When I was a little girl, I watched a movie called Pollyanna. In the movie, the children string up crystals in the sunlight and watch the crystals split the light into it’s component colors and form prisms on a nearby wall. My birth family reunion was like a crystal. It split my life into component parts and allowed me to see different parts of myself that I didn’t even realize were there. It allowed me to examine each part of my life in a new way. And the beauty of it was that I was the one who could decide what to do with each part. I did a lot of personal work. I thought about the person who I was. I decided what kind of person that I wanted to be going forward.
One thing that I came to terms with is the idea that there was no such thing as perfection. Perfection was an illusion. I used to think that things should be perfect, and I worked tirelessly at that ideal. But I realized that in that perfectionist mentality, I was missing out on the gratifyingly beautiful times where I was just settled in the present– content not only with myself at the present moment but with what others could give me at that time too.
It’s taken me a long time to get to this place, and I still have a long way to go. But it’s been incredibly powerful just to let go and be happy with the person I am right now. To be content with myself and to accept the fact that I can’t do everything. To accept the fact that things aren’t perfect. And that life circumstances are never perfect. That my friends and family are not perfect. And I can’t make my daughter’s life perfect. If I spend my life trying to chase that ideal, I’ll miss out on the here and now. And she’s growing up so fast! I don’t want to miss these moments in her life. And I don’t want to miss these moments of my life, either.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a bit of an overachiever and a perfectionist. I’m sure this was some sort of defense mechanism I created out of the wounds of being adopted. For me, letting go and living more in the present is still like navigating wild and uncharted territory. But it’s so worth it. I realized in the few years following my reunion that even though I was high-achieving, I wasn’t usually happy. It wasn’t until I moved away, simplified my life, worked on processing my stuff, and worked on my relationships that I began to realize that I didn’t necessarily need all that extra “stuff” anyways. And when I actually let go of those “perfect” ideals, life was a lot more enjoyable and more manageable. And I was happier.
Moving away to a smaller coastal town helped, but I think moving away from my hometown mainly allowed me to shift my perspective from the way things “were always done” because it was merely a different time and place. It allowed me to take a step back and evaluate the person I was, the things that I felt, and the way I was living. It was a simpler, smaller scale. Everyone knew everything about everyone. So, things didn’t fall through the cracks at the same scale as in a larger city. I knew my goals. They were manageable and for once, actually achievable. I wasn’t always feeling like I was under the gun for some deadline of getting an impossible to do list done for an unknown (but large) quantity of people. This contentedness was refreshingly satisfying. And such a welcome respite.
Coincidentally, the timeframe of my living out of state coincided with my birth family reunion. About a year and a half following my move, I embarked on one of the biggest adventures of my entire life– searching for my birth family. And remarkably, my search was not only successful, it was incredibly fast!
After meeting my birth family in May 2014, my head was spinning. I questioned everything about my life and the person who I was. I was also 29 years old, and apparently that’s when a person’s brain finishes developing. Along with this neurological growth spurt, comes a newfound questioning outlook and a deeper ability to see things from another person’s perspective. So my entire outlook shifted. I wasn’t sure about anything. I wasn’t sure if I was the person I was meant to be. I wasn’t sure if I was in the career I was supposed to be in. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to be married. I wasn’t sure if I would’ve made the same life choices or felt the same way about things if I wasn’t raised in my adoptive family or if I was raised in a different way.
I felt like my personality was split into segments like a pie chart. One part of me was fun-loving and adventurous, carefree, and fearless. Another part of me was studious, serious, and professional. Another part of me was dedicated, diligent, and responsible. Another part of me was spontaneous and free-spirited. I felt like my body and mind were being pulled in each of these different directions. It took me over a year to examine each segment of this pie chart frame by frame, sorting out the things that I wanted to keep in my life, and the things I wanted to discard. It took time to process through what each part of my personality meant to me and what that part of my life looked like in real life application. After all this processing, I eventually worked on reintegrating them into the whole person I wanted to be. My husband was a counselor who worked with individuals with Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder). Following trauma, in effort to protect itself from the trauma, the brain can sometimes split off different parts of a person to the point of having multiple personas that may not even know one another. Although the parts of my personality were not fragmented to the point of being clinically disassociated, following my reunion, I could relate.
Thankfully on the other side of the few years following my birth family reunion, I am happy to say that I survived. I survived. I wasn’t perfect. I wasn’t always sane. But I survived.
And I’m a different person for it. The ordeal was somewhat traumatic (or maybe just stripped the paint off of an old trauma from my infanthood). Either way, I felt wounded, cut open like my cesarean. And even though this experience figuratively birthed something quite magical in my life, my life needed to mend. I never realized how much a person could change in the course of her life. But I can say that I am such a different person after the experiences surrounding the few years following my reunion.
And that’s not such a bad thing.
I used to hold such a stigma about a person changing. I grew up being taught that change was a bad thing by a group of people who were really stuck in their ways. They didn’t value self-growth or change. Anything new was considered blasphemous and they pined for “the good old days” of the American 50’s. When sadly there was a lot that was lacking in those days! And in the environment where I grew up, there were popular stigmas associated with both growing old and becoming a mom (physically and socially speaking). I heard it all.
Some time after giving birth, I asked my midwife if I could get back into exercising because before I became pregnant, I deeply loved “hardcore” yoga and aerial silks. She said “Yes, just ease into it and listen to your body. Because you are a different person now.”
As she said the last part, I felt shame creep over me as my gaze went to the floor. I regretfully said, “Yeah” as I thought of all the things I wasn’t sure that I could physically do anymore. I’ll never forget what she said to me in her next breath before I could even say anything further. She looked me in the eyes and said definitively, “You’re not the same person–you’re better.”