A Book of Triggers – By: Jason C. Cushman

If I were to imagine a book of life it would best be described as a book of triggers. For what is life other than a slowly revealed circle of need, want, and more need? My book of triggers has always been my journals that I have kept throughout my life. Triggering thoughts, feelings, and emotions of the moment laid to permanent rest by drifting pen. At rest, but never sleeping, they are active memories that swim before my eyes even still as I read my life from dried ink. Is there a point when life can finally be accepted and we see a trigger no more. No, I think not.

I have lived my life balanced on the knife’s edge of emotion. Being far too sensitive as a child, I carried much of that pain because of my inability to ignore pain. To ignore the barbs of life that found welcoming flesh every time within my body. Within my soul. Is there an MRI for the soul and what would the picture of mine look like? I imagine my soul is much like me. We would not appreciate the eye of such scrutiny or the nakedness of such honesty. We would instead turn in upon ourselves, as we have always done, seeking the shell that God never blessed us with.

I write my triggers because I recognize they exist. They are as real as the scars that mark my skin. Denial is a luxury I cannot afford anymore and maybe never could. After my first suicide attempt I realized that I very much hold the ability to deny. I could ignore the sun until it burned my face. Actually that is an apt analogy considering I still remember the burn of bile coming up my throat as my body fought desperately to live. I do not take credit for such actions. A white flag of acceptance hovered above my falling body during this point of my life. Falling for I had indeed fallen to the moment. There was never a clearer time in my life as my body fought to live through my stupidity and that is ironic still to this day. To me the sadness that fact brings is the largest trigger of all.

We cannot live our lives cringing from the sound of every trigger we step on. Instead that sound should become like music to our ears as the cacophony of reality impresses upon us the reality of our conquest. We are taught now to ignore triggers and to steer clear of even the subject. In our politically correct society we are forced to forewarn people that “trigger warning” the words written here might actually mean something to you. Might actually affect you in some way.

When I look over my shoulder I do not see a past presented by picturesque Monet created pathways. Instead I am assaulted by the rawness of Memphis city streets alive with the power of memory. A painting littered with forgotten words and stained with pain born tears. A painting of reality is what my past presents and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I wake up to a trigger each morning. A Korean face looks back at me in the mirror and no matter how many times I splash myself with cold water, still the same slanted eye, half smile appears. It must be me. It has to be me. And yet that introduces the second trigger of my story, the power of acceptance. To accept what does not feel right, to be forced to be who you don’t think you are. Who cannot relate to such a feeling for differing reasons? The world is a melting pot of such forced persuasions as we are each told who we are and what we were meant to be.

I think the saddest part about my first two triggers is that they were decided for me. They were part of a path connected by an action one cold morning in Busan, South Korea. A morning when a mother decided she no longer wished to be a mother and in doing so she placed around my neck a necklace that did not hold a locket of love. Instead it held a golden trigger upon which was written a name. A meaningless name which was never to be used. A name that I sometimes wish I was. Ahn Soo Jin.

It is amazing how much meaning a name can have and yet not have at the same time. I suppose much of that has to do with acceptance of what that name truly means. We are given words to mark us as singular in an overcrowded world that will rarely see you as an individual. Who does that name mean more to? To an adopted child a “given name” is simply another tab in our adoption file. Particularly if that child is Asian and adopted into the United States because most of us are forced to have our names changed. Our “given name” becomes an amusing item of memory that we sometimes fondle late at night as we look to the East.

My Korean name is more than just a trigger because my birth mother gave it to me. I am constantly reminded of the holes in my past when Koreans shake their heads and exclaim “that is a girl’s name!” So we can at least pinpoint where my love of alcohol came from. She had to be drunk to name this Adonis of a man a woman’s name. What was she thinking? Did the orphanage mix up my sister’s name with my own? Dominoes of life fall with a clatter as the inevitable line of questions rattles off in my head. I cannot stop them. I allow them all to fall and run their course. Stopping this line of thought simply bookmarks my pain for a later time of contemplation. I rip off quickly the band aid of life to get it over with.

