Friday, May 29, 2015

The Eyes Of The Seeker: The Waiting Game (Part 2)

Waiting stinks.

I am not now, nor have I ever been, a patient person.

It took me 34 years to make the decision to seek out my birth certificate and birthmother's name, but now that I've done it, I want to know NOW. Every day, I check the mail, only to be disappointed when the one envelope I want isn't in there.

Okay, okay, I know they likely haven't even had time to go get my birth certificate yet, let alone copy it and mail it back to me, but logic doesn't apply here, alright?

I have a confession - you know what I'm most excited about? Learning my name. Or what my last name would have been, at least. Maybe she named me, maybe she didn't, but I've always wondered. I've never really felt connected to my name - I've never felt like it described who I am. So I'm curious what it WOULD have been, had the circumstances of my life been

And then I wonder what HER name is. And what I could do with it. I mean, the internet is full of information, and I'll have her name and her city of residence at SOME point in her life... that's got to be enough to track her down, right?

And if I DO track her down, what would I find?

What if I put her name into Google and find an extensive criminal past?

What if I search and find absolutely nothing?

What if, after all this wondering and waiting, I find an obituary. Would I be kicking myself with regrets over not starting this process sooner?

And if I do find something out, what then? How do I do this? Do I WANT to do this?

Or... worst of all... what if I find out she's already filled out the paperwork necessary to keep me from ever seeing my original birth certificate, closing the door on my quest before it really begins?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Eyes of the Seeker (Pt. 1)

I'm about to write something that I NEVER thought I'd write:

I know the woman who gave birth to me.

Look, that may not be profound or unique to YOU, but to ME, it's the most unexpected and amazing thing that I could ever have imagined saying.

See, I was adopted when I was a baby. I even spent about 6 months as Baby Jane Doe while the remorse period expired and my adoption was finalized. (Who else has documentation that identifies them as Jane Doe? I feel like I belong on an episode of Criminal Minds, but one of the episodes that ends well for the vic)

I've always known I was adopted. This was 1980, so adoption wasn't as prevalent or as accepted then as it is now. My adoptive parents could very well have hid the truth from everyone, pretending that my adoptive mom gave birth on vacation or something, but they chose not to. There was never any sit-down, come-to-Jesus type meeting, they just always talked about my birthmom as a part of my story. I got it, even as a child. I lived with a family that called me their daughter, but I was born to someone else. It was simply my truth.

Now, as accepted as I was by my immediate family, there were also many shifty gazes in my adoptive mother's direction they all thought I missed. 'Does she know you're not her REAL mother?' Or my personal favorite, the "Does she KNOOOOWW?"stage whisper with an exaggerated wink and nudge.

This is my biggest issue with adoption; the continual need to remind the child (and parents) of their Otherness, to point out that they are an anomaly in what are considered traditional social norms. Listen to the way the media refers to celebrities who have adopted children: Nicole Kidman has two children with Karl Urban, and two adopted kids. You won't find an article about Angelina Jolie or Brad Pitt without mention of their large family, and at least one reference to which children are "theirs" and which children were adopted. Sandra Bullock doesn't have a son, she has an adoptive son.

I choose to believe that all of these people are wonderful parents, and don't parent their biological children with any more love and care than their adoptive children. Why then do we feel the need to make the distinction when referring to their families?

Growing up, I never felt like I belonged. In my child's mind, I obviously didn't fit into my biologial family, they gave me away. In my adoptive family, I always felt the wall that I wasn't their child, I was their adoptive child. I don't mean to insinuate that my immediate adoptive family ever treated me that way. I simply mean that I never really knew where I fit, and I never felt like I truly connected with many people, lest I find out I didn't belong there either.

I think that's why it was never really important to me to search for my birthmother. I didn't feel connected to her. I didn't remember her, I didn't know anything about her, I only knew that I didn't belong with her.

Many times, my adoptive mother encouraged me to seek my birthmother. When I didn't express any interest, she must have seen it as a sign of solidarity, because she was very adamant that she and my adoptive father wouldn't see it as a betrayal, or make them think that I was rejecting them in any way.

It wasn't that at all, I simply didn't feel the need to open that door in my life.

And then, last year at about this time, I received the word that the law had changed, and that if I wanted to, I now had access to my original birth certificate.

I was shocked, and figured that getting my original birth certificate, the one that had my birthmother's name on it, couldn't hurt anything. I was certain the law would change back the other way, or that my birthmother may seek the legal action necessary to reseal the file.

It was really that, more than anything, that encouraged me to drop the request in the mail. Not that I was all that interested in finding her, but I wanted to capture every piece of my life story before the government told me I could no longer have it. What happened after I mailed the envelope, though, shocked a lot of people... me most of all.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

PiYo: Beginnings

The say that to grow, you should do at least one thing every day that terrifies you.

Well, yesterday certainly qualifies.

I agreed to be a part of a PiYo Beachbody Fitness challenge, during which I drink one dense nutritious shake, do one dvd of PiYo fitness, and eat healthy the rest of the day. That's not the terrifying part.

The terrifying part is that I needed to take my official "before" photos, in 4 poses, in formfitting clothing, and not sucking anything in or standing strategically.

