Do you love the truth more than you need to be loved, or do you need to be loved more than you love the truth?
This question appeared as my daily meditation in one of the two daily inspirational books I read every day. In the morning I read a very short inspirational, meditational quote or question from the book “Soul to Soul Meditations:Daily Reflections for Spiritual Growth” by Gary Zukav. This is the book that this question came from this morning. The other book that I read at night has a slightly longer pondering, and that book is “The Daily Stoic:365 Meditations on Wisdom, Performance and the Art of Living” by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman. For the past 3-4 years I have started my day by reading a short quote or inspirational blurb from a different book that I choose each year. This year I decided to take on two, one for the morning and one for the night time. This is a tradition I plan to (hopefully) continue for the remainder of my life in one way or another. I have found it to really open up, particularly my third eye and crown chakras. I have become so much more aware and self aware and my wisdom and intuition have grown exponentially since I began this practice. It is a daily practice I highly recommend for anyone and everyone.
Now that I am done preaching, on to my contemplation on today’s question, which my first preaching paragraph was probably a way to digress off of the topic at hand, because this question hit me like a ton of bricks. This question, quite literally, is probably the question that most defines my entire emotional conflictual existence since birth. I was born in to a bubble of secrets and lies. I was “sheltered” from the truth of my true history and birthright. And yet, at the same time, contradictorily, my adoptive parents exposed me to truths within their own lives and marriage that I should have NEVER been exposed to as a young child. They always told me the truth as they knew it about being adopted and the facts as they knew them, but they also we’re blatently honest about how they would feel if I were to ever search for my birthmom, that they would feel betrayef, that they were my parents, that she might have moved on and never told her new family about me and that I might ruin her secrecy by showing up (manipulation by truth to guilt me in to not wanting to search). I grew up being told that my birthfather walked away from us when he found out she was pregnant (which turned out to be a lie-told by my birthmom) and I grew up being told that my birthmom couldn’t take care of me financially and wanted a ”better life” for me, which my adoptive parents thought I made out well in the deal (because they did well financially). This was the narrative of my life. But what I intrinsically felt, was abandonment. When I was in first grade and told the kids in my class that I was adopted, the kids I told expressed exactly what I was inherently feeling….”your mom didn’t want you and gave you up”. When I told my adoptive parents that they said this, they told me that I should respond from then on that, “I was chosen by my adoptive parents, your parents were stuck with you”.
I was also told the blatent truth growing up that my adoptive parents paid $30,000 to adopt me. None of this consciously registered at the time of course, but it all went in to the slow degradation of my psyche, and the conclusion that I came to 3 years ago that my adoptive parents don’t truly love me. They are not capable of love. Especially being who they are as people. My adoptive father has Narcissistic Personality Disorder of the highest degree. He has come to view me, I am quite certain, as his worst enemy. You know the saying, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer”? There have only been 2 people that I have EVER witnessed to have stood up to my adoptive dad and for him not to have cut out of his life (at some point in time). That is my cousin on my mom’s side and me. My Grandmother on my mom’s side as well to a degree, but he did cut her out of our lives for about 3 years. None of us were allowed to see her during that time span. Eventually he allowed her back in, but not without constant struggle and bashing her behind her back and conflict in person. They were two of a kind and clashed in the worst way. My dad has always cut people out of his life as soon as they stand up to him or dare to cross him in any way that he sees as any kind of betrayal. My cousin is one of the few people that he knows was told that he is gay and has had an affair during his marriage to my mother. And so, he believes it behooves him to keep her in his life, because he probably believes if he cuts her out, what would prevent her from spreading his secret. And so he keeps her close to him so that he can continue to gain “dirt” on her, and she has many of her own “skeletons” in her closet, so that it becomes something that he thinks he can hold over her as well. Little does he know that I don’t think it honestly would phase my cousin if he did tell the whole world about her issues. He already does anyway, because he is a gossip queen. Every other conversation I have with him he has some kind of disparaging story to tell me about her, just to make himself feel better about his own life.
And then there’s me. I truly have come to believe that he doesn’t view me as his daughter that he loves with all his heart. Especially not since I exposed his secret when I was 21 and brought his secret life to light, told my mother what I had figured out about him, and brought her to the hotel where he had set up a date with a man and intercepted it before it happened. I truly believe now that he has come to see me as public enemy #1 in his life. I am such a danger to him because I hold the secret that could ruin everything he tries to conceal (even though he is so delusional to think that no one has him figured out from the time they meet him). And even more dangerous is the fact that I am brave enough to confront him and that no matter how hard he tries, he is not able to control me and keep me under his thumb the way he is able to either keep everyone else complacent or controlled. He may keep me afraid enough for a certain amount of time, but then after a certain amount of time, I’ve had my fill, and then I break and my boundaries go up and I speak up. He also knows I see right through him like no one else on this planet does. I am the only one he cannot fool with his charisma and charm. I am too smart and am now always a few steps ahead of him, and nothing scares him more. I am no longer his possession.
