Box of clues

There is a box in my room.

I keep it locked and hidden away, because if it was accessible its contents would get destroyed. It holds every scrap of paper and every little keepsake that reminds me of the love and the courage inside her that is so deeply hidden by her pain.

I open the box when I need reminding of why. I leaf through when the trauma is so dominating the cry of my own inner need stops me from recognising and responding to hers. The trinkets – buttons on string, painted lollipop sticks glued into wonky stars, dried up flowers – are the gifts she made that arrived safely into my hands. Or things we created together that made it to the finish line without being broken in frustration; smashed by the anger and fear she associates with love. Most don’t make it. The treasures in my secret box are more precious than anything.

Some of the handwritten notes are scrappy; a few words on a ripped up corner of a note pad. There’s one that simply says ‘sory mum’ with a tiny shell sellotaped onto it; another says ‘you are my rock’ next to a 10 year old’s drawing of ‘wundr womn’.

Some are longer, like letters. These get posted under my bedroom door in the middle of the night, or left on the kitchen table, or screwed up behind the sofa amongst a dozen other things so as not to be easily found. They list all the hurt she has inside; pain she dares not speak of out loud. Huge unchecked torrents of words, in which there sometimes shines out a single phrase, like ‘I wish I didn’t hurt my mum’, or ‘mum, don’t ever think your not good inuff’. I anchor myself to these short sentences; diamond studded clues to light my way out of the dark. They renew my insight and empathy, scaffolding the resolve I need to keep going in a world that can otherwise feel so endlessly hostile. A world that offers very little to let me know if anything I do is helping, or worth it.

The clues she gives are few and far between. I need her clues like the desert needs rain. Years can pass without one clue being dropped, or i miss a vital clue altogether; lost in the immensity of her anger like a needle in a haystack. My doubt, fear, and resentment builds without those clues. I strive to remind myself that the clues are in her all the time; hidden away like secrets, and almost impossible to see.

I am learning to trust the invisible clues as much as the ones in my box.


Close encounters of the contact kind

My post today forms part of the Weekly Adoption Shout Out theme – contact.

Direct contact – close encounters of the third kind.

I make no bones of using this opportunity to plant a few thoughts.

However your family is made, imagine for a moment being together.  There will be love and laughter, conflicts and hopes, truth and denial, loss and increase; celebration and heartache – all in one room.  If we had to give that melting pot of experience a name, it would be something deeply evocative emotive; overflowing with depth and timbre.

In our adoptive families, they would have us believe the name of that gathering is ‘contact’.

Contact: a junction of surfaces, mutual tangency of the limbs of two celestial bodies, the junction of two electrical conductors, an association or relationship [Mirriam Webster].

Contact: an authority centric, institution focused, top down term that sanitises basic human bonds and strips them of all their wonder and emotion [Mumdrah]

Contact: a euphemism that tastes bitter on the tongue; tinny, awkward, hollow, municipal.

Contact: an instruction that communicates duty; an obligation to be endured.

Contact: a scene coloured with the grey of secrets, suspicion and partition.

Contact: a concept that turns a family encounter into nothing more than a meeting.

Contact: a word that transforms a family into alien nations struggling to overcome translation.

Words are powerful; metaphors for our cognitive framework. They inform our thoughts, our feelings and our actions.  This policy wonk terminology of adoption sculpts the lives of everyone and anyone who enters. Unaware, we inherit this pervasive language and it shapes our families to its own design.  Our use of it builds a restrictive cage around us, and perpetuates the trauma and isolation of adoption. It divides us and separates us, and upholds a system that is way off course.

These sterile words keep us all from a different way of thinking and understanding; one that could feed and nourish the road to healing and wholeness.  By using them, we collude and ally ourselves with their negative values. The mindset these words creates seems to undermine and fracture the families they describe.

Indirect contact.  Direct contact: all I can think of are those five iconic musical notes.

Think now how differently it would feel if instead of ‘contact’ we:

Gather. Visit. Party. Flock. Swarm. Throng. Huddle. Rally.  Assemble. Powwow. Get together.

I work hard not to be infected by this terminology of adoption, and I reject their words #bethechange