“The need for connection and community is primal, as fundamental as the need for air, water, and food.” ~Dean Ornish
It has taken me years to understand the relevance of this quote. As a young adoptee, I could not fully comprehend the fundamental meaning of connection and community.
More than not, I would hide from these primal needs. I didn’t feel worthy of engaging with others. I was shy to connect and open myself up in an authentic way. Community scared me. The thought of being in community paralyzed me emotionally.
I didn’t understand how a person could feel safe within a community, or safe to trust others inside of a group. Those kinds of relational experiences felt risky to me. As a child who was abandoned by her first parents, relationships seemed as if they were held together by a frazzled piece of string. At any moment, that string could unravel and everything could fall apart.
I couldn’t grasp how to forge lasting friendships, and I often felt on the outer edges of family. Much in my life was a hovering of surface emotion. I never allowed myself to dive into deeper emotional waters. I didn’t know how to be real, how to be me. I struggled to know who I was. I was desperately afraid of being rejected.
Yet, rejection was the language that I spoke most fluently. Rejection was my reality. I understood it far better than I understood inclusion. Still, though, rejection scared me. Fear of rejection caused me to panic and to hide away. The thought of being rejected, again, seemed close to death to me.
Rejection promotes isolation. The by-products of isolation are pain and shame.
No adoptee should ever feel isolated within their struggles. What I know today, and what I wish I had known years ago, is this: community and connection are essential. They are as essential as air, water, and food. The need for community and connection are primal ones along the adoptee’s journey of healing. We cannot effectively thrive without them.
Adoptees should never be made to walk this experience of adoption alone.
Silence hinders healing.
Solitary confinement hurts.
I once thought that I had to go it alone. I believed that isolation was the best choice for me, that it somehow served me. I was under the false impression that isolation would keep me safe. I told myself that I was strong enough to shoulder any pain on my own. I pushed people away. I thought arms-distance relationships would give me a control and a certainty in my life. All it did was further isolate me, and my pain grew. It did not diminish. The pain didn’t go away.
Isolation is not where living is found.
Isolation is not where loving is found.
Isolation is a silent abuser. It does not allow you to love yourself, or anyone else. Isolation holds hostage the heart.
How can adoptees know that they’re not alone in their thoughts and feelings if they don’t allow themselves to connect, open up, and share their experiences with others? How can they begin the path of healing if they’re isolated within their struggle—hiding in the shadows and afraid to really connect, live, feel, and love?
Community and connection are key.
For those parents who have children-by-adoption, like me, it is important to encourage your children to share and to engage with other adoptees; to speak openly and honestly about their feelings, and to understand that they are not alone.
A few nights ago, treasured friends came over to my home: a family of six. All four children are adopted and two of the four children are adopted from Ethiopia, just like my 8-year old daughter. I watched as these three Ethiopian children played together and explored similarities in their physical appearance and abilities: the size of their big brown eyes, their shared ability to wiggle their noses and ears, the flexibility in their arms and fingers. All of these similarities made them feel excited—united—because they were connected to each other. The night was filled with giggles and exclamations of, “I can do that too!” And, “Sure you can because you’re Ethiopian!” It was incredible to witness how seemingly innocent similarities could make these kids feel so included, and so much a part of something bigger than themselves: part of a community.
Dear adoptees, no one speaks the language of adoption like we do. Please, let’s stop isolating ourselves from one another. Let’s be courageous enough to say, This is who I am. I need connection and community just like I need air, water, and food. These are primal needs that I will no longer ignore.
Let’s greet each other, as adoptees, without judgment or expectation. Let’s learn to be and to let be. Forward momentum comes when we reveal ourselves to the world and engage with each other.
Today, right now, reach out and say that you don’t want to walk this path of adoption alone, anymore. Declare that you choose, from this day forward, the forging of rich relationships and meaningful connections in your life.
I want you to come to the party.
You are invited. All adoptees are invited.
Come. Come to the party!
You are safe. You can trust.
You can leave the fear of rejection behind.
Acceptance and inclusion are awaiting you.
We are waiting…
If you’d like to join a supportive group, Adoption Out Loud is a Facebook community that exists for all those touched by adoption. Within this community, every story is worthy of being heard; every individual is valued and respected. This is a safe space and an opportunity to expand our community’s ability to understand and be understood.