What I Choose to Believe: My Adoption Story
“The opposite of war isn’t peace, it’s creation.” ~ Mark (The Broadway Musical “Rent,” 1996)
Sometime in July of 1994, I, an unnamed baby, was born. I choose to believe this is the beginning
of my adoption story. The circumstances of this birth and the family that delivered me into
existence are unknown, and may never be known.
Un-known. Un-done. Un-written. The opposite of known. An opportunity for choice.
But what does it even mean to know –to have certainty? Is knowing based in facts, beliefs,
hopes, fears? Over the past 24 years I have slowly begun to take more ownership of my choices,
and further align with my beliefs. I’ve noticed a shift towards balance when I lean into beliefs
with intention. How we source our beliefs is dependent on how we process the information we
gather. There’s a lot to it, but for now I’ll just point out that we interpret information differently.
Often we tell ourselves a narrative and often we can change perspectives within our own story.
The unraveling of my adoption story is just that, a story that is still revealing itself, and I, with
the pen in my hand, am the author. This, I know – this I choose to believe. This I choose.
There is an abundance of things I choose to know. How does choosing to know something
change my perception?
As human beings we must feel in control of our lives. When certainty is so close to danger we
become out of balance. For example, if we are being chased by a wild bear the closer that bear
gets the more we feel “it.” We feel out of control, and at the mercy of that scenario. It’s the fight
or flight part of our body that kicks in, shuts down other systems in order to ensure our survival.
If knowing is control and control is safety -predictability-, then the canvas of my life has been
painted by a constant unsettling feeling of not-safety, or danger. A constant minimal sense of
danger, unknown, has impacted my inner sense of security from the beginning.
The mechanism to manage our sense of security, of knowing, are questions.
Questions burning my inner candle at both ends take energy to maintain. I cannot let them burn
me up to oblivion. So, I take these questions, I hold them gently in my mind, carry them with me
and take steps to answer a few of my own. If there are some things I don’t know, can never
maybe know, than I must take back control in other ways.
Arguably for my own endurance.
Questions of Survival
Lifelong questions such as: who would I be had I not been adopted? Who am I now? Why was I
“put up” for adoption? What are my parents like? Do I have siblings? If yes, what are they life?
Why did they let me go? Was it their choice? What were there options? Do I have any important
genetic predispositions? Do I have any habits or tendencies that my biological parents have? Is
there something wrong with me? Why am I here? Should I be angry? Sad? propagate my mind
space constantly. A hum I have grown to tune out over the years. White noise.
Who says what “should” be? Do I? Can I?
I can know I can do something with all these questions. The “should”s of the world are not
meant to hold me back and will not hold me back from my journey.
These questions will not tear me down but in some ways hold me upright.
Here are some things I know for certain about my story. My experiences are full and present with
a predilection for seeking deeper human connections and understanding. In the past 24 years of
my life, “life” has happened to me. The main plot twists and turns were not my directive.
The choices I’ve made do not have to determine the choices I will make but in a lot of ways they
do and will – but with greater awareness I can secure certainty in the origin of my choices. While
life may have happened to me before I can take charge and source my actions. No longer do I
need to act in fear, but I can choose something else.
That is: my belief.
But perhaps this sounds a lot like what every other human needs…
So, what is different about me? What makes my story unique? Well, simply, it is because I am
the only me there is. And my perspective can only come from me. No one but me can tell me
what I should do. No one but me can direct the significance of my future.
At the end of the day I am the survivor, I am the actor, and I am the creator of my own life. I will
flourish into my own.
The details of the context of my creation get tricky. Because, I am not my brain, but my brain is
very complex and responds effectively for my survival. (And the survival of my body).
Responding to Change
The science on this brain matter is clear: we build survival patterns into our body, mind, and
emotional center, when our immediate environment changes, when the people around us change
we still bring those old patterns of our interactions with us. But time has moved forward and
different people surround us.
This is well highlighted by Bessel Van Der Kolk’s “The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and
Body in the Healing of Trauma.”
It becomes in our interest to investigate our inner landscape our inner reflexes, to re-write what
we know. For example. We may know our parents who raised us, but not all adults we encounter
thereafter are our parents. As children, for our survival, we adapt to the known and the unknown
factors of our household. As children who don’t know any different because of our brain
development, may make up beliefs about a situation without choosing to.
Our brains work hard to protect us.
Sometimes our matured brains and bodies of today ask of us to answer the cries and calls of our
inner child that didn’t understand our situation at a different time. All the things we didn’t know
as children reflect our perceptions in our matured life. Many are unconscious.
Stories are our basis. Brené Brown in her numerous books, including “Braving the Wilderness”
(2017), references this too. In conflict resolution, and interpersonal relations, when we work
through and notice the stories, we make up in our heads about the world we may find clarity,
compassion, and understanding. Our brains are creative at making up stories about the world and
people that may not always be true.
Understanding, transforming, the unknown, the-unknown to the known in terms of the contextual
self (where we are right now), is our purpose. Essentially, every day we’re adjusting. If we go
deeper, we’re aiming to understand -make meaning of- the ongoing changes in our lives.
