes more than one set of Keys To The City to make a difference.