Holy crap.

Do you know how long it's been since anyone has seen that much flesh on me?!

Not to mention SHARING these photos with my accountability group?

My heart was pounding as I changed into my sports bra and workout pant, sure that everyone was going to look at my photos and be immediately grossed out by the fat whale in front of them. That my fitness coach would look at me, shake her head and go,  "Oh lord, you are a lost cause, not even this program could help you!"

For me, the photos were also a reality check for my body image. I haven't seen myself from all angles (I don't have the fancy changing room mirrors in my bathroom), and the rolls on my back were particularly disheartening.

Rolls?! When the hell did I get those?!? OMG, look how they just HANG there... where did those stretch marks come from... how the hell is my belly so huge? Instantly that episode of Grey's Anatomy comes into play, I have to have a tumor, that's it. There's no way I could have gotten here on my own. There has to be something else at play.

It's a sad state of affairs when you're actually hoping you have cancer instead of obesity.

As I cropped the photos for posting, a host of nagging, horrible, violent thoughts crept in from the shadows:

That's why no one takes you seriously.
Everyone's laughing at you.
That's why you don't have a boyfriend.
That's why you don't have a girlfriend.
Who would want to touch your gross belly?
That's why Friend won't introduce you to her boyfriend - she's ashamed that she has such a fat friend.
Don't eat in public - they're all laughing at you behind the menus.
Don't let a bit of stomach appear between your shirt ant pants, you'll gross out everyone.
It's a wonder you can even get out of the house in the morning, fatty.
How do you manage to fit a seatbelt around all of that?

At which point, I posted the photos, and wrapped my arms around my dog. He doesn't care if I'm a fatty, he just wants to cuddle. I cried a little into his soft neck fur while he looked back at me, anxiously. Then, I sniffled, wiped my nose, and got off the bed with a heaving sigh.

I won't be skinny by new years. Hell, I probably won't be skinny ever. But just once, I want to go back to the time when I could get out of bed in the morning and feel good in my own skin.

It's been a very long time.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Oh Captain, My Captain.

The death of Robin Williams hit me hard. After I received the news at work, I felt a sinking weight in my chest. Suddenly, I was grateful that my work day was near the end. I went home, and wrote this on Facebook:
I've been trying to understand why the death of Robin Williams has affected me so entirely. I've come to the conclusion that I grew up with this actor on screen. First in Mork and Mindy, then in Peter Pan and Mrs Doubtfire. Dead Poets spoke to me at a time when I was struggling to understand my own direction in life. His comedy spoke to me when I was learning to navigate my "adult" world and all of it's politics. In short, I feel as though I lost a longtime friend whom I had never met, and whose loss I will feel through all of the coming stages of my life. RIP Oh Captain, My Captain.
In the days that have followed, I've heard a lot of people say a lot of things. Some of them comforting, some in disbelief, and some in utter ignorance of the disease that is mental illness. Robin Williams was never secretive about his battles with depression and addiction.

Most people in my life know that I have serious anxiety issues. The thing is, I was officially diagnosed late in life, and now that my brain chemistry is effectively controlled by medications, I can not only enjoy my life, but I can look back and see just how much I was missing previously.

When I was a child, I was a nervous child. I worried constantly about what people thought of me, what my parents thought of me, what might happen if I went outside and did a particular thing, on a particular day. This isn't the type of self-consciousness most everyone tells me they feel. No. I was the girl who would stay in the car while her family went into the restaurant to eat, because I couldn't handle the potential complications that a crowd could bring.

For years, this condition was my fault. My parents even took me to a psychologist to, in their words, figure out "why no one liked me." (Not joking or exaggerating. That's what my mom said.) The psychologist's brilliant solution was to come to class with me and watch my interactions with my classmates to "see what I was doing wrong, and how I could improve my social skills". (Legitimately, that's why my medical records said).

Over and over again, I was told to snap out of it, to be brave, to get over myself, to take a deep breath and move on. I dealt with years of rolled eyes and barely-stifled groans from friends, and angry calls and texts when I couldn't muster the courage to go out and bailed on plans. I heard the whispers of family members who thought that I was selfish, spoiled, snobbish, or an awful daughter because I couldn't just be kind, friendly, and as sociable as they were.

Now, I hear the same thing about Robin Williams. He had so much to live for, so many people who loved him, so much money, such a great house and career... why couldn't he just "snap out of it" and be grateful for what he had? Couldn't he just "get over" his depression?

But that's not the way mental illness works. It's not like a bad mood that will fade shortly. It's not like you can fake-it-to-make-it. It eats at you. It haunts you. It twists your brain and spins your thoughts to the point where you're not yourself. It is absolutely IMPOSSIBLE to shake it off, sleep it off, or just smile it away.

The complete misunderstanding of mental illness in this country has been brought to public view by the death of a great man whom so many of us held close to our hearts.

If you, or anyone you know, is dealing with mental illness, please know that you're not alone. You aren't in this fight alone. I will understand you without question. Others are fighting alongside you. There are people out there waiting to help and listen.

Friday, August 1, 2014

No-Makeup Month

July turned out to be a No-Makeup month by accident.

