New York Screening of YOU FOLLOW: a search for one's past

NYIf you are in the New York area on July 14th, then please join me in watching my film about my search for my birth mother in Goa, India. After the screening, I will be available to answer any questions about from the audience.

To watch the trailer and learn more about YOU FOLLOW: a search for one's past, please visit youfollowthefilm.com

To purchase tickets to the New York screening, please visit wearegazillionstrong.org

[vimeo 125709576 w=500 h=281]

Gazillion Trailer from sharmila ray on Vimeo.

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Birthday Blues

This year for my 32nd birthday, I wanted to be in a place that was unfamiliar. The joy of traveling to somewhere new was pulling at me for some time, but due to my work and school schedule I could not get away. I waited patiently and developed a plan.

I decided to pack up my whole studio apartment and stuff it all into a storage unit so I could become a nomad and to celebrate and visit family and friends all summer long. I am not sure if it was the best and most responsible choice, but I needed to take a risk and live.

My best friend, Marissa also has a birthday in June and so we decided to head to San Juan, Puerto Rico and the Republica Dominicana to celebrate for two weeks.

MarNisha

On June 11th, we set out to explore Old San Juan. We walked, talked and drank the whole afternoon. As we walked around with no agenda in mind, I noticed a large white church in the middle of the bustling city streets. We walked up the stairs and I sat in the back on a brown bench. I proceeded to give thanks for the opportunity to travel as well as many others gifts.

As I do every year, I say a little prayer for my birth mother. I send out so much love to her that in the back of my mind, I imagine her feeling the same energy and love pulsing through her core at the same time. I never missed her so much until that day. She stayed on my mind and in my heart the whole day. Even though I will probably never see her again, I just hope that she feels me and my love for her.

birthday selfie

Throughout the day, many feelings of loss rolled through me. Being that I was in a dominate Spanish speaking country, I couldn't help but think about language. It wasn't until that moment, that I really understood the loss of language through adoption. That feeling took me back to the time that I got to meet my birth mother, but was unable to converse with her privately because she did not speak English and nor did I speak Konkani. To just have a few minutes alone her was all I have ever wanted.

Those feelings of language drifted into feelings about reunion. Although, I was able to meet a woman whom I believe is my mother, I will never be reunited and actually have a relationship with her like so many of my fellow adoptees in reunion. Although, I am happy for my friends, I am also very jealous since international adoption creates a larger barrier for me to know my birth family.

Once these thoughts subsided, I stepped outside and sat on the steps to watch everybody explore. I quickly realized that the architecture in Old San Juan was very similar to Panjim, Goa. Not only the color of the buildings, but the palm trees, tropical feeling, moist humid air, the city's ordor, the small roads, and the view of the ocean took me back to my trip to my first home. It was a special feeling to be in a place that is so similar to where I came from. It almost felt like I was suppose to be there on my birthday; to have a piece of Goa with me for the day.

PR

After a few days in Puerto Rico, we jumped on a tiny plane and headed towards Republica Dominicana. Our last stop on the island was Punta Cana and as soon as we arrived by bus to our Airbnb apartment, I was reminded that Goa wasn't too far away.

punta cana

It felt good to be reminded of my first home during this birthday adventure.

I missed India and the possible life that I had no choice in leaving behind

Words of Advice

A few weeks ago, I visited Sierra Forever Families to speak to a group of adoptive and foster care parents. A casual thirty minute talk turned into an hour and a half of some good dialogue. I felt comfortable and open with everybody and I got the same feelings reciprocated from my audience. Although I felt like we touched on a lot of big topics and themes, I left feeling drained but also eager to tell the parents more. If only there was enough time to speak on everything I have learned this last year. From what I have collected from Pact Camp, books, films, articles, blogs, PACER, my dear friendships and my TRA Tribe, I could write a "How To..." book, and have many volumes. This is no right or wrong way to adopt a child, but being well informed with compassion and an open mind is very crucial to the emotional, mental, and spiritual upbringing of an adopted child. Here are a few things I thought of as I was driving home...

