I’m excited to hit the road soon and meet fellow secret sons and daughters at two upcoming weekend retreats. The first is Inside Out: The Expressive Arts Adoption Healing Seminar, September 27-28 in Westfield, Massachusetts. Created and led by adoptee Craig Hyman, this workshop uses creative expression to foster healing and growth for birth and adoptive parents as well as adoptees.
I’ll be guest-facilitating this year’s Westfield workshop at a place very near to my heart, Genesis Spiritual Life and Conference Center. Before Genesis was founded in 1976, it was Holy Child Guild, a home for unwed mothers and the place my birthmother roamed her last trimester before I was born. Two sisters from the Sisters of Providence transformed the property from a place that was once a source of hidden identities and shame to a spiritual retreat that offers innovate programs for persons of all faiths, cultures, and lifestyles.
I visited for the first time three years ago and slept in a room that was like the one my birthmother would have slept in, ate where the girls would have eaten, saw pictures of them (none with a visible face) at a Halloween party, and met Sister Elizabeth, one of the people responsible for Holy Child’s transformation. Meeting her, and learning how that transformation came to be, was a great source of inspiration and healing.
There is a quote on Genesis’s website that embodies the spirit of the workshops held on their 19 woodsy acres: “Oh, great Father, never let me judge another man until I have walked in his moccasins for two weeks.” – A Prayer for Understanding
One good way to walk in someone’s moccasins is to listen to his or her story, which is why Heather and Mary and I love helping fellow adoptees share them. There’s value in sharing your story, but before that, and perhaps even more importantly, there’s value in knowing it for yourself.
What is the story you tell yourself about adoption, reunion, and secrets? And how has that impacted your life? In our Sunday morning workshop, we’ll explore those questions through writing prompts and exercises (sharing of stories is completely optional).
On October 17-19, I’ll be traveling to Concerned United Birthparents’ annual retreat at Safety Harbor Resort near Tampa. CUB President Patty Collings sent an email introducing the three adoptees (myself included) who will speak on the panel “Being Found-Blessings and Challenges.”
Michael Turcotte, the birthson of Lee Campbell (CUB founder), is one of the other panelists. Lee found Michael when he was 15. I’ve heard a lot about Lee’s story and the more I’ve read, and watched, and wrote (our story about CUB here), the more I wondered what it was like for Michael. What was it like having his reunion talked about on Phil Donahue? What was it like to be found at 15, in the 1970s when no one talked about this stuff? And what was it like for him with his adoptive parents in the years that followed?
Today’s books and articles on adoption didn’t exist then, nor was there any advice given to adoptive parents on how, when, or why to talk to their children, answer their questions, or, God forbid, have a birthparent in his or her life.
I lived that challenge, too. At 13, I learned I was adopted. My birthmother found me when I was 19. I wished I’d known someone, anyone, back then who had gone through that experience. Someone else who’d made a choice to know his birthmother or father, like Michael. I’m so curious to hear him speak to those experiences at the retreat.
And I’m also excited to hear the second panelist, Christine Murphy, author of Taking Down the Wall, share why being found was traumatic and caused her to initially resist a relationship with her biological relatives, as well as what later changed and fostered a relationship that led to healing. After Patty’s email went out, I kept thinking, Christine Murphy, where do I know that name from? Turns out we had corresponded six years ago over an essay I’d written that appeared in Ladies’ Home Journal that they’d titled “Torn Between Two Mothers.”
We realized we’d both grown up in New York’s Albany-Saratoga region and met for coffee this summer in Saratoga. As Christine shared her story I was so struck, and impressed, by how she owned the angry parts that come about after a reunion. I also realized that for all the stories we’ve shared on Secret Sons & Daughters, only two of them are by people who had been found, all the rest are from adoptees who had to search. If you were found, I’d love to hear what that was like, either in the comments section below, or please send me a note: firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition to our panel on what it was like to be found, the retreat will feature a panel on the impact of open adoptions that close, a talk with Mari Steed of The Philomena Project, and more.
Hope to see you there! – Christine
For more information visit: Inside Out: The Expressive Arts Adoption Healing Seminar, and Concerned United Birthparents Annual Retreat. Note: Safety Harbor Resort’s group rate is available through September 22, 2014, then based on availability after that date.