Of course, this idea gets fun because we have dreams, goals, and things to accomplish and must
think forward, present, and backwards.
Purpose: something set up as an objective or end to be attained: intention, resolution,
I choose to believe that it is my purpose, to continually work with what I know and what I don’t
know, in the context of my changing situation. It is my story to make meaning of my adoption,
and the death of my adopted mother.
To have a clear understanding is to reach a certain conclusion. It appears to mean to cross a
knowledge threshold. Discovering your life purpose seems to be another “level” of knowledge.
But to figure it out, we’ve got a journey ahead of us. This other “level” is beyond collecting data
but churning it in our mind in only the way we as an individual knows how.
My Process in Steps
Here we find a particularly challenging epistemological query: what value does the process of
reaching a goal hold to the attainment itself? And, how do we know when we’ve attained a
mental understanding of our life? How do we know when we’ve created the meaning?
The event of our adoption is a snapshot in time. But the movie of our lives…now that’s an
entirely different matter…
Does the goal, which necessitates a process – a way to get there – eclipse the significance of
attention and care to the process?
Arguably it should not. I believe the “goal” of “purpose” is the guiding light which serves are
your compass through the woods at night.
The steps we take may create a new path but our guide points us in a particular direction. We
may never reach it because it is the accumulation of steps that altogether define the direction,
which set an intention (written as values) that result in not a proscribed but reflectively, a
purposeful – meaningful series of steps. These steps, over time, define the story, in retrospect –
in reflection. So, only after the fact we understand? Only after this exercise can we hope to
choose with knowledge.
The steps of knowing what it means to be adopted to me is equally weighted to the “ah ha”
moment of awakening realization of my life purpose.
We may not reach a goal, but we will always “reach” somewhere. It may not always be what we
had planned. But it has a way of going.
All the Universe is Perfect
A yoga teacher of mine once provided an invaluable perspective that still resonates with me from
when we spoke in February of this year.
He said something to this effect. Similar to how water always finds its way to the sea, the
universe of all matter is perfect. So too is my physical being, because my body exists in the world
of matter. The challenge – the process lives in me figuring out what it means to live as an
adoptee and a person whose adopted mother died. As the original texts of yogic practice are
Hindu, they reference another part of my existence. Hindu belief is that we have a physical
nature and an eternal nature. Your purpose is how these two intertwine and move through time.
This perspective is a form of knowing. It is a belief about the physical world and how we and it
move through time. It is a choice. One can choose to believe that our physical bodies, while here
for a short time, houses our ability to perceive (one might call the spirit or soul, that which is
eternal), which in Hinduism is connected to an unchanging nature of our being. This is called
Purusha. The eternal part that lives through all of our lives in the nature of rebirth. Prakriti is the
physically changing aspect (our bodies).
There are lots of texts that go into these concepts in greater detail.
The question becomes, especially one we tackle in yoga, how do we manage the experience of
perception and presence?
Since we can remember, to some degree, the events of the past we are tied to it. But our physical
experience is grounded by the laws of physics to the present. The trick however, is that our
bodies also “remembers” the past, but in some ways is also stuck to the here and now.
Practicing meditation, or yoga can immensely help our ability to manage being in the here and
now. This includes all the pains and pleasures of our reality. A reality that may be very difficult
being in the present because it remembers the past.
Whatever you believe about reincarnation or not, we all die, and thus have a sort of conclusion. It
is likely in your nature to seek for meaning in the life that you’re given.
They say, the present is all we have. I choose to believe in this:
I am here to live fully into my presence and place given the way behind me and the way forward
paved by my choices and beliefs -in essence my purpose is crafted daily by how I choose to be
present with the information of the past and the body of present.
Friends let me clarify this is no easy task. It is a choice that I strive to do, but it is a difficult and
arduous journey. It is not easy to let go.
Presence of mind, body, and emotional center give serenity, strength and endurance to the spirit.
So, events happen, and we create the way forward in how we choose to carry that event forward.
The event of the past has no bearing on the future, other than what we choose to give it.
Understanding that I can choose to treat my adoption as a lifetime event that will not be
understood in a month or year but takes (at least) a lifetime to process because this is how I
choose to live.
Any and all of my feelings of sadness, or loss regarding my adoption are still awakening in me
each day. I choose to be open to joy, love and belonging as I journey onward.
I choose, every day, to let my adoption be an important and elemental part to energy I bring to
the moment. I choose to define my moments because I know why I am here and I know what I
want. I do not want the factors of not knowing that surround my adoption to steer me into a
dangerous and unsafe place. I can steer my own ship. I am the author of my story.
The events of our lives are burdens to bare, but not weights to hold us down. They are roadmaps,
tools in our survival kit, elements of our existence, the roots to our growth, the pillars to uphold
If you’ve not journaled ever about how you feel about your adoption, I highly recommend it.
Start out 5m a day for a week and see what you notice.
It is when our belief becomes a choice, that we realize our human potential.