  • Don't imply that we have to choose between claiming our birth family or adoptive family.- I have a right to chose both set of parents/families as mine or not mine. My feelings towards both need to be respected and acknowledged.
  • Love Is Not Enough- Please refer to my previous blog
  • Space on birthdays - Birthdays or coming home parties are a great way to celebrate the union of new family members through adoption, but for some adoptees, birthdays and such celebrations are also a reminder of the loss of first mother/families, trauma, separation, and/or abandonment. Be aware that some of these feelings may be present around birthdays or the day they became a part of the family. Creating a safe place and time to talk through the feelings or at least acknowledge that they may be present can keep the adoptee from internalizing the sadness.
  • Explaining family relations- Having to always mention something about my adoption and how I was a part of my family was odd, because I didn't really know how to address or answer the real tough questions or comments. I didn't know how to talk about my adoption and feel confident at the same time. I didn't know that I didn't have to answer their questions at all.
  • Triggers after 18 years old- Even though I am an adult now and I am pretty emotionally mature, I still want my mommy and daddy to call me and ask me how my life is (specifically about my adoption journey this last year). I know I may sound needy, but my point is that I have ongoing feelings and triggers that are constantly coming up in my life. Some, I am aware of and can pinpoint the cause, but some triggers get to me and I just need to talk about it and be taken care of by my parents, even at the age of 32+.
  • Not a clean slate- Even though I was adopted about six months after my birth, doesn't mean that I came with no past or history that will never be desired. I think that some adoptive parents chose to adopt infants because of less emotional ties to birth mothers/families, less traumatic experiences to heal, or for the opportunity to raise a child as their own (a blank slate). Regardless of the reason, I and other adoptees come with a history, a past, and a previous family that we have to right (and some desire) to know about.
  • Matching role model- In second grade, I had an Indian woman as my teacher! I was so excited to see her. I clung on to her so tight and still found a reason to love her even though she was a strict teacher. I just remember seeing her everyday and wondering if she was my birth mother, if she knew my birth mother, or if she simply looked like her. There was something so comforting about seeing another Indian person on a regular basis that was a part of my life during that school year. Later on as I got older, I would love to watch the Miss World or Miss Universe pageant competitions. I would always watch for Miss India and hoped that she won. Just seeing another beautiful woman on TV confirmed that there were other Indians all over the world. Even today, my favorite show is the Mindy Project staring Mindy Lahiri. Just being able to watch not only an Indian woman on television writing, producing, staring and running her own show, but watching a dark Indian woman on television makes me feel represented and acknowledged for something positive rather than just another Indian owning a corner market store. I guess what I'm saying here is being able to see others like me in positive and successful roles allows me to be seen outside of the typical stereotypes.
  • Connect with other families built like yours- It wasn't until I entered Pact Camp last July that I saw  families built like my own. I seriously thought I was the only one. I knew that my cousin is a TRA as well, but besides us, I never really experienced many other families like my own in person on a regular basis. As a result, I felt odd and different. Then to finally see little kids of color running around with their white parents following closely behind hit me harder than I had ever expected. Every family that attended the camp was just like mine. I was an incredible feeling and I wish I had those connections growing up like the families do now. Normalizing adoption is key.
  • Living in a diverse neighborhood- I was very lucky enough to live in a diverse neighborhood. I had friends that were Cambodian, Vietnamese, Filipino, and African Americans. I have heard stories from my fellow adoptees that they grew up in secluded, predominately white, rural areas where they were the only child of color at their schools. Being around other kids of color helped me feel more comfortable in my own skin when growing up in an all white family.
  • Privacy vs. secrets- This one is difficult to balance at times. As an adoptee, my circumstance as to why my birth mother relinquished me and how I ended up in my family is nobody's business but mine. My past, my story, my history is for me to tell. For some new families that are welcoming a new child into their home through adoption, parents may get a lot of attention from other family members and friends. I am sure that there will be a lot of questions, curiosity, and excitement, but honoring the privacy of an adoptee's story is the most important than giving in to other's curiosity. I have heard stories where extended family members know more about an adoptee's birth family than the adoptee themselves. When it comes to the adoptee wanting to know more about their own story, their birth family, why they were adopted, then the adoptee has every right to know all the information that is provided, but not the rest of the family or circle of friends. Adoption is built on secrets and secrets do not benefit anybody. Keeping secrets about the adoption from the adoptee is not okay, but if the adoptee wants to keep their story a secret from the rest of the family, then they have every right to do so.
  • Talk about adoption often- Normalize adoption as much as possible, without making adoption the only topic of discussion. I didn't talk about my adoption much growing up, so I didn't know how to talk about my feelings or even have the confidence to be vulnerable about my sadness. Having adoption be a comfortable topic of discussion at any age will give the adoptee the power to protect themselves and to open themselves up when he/she decides to. Acting as though adoption didn't take place or that its normal without talking about it is simply ignoring the fact that adoption is present. It leaves the adoptee to figure it out and make sense of it on their own. When bringing up the topic of adoption or the more uncomfortable feelings that adoption may come with, adoptees may not respond or talk for awhile. Hearing that adoption is okay to talk about within family circles can relieve a lot of pressure to protect the feelings of adoptive parents. Even though adoptees may not respond right away, they are listening and waiting for the right time to speak up. That right time, may come unexpectedly a day, a week, or even years later. Just hearing and knowing that they can be open about their adoption when they are ready can be comforting.
  • Support non adoptive children- I have an older sister and she was seven years old when I came into the family. As of now, I am not sure what her experience was, but I am aware that she also went through a major adjustment period. She was no longer the only child and as I was told by my mother, I got a lot of attention when I arrived and she had to "take a back seat." It took me awhile to shake off that responsibility of causing my sister to feel that way because of my presence, but I can respect that she went through her own experiences. I am not sure how my parents supported her before and during this transition then and now, but I hope that my parents did acknowledge her feelings somehow.
  • Therapy- I didn't attend therapy regarding my adoption until I was in college. I wish I was in therapy much sooner, even family therapy because of the benefits I gained from it. My mother even wishes that she had put me into therapy as a child after witnessing the challenges I have gone through. Therapy for an adoptee can help the ongoing triggers, normalizing adoption, and creating coping skills for dealing with loss, sadness, and any other challenging feelings that may arise.

