My home

I grew up in a big house with an even bigger garden around it, surrounded by fields and trees. Though this might seem like the perfect house, it was old and unfinished. We didn’t have central heating, so I was always cold, particularly with a father who is very environmentally conscious (yeah, he has a good point, but still). It was always very dusty because of all the cracks and rifts. And especially spider-season was a real feast for me.

However, it was my home. I hated it and I loved it. I hated the cold damp winters, announced by those wonderful eight-legged buggers that showed up during weeks of grey rainy skies and diminishing hours of daylight. But then a few weeks of pure splendor came along to interrupt my winter blues and make room for twinkling cosiness during christmas. Next I got back into hibernation, waiting for that perfect moment when the first ray of sun arose to warm my face. Spring.
There was this scent. When it became warmer and sunnier, at dusk there was always this special scent on the second floor of our house. Whenever I walked up the stairs, that scent flourished with each step I took and filled up the whole space. I used to just go up there only to inhale that scent. Summer.

This magnificently weird place I grew up in, was my home for so many years, up until I was thirty and my parents sold the house during their divorce. Of course, at that time I didn’t actually live there anymore and moved out when I was twenty, but as I am highly attached to the places I lived in, it always felt like home.

A few weeks ago, I was driving through the village I grew up in with a friend and we stopped at the house. For a couple of minutes I stood in front of it and relived some of those precious moments that represent my childhood and though a new family lives there, creating there own memories, it will always be my first-ever home.

Having to leave my latest home was devastating and I didn’t get to replace that for a long time due to circumstances. However, a year ago I was able to get my act together and create my own new home. During the first months, I settled in quite easily and it just felt like a nice place I lived in, and that was it. But then there was this warm evening in April when I went upstairs and with each step I took, there it was: the scent. In an instant, my entire body chilled and warmed up at the same time, taking me back to those beautiful summers as a child and right there at the top of the stairs, my house became my home.

Jokes

As a brown-skinned adoptee, growing up in a small town gave me my fair share of racism and hurtful comments. For a long time, I thought this was normal and I tried to live with it.
Up until I went to school in my small town, many racist things were said and done, which hurt like hell, but I ignored my feelings about it. Then, when I was 14, I started art-school in Brussels and racism was replaced by funny comments, like casually being called a little cotton-picker. I went along with it and laughed, because they didn’t treat me badly and everyone else was laughing, so I didn’t see any harm in it. This atmosphere made me create my own coping-mechanism by trying to stay ahead and making these types of comments myself. For instance, when the dress-code for our next concert was black, I would say: “Well that’s convenient, I can show up naked on stage.”
Though this gave everyone a good laugh, I created an open door for similar comments on their part and this became my new normal.

Don’t get me wrong, it can be funny, but only under the right circumstances with the right people. When someone makes a joke like that in a group of my own trusted peers, it’s often hilarious, but in another environment it’s simply embarrassing and awkward. Then again, I created that open door, so I understand people not seeing the difference.

The most basic humor is making jokes at the expense of others. Think about the old slip over the banana peel. When someone falls, most of us will react by laughing as a natural response (hopefully followed by helping the person get up).
Not offending people has become a big thing. We have to be politically correct and we can’t say anything anymore without getting hit by a bunch of opinions and criticism.

I admire comedian, actor and writer Ricky Gervais endlessly for being the funniest man  alive with actual thorough, substantiated and logical arguments about humor and I’ve thought a lot about one simple phrase in his opening monologue at the 2020 Golden Globes: “Remember, they’re just jokes (…)”, while he’s warning the audience they will be having a laugh at their expense. When it comes to people criticizing jokes he also has a significant response that makes sense to me: “It’s not because you feel offended, that it actually is offensive.”
I agree we shouldn’t be taking everything too seriously and the old saying laughter is the best medicine is an important one. I think the problem for me occurs when the joke hits  my trauma. It seems only natural not to make jokes or laugh about obvious trauma. So maybe it’s because adoption and discrimination aren’t seen as traumatizing experiences and is that why people don’t know there are some boundaries to it? Though I agree with Ricky Gervais’ response about offensive jokes, I often think: “It’s not because someone doesn’t mean to be offensive, that it can’t feel offensive to the person they’re saying it to.”

I think people can mistake intent as a free pass to say or do anything, regardless of the result. Your good intentions, or lack of bad ones (big difference), don’t automatically clear the impact on someone else.

That being said, let’s not be tiptoeing around any subject with anyone because oh dear we might offend them. Let’s just live, laugh and die with a big smile, because life really is so much better with laughter as its best medicine.

