Sunday, January 20, 2019

On Being Excluded, Rejected and Feeling Like Ugly Betty


Being excluded happens to us all at one point or another.  However, that doesn’t make it any less painful, just because it’s common.  

My 14 year-old daughter and I have been watching Ugly Betty on Netflix while hanging out in our house during the Level 2 snow emergency this weekend.  

Choosing a show that mom and daughter both approve of is a feat in and of itself.  I love the focus on Latin culture in New York City and she approves of the nuanced and well-developed characters. 

America Ferrera, who plays Betty-a first generation immigrant- is far from ugly; however, the show is all about family sticking together, being who we are and moving forward with confidence, despite repeated exclusions and rejections.  We are already in Season 2 and haven’t lost interest.

The show is a bit of an emotional support for something I recently experienced in my personal life.  I learned this week from a source that a close family member will be flying to another state to attend a milestone birthday party that my immediate family was not invited to.  

The last time I have seen this family was before my daughters’ birth.  Christmas cards, letters, birthday cards and emails have all come to a screeching hault over the last decade and a half.  But in fairness, my extended family on this side, has never been particularly close. 

The main form of communication has been through one particular gate-keeper relative who has all the latest information, which is then reported to other family members. 

I have told this particular gate-keeper that if the person they are gossiping about wanted me to know what was going on, they would call and tell me themselves (surprise! They haven't!).  This side of my extended family and my immediate family all live in different states; however, this family was my only connection as a child to cousins who I spent time with every summer of my childhood.

As adults, we have all gone our separate ways and I can count on one hand the number of times this family has come to Ohio in the last 35 years.  On the other hand, my family has made an effort to visit (or attempt a plan to visit) them in their home state on quite a few occasions.  

I recognized at some point that there had almost never been independent contact with my family (I define my family as contact with me, my husband or my children – one of whom is an adult).  In fact, our adult son has no memories whatsoever of this family because of this inherent distance (physical as well as psychological). 

So, I have been thinking back to the last time I felt excluded and what I did to make myself feel better . . . . which then brought me to the recognition that on some level I have always felt excluded. Just like Ugly Betty, I have been existing in a world where my kind is rarely understood and appears different to others.  

There is always the thought in the back of my mind that I am being excluded because I am adopted and do not share blood with my extended adoptive family.  By the same token, I am aware that I have been excluded from my birth family because we don’t have shared experiences. Add family dynamics, generational secrets, envy, inheritances, etc. into the mix, and this exclusion may have almost nothing to do with me (or you!) individually.

I have come to believe that being adopted comes with it a tendency to feel inherently excluded as part of the experience.  The reality is that we were at one time excluded. I was excluded when I was the only child in my birth mother’s family to be relinquished.  Exclusion happened on the day of my birth! 

Many adoptees are excluded from genealogy, their medical history, joining their Native American Tribes and from groups like the Daughters of the American Revolution. 

We can also experience exclusion and rejection from both our adoptive families and our birth families. Many of us feel we are straddling two families (adoptive and birth), never able to have both feet on either side.  These feelings of being on the outside can become stronger over the holidays or on anniversary dates (relinquishment, birth, adoption day, etc.)

What does this mean for us as adults? It means we may be more sensitive to perceived rejection and exclusion as a result, even when unintentional.  It means we have to be aware that when we are feeling excluded that self-care can be increased and may look like:

*allowing time to grieve the feelings (journaling, talking with a close nonjudgmental friend or family member, listening to music, doing something fun for yourself, etc.).  Reading this article helped me.

*focus on the people who do support you and are currently surrounding you.  As I type these words, my daughter is drawing on her Kindle in the chair next to me and my adult son Matt braved the dangerous roads and surprised my daughter and I with a visit (My husband escaped this winter wonderland and is visiting his sister in the south).  Matt does this regularly and today I am not taking it for granted.

*Remember you have your tribe.  If you are reading this blog, it’s likely you are part of an adoptee tribe.  Reach out to your support group, a support friend or if you truly have nobody to talk to, email me and I will be happy to get you plugged into this community.  Listen to an episode of Adoptees On if you want to get plugged in immediately.

*Reach out to somebody else who is “different” or may feel excluded at your workplace, house of worship, school, neighborhood or family.  

There is no better person for the job to help others feel included.

6 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thanks . . . having cribmates lessons the sting of exclusion!

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  2. Great advice here. I will have to look into this show. It's been on my "to-watch" list for a long time.

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  3. "I have come to believe that being adopted comes with it a tendency to feel inherently excluded as part of the experience. The reality is that we were at one time excluded. I was excluded when I was the only child in my birth mother’s family to be relinquished. Exclusion happened on the day of my birth!"

    Spot on, cribmate. I am constantly straddling families, never quite fitting in anywhere.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Elle! I think I finally just decided to accept that I will always feel this way!

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