Love Is Not Enough

A few weeks ago I was asked by a friend of mine to participate on a panel for an organization that she works for called Sierra Forever Families. She wanted to create a training for the staff from all three locations that focuses on the perspective of adult adoptees and foster care alumni. At first I was thrilled at this opportunity because I didn't and still don't quiet get that my voice is what people want to hear. I am so used to hearing the beautiful side of adoption, not the sad and lonely side of adoption. My experience at the training as a panelist proved that what I had to say not only seemed like something that they haven't heard but something that they may of needed to hear in order to help the younger generations of adoptees and children in foster care. Going back to hearing professionals on television and professionals in books, I would hear the word love thrown around like it was a cure all remedy when it comes to adoption and bringing a child into a new family and home.

"Love is all they want"

"Love is all they need"

"Every child deserves to be loved"

I do agree with all of these statements, but it goes much deeper then just love. Love is just not enough.

Unconditional love is what is needed. Unconditional love means that I can act out and not be left alone again. Unconditional love means that I can cry and grieve my first family and not feel ashamed about it. Unconditional love means that I can have both families in my life and heart and I not have to chose. Unconditional love is walking down this emotional path with my family. Unconditional love is a great understanding from all members of the family.

To go even deeper, unconditional love is still not enough.

What would have been enough? I don't know if there could have ever been enough to take away the pain and fill up the loss.

I do know that awareness that my experiences are different as a woman of color could of helped. Having a support group of other adoptees while growing up would have helped. Talking about my birth mother in a beautiful way would have helped. Being in therapy would have helped. Not hearing assumptions that my birth mother may have been a prostitute would of helped. Being advised on how to deal with racism would have helped. Being told how to be proud of my dark brown skin would of helped.

With that said, Love Is Not Enough

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That Was Something New

I was walking through town and I got this sudden flow of energy run through my chest. I immediately identified it as missing someone. That someone was my birth mother. Never have I ever felt that desire in that specific way. What I mean is that I missed her as if I could just call her up and set up a time to meet. Her presence at that moment was different, and like no other time. She felt closer. She was real in a sense, like I had a relationship with her. Has this ever happened to you?

The truth settled in quick, and a relationship is probably not possible. Even though I was faced with her and sat next to her for 30 minutes, a simple conversation between us privately was not possible. To get the chance to have a quiet, intimate, and open conversation with her again is limited because of my lack for knowing and understanding her language, konkoni. Or her lack of knowing my language. Either way, how is that I cant even talk to my own mother in private?

Well, that fucking sucks. There seems to be something very unnatural about that.

I mean, it is what it is. I could run out and learn konkoni and return to my mothers doorstep, but the way that I see it and with consideration of her life now, that is definitely not an interest of mine.

Why do I care so much, you ask?