 

My brother

Once again it’s been a long while since I was here. Honestly, I simply didn’t know what to write about. Sure, I could have written about my husband leaving me, my car breaking down, going to London to visit my friend, getting the most beautiful sweetest cats in the world, my sister breaking off all communication with me, going to France on holiday with my father and stepmom, buying a new couch, getting blocked on Facebook by my in-laws, going on a city trip to Latvia with my friend, having a fight with my neighbors about a tree in my garden, my teaching job going great at two awesome music schools, going grocery shopping, painting my hallway, etc.

More than enough has been going on these past few months. I’ve been through the good and the bad, I had fun, I had pain, I had more fun, I had less pain, … It’s just life to have all sorts of stuff mixed together into a lovely cocktail of experiences and feelings, and it often doesn’t make sense to me how it can all be so entangled at the same time. There’s no need to analyse it though and I just go with the flow, trying to enjoy things as much as I can, even if it’s something as simple as watching my amazing tree in my garden at sunrise.

While my mind is going over the past year, one special person pops up. He was right there by my side while I went through the worst moments, allowing me to cry, making me laugh through my tears, listening patiently and trying to give me advice, or just making me feel understood, supported and loved.
This friendship started a long time ago, when I was 15 and he was 18 and we studied music together in Brussels. He never treated me like a foreigner or an adoptee, but like a human being and that was a first for me. Though we both went our separate ways as we grew older, we always kept in touch and managed to maintain our close bond. Even when he moved abroad, the distance didn’t come between us. In fact, I think it brought us even closer together because we both made the effort to find other ways to stay in each other’s lives.

Some say nothing is stronger than blood and family. Others say friendship is stronger because your friends are there by choice. I don’t care about blood bonds and being biologically related, obviously, nor do I care about who is my BFF. I have a few relatives who stick by me no matter what, and some who don’t give a damn. I have a few friends who would die for me, and many who aren’t worthy of being called a friend. And don’t even get me started about my actual biological family.

I am so lucky to have a family comprising a variety of the most wonderful people who ever walked the planet, which makes nature or nurture irrelevant. That’s why I call this friend my brother. He is always there, he always has been, he always will be. That’s what family is about.

Thanks broer.

 

Myrddin

A while ago, I became part of a wonderful family. They are warm creative people and most of them are fellow musicians I admire endlessly.
I knew Myrddin was a guitarist, but never heard him play. Then one evening, we were having dinner together at his mother’s house and he got out his guitar and played for us. It was one of the most beautiful moments I had ever experienced in such a simple way. For them it’s pretty basic and happens daily, but for me, it was so special to see how this family has a deep bond with music as a big part of that.

Myrddin started writing a piece of music for string quartet and guitar. These past few months I heard him talk about working on it and I got very curious. I didn’t know what kind of music it would turn out to be or what to expect of the performance.

Yesterday I was teaching at school and was looking forward to his concert in the evening. It was a warm and sunny day and I went for a walk in the afternoon, enjoying the lovely weather. I ran into a friend and we got a drink out on a terrace.
Later on, I met up with my father, Myrddin’s mother and sister and we had a nice dinner together. As the sun was setting, we walked to the concert hall and were joined by many friends and family members while getting to our seats.
The lights went out and Myrddin walked on stage, followed by the other four musicians. He started playing and my heart skipped a beat. From the first note up until the very last one, I was amazed. It was breathtaking and moving. It was beautiful in its simplicity and exciting in its complexity.

This music was not only one of the most gorgeous things I have ever heard, their performance was so intimate as well as passionate, and stunningly professional as well as humble. I have seen many musicians and heard a lot of music, but this was something extraordinary.

So as a Saturday started out to be a regular day, it became a magnificent day of unexpected splendor that I am still reminiscing with a smile on my face.

Thank you Myrddin.

Two days

There’s this one day we all have. Every man and woman alive has this one day. It’s the day life began. And regardless of endless options in interpretation as well as execution, we all have it.
For some, it’s the most wonderful day of the year and celebrated extensively.
For others, it’s a day they wish they could skip and couldn’t be over fast enough.

My sister gathers all her friends for drinks and dinner. She passes along a list of optional presents to everyone many weeks ahead, making sure no one will forget her one day and she will be getting the gifts she prefers. Quite pragmatic I must say.

My friend stays home alone. He doesn’t want any attention, celebration or present. He quietly hopes his one day will be over soon, as to him, it’s too big a confrontation of loss and grief.