My adoptive parents have chosen which truths to be far too loose with throughout my life and which truths to be closed mouth about because it would be to their detriment if those truths became known. And while everyone does that to a certain extent, the depth to which they have done it has been so damaging to my mental state that I truly don’t know how to answer the original question that I was presented with in my inspirational book this morning. After thinking about this question now for several hours, I think that this question will actually permeate my healing process for months and maybe even years to come. My adoptive parents would tell truths that no child should have to endure at the tender age of 7. I was plagued at that age with the fact that after my mother had a hysterectomy, that she got addicted to tranquilizers and sleeping pills. And that my dad paid for a psychiatrist out of pocket in order to keep it off her medical records (because it is such a shameful thing). He would talk to me as if I was his best friend every morning on the way to school and put me in the middle of their marriage and speak vile truths about my mother to the point that I felt as if I was a child caught between 2 parents who were divorcing (they’re still married today, never even separated). And then in addition to that, at that point I also lost my mother’s presence in my life. From that point forward, my mother stopped being involved in any of the activities in my life and my dad took over. Prior to that time, it was my mom who was involved in vacation Bible School and who took me to and stayed at brownies with me and who took me to dance and speech therapy when I was in kindergarten. And after I was 7, it was entirely my father. It was my dad who took me to dance, my dad who was the co-leader in my girl scout troop all the way through senior scouts, my dad who was the band parents president in high school. And then my mom proceeded to be jealous of me and wonder why I had a better relationship with my dad. She was angry that I talked to my dad more, she actually would verbally tell me that, as if it was my fault. I couldn’t even consciously figure out why back then. And my dad would tell her it was because she questioned me all the time and tried to force information out of me, which did contribute to it, she did act nosy and wouldn’t lay off when I wouldn’t divulge information to her when her never ending questions about my day we’re only met with the typical teenage answer of “fine”. But I now see that her absence in my life after age 7 was just another abandonment in my life. And then she would use me as her means to try to seek love for herself, the love she never got from her mother. Rather than providing me with the love I needed, she would give me a hard time when I would attempt to walk out the door as a teenager without giving her a hug and a kiss goodbye. Because SHE needed it. I had long ago written her off because she stopped giving me what I needed when I needed it most. So why should I give her what she needed and wanted.
This meme above is the checklist for what is called emotional incest. My father used me as a Surrogate Mate essentially. This also went in to what made my mother jealous of me. I can answer yes to every single question on this list. And to further validate this viewpoint, it wasn’t until I moved away that my father actually found a steady boyfriend, basically who replaced me as his companion. All of this just proves numbers 1 and 6. And as I have already stated, I also felt that I was considered a source for my mother to gain love rather than for my mother to give love.
Fast forward several years to when I was approximately 32, to one of the defining moments that gave me emotional validation to move forward with the search for my birthmom. For all the years prior to then, I lived under their manipulation, always wanting to search, but always too afraid to hurt them and feeling guilty laden that even if I were to do it in secret, that still somehow I owed it to them to not search. One of two catalysts finally gave me permission in my own heart to go ahead with ahead. The revelation of a truth that my parents had hidden from me for 32 years and then the subsequent refusal to appease my curiosity about my own identity and truth was a clear display of the fact that their own self love was more important to them than their love for me. And I needed to start practicing self love and to try and find someone who possibly loved me more than them. When I told my dad that I needed my official (not original) birth certificate, because they still had it, because I needed to get a new passport, he said he would get it from the vault. He then proceeded to tell me that when we were down there to get on the ship (the reason I needed a new passport in my married name), that he wanted to put my name on their vault card plaquard in case something happened to them so that I could gain access. But he also felt he needed to tell me something. He told me that they accidentally left my birthmoms name on the adoption papers that were in the vault which were supposed to have been reddacted. When he told me that, I simply asked him if he could tell me if her name was Susan because I always thought that was her name. He told me he didn’t remember, just that she had a long German last name but that he would have my mother check when she got my birth certificate. After that, he never told me her name like I asked. And of course, me being the loyal daughter that I am was too afraid to ask because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings or make him worry that I wanted to look for her. That truth of course is one that they withheld from me because it would be a detriment to them, even though they knew straight up that it was one that I had been curious about my entire life. I wasn’t asking for her last name which would have been identifying information which with I could have searched for her. I simply wanted to quench my curiosity of 30 years but they couldn’t even do that for me. And believe me, it wasn’t something they simply forgot to do. My parents don’t forget things like that. They can choose to withhold that tremendous truth from me, but share truths with me at 21 after confronting my dad about his gay tryst that he has a high sex drive and he and my mother don’t have sex very often (as if it was her fault). As if this was a truth that you should be telling your 21 year old daughter who is already traumatized by what she has just had to do and go through. And when he made me go to their marriage counselor because I broke down one day and he told me I was not having a normal reaction to everything and there was something wrong with me, she asked me how many people were in a marriage and I told her normally I would say 2 but in my parents case 3. She kept insisting it was 2 and I kept telling her that she has no conception of how much my parents have made me an integral part of their marriage to the point that it truly feels as though I am a part of it. And I still stand firm on this analysis to this day.