I care because it just goes to show how disconnected natural families can get from one another due to adoption. Its a mere realization that hopefully brings awareness to the serious affects of adoption on some of the adoptees and their biological needs to return.

The Value In My Name

I am not one to put a lot of weight on labels when trying to describe myself to others. In fact, I make an effort to detach myself from labels as much as possible. After much thought, there is one label that I value and am proud to have and that is my name. My name was given to me by my birth mother, and although my parents had the right to change it during my adoption process, I am so happy that they chose not to. To be honest, it seems very unnatural to change a child's name if they already have one. Having the same name my birth mother gave me remains to prove that I had a family prior to the family that I am a part of today.

Why did my parents keep my original name (first and last)? To find out, I reached out to them and got their answers. My dad simply stated that they liked my first name. The reason they moved my last name to become my middle name was because they wanted to keep me connected to my family linage in case I wanted to search later on in life. :)

The way that I see it, my name is a gift from my birth mother. She is the one that sacrificed her life, her family, and her safety to give me life and a name that may have meant something special to her. There is no reason in the world why that should not be honored. To be honest, I feel that my name is really the only thing that I have of hers, which is probably why I value it so much.

My name does not only connect me to her, but it also connects me to India and my past. It almost proves that I am still part of my birth family even though I am living on the other side of the world. Through adoption, I was uplifted from Goa. My name keeps me grounded and tied to India in a way that reminds me that I was never uprooted from Goa. I can see the difference now.

To keep honoring my birth mother and family, I plan on passing down my middle name to all my future children and I hope that they choose to do the same. I feel compelled to keep them connected to their natural family lineage and by passing down my middle name is the least I can do for them.

To hear that some adoptive parents do in fact change their children's name through the adoption process, breaks my heart. I'm sure that they have their reasons, but hopefully their reasons are for what's best for their children, and not for creating a false reality around their own needs and insecurities.

Although it does break my heart, at the same time, I love to hear that adult adoptees are taking back their birth names. To some of us, connecting to our authentic identity begins with a name or it may end with a name. Either way, adoptees are exercising their freedom of choice, which can be taken away as an adolescent.

I am able to honor and carry my identity, my India, my past, and my birth mother and family with me everyday because my name has remained the same since birth. Thank you, mom and dad!

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My Rebirth

Seems a bit dramatic, right?!? Well, in my case it kind of is. Let me explain... Like I mentioned a few days ago, an intense pull for change was happening and I needed to make sense of it. As I continued to drive north on Highway 1, I was able to sit in silence and feel what was happening and how I wanted to react to it.. Do I want to doubt and ignore, or ride the waves? This pull was happening and there was no way that I had the energy to pull away from it, so I surrendered.

During my time with Riz, he pointed out that it all comes down to choices. Have you ever asked yourself if you chose this life? Did you choose your parents? Did you request to live this life in a previous life? Did you choose your life partner before your birth? You may have your answers, but how do you know they are true. Will we ever know if we chose this life or not? No, probably not, but we do have a choice in what to believe.

Growing up, I used to always question why I was given this life. Why was I separated from my birth family? Why am I different and why am I suffering?

Like most, I was told to play the cards I was dealt. Looking back now, playing the cards I was dealt allowed sorrow and pain to slip in because I didn't have any control over what cards I picked. Nobody asked me what I wanted in this life, so I was left with how to make the best of what I was given. I didn't know how to do that so I was lost.

It wasn't until Riz asked me, "How would you feel if you did choose this life and your circumstances?" I sat there for a moment and I felt a shift of weight within my heart. What if I did choose this life before my birth? To say that I chose this life or not cannot be proven, so why not take control and say that I did choose this life of being an adoptee.

The shift within opened me up to so many more possibilities. If I did choose to be adopted in this life before my birth, then that gives me the power and control to use my experiences as I please instead of falling victim to the confusion and pain of what was given to me. I am not saying that my confusion and pain just suddenly perish and became non-existent, but now I seem to have control over what I do with the confusion and pain that comes with being an adoptee. To say the least, I felt empowered!

Riz followed up by telling me that I was a storyteller in my past lives in one way or another and that I wondered what it was like to be adopted. It all started to make sense to me. I chose to live this life to find out what being an adoptee is all about, so now that I am experiencing it first hand, I am here to tell my story.