My cousin doesn’t make a big fuss about it. She expects no big gestures and is happy with anything that comes along on her one day. She enjoys being with her loved ones and having a nice time. So when surprises do appear, she’s over the moon about it.

So there we all are on our one special day, with indefinite ways of going through it, but no going around it. It’s there once a year, every year.

Some of us have an additional one day. Sometimes life didn’t really begin on that one commonly known day. In some cases, there’s another significant day and if you’re lucky, it’s even a better one.
For me, it was a special private day, acknowledged by love and devotion of the centerpiece in my life: my family. My mother, father and sister, and later on my husband. It was never brought to attention of many others and it never needed to be. There was only this raw core of what that day was about: the beginning of my actual life, which for me, didn’t begin at birth. This of course has its own particular grief and pain, but we chose the glass to be half full. Up until the moment it all changed and the glass got half empty.

Nonetheless, I still had half a glass, preferably containing champagne, so I got through it and each year I managed to keep expectations low so disappointment couldn’t be too big. But last year I hit a new low. I didn’t see it coming and it caught me off guard. And I’m still paying full price.

So this year, today, on my second one day, I’m wondering which is worse: the many times someone forgot, or this time when there’s no one left to forget.

The glass can be half full or half empty and even seem completely void. It might be blurry, cracked and ready for the trash, but it’s my glass. And it’s still there, just for me to fill. Preferably with champagne.

Marriage

My husband and I didn’t have any of the financial, tax-related or other theoretical reasons to get married: no children, joint ownership of our houses or anything like that. We got married simply out of love for each other. We wanted to spend the rest our life together and although a piece of paper doesn’t actually create that, we considered marrying as a beautiful way of confirming it to each other and to all our loved ones who were there to witness that unique moment.

Rituals and symbolic gestures are an important part of mankind. We celebrate life with a birthday cake, we step into adulthood with a graduation ceremony, we confirm love and devotion with a wedding, we morn death with a funeral, …

The both of us always put a lot of thought and consideration into rituals and important moments, so true to our nature, we wanted our wedding to be something extraordinary.

We had our wedding ceremony at a beautiful location in France under a big tree with an amazing view. A friend performed the ceremony in a lovely way combining emotion and humor, our niece wrote a touching poem, several of our friends prepared beautiful speeches, I sang a few songs and we shared our feelings and affirmations in our vows to each other.
Our rings were passed along every single guest as they all held it for a while, making a wish and transferring love and positive energy into these small little objects we were about to give each other to wear as a symbol of our love and devotion.

I am very serious about my vows.
For better or worse, in sickness and health, aren’t things I consider as empty words you simply repeat because it’s part of the deal. I meant it.

I didn’t get married for the party, the attention, the gifts or the benefits. I married a wonderful man because our connection exceeds all of that. Of course, it was fantastic having those things and we all had a blast. But that’s just the wedding.
Marriage is about the good ànd the bad. It’s about sharing a lot of fun and happiness, but also about knowing that life can give you grief, pain, problems, challenges and a lot of shit, but together, you can overcome all of it. It’s about knowing that there is one person that will never quit on you. It’s about knowing someone believes in you and supports you, no matter what.

This is not about being able to let go, being strong and independent, being your own person, setting boundaries, or anything like that. Important as those things are, marriage goes beyond that. It’s a choice, one you don’t make lightly, and more importantly: it’s a promise. And even if things get hard, you can count on the bond that marriage creates combining all the above.

Life will most certainly throw the inevitable challenges at you. But through all of those obstacles, there is always this special thing to guide you through it as you stand by your spouse. That thing is the glow. And that glow is the reason I married my one and only love and the reason I live by my vows.
It’s the glow that keeps me going, because even if it got reduced to a small little flame that is invisible to all but one, it sheds light on a dark only I can see. And for now, that’s all I need.

The greatest thing you’ll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return.

My happiness

Last time I was here, I was happy and had a beautiful life. Not everything was perfect of course, but I was happy. Just like that. Nothing more, nothing less.

I started this blog as a way to share my thoughts and feelings, to help myself to understand how and why certain things happen and how I handle it all, and to take my readers’ advice and support to heart.
In the beginning, it was mainly about my adoption and everything related to that: my fear of abandonment, my struggle after I visited my birth country, my pain after meeting my birth mother, coping with racism, and so on.

Meanwhile, I was experiencing a loving relationship and married the love of my life. He is my rock through it all and helped me to be a better person, and more importantly: a happy person. He stood by me while I was going through a lot of pain and together, we created a wonderful life filled with joy, happiness and laughter.
I love my job and though it’s a struggle to keep doing it, I’m still motivated and find satisfaction in teaching music. I love my friends and family and enjoy spending time with them.

