Adopting Yourself – By: Jason C. Cushman

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The ironic part about being an adoptee is that the first and final steps of our lives are the same. Just as we must accept being adopted in the first place, we must also accept ourselves for who we are in the end. That acceptance, that journey, can take a lifetime to occur and not all adoptees ever fully accept who they are. Those people caught between the want of “what ifs” and the “hard place of reality” never fully live life as they should because they are stuck living half their life with regret. I have known that place myself and can recount times in my childhood when I wished for anything but what was real. I wished to be someone else.

Adopting yourself is a lot easier when you know where you came from. You have a starting point and regardless whether that position in life is a good one or not you still have something to build off of. Life is hard enough without feeling like you must add additions to a question mark. That is what it feels like for many of us that are missing years of our past as we are forced daily to build upon that emptiness that we often feel. The old saying goes to not build your house upon the sand and mentally I can relate to this analogy. When you pile memories upon clouds of hope sometimes those clouds explode and your hope comes tumbling down. That shouldn’t stop you from hoping, but as humans we learn to become wary of things that can potentially cause pain. Hope is a good thing, but it can also become the bearer of the worst pain imaginable.

Many adoptees encounter struggles with depression as they struggle with images of themselves. When you walk for too long in the land of depression you become numb to feeling and your daily life flashes like a fading memory. Only strong and personal moments are fully captured and those glimpses into our lives are often garbled by the mental struggle that we are enduring. Sometimes the memories are pictures without sound and other times they are words or phrases that stand out in the night. I have held depression’s hand many times and my head is full of glimpses of our encounters.

I remember one day when I was fully under depression’s influence and I was taking klonopin daily to fight the shadows of doubt over whether or not I wished to live. I was standing in the kitchen of my parent’s home staring out the window while it rained. I watched as before my eyes the rain suddenly stopped falling and hung midair as if nature had rebelled against its natural course. My father walked up behind me and saw me looking out the window.

What are you looking at son?” he said with concern in his voice.

I hadn’t realized that I had begun to cry. I looked at him and said in a near whisper, “the rain has just stopped midair Pop. It won’t fall to the ground. It is the saddest thing I’ve ever seen.” A week later I tried to kill myself.

It is easy to consider things in retrospect and to wish you had done things differently. I have many regrets in my life, but some of the hardest actions to accept from my past have been in relationship to my adoption. Actions I did or did not take when the opportunity presented itself, those are the memories that are on constant replay in my mind. It is a hard thing to live life by tracing the lines of regret from our past, but often in our depression we do this. We do this because the saddest times often outshine the happiest from our lives. It is far easier to focus on what we don’t have than what we do. That is very human.

When I was two years old my mother left me on a street in front of a police station. In the Korean culture this was translated into the mother no longer wanting the child. I was not alone though, I later found out she left me a hand to hold onto. A five year old sister I have since searched for was also left on that street to hold my hand and wait for a mother that would never return for us. She must have had half a heart though because she did come back for my older sister later on… but left me behind. Sometimes in the night I imagine I can still feel her hand. I often wonder if she remembers me.

I was adopted and sent by plane to a black and white world. At 3 years old it did not take long for me to realize I was in a world I did not fully belong. Growing up as an Asian American in the deep south of the Unites States is a challenge for anyone. That challenge is increased astronomically when you are unsure of who you are and what you are supposed to be. The only thing I remember being sure of was that I was different. My eyes were small, I was small as well, and my family wasn’t created from the cookie cutter mold of southern society. We were multi-cultural and at the time that was still visually a strange thing to see in everyday life. I found it hard to accept myself in a society that obviously did not accept me.

I found for most of my life I was forced to continuously adopt the image that I was. Growing up in a black and white world with almost no Asian friends was tough. I had no point of reference for what an Asian should look like, act like, or even just “be.” I can recall many days where I would return home from grade school and I would slam my door shut on society as a whole. A society that chased me in my dreams, a society that made me ashamed of my skin color. I would look to the sky and pray to any god that would listen to please make me a different race. Black… white… it didn’t matter at that point. What mattered was being accepted and I simply knew that I would never be accepted clothed in the skin I wore at the time. I remember praying for this many times through tears of confusion because I still could not comprehend why I was so different. I simply knew I was and I hated it.

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Jason C. Cushman

-Opinionated Man

@smokendust

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“Daddy, Do You Have Another Mommy?”

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As my children grow older I find myself constantly caught off guard by the maturity and insight they have into issues I think, and may always think, are too mature for them to worry about. Growing up in the south provided a lot of core values that I later on found out aren’t shared around the world… or even in this country. Divorce was not a common occurrence in the bubble I was brought up in, but it did happen occasionally and was talked about in hushed tones. Now my children come home and discuss how some of their friends have two families and how cool it is they have two sets of stuff, not to mention the two Christmases and two birthdays they also receive. This of course introduces more topics to the table.

It was while explaining why this happens to my children that my daughter Anna asked the question I wasn’t expecting. “Daddy, do you have another Mommy?” It was an innocent question from the most innocent mouth. The words struck me like a dagger and for a second I failed to formulate a response. I finally found the letters of the only language I know and said to her “Yes, Daddy has another Mommy.”

It didn’t end there of course. Even from a 6 and 7 year old the silence was palpable… actually ESPECIALLY because it was a 6 and a 7 year old the moment was rare.

“Where is your other Mommy?” the inevitable second question came. I loved her tenacious nature even as I wished for a way out of the conversation. I struggle with explaining “it all” to adults… how could my young daughter understand what I still didn’t get? What was the right answer here and how do I reassure her that what happened to her father would never happen to her? How do I let her know that only some children are left on a street or are unwanted by their mothers? Only “those” children have such things happen to them…

I took a deep breath and steeled myself. I told them both that their father was adopted by Susu and Pops and that my mother did not want me. I quickly reassured them they didn’t have to worry. That this only happens in movies and to unlucky children. It was all a balance you see, a balance against the fortunes I would have later on in life.

The fortune of having both of them in my life.

I told them I would always love them and that their mother and father aren’t going anywhere soon. Only some mothers and some fathers leave their children forever.

I will never leave either of you until I die and even then I won’t be far. I will always be close to your heart.

Jason Chandler Cushman

-Opinionated Man

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@smokendust

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