Huh, come to think of it, I guess I have been telling my story all along through sharing my film and now this blog. :)

Now that I am home safely and getting ready to move on with my life, I am confident to say that I feel settled and comfortable believing that this life is what I asked for and I have no reason not to tell my story. Who knows, my shift with may lead to a shift in my physical world very soon.

Coming across this photo a few days ago confirmed to me

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that I am on the right path.

Good Morning!

It's a beautiful morning here on the west coast! I just left LA yesterday and I am on my way home back to Whack Sac. I decided at last minute to drive up the coast on Highway 1  to spend time with myself and to have a little adventure before school starts up next week. I have heard nothing but great things about the California coast so this drive has been on my bucket list for quite some time. Awe, the feeling of crossing anything off my list is the best!

sunset

I watched the sunset in Morro Bay last night and ate my leftover veggie burger in my car. The view was gorgeous. There is something about being close to the ocean that I really can't explain.I think it has to do with how bizarre it is that the oceans cover up 71% of the Earth's surface and I have the privilege and the ability to connect to the very point where they meet.

Anyways, what brought me here was a visit to LA last week. I went to LA for a few reasons. I had a dear friend of mine visiting LA before he moves to South America and I also wanted to take his advice in visiting his psychic medium, Riz.

I had visited Riz before but there were a few more things that I wanted to address and ask about. I've felt this pull or this strong feeling for change coming. During these last few months, there has been reflection and a lot of honesty in my life. Ever since I received the photos of my orphanage and National Adoption Month, I have been really tuning into what the fuck it all means and what I desire to do with it all.

This desire for change played out in my mind as a change in my physical world. I thought that maybe I need to travel somewhere, maybe I need to quiet school or maybe I need to find a new life in a different part of the world. I needed to piece it together and I thought that Riz could help me and that is just what he did. He confirmed that I am in the middle of a rebirth. This rebirth was nothing that I necessarily had to change in the outside world, but that I needed to change within in order to really see what my talents are and how I can manifest my desires. Never did I think that the change needed to happen within. It all comes down to choices and absorbing the power of my choice.

It is a bit to get into at the moment because the ocean is calling me and I need to get on the road right now. I will definitely address more about my current rebirth and more after I get it all figured out.

Adoptees Connect

Please Don't Tell Me I Was Lucky to Be Adopted  Shareen Pine took the words right out my mouth. Her article that I included above is an article that spoke to me on so many different levels...

"Adoption loss is truly multi-generational"- Shareen starts off with a conversation that her daughter had with her friend about how she also feels like an adoptee because she lost her birth grandmother. I have always thought about my future children and how I wanted to create as much truth about their past as I could prior to me having them. I mean, the thought of my children was a major influence as to why I wanted to begin and complete my search for my birth mother and family. I wanted to be able to give to my children what my adoptive parents were not able to give or didn't know how to give. I wanted to provide names, pictures, answers, a story for them to pass on to their children.

What I didn't realize, was that is goes much farther than what I want and how I feel. Shareen acknowledged how her daughter felt and that is something that I never considered before. There is not much I can do now since I do not have any children yet, but I realized that no matter how many pictures or stories I tell them about my search and what I was able to find out, they are still going to experience the same loss as me... no relationships and no contact with birth family prior me. I think that Shareen's daughter is very wise to see herself as an adoptee in her own special way because besides me and my children's father, they will have no connections or ties; they too may feel a loss as I do.

"Adoptees are often so busy trying to prove that we're fine..." -This is how I would self soothed myself when I felt broken and lost not only as a child, but also as a young adult. My response to family's concerns up until recently has always been, I'm fine or Ill be okay. I didn't have the strength or the comfort to really express myself until I started counseling in college. A big part of not expressing myself was that I didn't have the language to do it. I didn't know how to talk about my feelings. I didn't know how to not feel guilty. I didn't know how not to worry about what people thought or how I would make them feel if I yell out, I hate being adopted. I didn't know that it was okay and that it was absolutely normal to have these feelings because I was constantly being reminded to feel lucky and grateful. I would speak the words of feeling lucky and grateful to others without them having any meaning behind them. I could feel myself forcing these words out because that is what people wanted to hear and expected me to feel. I allowed others' expectations to override and bury my truth.