The best part is being with the man I love. Sharing my life with someone who understands me, supports me, loves me for who I am and sees the real me, helped me to take everything to another level. Though problems, challenges and difficulties are always in my life, having him by my side is enough for me to always find the strength to get through it and not let it take me down again.
I managed to create a happy life because I face my issues and pain, I work on how I handle it and I see the good things in my life. This makes my happiness real, safe and secure, and my husband is a significant part of it.

I don’t need a fairy tale with birds singing and sun shining. I found my happiness in waking up next to my husband and seeing the face of the man I love, in starting the day cuddling our cats and making pancakes for him, in looking forward to tell him all about my day, in coming home and cooking a nice dinner and sharing stories about our day, in falling asleep in his arms with our cats next to us in bed.
Like we all hear people say: it’s the small things that matter. And that is so true. The big things are nice to experience occasionally, but the small things are what makes it all worth our while and what truly creates happiness, devotion and love.

I wake up alone and don’t see his face anymore, I start the day without seeing our cats and without making us breakfast, I have no home anymore to go to after work, I eat dinner alone, I fall asleep alone.

I’m in pain.

My Love

Like many of us, I had my fair share of painful experiences with men. They were all very different and unique, but had one thing in common: they hurt me. They never treated me with respect and made me feel worthless. And I let them. I always gave them the benefit of the doubt, desperately trying to see something that wasn’t there. Because if this guy doesn’t love me, then who will?

I got out of a relationship after seven years and felt relieved. I was finally free from this daily life of sadomasochism. Free from someone who was incapable of real love and devotion. I thought I was giving myself a chance by leaving him, but got myself into something even worse: an affair. I never saw it coming, but there I was and somehow I managed to end up in a life filled with lies, deceit and pain.
Fortunately, I got myself out of this situation after about a year and of course, this was the best choice. A choice which made me lose some mutual friends. Friends who had known about the affair all along, but decided to take sides and reject me. But this was a good thing. I realized how those people were never sincere and therefor they weren’t real friends.

After the affair, I had a few shorter relationships. They didn’t love me either, maybe on a certain level or in their own twisted way, but never in the way I needed to be loved.
So surprise surprise: I was getting very good at picking the wrong guys. But I started realizing it and seeing how I created a pattern of choosing men that would either hurt me, treat me like shit or abandon me. Or a combination of these options. None of which would ever end up in someone truly loving me and choosing me.

After the last disastrous attempt, I was alone for a year and focused on myself. And like magic, good people started showing up. I was rediscovering myself and learning about my needs, goals and ambition. For the first time in my life, I was being true to myself and stopped playing the role of the person I thought others wanted me to be.

And then suddenly, there was this very handsome great guy who was interested in me. He seemed genuine and honest, but I was careful and didn’t want to end up getting hurt again. But he stuck around and turned out to be the love of my life. We had our ups and downs, we had our demons to fight, but we fought them together. As a strong team that’s only getting stronger by the minute. He understands me, he accepts me, he loves me.
I still can’t believe how I have found such an amazing man. I feel blessed and have to pinch myself sometimes to know this is not a dream.
We’ve managed to make each other stronger. Ones weakness is the other ones strength and we learnt how this makes us complete each other. We are individuals as well as a harmonious entirety, connected by true love and devotion, which creates a powerful bond that can’t be broken. This is not an effortless relationship and we keep working on it. We created a solid foundation and the result is a pure love I never thought I would experience.

This is real. Our love is real. We are real.

Thank you my love for loving me.

 

How One Person Can Make Me Smile

I have attended meetings, brainstorm sessions, studies, etc. regarding adoption. These occasions always start out to be something I look forward to, something that gives me hope for a change and I have a chance to be part of that change.
But afterwards, I tend to feel strange. The people organizing these things are always very kind, compassionate and respectful towards our feelings, experiences, thoughts and advice. They are professors, scientists, social workers, psychologists,… Professionals who really see the problem and try to do something about it.
But I rarely see an actual change. It’s like their work and effort to include everyone involved with adoption and listen to them to gather solid information, is not taken seriously. It makes me think their reports are just stacked on a pile labeled ‘Things To Ignore’.

This could make me lose hope and forget the whole thing. Well, guess again. It makes me, and other adoptees I’ve had contact with, become even more determined to keep fighting. We have a voice and will not stop trying to be heard. Being stubborn comes in handy sometimes.
But I’m also a person who doesn’t want to say things only I feel and generalize them just for the sake of it. I want to know how others feel, how they see it, how they experience it. A great tool for that are the many Facebook groups, Twitter accounts and blogs where a large adoption community is sharing it all.