I have long since placed my Korean past in the closet it belongs. It is only revisited when society tells me I should reflect on certain days with happiness… such as mother’s day. People often say that Christmas is the worst time of the year for them and that depression always seems to rear its head during that holiday. For me mother’s day is the most depressing of all holidays. My depression no longer “rears” his head when he hears of this joyous annual occurrence. Instead he grumbles and mumbles. Only the attentive can make out the words he repeats over and over. “Fuck mother’s day.”

I do have an appreciation for mothers and fathers and I have my adopted parents to thank for that. They were great role models, provided for me, and even more importantly were supportive during my adoptive search. They never once tried to hinder what must have seemed like an inevitable train wreck and neither did they belittle me with advice on a topic they had no experience with. That is something many adopted kids forget is that there is no guide for their new parents and mistakes will be made. The love and compassion though that it takes for someone to take a stranger, even a child, into their home is immeasurable.

As I have grown into my new role as a dad I have found moments of pause. Times where I wonder about the man I will never know, nor have any desire to meet. Whenever I walk into a doctor’s office and fill out the family history survey with a large N/A I sometimes catch my eyes rolling… as much as Asian eyes roll. I wonder how many times I will have to explain my own confusion and lack of answers to the world. When entering the military I had to be cleared for my Tops Secret clearance for the Air Force. I remember my mom telling me that the investigators were at their house and kept asking about my birth mom. One of the agents said “well we will need to speak to her. How can we be sure he is really South Korean?” My mother responded “well when you find her tell her that her son says hello.”

Growing up the only Asian idol I had was Bruce Lee and unfortunately I really didn’t start liking him until college. I instantly connected with his struggle to prove to his own country his worth and how that drove him so hard through his movie career. I wonder if other displaced children have day dreams where they return in triumph to the homeland that rejected them. Maybe they return as the adopted child of the President or they become the next Korean boy band sensation. Instead we live in a reality that never fully accepts us and we in turn never fully accept it. Living life between two shadows of want is a sad way to live.

~**~

-Opinionated Man

Jason C. Cushman

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@smokendust

Adoption Post

I think some people are sick in the head. I read comments sometimes and I really wonder if the people are being serious. The replies on adoption articles on Facebook are always a joy to read. Isn’t it awesome to witness how different people’s opinions are?

Opinions like this one – “Adoption is like abortion. Women can and get to change their minds! If they decide they don’t want the baby they can abort it. If they don’t want the adopted child anymore they should also get to return it.” Lovely.

Well I am glad we got that cleared up! Adoptees are nothing but purchases apparently and if one keeps the receipt… they should be able to return that child according to some people. And we get to be compared to abortion again and again! Who wouldn’t want the life of an adoptee?

Want to know the saddest part about this? Comments such as this are made by birth moms! But they still want you to feel sorry for them…

Don’t you?

~**~

You will never know the other side. Must be nice.

-OM

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@smokendust

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The War on Adoption

There is a war going on that many people have no clue about. You would only know if you were part of certain social groups or on certain media platforms. Even though this war is not on the headlines of CNN or Fox News, it is a war nonetheless and it matters a great deal to certain people. The war on adoption has many sides and no sides at all. It is a deeply personal subject that makes people personally see only their truth. That is what makes the war on adoption the never-ending war.

It is hard to solidify what the cause of this war is. Adoption is a good thing, a selfless act of giving that is cause for joy and celebration. The problem is there are groups and people that will be offended by that statement alone. To these people adoption is not a good thing and is anything but “selfless.” They view adoption as the buying of children, the selfish act of “wannabe parents” preordering their child, and that adoption takes the limelight away from the children who are truly in need… those in foster care.

What these people miss is that all children of abandonment are important. Although some humans take a good thing and use it for evil purposes, that does not mean we instantly consider that thing (adoption) as evil. If this were the case there would be nothing relatively “good” in this world anymore because humans are remarkable at tainting the best of things. We can’t afford to view things that may possibly be used in the wrong way as wrong simply because of that possibility. How is that fair or even a fair way of viewing the world?