"Can you imagine being the only person in the world you know you’re related to?"- Right!?! This is really an odd and confusing feeling, especially being around family and friends who are all biologically connected and related to one another except to me. I didn't really get this feeling until my little brother was born. All I could hear was how much he looked like my father. Looking back on that now, it was really a weird experience and odd to be around those conversations. I felt left out. I would always wonder if my parents attention would spark at that moment and think about how I may feel. I was hopeful that they would turn to me and ask me how I felt or even acknowledged that that is a conversation I wouldn't be a part of.  We all remained quiet.

"...Or why they told me that my adoptive parents saved me."- I have heard it all. My adoptive parents saved me, my birth mother loved me so much that she had to surrender her rights to raise me, your life is so much better now, you probably would have been a prostitute or better yet, dead in the gutter because that's what Indians do to the female babies. Talk about a lot of shit to hear and try to make sense of as a young child. For some reason, it did always amaze me how these possible truths came from people who have never been to India, never lived in India, and don't  know shit about my birth mother and her truth at the time of my birth. It took me all the way up until just a few years ago to accept that these people wanted to feel like saviors and that they wanted to feed their ego. Their words were so inaccurate after I found out what my truth was that it now makes me laugh at how stupid they all look now.

Even till this day, I think about what my life could have been like if I were to stay with my biological family in Goa. Never once do I think or feel that it would be worse or better than my life now.

To close this post, I would like to say thank you to Shareen Pine and her daughter for speaking out and sharing their truth. Validation is so important in adoption and I cannot begin to express how much I have learned from their words.

The Colorblind Game Failed

Whenever you are sad, who do you talk to? When you are depressed, who do you confide in? When you are confused, who do you speak out loud to? When you are lost, who do you go find? During my moments of feeling sad, depressed, confused, and lost I had no one to run to. Yes, my family was there, but what I had to say was not going to be something that they wanted to hear. Growing up, my family played the colorblind game with me and acted as though I was no different and just one of the family members. They are not to blame, considering the education around transracial adoption was very limited thirty years ago. I blame the adoption agencies that were only out to make money and close files.

My adoption, my loss, my mental health or that of my sister's was never a topic of conversation. Without the dialogue, I grew up confused and learned to repress my feelings as if they were not important or valid. How can I speak up about my loss and confusion surrounding my adoption if it was never acknowledged? As a child, how could it be left up to me to yell out? As a child, I didn't want to draw any more attention to how I was different than what was already apparent physically.

As a young adult, I have tried reaching out to my parents. I remember giving them both the book, 20 Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew with  highlighted sections that spoke to me specifically. Neither one of them reached out to continue the conversation. I talked to my dad not long ago about how hard it can be sometimes to be adopted and he replied that he had no idea about it all and was silent. He has yet to bring it up again. When I speak to my mother, she takes a lot of it personal as if I am telling her what a horrible job she did as a parent. I can understand that. A the same time, what I need from my parents is for them to listen and validate me. I need them to bring up the conversation first, I need them to ask me questions, I need them to take care of me. As much as I push away, I need to them to keep coming after me because I keep drifting farther and farther away.

Now that I am an adult in my thirties, I think I must look to others for support because what I need is not going to come from my parents at this point. It has been very tough to accept this.

The feelings that I have about my adoption are not great feelings. At this point in my healing process, I am not really a fan of adoption and the joys that it brings to everybody else's lives. Even till this day, I still catch myself suppressing feelings of loss and sadness. I didn't want to continue this unhealthy cycle, so I started this blog to release the tension and break down my barriers. I haven't told my parents about it, nor do I think I will. I'm hoping this outlet will lead to acceptance and the belief that my life is suppose to happen the way that it is set up now. I'm not there yet, but maybe.  As much as I want to talk to my parents, I don't think what I have to say is what they want to hear. I think at this point, it is better that I now play their colorblind game and take my sorrows to therapy and my blog. :)

The Most Precious Gift She Could Have Given Me

These were the words my mother said to me when she spoke about me and my birth mother. At first, I thought it is very sweet and endearing. I agreed with her and felt like as though I was a gift. It wasn't until later when I started to hear the stories of birth mothers and the pain that they have to endure to gain the courage to relinquish their natural born child and give up their rights to parent. Hearing the stories of endless tears, doubt, regret, confusion, grief, lies, and fear made me think... "Was I really a gift from my birth mother?"

It just seems so hard to believe that if my birth mother even felt just one or two of these feelings, then how can I be given as a gift. Gifts are given from one person to another with the desire to give. Did my mother have the desire to give her child to another family? Gifts are wrapped up in beautiful, shiny, wrapping paper with a large red bow. Did I come wrapped up in a bow with a card? Gifts are given without any obligation attached. Did my birth mother feel obligated to give her child away?

