A fellow adoptee friend told me that many adoptees and foster kids have a ! (exclamation mark) after their name. At first, I didn’t know what she meant, but as she elaborated the meaning, Anne of Green Gables came to mind. If you’ve watched this fascinating series, you would likely agree that Anne has a certain zest for life. Everything she says and does almost paints a picture with words. For those that have seen the movie, recall how Anne would burst into a song or fantasize about being a queen? I can identify with her. I feel things deeply, which is a plus. But, when I enthusiastically praise another for some reason, others often judge me as a drama queen.
As I give more thought to the meaning of the exclamation mark, I realize I have one after my name also–Sherrie! To explain how this shows up in my life, I would describe it as a passion for life and a passion for giving to others. My husband tells me this often and encourages me to enjoy some of the things I give away…enjoy them myself. I feel like I’ll explode with joy when I give a gift, but after some study about over giving, I’m learning the effect my enthusiasm has on others. During the Pandemic, I cooked gourmet dinners for our next-door neighbors. Not just one or two, but many, and daily. Finally, they asked me to quit giving them the meals. Looking back, when I was a young, married adult, I felt compelled to always bring a gift to my mom and dad after I left them and went on a trip.
A fellow-adoptee friend and I were going to an adoption gathering at a woman’s house and while standing on the porch waiting for her to open the door, we noticed that we both were bringing a gift. Me-a bottle of wine, and my friend, some coasters. We were amused that we both thought it necessary to bring a gift and we wondered if it could be an adoptee-related dynamic we hadn’t understood yet? Later, when we laughed about it, both of us saw it as a passion to give. But, upon further discussion, we realized we were giving the gift because we wanted to be accepted–and not rejected–from the host of the meeting. Remember friends, that the word “rejection” is embedded into our adoptee hearts. It never goes away–never.
I remember when my birth cousin found me and lavished gifts constantly–one gift was a star in the heavens. It seemed a nice thought, but it didn’t bowl me over. Part of my reaction was, “How can I ever give her a gift akin to this?” So, I felt intimidated by her constant gifting. Do you know that feeling when someone gives you an inappropriately intimate or generous gift? Do you know how uncomfortable it feels when a gift is unjustified or just plain awkward? It feels, at that moment, that this is way more about them than it is you, right?
How about you, fellow adoptee? Does this blog post ring a bell in that adoptee heart of yours? Do you experience joy inexpressible when you give to others? Do you know that feeling when someone gives you an inappropriately intimate or generous gift? Do you know how uncomfortable it feels when a gift is unjustified or just plain awkward? It feels, at that moment, that this is way more about them than it is you, right?
As I’ve thought more about Anne of Green Gables, I’ve remembered the multiple traumas she endured before adoption. This is my take on the exclamation mark after her name, after mine, or perhaps after yours? You and I experienced cumulative trauma when we lost our first family remaining a “regular” family. We lost their parenting, their presence on a daily basis, and their constant influence. We carry that loss for a lifetime.
So, it’s correct to state that because of those traumas, our brains have trouble regulating and expressing. They got damaged. I know of an adoptee who suffered years of horrific abuse and he had his brain scanned to show if it was normal. It wasn’t–there was a huge empty space caused by the traumas. That’s us too, you guys!
Fellow adoptees, if you’re like me and Anne of Green Gables, take comfort in this–you’re not doing anything wrong or being a drama queen. You’re doing your very best to express the joy in your hearts…and it is beautiful. If someone treats you like a drama king or queen–remember your beauty….please? For others, when you see us over giving, please don’t judge? Please thank God that we’re able to live as fully as we are, in spite of brains that got traumatized.
Lke Anne, who talks to everything that is alive, to the birds, the sun, the flowers…it’s because she almost lost her life to trauma. Of course, she has a deep appreciation for her life and the lives of those around her. She even traces the circles on a tree to find where its life began. I bet you love to do that kind of thing, too.
I love you fellow adoptees! And, I love your passion for life and the way you express that passion. You are absolutely beautiful to behold.