The pendulum swings
Updated: Jun 26, 2020
This piece was recently featured on This Adoptee Life, a fantastic blog by fellow Colombian adoptee, Amanda Medina
While I embrace the Spring-to-Summer transition brought on by April, May and June, I silently loathe what they represent for me.
I was born on April 3rd, 1984 in Cali, Colombia. Seven months later, I was adopted to the spacious yet isolated area of Longbranch, WA, a roughly two-hour’s drive southwest of Seattle. Mother’s Day follows my birthday month and Father’s Day rounds out my season of existential angst in mid-June. Birth. Mother. Father.
Allow me to revisit the word I used above. ‘Loathe’ is an aggressive verb yet it is not meant to mindlessly attack any member of my families, adoptive or biological. Instead, it is employed here to highlight what I genuinely feel, which is a persistent irritation with the pendulum in my mind oscillating between feelings of guilt and elation, between mental solitude and equanimity. My guilt arises from sentiments related to my privileged life as a direct result of my adoption while many in my biological family in southern Colombia literally struggle to pay for a short taxi ride to visit each other. The mental solitude develops because I feel powerless to discuss these topics at length with my adoptive father or sister. Besides my grandparents and for reasons I am unaware of (I was never offered any explanation), I no longer speak with extended family members.
Comparably, the elation and equanimity I mentioned derive from the profound joy I feel when having in-depth conversations with my adoptive mother or my biological cousins in Colombia about identity and questions surround the concept of belonging. I feel the same during lengthy WhatsApp calls with one of my biological aunts or the calmness that comes over me when meeting with fellow adoptees. The solidarity I feel with them knows no bounds whether they’re here in the U.S., The Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Germany, Canada, Sweden or elsewhere.
The pendulum swings more intensely during these three months. Of the 35 birthdays I have celebrated since my birth, only twice have I celebrated in Colombia. Each time that date approaches I do what I can to bring as many people in my life together for amusing evenings of dining, dancing and spirited debates. I enjoy it but I always take a moment during those days to spend alone. The voluntary seclusion is necessary for me to ponder, every year, what my life would have been like had I not been adopted. In a way, those moments of intense introspection allow me to free my mind. I wonder about if I will ever arrive at the full story of how I came to exist or if I should abandon (cough, cough) the thought completely. So many out there know the stories of how and why they came to be. But for us adoptees? The pendulum swings.
Mother’s Day is a fantastic opportunity for me to not only celebrate but honor my adoptive mother and the numerous amazing mothers I am close to. I refer to Cindy as my real mom and there is no hesitation in my fingers as I type this. On the other hand, I refer to my biological mother in Colombia by her first name, Deisy. Since meeting her in a dimly lit living room in early 2005, the words “mamá” or “madre” have only left my lips around her when I refer to my real mom. Deisy has never suggested nor insisted otherwise. I confess when we met and hugged for the first time, I was overwhelmed by the weight of the moment and I believed everything she told me. During these 15 years since that afternoon, our relationship has deteriorated to the point we no longer communicate. Those initial optimistic emotions, clouded by immaturity and naiveté, faded quickly with multiple displays of how Deisy is the most manipulative and dishonest person I have ever met. But then, is my frustration truly justified after taking into account all SHE has been through? All SHE has endured? The pendulum swings.
Father’s Day represents a more ambiguous set of challenges for me. On one side, I have the opportunity to remind myself of the arduous efforts my adoptive father has undertaken to ensure my life could be the triumph it has been. On the other side, I am now in the 12th year of searching for my biological father. If he is still alive, this is a man who navigates every day without knowing he has a son in another country. In December of 2018, after 11 months of trying to convince someone to do a paternity test in Bogotá, those results came back negative. In 2019 I received my results from 23andMe and located 2nd and 3rd cousins on my biological father’s side in four cities in Colombia. The search continues and I am closer than I have ever been to locating him. A multi-page letter to him is ready and waiting for when that moment arrives. The pendulum swings.
As I am an educator, it feels appropriate to give you a short homework assignment:
What is your pendulum and how often does it swing?