Staring into the unfathomable abyss that is the Grand Canyon, my first coherent thought was a renewed appreciation of domesticity, i.e. everything the Grand Canyon is not. There is nothing soft, easy, or uncomplicated about it. The very name "Grand Canyon" is a misnomer. Not the "grand" part, it's certainly that; but this is no more a "canyon" than New York City is a hamlet. What started out ages ago as a simple riverbed has grown over time into hundreds of fissures at different depths veering off and doubling back in every direction. "Canyon" implies a slit in the Earth's skin, this is more like the shrapnel damage from a grenade. We were told the gap was unfulfillable, the width was unbridgeable, the river at the bottom was all but unnavigable, the traverse was perilous, the environment at the bottom was wildly different from the environment at the top, and the trip back up was four times harder than the trip down. I challenged none of these assertions; I was saving my strength. After this stop I was going to meet my mother for the first time.
So, six months later, how's the whole "aftermath" thing coming? Well there's me, and there's me-and-them. Let's talk about me first.
I got pretty stressed out around the end of the year. Come January, I wasn't stressed at all. I felt drained, a little fragile, very mellow, and extremely lethargic. I had started reading Dr. Seligman's book Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being; at one point he talks about helping clients work through their depression. "I wanted to make them happier, but all I did was make them emptier." That fit me like a glove. But when you've spent a lifetime full of pain, sorrow, and anger, empty is a big improvement, and a necessary first step to anything better.
There's all these little fractures in my psyche that used to be full of poison. Now it's gone, and I can feel all the little abrasions the acid of pain wore into my psyche. They need time to heal, and I don't need to let more poison settle in.
I stared angrily at the scale. Where had all my hard work gone?
Four years ago I started an exercise program to get my body back in shape. Two years of steady, constant exercising later, I was feeling fit and fine -- so fit, my subconcious deemed me able to handle a huge heap of repressed childhood horror. The next two years were taken up with nothing but repairing damages done to my mind and my soul. The work was so intense I could do nothing else. Some days just making it out of bed was all I could manage. In the process I've lost all the fitness progress I made over the previous two years. My weight is back up and my stamina is nonexistant. Physically I'm right back where I started. I've got all this psychological stuff seen to but -- I know the metaphor of life being a great big spiral but I don't need it to play out so literally, darn it.
"Have you ever heard of people saying, “this feels like it’s happening to someone else” or something to that effect? Now I can completely relate to that. I kind of feel like. Well, I don’t know exactly how to quantify it. It’s a new sensation. Extremely weird, but not entirely unpleasant." - my newly-discovered maternal half-sister
"I have to admit, this is incredibly awkward, but I am happy to get to know you." - my newly-discovered paternal half-sister
"That is a picture of your grandmother. If you want to know what she looked like when she was younger, look in the mirror. You look just like her." - a great-uncle
"Who the Hell are you, where did you come from, and what's this nonsense about a Promised Land?" - the Canaanites
After a couple weeks of "phone tag" I got up with my mother. She talked a bit about being at the maternity home with me, even though she couldn't remember the name. Apparently her mother wrote either Ann Landers or Dear Abby for a recommendation as to where to send her. I may have made the paper before I was even born. Thanks Ann -- not!
So after she got pregnant she and my father talked about getting married. She's Protestant and he's Catholic. They went to see the priest, who would only marry them if I was reared Catholic. My mother balked at that, and the wedding was off. Thanks Roman Catholic Church -- not!
But she says my father knows about me and is a real nice guy, and offered to call him for me if I gave her his number, which I did. That's a relief off me. It felt good, until everything slotted into place.
"Fracture reduction" is the fancy term for resetting a broken bone that's healed the wrong way. Somebody breaks a bone. They should lie up and have someone else take them immediately to the doctor, but that doesn't always happen. Maybe they can't get to the doctor, maybe there's no doctor around, maybe they have to use that broken bone anyway just to get by until they can find a doctor. Whatever.
So when they finally get to the doctor's office, what happens? The doctors get out the bone saw and the knives and takes the broken bone back apart. They "break" it again into at least as many parts as the first time, if not more. They have to do this in order to set it properly. It's the only way they can ever hope to restore the limb to full functioning.
But the pain is out of this world. The patient screams and struggles, fighting to escape from the excruciating suffering. Knowing it's the only way to regain the full use of their body does nothing to spare them from the agony they are going through.
Usually things get easier to write about over time. Not this time. It's getting harder.
My First Cousin (technically he's not, but he'll always be my Very First Cousin) was eager to help me. He's an elderly man in poor health, who needed the mental stimulation such a puzzle provided. He's been very encouraging, even as my moods have swung like a weather-vane in storm.
I'm one of the least emotional people you'll ever meet, although I'm self-aware enough to realize that for me this symptom is a sign of an underlying problem. But here I was obsessively combing through genealogies and bursting into tears at every photograph. I desperately wanted to know who these people were, what their stories told about them, and how their stories related to my stories. I craved the stories grownups swapped while visiting and told to the kids on the porch during long afternoons.
I cried the first time I spoke to First Cousin on the phone. It was the first time I'd heard the voice of a blood relation I hadn't given birth to.
PTSD blankets my emotions with numbness. It's hard to feel any emotion, I think them more than I sense them. Unexpected strong emotions tend to cause an automatic whole-body shutdown response. But this was so unexpected it blew through my automatic defenses like they weren't even there.
It had been a few weeks since I was told that my results would be ready in a month and a half. I checked the site everyday, but the expectation of seeing anything had long since slumbered. I almost forgot to check that Saturday when I remembered it before running off to do some outdoor work.
I logged on to Ancestry.com, expecting to see the now-familiar white page with a tiny "come back later" notice. Instead I saw colors. There were greens, beige, browns, oranges, blues, pinks, blacks, and even a few tiny full color photographs. Some of the colors formed words, but I couldn't read them, too shocked to see that there was something -- quite a lot of something -- there at all.
Searching for my biological family is extremely stressful. Fortunately this time of year my garden can absorb all the nervous energy I can throw at it. But it demands more attention than I gave it recently when distracted by my personal distress I blundered into poison oak and ended up covered in a rash. The medicine they put me on leaves my too drowsy to write my next post. Sorry for the delay, will get back to it in a few days.
I took a DNA test to learn about my biological relatives and found out some things.
Let's start with the basics, shall we? I found out I was a human being, homo sapiens sapiens (at least mostly, I haven't compared it with the non-human samples yet.) This actually was a concern for my younger self. There were no people around who looked or acted like me in my adopted family or in the society around us, and everyone was quick to point out how weird and alien I was. So what's a kid supposed to think? Where was the evidence I hadn't fallen off a UFO? I became sensitive to attempts to "other" me or anyone else.