"Still Life With Wounded Adoptee and Cow"
American Adoption Congress International Conference
Carolyn Evaine (Shaw) Counterman and Damzelle Plum
Seattle, WA 1998
I realize that a photo with people in it is not actually a "still life" picture, but that is what we named it, for better or worse. It's possible that you just had to be there. The photo was too good not to share, though.
About 13 years and 70 pounds ago...it feels like a lifetime ago. Damzelle (and maybe some others? I've forgotten) had made it possible for me to be at the conference. She's good like that.
The American Adoption Congress was considering this to be an "International" Conference because one of the approximately 200 attendees was from New Zealand. There might have been a Canadian or two as well. That made the conference all the more prestigious.
Marley Greiner, the Founder of Bastard Nation (BN), and I were going to give our presentation, "Know Thine Enemy". We had already given it once before at the Bastard Nation Conference in Chicago the previous summer. We BN'ers were hated and loved at the same time by many in the adoption community. I don't think they really liked it that we were getting better results than they were at changing laws and attitudes, but they certainly wanted to know how we did it. Hence the invitation to speak.
I have a cassette tape with our talk on it. Marley and I are not really formal people and our laid back approach was evident even as we were giving out the information folks wanted. I play that tape sometimes just to remember. My favorite part is when one of the attendees, Father Tom (an adoptee), expresses shock that I [a member of Bastard Nation] am an Evangelical Christian. When I said something to the effect of, "yes, Jesus is my boss", the whole group broke into laughter. People don't always know what to make of me being such an odd mixture of beliefs. It makes for some real "Kodak moments". Too bad I'm hardly ever equipped with a camera to record those times.
The first day of the conference I showed up wearing a hand-decorated t-shirt. It wasn't that pretty. I had grabbed one of my father's white undershirts. I used a black Sharpie to put my "design" on it. I honestly can't remember which phrase was on the front and which was on the back, but I will never forget what they said. One side of the shirt said, "Darth Vader could be my birthfather for all you know" and the other side said, "Help! I'm in the Witness Protection Program and nobody will tell me who I am".
As I was browsing the vendor booths that afternoon, I came across a table (I don't remember which organization they represented) where two adoptees were having an intense discussion. There were not very amused by my shirt. They did not find any levity in our adopted status. They both subscribed to the Primal Wound theory and took it very seriously. Within moments they were trying to convince me that 1) I was wounded, 2) I would always remain wounded, and 3) any professed healing of said wounds was merely denial on my part.
Please don't misunderstand. I can be a huge fan of denial at times. Truly. But what these two adoptees were telling me was just plain hooey as far as I was concerned. Yes, I have had wounds relating to my adoption and how it was handled. But saying that I could never heal is saying that my God is not big enough to heal me. To me, that is professional victimization and I reject it outright. My attitude on the Primal Wound theory does not endear me to many of the adoption triad members (adoptees, birthparents, and adoptive parents), so I guess it is lucky for me that I was not seeking to be endeared.
That whole weekend at the conference there were people seeking to convince me that I was forever wounded. Not my BN buddies. They were often participating in our favorite conference pastime: rewriting nursery rhymes and creating bad poetry to make fun of so much of the weirdness in the adoption community. The laughter we shared was something that helped me restrain my urge to verbally take a chunk out of the people who were trying to make and keep me a victim.
The last night of the conference there was a big fancy dinner (and a dance maybe? I cannot recall). Afterwards quite a few of us were going to a hospitality suite upstairs. Several BN members had discussed wearing costumes to that reception. Many of us had packed costumes to change into after we got out of our evening wear. For a reason I don't even think I knew, the costume affair was called off and my friends showed up in their street clothes. All except Damzelle, who faithfully wore her cow costume. I felt awful for not wearing my "blooming idiot" costume to join her, so I decided I needed to something. But I was still in foul mood about the whole victim thing, so I ran down to the gift shop and bought up their bandages. I placed bandages across the front and back of my street clothes and went to the reception as the Wounded Adoptee.
That costume met with mixed reviews. Christina Crawford, author of Mommy Dearest, thought it was a hoot, although she was very disappointed to not see me in my blooming idiot garb (I still owe her a photo of that). Jean Nast, the President of the American Adoption Congress at that time, looked as if she had bit into a lemon. She didn't say anything negative in front of our honored guest, though. I think the people who had been working my nerves that weekend finally got the message that I planned to heal nicely from all wounds and that I was going to have a sense of humor about it.
I think there are times in life when people can legitimately feel victimized. Choosing to wallow in that is an option. Whether what happened to me actually qualifies as "victimization" (a strong word) or not is debatable. There were hurts, certainly. Either way, I am trusting in God to heal me. Much of that has already happened. If I somehow uncover more untreated wounds, I will still choose to trust them to God. You just cannot come at me with a big enough hurt that the Great Healer cannot take care of it.
Are you trusting God with your hurts? Can we help you by praying for your healing?