Belonging in Family as an Adoptee

I was in my mid-forties when I found out I was adopted. Except for when I was a teenager and wished I was adopted (who doesn’t?), I had no clue. I used to think it was a big secret that almost nobody knew but have discovered it was an unintentional conspiracy – so many people knew but nobody talked about it as if it was an unimportant detail. And, maybe it was. Until it became important. Important enough for my birth sisters to seek me out. Then the adventure of coming to terms with the fact there was a birth family different from my family – the family I grew up in – began.

A new friend and colleague of mine, who also has an adoption story, recently began reading my book Embracing the Stranger in Me: A Journey to openheartedness. She sent me a note when she finished reading Chapter 8, the story of my birth mother, her disappearance as she ran away and her inability to acknowledge my sister (or me) as her daughter even when they met up again thirty years later. My friend, who has known forever that she was adopted and has also reconnected with her birth family, wrote to me to share her response, about how angry she was at my birth mother for this lack of acknowledgement. We unexpectedly opened a conversation about belonging, particularly about belonging in families.

Where do you belong when you are born to one set of parents and grow up with another? And how do you know where you belong? Does it even matter? Even if you don’t know you are adopted or that there are family secrets, the patterns of disruption play themselves out in your life in one way or another. That is what this question of belonging got me thinking about.

slide1What does it even mean to belong or have a sense of belonging? We know it is fundamentally important to a healthy society and healthy individuals – the people feel like they have a sense of belonging, a sense of having been accepted in a community, as part of a group that might also be family. It is a human need, important in seeing value in life and in coping with intense human experiences.

 

Belonging are the people you fit with, who you do not need to explain yourself to, who do not carry huge and unrealistic expectations of you or who you are or what you can or cannot fix by virtue of being you.

An opposite of belonging, for me, is abandonment. It shows up in my language and the language of many people who have an adoption story. “Given up, given away.” I carry threads of abandonment I didn’t know I had – my birth mother fled, my birth father and grandparents gave me up, even my sister left me behind. Granted, she was only three years old and could not operate with conscious intentionality. Later, my mother “abandoned” me too, in a way, through her journey with dementia.

The fact that decisions may have been a good and even wise does not matter to the cellular memory and sense of worth that is fuelled by memories not in conscious awareness. When I was working with an amazing coach during the period of this discovery – which I did not consciously go searching for but which found me – the journey and the coach, she listened to my language and then offered that part of our work together was for me to learn to adopt myself. It resonated.

My personal journey, once awakened to it, has always had a depth of self growth, self awareness and spiritual awakening. This part was natural to me (I was going to write easy but it was not easy and still has moments that are not easy or fun).

What was and still is more interesting in the journey related to my adoption and my birth family is that I still feel a bit dissociated from this part of my story. Intellectually I know it to be true. I have enjoyed meeting every person I am connected to and I have not met them all nor will I likely meet them all nor do I have a desire to meet them all and nor is it necessary – to me or them.

Knowing I am adopted expands my story of who I know myself to be but it doesn’t change the fundamental core of who I am. I am not more because I know more. I am not less because I didn’t know it before.

I have a relationship with my birth parents even though they have both passed on. I never did meet my birth mother as her death was the impetus for my sisters to find me. I did meet my birth father and his wife. I believe my birth parents had a soul contract to bring me into this world and then let me go and that they had this contract with my parents. I do not know the significance of this “departure” at birth but I do know that I feel I have multiple lineages – from by birth family and from my family I grew up in. While answers to some questions do not flow so easily anymore – where were you born? What is your ancestry? – I do feel connected to all the lineages.

I find my birth parents from time to time in the spirit world, just as I find my mother and other guides. Sometimes they appear unexpectedly in my meditation or in whatever query I am in at the time and sometimes I call upon them for help and understanding on whatever I am working through in the moment. It feels right.

And despite soul journey understanding, “One part climbs toward heaven, one sinks to earth, leaving me not really belonging to either.”

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Spirit Guides. We All Have Them.

Spirit Guides. We all have them. Each and everyone of us.

I used to believe it was only “special” people who had guides and, when I became aware that I had guides – because other people told me about them, I believed only “special” people could access them. When I was told, by different people in different situations, that I was intuitively powerful, I didn’t believe it. When I was asked to access my intuition, all I drew were blanks and guesses.

Until the veil began to lift – just a little bit.

I first became aware of my guides because other people – psychics, mediums, intuitively gifted individuals – told me about them. I always believed in spirit so to have someone tell me about a guide was a gift. The first one I was told was watching over me was a priest from my father’s family. I asked my father if there had been a priest in our family and he told me about Bishop who died when I was young. I used to sit on his lap and play with his cross.

I was told about a master guide wizard who grew ominously large and fierce when protecting me from harm.

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Sacred Art – my lion and a medicine woman – channeled for me by artist Tania Marie

Then I took part in my first drumming ceremony. The guidance we were given beforehand was to pay attention to animals that were coming to us. It was clear that my spirit animal was a lion, so many images of lions came to me in the days before the drumming. And it was / is my journey animal. In the drumming ceremony, I tried hard to have a vision and nothing came. Until I stopped trying so hard, surrendering to what was there – a sense of things that became vivid images – a meadow, then trees, then flying with the lion (yes, lions can fly in spirit world if they want to – and you can fly with them), then a bonfire with people chanting, laughing and dancing around the fire. The lion and I landed, shape shifting into one, dancing around the fire with the greatest sense of joy.

For a long time after that, nothing. Plus, I didn’t know what to do with what I already knew. Then, one day driving in rain pouring so hard it felt dangerous, I called on the support of everyone’s guides who were in the car and another appeared – a native American brave, young, strong with sharp features. And there are others and more.

The feeling of love and support when you know there are guides and entities in the unseen world who are always, always there is incredible. They are there, even when we don’t know they are. They love to be seen and acknowledged and all it takes is a simple turning of attention to them, just a thought and they come into awareness.

Many of us don’t go searching for them because we are afraid maybe they aren’t there, or we are not worthy, or we won’t know how to be in conscious relationship. But it is such a gift. To them. To us.

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My own first rendition of my medicine woman guide – she urged me to draw her during an experience in Brazil in 2011

When I became aware that not only did I have guides, but I could help other people become aware of and connect with their guides – discovered almost my accident that I could do this, I did that work for awhile – helping people develop relationships with their guides. Like so many things, it fell by the wayside for a while. Now, people who have been reading Embracing the Stranger in Me are asking me to coach them in meeting their guides. And I remember, that this is also work I am called to do, a gift I have to share and I am gifted with seeing other people’s guides, the delight they have in being acknowledged. So, I have been stepping back in and happy to talk to anyone about what coaching support looks like for you to connect with your guides. You do have them and they want you to know them.