Sunday, October 02, 2005
Being adopted gives you a keen sense of family, a yearning and a need to know where you come from and where you belong. Those who were raised by family or in orphanages and foster home, no matter how they deny it, feel that same urge, the need to know who you are, where you belong and why you were given away, why you weren't wanted. There is a palpable need for connections, for family, to belong somewhere to someone, to a family.
We all crave a sense of family, a need to know where we belong, where we fit in. For those of us who have rocky pasts, a history pock marked with pain, trouble and alienation, we gather family around us or cling to what family we create, no matter what. We grasp at familial straws, determined to keep some sense of family around us even when that family is dysfunctional.
A friend told me about a movie he had seen a couple weeks ago: Antwone Fisher, directed by Denzel Washington and starring Derek Luke. It's the story of a young Navy man who gets into a fight with one of his shipmates and is sent for psychiatric evaluation. He has a problem with anger, striking out with his fists to cover the pain and alienation he carries like the rock he says he crawled out from under. His father died two months before he was born while his mother was in prison. The movie is the story of his search for himself and to find where he belongs.
What resonates most is his stony silence and his tentative reaching for connections as he strives to better himself by learning Japanese, drawing, reading and writing poetry. It is a moving tale, one that shines a search light on the loneliness of not knowing where you belong.
I am lucky in some ways; I know part of my family. There is still a big hole inside me, a gaping chasm where family ties should have been to weave me wholly together. I do not know my father's side of the family and every time I have begun to look what family I do know turn my need to know into a battle for possession of my soul and my heart, a battle I choose not to fight. Instead I back away and wait. It seems I have been waiting my whole life for a moment when I can reach back into the past and find my connections to the family I never knew.
I am alone with few connections -- real family connections. I have gathered family around me, finding connections in shared experiences and knowledge. Like Antwone, who wrote the story behind the movie, I am afraid of making those connections, afraid of rejection, afraid of the look that I have seen in so many eyes over the years, the look that says I'm not good enough, simply not enough, that I do not belong. It is in moments like watching Antwone Fisher's journey unfold, I find another connection, another person searching for the place where they belong. It is something I also share with my friend, a friend who has become more than family, who is my connection, the one who didn't reject me, who sees in me what I see in him -- family.