So there I am, browsing through the wonderful wide web and suddenly, I see an article about adoption. I see it’s from the website of a newspaper and think: ‘Oh great, another article of someone who doesn’t understand the problem and will speak about adoption like it’s a great charitable thing.’
‘Hey, give this man a chance and read it, before you go and get all bias on him!’, my little voice inside says that wants to keep me from getting bitter and prejudiced.
I read the article and feel the smile on my face, the tears in my eyes, the warmth in my heart. I’m sorry for my English readers the article is in Dutch, but roughly translated: This man is awesome! He totally gets it and talks about it in such a clear and rational way.

In just a few paragraphs, he succeeds in clarifying interracial adoption and the influence, issues and emotions connected to it. There is not a single word that doesn’t make sense or raise questions. Everything is solid information, verbalized in a respectful and objective way.

I often regret people either needing to hear this from a thousand others to believe what I’m trying to say, or from a professional. Yet, I understand it’s hard to see the words of someone who is emotionally involved and we are inclined to tone down such words, because the emotions appear to cloud our judgement. So it’s a great endeavor in a very delicate topic. A topic we know so little about, but is strangled in the lives of so many.

I can’t begin to describe how wonderful I felt reading his words and thank him for writing it, for trying to make a change and for listening to the ones involved.
This gives me hope and courage to keep up my work and effort to make a change, to be heard and to also hear others. Because that’s the key to it all: Listen.

Reading over my current blogpost and talking about it with my chief-editor, aka my boyfriend, I realize I won’t be winning a Pulitzer on this one. But what the heck, my only purpose right now is for you guys to read his article.
And for those who aren’t Dutch speaking: class starts at 6 a.m. at my place.

Chicka Massala

A few months ago, we had some relatives over for dinner at our place. We made things easy by ordering Indian curry take away, got comfortable on the couch and had a cozy dinner.

I started talking about the chicken tikka massala. I remember eating it with my sister when we went to Sri Lanka together. We were there for two weeks, organized the meeting with my birth mother and traveled around the country. Of course, this was not a trip to Disneyland, but a very emotional journey. Nevertheless, we tried to enjoy being in this beautiful part of Asia and did have some fun.

Eating was a big part of that. But also quite the challenge. My sister loves spicy hot food, while I can’t stand it. I love the taste, but the heat is so overwhelming and I never got used to it. And obviously, the Sri Lankan cuisine is not a mild one. So my sister had a blast eating spicy food, I stuffed myself at the continental breakfast and tried to make it through the day with some sweet biscuits. I was a good girl though and tasted everything my sister ate. No need to explain that resulted in some hilarious moments.
One evening we went to an Indian restaurant. We ordered chicken tikka massala and I was in heaven. Finally something with great taste, but no heat. My sister, adopted from India, was very happy to see that the only dish I could bear, was an Indian one.

So when I eat chicken tikka massala, I relive this moment and talk about it, like I did that night. Unfortunately, that creates an open door for questions about my adoption and my roots search. And the questions came out. I didn’t want to talk about it, we were having such a great time and that wasn’t the time nor place to get into something personal and painful.

I regret that this happens so easily. It’s always around the corner, waiting for its moment to jump out. I have no problem talking to my peers about it, but all in the right place and time. I want to be able to talk about Sri Lanka and my trip, without the conversation inevitably switching to the painful part of it. I don’t resent people for not knowing the subject is emotionally loaded and understand they are just taking an intrest in my life. But it saddens me that those questions pop up at times that aren’t right.

Last night, we had a dinner party with four friends. We wanted to create that same cozy atmosphere and decided to make chicken tikka massala. There we were, the six of us around the buffet and I immediately got compliments on how lovely it looked and how great it smelled. Of course, we already had some drinks before dinner and slightly tipsy, the main dish was renamed ‘chicka massala’.

We were talking about food, relationships, summer, … the usual. One couple told us they were planning a trip to Sri Lanka in december. I loved hearing that and got enthusiastic right away. Meanwhile, my boyfriend and I were getting anxious about that thing behind the corner. But what a surprise: nothing happened. The conversation wasn’t turned around into my adoption. I was so happy to be able to describe Sri Lanka and some of my experiences, without that part being brought up.
I don’t know if they were aware of it and I don’t care. Because for the first time in three years, I got to talk about what I wanted regarding my trip, without having to relive the painful side of it. I simply love them for that. It might seem like just a small thing, but it means the world to me.