Indian women

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.

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

photo (5)

that I am on the right path.

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.

unnamed (1)

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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