Gratitude

Grateful.

I am so grateful for the love I have in my life despite the traumas I have gone through, beginning with the loss of my original family. I’ve only recently began using this word and I will tell you a bit more about that in this post.

A few years ago, my adoptive mom and I met for coffee while she was visiting. She nonchalantly showed me pictures of my toddler aged self with bio family members of whom I’d never seen before. She insisted that I had seen these photos and I argued, “No. I had no idea they existed. I would have remembered! I would have asked to keep them. This is what I needed.” She said they’d been in a box “forever” as if my parents knew exactly where they were the entire time I lived in their home, under their care. Proof of love and connection, pieces of resemblance collecting dust while I pushed to survive in a community that was not made for me. I had to fight the confirmed fear that my original family didn’t want me, that I was disposable- while simultaneously forcing myself to have faith in the idea that I was lovable and worth life despite the constant contradiction and interrogation of my existence.

These photos showed joy.

I looked healthy.

I was loved.

They looked like me!

I was connected.

These pictures made me feel like I must have been taken from these people. They loved me. How could they have given me up knowingly and willingly- the way my adoptive parents told me.

While all of these emotions were flooding my heart and my head, I fumbled for words hoping something that made sense would come out, “How could you keep this from me? Why?” She quickly defended herself and blurted out that I was a happy kid, that I never really asked about my family, and that I seemed okay. She said I didn’t care about that stuff. I remember looking at her confused and angry, my body was burning up with emotion. Seeing my reaction and my loss for words she began firing off words strung together, ranging from excuses to justification to, “How about some gratitude!?” Y’all, that was it. I was D O N E. FINISHED. That was the trigger. In that moment I hated her and I let myself hate her.

For the first time ever, I realized that I was no longer stuck. I didn’t have to stay. I was able to leave whenever I wanted to. Her comfort and her goodness was no longer my obligation. So after a pause that felt like a lifetime, I said, “I don’t have to be here anymore. I’m leaving” and I left. It took more of me than I’d like to admit to get up and take the physical steps out the door. It was like I had shackles, weighing on my ankles. But I did it. I left; shaking, overheated, and with her following and yelling after me. My entire life I’ve been making everyone else comfortable, trying so hard to not take up too much or be too much. But I’m done. For far too long, I’ve lived for other people as if I’m indebted to a world I never chose to be a part of.

For me, gratitude, has always been a word weaponized by predators in sheep’s clothing. “You must be so grateful to be adopted, so grateful to have such a giving family, so grateful to have been saved, rescued, etc. .”

But I never made those choices. They were taken from me and made without my consent. I wasn’t allowed the information. I don’t even know if my family had all of the information! I wasn’t part of the decision. I was taken and sold, bought and put on display for the sake of someone else’s goodness, someone else’s comfort.

Most days I still cringe when I hear the word, but I’m taking it back because it’s not about anyone who uses this word to excuse trauma and make themselves more comfortable with something they don’t even care to understand. ✌🏾

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