“Anger is more useful than despair.”

Quite a few years ago, I gave up on NOT sleeping with the TV on all night.

I use to make a huge point of taking the “I-have-no-function-but-for-the-sleep-timer” controller, and using the sleep timer, since Rye HAD to have the TV on to sleep, but I hated to wake up at 3 am to an infomercial. Eventually, I lost both the battle, the clicker and lost the light sleeping that woke me up. Or perhaps I stopped caring?

I will admit that I have been fascinated by the Steambuggy at 4am. And I rented the carpet doctor based on the information drilled in my half asleepness.

But that’s not the point! Last night( or like last week because it has taken me forever to finish this post), we decided by mutual agreement that Terminator 3 was good, comforting “going to sleep” TVness.

There are definite criteria that is used to qualify something as sleep worthy. It can’t be too interesting, or else you might get hooked and stay up. Sitcoms don’t usually work unless you know of and both approve of the next several shows after that initial half hour. Hearing the Jefferson’s theme song WILL wake me up from a nice doze and I WILL located the clicker in the dark and I WILL change the channel. I can’t deal with loud, big fighting or suspense..unless it IS low enough on the volume end, but that’s usually not the case if Rye is watching. He can’t deal with lifetime or girlie crap and requests that the channel not become an infomercial by 4am. That’s a new one, I think, in response to my penchant for the History Channel or NatGeo (as they call it now). Funny how I find ancient dead folks, usually Egyptian, Bible stuff, and Huge Earth Ending Natural Disasters to be sleep inducing, but I do. I think he’s bored of it. Lately we have been digging on HBO for the “no infomercial” factor, though I can also get down with Sports Center as football totally hypnotises me…like a triple shot of Ambian, I am down for the count. Blues Clues has that effect om me too, but only Steve, not Joe. I miss Joe.

So back to last night, though Term3 is violent and full of suspense and explosions, once you have see a movie a million times..it’s comforting in a way. Granted, out of all the Terminators, I would say I know 2 the best, and all that time travel bit makes my head spin, but if you stop thinking that now he runs California, Arnie’s voice is kind of like a lullaby. So, we deam it sleep worthy, and I use my good arm to arrange my half good arm, get all cozy, and close my eyes. And right before I drifted off, I heard my new favorite quote:

“Anger is more useful than despair.”

I don’t know why Arnie said it. I don’t care. I was half asleep and made a point of telling myself to remember it. I almost forgot too and had to look it up right now, but wow..how very accurate.

Let’s say it again: “Anger is more useful than despair.”

Being separated from ones child through Adoption…I don’t care who you are or what experience you had, what “journey”, there are only so many reactions, or conflicting reactions that a woman can have.

Maybe that’s wrong of me. Maybe that makes me judgemental or close minded. Maybe I have become a stogy know it all beeotch. But you are gonna really have to pull my chain hard to convince me that you are really happy about your child’s adoption. That’s all there is.

I can get it that you think or thought it best. So did I.
I can get that you feel or felt it necessary. So did I.
I can dig that you believe or believed that it was a good thing. Me too.
I can understand how you feel or felt that it was your choosing, your decision. Here too.
I can recall an odd feeling of relief in just knowing there was a plan, that I had an out, a do-over, something to honorly exempt me. Ha.
I remember what it was like to want to please my “friends” at the agency. That I thought they cared. So I know that you did, or do, or so want to believe them.
I even know what it is to feel that there is no way out…other than through.
I know we are suppose to “look on the bright side”, “remember the joy that you gave (puke)” or “how happy they all are”, and NOT dwell on the negative.
Look, I heard the pep talk,
I dug the pep talk,
I repeated the pep talk and I have even rah rah’d it to my horror.

But…… No matter how much we think what we thought or even still think…you know you’re not happy.

Anything but happy really.

We can be Peaceful. Content. Pleased with the outcome. Experiencing Acceptance. Not Regretful.

Those are the more commonly accepted adjectives promoted by the adoption industry to describe the relinquishing experience. Makes it sound like surrendering a child is less painful than the average root canal.

But, still, no one really can admit that they are happy… coz then you would be instantly labeled as a cold hearted shrew, a cruel vile wrench and some repeat version of blame harnessing whore.

Lets face it..you give up your flesh and blood to complete strangers because you are too screwed up in some fashion to get it together enough to pull it off, you damn better not have the nerve to try to be happy.

And that’s NOT ME saying that…that’s a HUGE population of our society that really feels that way.

So if you are hurt to hear that harshness, well then you better toughen up, coz wearing this label is no cake walk…after over 20 years of living with this title, I know what John Q Public thinks about our great act of sacrifice.

Most people usually have some vision of the relinquishing mother as either deserving of her bad fate or happy to be relieved of the burden of her child…thankful and grateful to the agencies and adoptive parents who did our jobs for us. Again, not me saying that. So even the terminal clueless ones, they know we are obviously not happy.

We can be Peaceful. Content. Pleased with the outcome. Experiencing Acceptance. Not Regretful.

I think we can, often, very, very successfully really believe that we are Peaceful, Content, Pleased with the Outcome, Experiencing Acceptance or Not Regretful.

I think that we can really, really think it so to some degree, but in some odd way…it’s a denial. And I hate saying that. I really, really do, but that’s just not all you can feel. Not all. Because if you had all THAT: Peace, Contentment, Pleasenessm acceptance, and dare we say.. satisfied. And you had none of the bad stuff, well, then, …you would be happy.

But no one, I believe, can really come through this adoption crap unscathed.

