Every time I do this, I am breaching the sacred pact of our family, our once-shared belief that my race is irrelevant in the presence of their love. But withholding hard truths and my honest opinions would also sell short the love I have for them, and they for me.Nicole Chung, All You Can Ever Know
During the early part of COVID I bought several of books written by Korean authors. It was a step in my desire to further understand and reconnect with Korea. It was during this time that I read a book and felt so seen by a complete stranger, in a way I had never imagined was possible. Nicole Chung’s experience was vastly different than my own story but her thoughts eerily echoed my own. Reading All You Can Ever Know was, in many ways, seeing my thoughts and feelings on paper.
Reading her book compounded my desire to find a path forward with my adoptive parents. A path I hoped would be lit with loving honesty, not the shrouded darkness of a status quo that had long obscured our relationship.
I’ve seen some adoptees describe emerging or coming “out of the fog.” It’s not something I had thought about in those terms before but the imagery suits the experience, I suppose. I have long wandered listlessly, floating within a tangled knot of darkness. There’s an untethered quality that has commanded an unwelcome presence in my life that refuses to be shaken. It’s a bit like after drinking the syrupy-sweet grape cold medicine. My body is indeed still intact, but why does it feel like I’m really just holding the ribbon of my balloon head? For so long, it lurked quietly in the corners of my mind, biding its time when it could burst forth and shatter what illusions had been painted for me.
A narrative that has been thrust upon me, and many if not most adoptees, is one of being “lucky,” of being “chosen.” For me, it’s a boulder whose crushing weight smothered out many conflicts, truths, and recognition of loss. I love my parents. I am also grateful to them…I think. I’m uncertain as to what exactly it is I’m grateful for. I’m even more uncertain if that gratitude is my own or something that has long been projected on me by every passing person who has deemed themselves a peripheral enough character in the script of my life. Bear with me, I’m sorting this out as I go, sort of.
It was, in part, my attempt to lift this burden and to try for a new path with my parents that I sent my mom All You Can Ever Know. Some part of me believed that this book, this time, might strike the right tone to spark the much needed, real conversation. I sent the memoir along with a letter and an open door.
Let me say, I whole-heartedly recognize the difficulty and pain of the kind of conversation I wanted to have with my mom. I was asking her to voluntarily sit and hear words that would likely cut deep, deep into the heart of who she believed she was as a person, into her character. I wanted none of this for her because in truth, my honesty wasn’t about tearing down her character but about sharing my hurt and asking her to sit in it with me.
I’m saddened that the wounds she felt were too great to maybe hear, fully, my own scars and her tears blurred her sight too much to clearly see the path of possibility that lay before her. Our strained relationship has served as yet another stone on what is already a mountain of abandonment and loss I have collected in my not-too-many years. I’d like to say I have hope for a different future but I don’t know that naive hope is healthy for a person.