“But now, only one thing remains …. The brute will to survive! ¹
“The story of adoption is a ghost story, full of fantasy, mystery, and missing persons, who … are “as if” dead, unlike respectable ghosts, who are … dead. ²
I am one of those ghosts.
I am M.
I am an adoptee.
An adoptee learns to act, to play any role necessary to adapt and survive, to play lost and found in normal society and in the underworld. I wander among the outcasts. I wander,
“… deep down, into [the] world where decency no longer mattered … [with] the lost people, the under-ground people: tramps, beggars, criminals, prostitutes … a sort of kingdom of ghosts where all are equal. ³
The End of Men made it impossible to run from my past any longer.
“… constantly running. I did not want to slow down and feel. I eventually reached a rock bottom … *
In a last gasp effort to understand myself and rescue the rest of my life and that of my boys, I started sharing my private scribblings, I started … The Ghost Kingdom … and found a ‘family’ of fellow bastards, orphans and other social outcasts, both past and present, who inhabit this shadowy underworld.
Conflict and Loss.
After a lot of writing on and research into adoptee issues, I’ve come to understand that the stressors created by the toxic combination of losing my family, my kids, my wife, getting divorced, on top of job losses at this point contributed greatly to my desperate state of mind at the time and in the 2 years preceding it.
By early 2014, I had experienced several types of life-altering disruptive physical or psychological losses in my life. All the feelings and fears of loss from the past blended into the present situation.
- My biological mother, and father, and with it my origins, identity, self-esteem, control
- My adoptive father to death by alcoholism
- My adoptive family to divorce, and with it my sense of stability and security
- All those jobs, and with them, my self-esteem
- The loss of my children to separation, and in all probability, divorce.
Each made me feel different from others; each increased my fear of rejection, fear of abandonment, my insecurity; each increased my anti-social behaviours, my self-loathing/self-destructive behaviours; each was a major source of stress. Each job loss brought back these feelings. Contract work became an endless cycle of adapting and loss.
Wrapped up in this was that I didn’t want my kids to grow up in a broken home and become ‘freaks’ like I felt I was. With time to reflect with a clear mind, I realize that divorce is not what it was in the mid-1970s, it’s big, it’s a loss, but socially, the kid’s wouldn’t feel like ‘freaks’ due to the prevalence of divorce, and the insipid portrayals of empowered divorced kids in all those Spielberg films..
The almost daily demands to separate brought back all those fears and feelings and led to my highly erratic behaviour and mood swings. Now, my kids were going to go through what I went through and that terrified me. But through my actions and inactions, I’m now a father who didn’t do enough to prevent his kids from living in a home with arguing and tension, who allowed himself to succumb to substance abuse, and who will now lose them to divorce, thereby creating another broken home.
She brought a level of violence to our relationship in the form of verbal and physical outbursts. Outbursts that once dissipated, were completely forgotten as though they had never happened; forgotten on only one side. I swallowed it, accepted it, just tried to wait them out, and ate them to the point where they festered and coiled into a toxic ball of tension. I was well-versed in weathering such outbursts having faced similar tension-filled days and nights in my teenage years.
She continued on her tirades on and off for the entirety of our 33-year relationship. The pattern I developed from being an adoptee raised in a home with a bi-polar, alcoholic father was the same now as it was then — hide from conflict. Just as then, I would swallow the hurtful things said to me then remove myself from the situation. The basement gradually became my safe haven.
I was acutely sensitive to the stress of loss associated with such life-altering family disruptions. This made it extremely difficult to maintain a rational state of mind with the almost daily demands to separate, divorce and sell the house. All those inner fears and pains boiled to the surface, not just for me, but for what I knew the boys were going to have to deal with. Added to stresses of this horrible situation was the painful realization that due to my lack of employment, there was not a damned thing I could do to prevent losing my boys.
The Quest for my Holy Grail.
Now cast out, I must survive. Now that I don’t have anyone to make me feel bad about myself on a daily basis, it’s time to heal. And so begins my quest to get my boys back.
I am an adoptee. I’ve learned to survive by adapting, by playing any role necessary to survive — Father. Introvert. Film, Medical & Social Historian. Writer. Bookworm. Cinephile. Traveller. Photographic Documentarist. Actor. Artist. Steppenwolf.
Life is filled with inexhaustible variety, both beautiful and cruel. As an creative and defiant adoptee, I can’t help but see behind the facade, pull back the curtain on the ‘Great and Powerful Oz’, cast light on the less-noticed, often passed over aspects of the world. My writing and photography attempt to capture the human struggle, urban and rural decay, and the remaining beauty of the world we all live in.
This blog explores the images and stories of the ‘Ghost Kingdom’, an underworld of the dispossessed — bastards, orphans, foundlings, and other social outcasts. I explore topics as diverse as adoptees, the adoption system, human trafficking, medical history, film history, the pseudo-immigrant experience, comedy, travel, poverty, the end of men, the education system, lunatic asylums, and ideas gleaned from books, films and history.
Thanks for visiting,
¹ Red Army Blues, from A Pagan Place, The Waterboys, 1984
² Betty Jean Lifton, Ghosts in the Adopted Family, 2009
³ George Orwell, Keep the Aspidistra Flying, 1936
* From Psychoanalytic Inquiry, Vol. 30, Issue 1, 2009 | Special Issue: The Adoption Journey, pp. 94-101.