When I started outlining my memoir I thought I had a perfect little package with a happy ending – the special family formed around my birth son. Now that the circumstances of our adoption have drastically changed for the worst (I no longer have a relationship with the adoptive parents or my birth son), the shape of my memoir (and my whole life!) needs to adapt, not just regarding the decimation of everything I invested my heart into the past three years, but also concerning my relationship with God/Universe/Sacred/Mystery/Whatever.
Am I still a mystic if I no longer believe in a god beyond the Grace Between Humans? A mystic is a God Lover and I don’t know that I am one of those anymore. Except that I deeply love the Connection Between All of Life, the stuff of Oneness. I know that is real, but my relationship to what is Sacred and Mysterious in this world is currently burning in the crucible of a faith crisis. I have no idea where my concept of God will end up next.
While I had tons of notes and an outline for the book, I am going back to the basics because the framework is changing. Rather than being focused on the path of the radical mystic, it’s going to be focused on my search for belonging while living on the margins of madness, motherhood, and mysticism. These three themes are woven into my story from birth, when I was born to a 17 year old mad Christian mystic. My mother never identified as such but it’s all over her story. Madness in the form of narcissism, depression, and addiction; and mysticism in the way she kept returning to her profound love for God, to the point of attending seminary and becoming ordained late in her life. My mom was a God Lover through and through.
These themes continue into my own life. The way I was mothered seeded madness inside of me, in the form of Borderline Personality Disorder and/or complex PTSD (I am currently learning that what I always thought was BPD may be a form of PTSD instead or in combination). Having a brain that didn’t develop appropriately because of on-going emotional abuse requires significant work on my mind and behaviors to be capable of healthy, long-term relationship of any kind. While I am now highly functional and capable of healthy relating, I still struggle with remnants of old perceptions and triggers. Perhaps I always will. The way I was mothered also determined the way I would choose to mother my first two children. Providing safe space for my children to develop into healthy, self-aware adults became my number one value and priority in life. All of my life choices from ages 17 to present were rooted in what is best for my children. Finally, growing up with a mother and adoptive father who deeply loved God in their ways, I was born and raised into my own deep love for and faith in the Divine. I didn’t remain within the confines of the Christian faith, but the story of Jesus is still my favorite religious mythology. Whether or not I continue to identify as a mystic, mysticism as a spiritual path and practice until now impacts everything that I am.
As far as living on the margins, the edges of society have always been my home. My life experience has been simultaneously limited and expanded by poverty, childhood trauma, emotional abuse, mental illness, addiction, teen-single-welfare motherhood, sex positivity, BDSM, polyamory, large body size, and a variety of other circumstances, experiences, and values that put me far outside of the mainstream.
Now I am learning how to live on the margins as a betrayed birth mother trying to find where I belong in a culture that damns me for placing my third child for adoption in the first place, no matter the circumstances, and thus won’t honor my grief in losing him when the promise of unrestricted intimate relationship with him was stolen from me. My partner and I are alone in this unusual loss and grief that defines so much of our daily existence as we do whatever it takes to heal the gaping hole that’s been left in our hearts. The people who love us don’t know what to say and we don’t know how to talk about it. We only have one close friend in Portland, so we don’t even have anyone to hang out with. We are working towards being able to afford therapy in a month or so, but a paid counselor is not the same as a community holding us in our grief. It’s really hard going through this on our own.
Belonging has always been elusive for me, both because of internal and external causes. I see the ways that I sabotaged opportunities to belong by maintaining my invisibility and independence (defense mechanisms learned in childhood), and the ways that I have actually been excluded from relationships and experiences by others. Now I am feeling completely lost because I don’t even know where to look for local community that has both the desire and capability to hold us while we are navigating this place between the life we believed we were living and radically different life we are adapting to.
For now I write because I know my words belong on a page and my story belongs in the world. I just know this to be true, that I belong here now for my own sanity if for nothing else. Our unusual open adoption love story is transforming to something else. I don’t know what exactly it is now or what it will be in the years to come. I just know I don’t want to permanently frame it as a birth parent betrayal story. I refuse for that to be the story that haunts my youngest son for the rest of his life. As Lucy Kalanithi writes in the afterword to When Breath Becomes Air, what happened to us was tragic but we are not a tragedy. While “our” story returns to being “my” story and may no longer be “worthy” of national press, it is still has value and complex lessons to decipher about the nature and capacities of loving as a broken human.