I am not trying to take away the feeling or minimize my mothers feelings about receiving her gift. If she wants to feel and believe that I was a gift, then she has every right to feel that way. For all I know, my mother could be talking about something completely different than what I am speaking of now. My interpretation could be off or my simple minded understanding of her words could be a long shot from her truth. I am not in her position.

Now that I know how some birth mothers feel about giving birth and really having no other options that keep their child with them, I don't think my birth mother sees it the same way. I truly believe that no woman would view their child as a gift to give to another family. I do not have any children of my own at this point, so I can only imagine how heartbreaking and devastating it could be to give up my rights to parent my child regardless of the situation I am in. And now to turn and wrap that heartache and trauma into a gift of love with a bow seems to be minimizing the feelings of the first woman involved.

The Black Sheep

Years ago when I was in elementary school, I remember sitting in my dining room talking with my mother. I think I was about six or seven years old. I started telling my mother that there was a school play that I was a part of and she followed up by asking what character I was playing. I told her that I was playing the black sheep. She proceeded to ask about the story line and I replied with this elaborate story line that I fabricated on the spot. I didn't know where the story was going or how it was going to end so I just stopped abruptly. She acted as though she was interested, but I am sure she was able to pick up on the fact that I was telling a lie the whole time. She played along. The lie continued for a few days until my mothers asked me when the play was going to be performed for parents. I tried to hid and say that we were not going to perform the play because it got cancelled. I felt so guilty for lying to her. I knew that she could see right through me. I am not the best at hiding my lies, especially back then. I eventually confessed and told her the truth. Felling like the black sheep of the family, like an outcast, like someone else, like a temporary family member is something that I have always carried with me. Why, I don't know. Again, there is really nothing that my family can or could have done to alter this feeling. Its not a good or bad feeling, its just there and will probably always be there with me.

Its exactly how an authored described it, the phantom limb pain. I am missing a part of me; I'm feeling the pain of not being being completely connected to my family or my birth family.

Torn Between Homes

I was sitting at my kitchen table, eating dinner and watching Long Way Down with Ewan McGregor, and as he is traveling south through Africa, I get so emotional all of a sudden. As that very moment, I began to miss India... I feel so torn; torn between two homes, two lives, two families. This last month or so, I have become hungry to travel back home to India. I want to be around my people and to just see them everyday. I want to just live a simple life for a while without all the struggles and chaos of trying to keep up with being successful and creating a life within the American culture. I am in this life at this moment and all I want to do is just live it, but I don't know how to when I want to be on two opposite side of the world at the same time.

At times like this, I truly feel like I am so far from home. Almost like I am just visiting here and I will soon go back home or as if I am in the wrong environment. It really is challenging to try to create this connection with India, when it's not close enough where I can just get up and leave for a weekend or a few weeks. If I could have it my way, I would relocated my whole family and make them come with me. I don't think it is too much to ask, right? I mean, they expected me to just fly across the world and become a part of their family without helping me stay connected to Goa, so why can't they? I know it's not that easy, but I was expected to just fit into their family, their culture, their lifestyle like I am this little being with absolutely no roots. All my connections and ties were severed; not once mended until I became old enough to begin stitching my past with my present.

I remember talking to my mother years ago when I was around 18 or 19 years old. I was telling her that I  wish they (her and my family) had taught me about India, about Goa, about the culture, the language, something. I remember her reply because I never felt as alone as I did when I heard her speak her truth. She said something along the lines of "you are now old enough where it is your responsibility to learn what you want to know about India." Yes, it did become my responsibility because I was entering adulthood and that's how the American culture treats 18 year olds, but at the same time, I felt like I don't want to do it alone. I don't want to feel like I am alone anymore. I wanted my family to embrace and bring in some parts of the Goan culture, not just for me, but for themselves. It's almost like, India is good enough to give them their babies, but not good enough to bring into their home. It just seems so bizarre to me.

Anyways, I am pushing the blame on my family and I need to forgive and accept. I just hate this feeling of lonesome and having to choose to be in either America with my family, or in India alone.

Nisha in Sari

Why Am I in Grad School?