I take long breaks from Facebook because I have many bloggers added on that platform. Because I am an adoptee and I discuss adoption, I also have contacts from both sides of this argument on my reader. I like to know what the other side thinks. One of the hardest things for an adoptee to feel is sympathy for a birth parent that gives their child away. Even with facts that sometimes these women are pressured into giving their children away, we still can’t accept that possibility as a “pass” on what was done to us. It is even worse for those adoptees that know for sure they were willingly given up by the one that should have cared the most. It creates a great deal of pressure on us to think a certain way because what causes more encouragement than the pressure of pain…

I understand the side of the birth mom. I understand the side of an adoptee. I understand that foster children deserve a chance. I also understand that foster kids, like adoptees, are all children of abandonment. We all deserve a chance if life were fair. The unfairness of the world doesn’t make me view adoption in a dimmer light. If anything it makes me support adoption even more. No amount of stories, “adoption experts,” or percentages will alter my view that adoption is still a good thing. I find it strange that some people are so set on making the world think so.

My life as an adoptee does not make my truth on adoption. My brain, my thoughts, my opinions, and my experience with all adoptees creates my perception on what adoption truly is. It is not the worst story you can find or even the best one that defines adoption. Adoption is defined by the life an adoptee lives and the story that comes from the family they are now a part of. That is the truth of adoption and one truth doesn’t make the book. I have grown wary of listening to adoption experts or people that claim to know it all. I have lived the life of an adoptee and lived through the rejection of a birth mother. I still don’t know it all. I still don’t know myself.

Jason Chandler Cushman

Ahn Soo Jin

-Opinionated Man

44.1

@smokendust

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Adoption – The Search – “What is the worst that can happen?”

I have seen this question said many times in the adoption forums I am a part of and I stop myself most  of the time from responding. The reason is simple. Words only hold so much value before someone must experience them to understand.

The Search, for an adoptee, is when we decide we want to find our answers. Those answers can be our origin, our birth family, our birth mother, our story, or why the fuck you left us on a street… All of that and more is The Search for us and each search is different. It should then go without saying that the results of those searches differ as well.

As I have discussed in previous posts, I normally refrain from giving advice on adoption to anyone. That goes for opinions on all sides of the spectrum and make no mistake there are many sides to the equation that is adoption. I would never tell an adoptee “you MUST go and search for your relatives. You deserve to know. What is the worst that can happen?” The reason I would never say this to someone is because I have seen the worst that can happen. You never know how much further you can fall till down you tumble as you fall.

What is the worst thing that can happen? Further feelings of rejection till you reach the brink and you jump off brink’s ledge. That is one possible route to this choose your own adventure. You could find out the truth and that truth could shatter the life you love. I believe that is a hard one to swallow as well. You could find out you weren’t ever meant to be adopted and that you must now decide where your heart lies. I couldn’t imagine this one.

People often talk about “deserve” when approaching this topic. They will say “you deserve to know” or “they deserve to give you answers!” I am not sure why people find these statements so encouraging. Sure, we deserve a lot in this world. What we quickly learn is that the “world” doesn’t give a shit about what we think we deserve in it. The world spins and our trials begin again. That is life. That is all we deserve.

“What is the worst that can happen?” I’ll answer this question here and now for nobody. The worst thing that could happen is that you could find out the truth and it could shatter you. The worst that could happen is that you learn how much you wish you hadn’t searched at all and you hate yourself for it each waking day. You sit up at night and daydream about the day you didn’t know what happened. If you think that isn’t the “worst” I will tell you that you are wrong. Living life with regret is life itself. Living life regretting decisions we made knowingly simply makes life that much harder, and for those of us that have struggled it is needless drama we shouldn’t have. I have seen my worst and for that reason I would never tell anyone not to expect the worst as well.

Jason Chandler Cushman

Ahn Soo Jin

-Opinionated Man

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@smokendust

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Heartless

I was just told I was heartless on Facebook because of my post to birth moms. Someone said “when did pain become a competition?”

Honestly if you have to ask that I don’t have a damn thing for you. The pain is always, always greater for the child. It is never greater for the adult and the fact some adults would argue that lets me know what type of people they are. They are probably the same birth moms that gave us up or abandoned us and now want everyone to feel sorry for them.

Not gonna happen. Not from me.

-OM

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