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the verb and the adjective
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(I like that they are pronounced differently.)
I have not published a newsletter for a while because I am not sure how to continue talking about this without saying difficult things. I don’t know what the rules are, or what they should be—I know I get to decide, but I still want to keep this about my experience and not out anybody. When I say “difficult things”, I guess I mean things that might make me feel worse to say somewhat publicly. I am certainly scared to share some of this, but I imagine that is to be expected and I don’t want it to stop me.
Right now, it’s like this—I am completely open about my newly discovered history. There’s no other way I could be. It’s too much to manage, trying to figure out what to say, and to whom. It’s just a fact. It’s still looming so largely that I can’t create a wall between this knowledge and the rest of my life.
My mom has told no one. Well, except her husband, right after I confronted her on the phone. My parents divorced very long ago, when I was much younger than our kids are now. I didn’t grow up with my stepfather—she met him when I was fully launched as an adult living a thousand miles away. He is a good man, has always been loving to me, and is always completely supportive of my mom. I’m sure that is helpful to her right now.
She plans to tell no one. She says she is “too private” to do so, and that part of the reason she never told me is that I talk about things publicly. “I thought you’d put it on Facebook or write a blog about it,” she said the night I told her I knew. Part of the reason she didn’t tell me, according to her, is that I would talk about it.
My dad (this will always mean the man who raised me) has told everyone in his life but he has only a couple of friends. Right away he told my stepsister—he seemed panicked and wanted her advice on what to do. There is no secret to keep, according to him, and even if there were, his world is quite small. Probably five people connected to him, including my stepsister and stepmom, know.
What I have learned is that people are waiting for me to get over this, or to return to normal. It’s not like I am a different person or talking only about this. But it is clear that no one in my family-I-grew-up-with has any idea how to go forward from here. They just want me to be the me who I was.
While I am still terribly off balance, I also feel so much more at ease now. A sort of relief. Something has shifted and things are in a better place. You must know me if you are here, so you understand that I am what can be labeled a “highly sensitive person.” As much as I hate that everything is titled now, it does help me to describe what it’s like to be in the world. Because of this, it’s improbable that I would get out of here without knowing this particular truth.
My mom wants to know what I think our future relationship will look like. I told her that I don’t know. I’m not punishing her. I am guarded, and as has often come up, embarrassed and deeply self-conscious. I cannot imagine disclosing much or being vulnerable around someone who’s held this huge piece of information from me. I understand how denial works, but I expect more from someone whose vocation was helping people work through their wounds, find emotional stability, and create better lives. [Here’s me, trying to just say something directly, as my friend LB will sometimes suggest that I try: My mom is a retired therapist, and it enrages me to think of the years she spent working on her ability to support other people while unintentionally damaging me.]
The recommendation then was to “take it to the grave,” as has been described in every article and discussion about donor conception. So I get this. She was keeping up her end of the deal.
But by the time I told her I knew, it’d been two weeks of her knowing that I knew—I was sharing this recent perplexing DNA stuff with her and my brother all along. It was more than a full-time job for me at that point—work was as busy as ever, so I had my own night shift leading up to me finally realizing the truth.
The simple facts that I sent to them, via text amid our daily sharing of Wordle screenshots, was a one-line (or one image) summary of something I puzzled in a nocturnal fugue.
She had two weeks to figure out how to best handle her part in this. To talk with my dad, the person with whom she made this decision, one of five people who knew about the arrangement. But she didn’t. I had to come to both of them with the irrefutable truth. She knew I knew but made me drag it all the way to the end. By the time I called her, I was no longer inside myself, but looming above my body. I have done this a handful of times before and now understand that this is something we do out of necessity, to save a part of ourselves.
This is what I was afraid about in telling my story as it unfolds—that it would quickly turn to feelings about specific people, to reasons I am angry. I don’t know that I can write much more publicly. I’d like to figure out a way forward because I think it is necessary.