I am currently in the middle of my second year and I have one more year to go. Throughout the whole time, I kept asking myself, "Really Nisha, why are you in school?" I immediately get this feeling in my gut that tells me the wicked truth and I quickly transfer my thoughts back to security, my mother did it, my sister did it, become an independent woman, take advantage of the education that I have here in the States, and you cant be nobody without an education. Well, I am beginning to believe that this is not all that true. Yes, I am glad that I am fulfilling a goal that I set for myself, but is it a goal that I set or that my family set for me. Its almost like I am doing it to get it out of the way and to prove some point to my family and society; society being those that tell me, "you are so lucky to be here. Girls in India don't get an education and so you have to take advantage of that." That again is a very heavy responsibility to carry on my shoulder. The one thing that I don't really care too much about school is this feeling that I have, this feeling of being tied down from doing anything I wish to do on my own. I have sacrificed trips to Europe with my best friends and intimate relationships even just to "take advantage like a good adoptee should" I think the main reason why I decided to go back to school is because I felt lost. I felt lost on what it is that I am suppose to do. I was never taught to look within myself for the answers, but instead to look in to the very highly expensive school system.

Don't get me wrong, I am going to finish eventually, but I am going to keep myself open to all possibilities in the end as far as working and building a career. I was actually told by my spirit guide that he didn't believe that I was meant to do what I am studying to do (Vocational Rehab Counseling), but to go ahead and finish because it will allow some doors to open for me. At that moment, he confirmed to me the wicked truth that sits in my gut. Agh!

So, now I am here. I am doing what I am told, finishing school like I am suppose to and mentally preparing myself to pay off thousands of dollars in debt. One the bright side of things, I am actually quite excited about the future and the possibilities that are going to open up for me later on. Truthfully, my dream would be to get paid to travel! Ill keep you updated.

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I Am All Grown Up Now... Well, Kind Of.

I am 31 years old and I seriously thought that I had my shit together. I mean, I graduated college, I traveled back to India twice, I searched for my birth mother, I am financially independent, emotionally stable, and I'm in graduate school. Seems like I have my shit together, right?! Well, surprise! I don't. It was just about a month ago, I thought I was doing well until I got an email from a woman who happened to find me while searching for the woman who owned my orphanage years ago in Goa. She is responsible for turning my life upside down, in a good way of course. She explained to me that she used to intern at my orphanage in 1993 (10 years after I was there). As we began to exchange emails, she further told me about the life she lived inside those walls during her four month stay. To be honest, it is truly a miracle that she found me by chance. She shared stories about the other women working with her, the routine she had with the children, and the food that she ate. The best part is that she had pictures!!! She sent me a few pictures of the children and women she worked with and in the background were the white cribs all lined up. At that moment, I broke down. For an adoptee who knew absolutely nothing about her first home during the first six months of her life, the shock of receiving pictures of the orphanage during the time it was in "business" was life changing, not to mention the crib where I would rock myself to sleep every night and lay my head to dream. Yes, she was there 10 years after I was, but things in India rarely change, and if there are changes, it's not over night. Her stories and her photos filled in the first six months of my life and she is proving, in a way that I existed before my family picked me up from the airport. You may be asking yourself why is it that I trust her or could she may be lying to me. I briefly doubted her for a moment as well, but she explained the house exactly how I remembered it when I visited (it was empty at the time) and explained the woman who owned my orphanage exactly the way that others have explained her. The front yard and backyard in the photos resemble the images in my memory from when I visited years ago. At times like this, trust and faith slip in and remove all doubt. A sudden ease settles in and pure joy sets off. My tears shortly started flowing down my cheeks. Unlike many adoptees I know, I am able to rewrite my history and my life before coming to the US. These stories are not just for me, but for my future children and their children and their children.

Although pure joy settled in, a much deeper emptiness arose that I had never felt before. Yes, I have gained a new page in my personal history book, but I have also began to grieve the loss of my birth family. As soon as I returned back to the States after meeting and getting denied by my birth mother, I accepted it, and quickly moved right back into work and school mode like I was "suppose to". Regardless of the situation, I never took time to grieve the loss of my mother, my siblings, my life in India; instead I did what I thought I was suppose to, which was accept and move on. This is the emptiness that I am struggling with at the moment. This is the loss that I am working through. This is the "what ifs" that I am fantasizing about. This is the painful side of adoption. I can no longer bury it and act like the bigger person. I need to grieve and continue to cry everyday about being and feeling absolutely alone here. This is my time to not be a grown up.

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