I’d heard about other people doing No-Makeup months for a variety of reasons; to improve their skin, to experience the social impacts, or lack therof, to save money, to improve self-confidence etc. Me, I love makeup. Both everyday makeup and fantasy creations. It’s a paint, and skin is a pallet for me, and I’ve never felt particularly addicted or bound to it. I simply enjoy it.

There’s a social hostility between women on the subject of makeup. Some people feel that makeup is a man’s tool to control women. Others feel that it’s a societal tool to ensure conformity to conventional standards of beauty. Some feel liberated when they ‘buck the system’ and go au naturel. Colbie Caillet has a beautiful new song and video about loving yourself without all the makeup and styling.

Like I said, I didn’t wear makeup in July, and it started out as an accident, and then became something I wanted to finish. I’ll caveat this by saying that yes, I did wear lipstick and lipstain because well, I don’t really own any clear ones. Accident, you say? How so? Let me tell you.

The month started off with a heat wave. I don’t wear makeup in a heat wave because frankly, I don’t see the point of spending an hour painting my face to have it all sweat off by lunch. Nope. Then, I took a multi-day camping trip; no makeup, after which I spent a Sunday doing a friend’s makeup. After which, I promptly left my makeup in the car, then in the living room, and it never made it back into my bedroom until the day I needed to pack it to go do another makeup session for another friend.

It was somewhere in the middle of all of that when I realized I hadn’t worn any makeup in a few weeks, and I might as well just carry it through the end of the month.

And, I’ll be honest, I really enjoyed the extra 45 minutes of sleep I was getting every morning. Sleep is amazing. I’m am so sorry for the awful things I said about naptime when I was a kid.

What lessons did I learn?

1)     My skin didn’t really change in any way, which speaks highly of the makeup I’d been using. But I’m pretty cautious about what I put on my skin, and if I start to breakout or get redness or blackheads, I stop right away. I DID, however, notice that I felt drier, which I’m going to chalk up to the fact that in addition to no makeup, I also wasn’t applying my daily primer/moisturizer. I could have made a better choice there.

2)    Interestingly, my social world didn’t notice when I stopped with makeup. Yes, the first couple of days I was asked ‘are you alright? You look a bit pale’, but those comments faded quickly. No one commented that I wasn’t wearing makeup (but then, I do work with a lot of guys), but I did receive a lovely compliment regarding ‘I love your au naturel look today!’ towards the end of the month.

3)    Even my basic makeup routine takes up quite a bit of time in the morning. Anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the day. That’s about 5 hours a week doing makeup.

4)    Though I’m comfortable without it, I still prefer wearing makeup.

So what happens now that we’re in August? Well, it’s August 1st, and I don’t have makeup on. Tomorrow, we’ll see. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Food for Thought

Yesterday morning (or actually, a few mornings ago, since I'm woefully late in posting this), I was getting ready for work. Vegas was flopped out on my bed, thwacking his tail optimistically against the sheets, hoping for some morning cuddles before I disappeared from his world for about 9 hours. (Poor pup, I really do feel badly about leaving him for so long). I reached across to grab a hoodie off its hanger, and in the process, my knee knocked a shoebox of photos to the floor.

I mentally cursed, and knelt to pick up the mess when one photo caught my eye.

It was taken about 10 years ago when I lived in Florida. I was in college then (my, how time flies…), and struggling to find a way to still be an actor and singer (my previous life) while being an academic and responsibly earning my degree. (My parentals suggested it was responsible, I had my doubts)

I’d been putting together a small portfolio of pictures to use for promotional purposes on a particular producer’s website. He’s going to remain nameless because he turned out to be a sleazeball, but that’s another blog entry for another day. I was dressed in my favorite black baggy pants, paired with a red tank top I’d strategically tied at my back to expose my stomach. My long, blond hair was in pigtails down my shoulders and I clutched a microphone in my right hand.

“Man,” I thought, “I was silly. And cute! I’d kill for that flat tummy and tiny waist right about now!”

And then I remembered how much I hated how I looked then.

Every morning, I’d go into my bathroom and look down, poking at my “flabby” stomach, and ensuring it hadn’t somehow inched over the edge of my pants since the last I looked. I hated the way the “flab” of my arms flopped around. I hated my skin. I spent more than a passing thought comparing myself to the pretty girls in the tiny bikinis around me, and by comparison, I just couldn’t measure up.

I was so focused on all of the negative, I didn’t see how positively adorable I was.

I do the same thing when I look at photos of myself currently. Instead of looking at the friends that I’m with, or the fun activities I’m participating in, I’m staring at my rolls, curves, creases, etc.

And the thought occurred to me; 10 years from now, I’m probably going to look back on these photos and wish I’d appreciated what I had a bit more, instead of spending so much energy picking myself apart.

How much energy do I waste every day on hating myself, and picking myself apart? How many minutes do I spend analyzing and over-analyzing all of my flaws and mistakes?

Is it really worth what I'm putting into it? Or, in a decade, am I going to look back and regret that I didn't appreciate all of the awesome things going on in my life right this moment? 

Food for thought. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014