Once it all came out, he has insisted over all of these years that we keep his truth a secret for him, yet he can sit there and talk about it openly without saying in front of everyone “my boyfriend”, but he used his name and talked about all of the trips he went once with him in front of everyone. But if he ever was told that all of those people were told that the man he was talking about was his boyfriend, he would be devastated, angry at us for telling them etc…Again, he gets to choose and control what truths are revealed and what are hidden. And we (my mom and I) have to deal with any of the consequences and emotions of that no matter how it affects us.
Because of my childhood trauma of truth, lies and secrecy, I have developed a very tumultuous relationship with both truth and love. It is quite evident in those I have chosen for romantic relationships over the years, the way I handle myself within those relationships and how I prioritize things. It is also very evident in how I have handled myself in friendships as well and how I finally sought out my birthfamily after discovering certain truths about my adoptive parents. For how important truth is to me, I have still chosen to keep my relationship with my birthfamily a secret. Those who know my adoptive parents agree with me on this decision because they know the reprecussions of it and they know the type of people they are and the impact it would have. But those in the adoptee group I was in for quite a while almost all disagreed with me on keeping it a secret from them and felt I should stand in my truth. And while it bothers me that I feel I should have to lie about this, I also don’t want anything coming between my relationship with my birthparents. That is something I believe I deserve and I think it shouldn’t be tainted by any extra pain that would come from telling my adoptive parents a truth that they can’t handle, which is highly unfair to me. They have already done enough damage to me by sharing all the truths they shouldn’t have and keeping silent the truths that shouldn’t have been kept silent. Exactly who would benefit from telling the truth about this? While I do believe in telling the truth for truths sake, there is also a certain form of protection that the withholding of truth does serve. And when it is truly in someones best interest to withhold the truth, at least perhaps until a later date at times, is that a virtuous ideal? I believe it is in everyone’s interest to withhold this truth. I feel to protect a child from losing their innocence before they should, when it is something that they really don’t need to be involved in, that withholding the truth can sometimes be of value (but I think some day they should be told the truth, especially if there is something they struggle with from that time period in their life). If withholding of the truth is done in order to deceive someone for that person’s own gain or to spare themselves from shame or the wrath of someone else, I feel that is not an appropriate reason to withhold the truth from someone.
My husband always asks me the question, “Did you grow up in a bubble?” And he asks me this because I have often seemed very naive to worldly things and have come across as very sheltered. And for the level of conservativeness that my adoptive parents put forth as a front, and for how strict they were with me and curfews and what they expected from me morally and such, and what they considered “bad behavior” from me, the things I was exposed to as a kid were anything but conservative. I had to deal with very adult problems from the time I was very young, and I was never sheltered from any of those things, I was purposely dragged in to them. Those truths were never once spared from me. As I had already mentioned, things such as divulging how much was paid for me, that my mother was addicted to tranquilizers and sleeping pills when I was 7, my father never watched his cursing mouth around me..I knew the f word because of him by age 5 at least, my dad would threaten in my presence to commit suicide-he talked all the time about running his car off the road-I remember him saying that as far back as age 6, my mom constantly hit me with a wooden spoon, my mom smacked me across the face with a dishtowel at 4 simply because I took all my dolls put while she left me in the house alone and went to the neighbors to ask for sugar or something like that, my dad kept a stack of penthouse (like Playboy) magazines in their closet-I guess he was trying to de-gay himself or something, talked all about their sex life to me at 21 after intercepting my dad’s tryst…and the list goes on…..
I guess I have come to believe throughout the years that when people continue to lie to me, that I am not worthy of the truth. That whatever it is they are lying about is more important to them than being truthful to me and not doing whatever it is they are lying about. It is a matter of being put second to something, which has always been one of my biggest sources of pain. Being second best, second choice. To me, being lied to, and being forced to lie for someone/keep someone’s secret for them, I think has become equated with not being loved, of not being chosen. And therein lies my dilemma that I will grapple with for quite a while. Are they really separate things, do I have a warped sense of this cohesion due to my background, can these things coexist as separate entities without defining one another, or are they inextricably linked?