You got to throw in some description of a 2am drunken crying jag. Or, damn I hate my burnt out memory coz I can’t recall who wrote this description..and it was like Suz or Barb or Jenna….., you got to throw in the “twenty minute deep soul sobbing on the kitchen floor”.
You got to give equal weight to the endless wonderment about a whole lifetime lost or just those moments when you stare at the moon and think:

“Maybe he is seeing that same moon now, over the same dark sky, and thinking about me?”

You just can’t ever convince me that anyone who really, really thinks this whole surrender a child thing is a picnic on the grass. Not once you actually begin to live through it. Not if you really, really look and allow yourself to feel what is not in your life.
I don’t care.
Even if you tell me that it was the best thing EVA and you would not change a thing, you can’t convince me that it still didn’t SUCK bigtime!
And you can try and tell me that your cousins-sisters-bestfriends-coworkers-daughters-sisters-mothers-boss’s adopted babies birth mother was totally ok with the whole thing ad you know coz you saw her and you really talked with her, and you might think she tells you everything.

But I betcha she don’t tell you about the 20 minutes on the cold kitchen floor.

No matter who your cousin might be. We keep those kitchen floor moments for ourselves. It’s personal..you know? But we all got those moments. I know we all do. Maybe some Mommas can’t or don’t admit it yet. Maybe they cannot. Maybe they are, just like so many of us, just trying to survive and breathe though another day, but even if we keep our pain cloistered to the most private moments of our existence, I know those times are there.

So I figure, mixed in with all that conflicting Peace, Contentment, and Acceptance, there would be a dose of Bitterness, and Regret.

I know we touch raw grief, sadness, with varying degrees of melancholy. There is survival induced denial and hyped phobia with anxiety. There is despair. And there is anger. We have no one to guide us, but each other. To understand where we have come from, to know where we are going next, to tell us what is expected, to remind each other that what we feel is normal, that we are not alone. And it’s hard, it’s real hard.

It really sucks to have to be the one to try to kindly inform a newer mom that,”Noooo, sorry, but, it’s never really over..”

I really do hate using the word denial..there is something very insulting to me about it, but there is a truth there too. I have lived it and seen it too many times. We all seem to describe the experience in similar terms…waking up, thawing out, unfrozen, coming into the light, knowing the truth, finding, the Matrix, the blue pill…in all cases, there is some sort of reference as to changing, becoming more aware..and that does ease nicely into denial theory.

Plus, at this moment, it serves as a nice catch all for this false sense of happy. So that’s my disclaimer for liberal usage of denial, but whatever you choose to call it, I think you know it when you get OUT of whatever it is that we are in. And it’s there.

And again, at the risk of coming across as a terrible judgemental ass, I have to admit it that I really do believe that if you give a mom enough time to live with her loss and the opportunity o really explore the truth of it…she’s going to eventually admit that it sucks. I know that might be terribly unpopular for some, but I have to be honest..I believe eventually we will all (98% to be exact)eventually declare that relinquishment sucks donkeybuttocks.

Now once you get to that wonderful point where all that Peaceful, Content, somewhat Pleased, Accepted, Not all that Regretful stuff gets clouded with these conflicting feelings of pain, anger, despair, betrayal, grief, loss, etc, etc, etc.

Often the new icky feelings are much stronger, much scarier, and tons more powerful than the mild manner bland crap that got you through the night…you are pretty much screwed.

I hate to be blunt like that, but there you are. You’re screwed.

Coz chances are that the mild manner bland crap bounced around in your little mind for years, wasting your time, and that baby of yours is long gone. Granted it would have been way more useful to have this great surge of emotion when you could have actually done something to change your lot in life, but now that’s just crying over split milk. Can’t do nothing to change the past and all…

So nowhere you are. Years too late, separated from your child, feeling misunderstood by most of the world, screwed by situations, taken advantage of by a rotten industry and just plain pissed off. There’s lots of anger there for sure.. as their should be. And lots of hurt there too. And the despair..as there is nothing you can do to change it.

Or is there? As Arnie said, the Anger is more useful. The anger becomes fuel. The anger you can use. And it can be harnessed. Used.

I just love that quote.

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About the Author

Claudia Corrigan DArcy
Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy has been online and involved in the adoption community since early in 2001. Blogging since 2005, her website Musings of the Lame has become a much needed road map for many mothers who relinquished, adoptees who long to be heard, and adoptive parents who seek understanding. She is also an activist and avid supporter of Adoptee Rights and fights for nationwide birth certificate access for all adoptees with the Adoptee Rights Coalition. Besides here on Musings of the Lame, her writings on adoption issue have been published in The New York Times, BlogHer, Divine Caroline, Adoption Today Magazine, Adoption Constellation Magazine, Adopt-a-tude.com, Lost Mothers, Grown in my Heart, Adoption Voice Magazine, and many others. She has been interviewed by Dan Rather, Montel Williams and appeared on Huffington Post regarding adoption as well as presented at various adoption conferences, other radio and print interviews over the years. She resides in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband, Rye, children, and various pets.

9 Comments on "“Anger is more useful than despair.”"

  1. Love this post, gf. As always, completely agree.

    And I think that quote is Jenna’s. I could be wrong. Though I have had my own crying jags enough and carry on about them enough you could easily confuse me with it.

    And a similar quote (from a different) angle, that I use, often, is from Warren Haynes.

    “Wisdom comes from despair”

    People often tell me I am so wise and thoughtful and shit.

    All my wisdom is rooted in a tremendous amount of dispair. I can wallow in it or I can do something about it.

    I choose the latter.

  2. lol….I worked with this woman a few years ago and she knew my story…anyhoo..she used to say someting along the lines of all this crap builds “character”.

    I use to say “But Pam, have enough charcter!!”…

  3. I just try to live with it…not happy, but also not terribly angry about it either, but i do strive to live with it, integrate into who I am, learn from it and always, always remember. That’s what I can recall from my first moments of saying goodbye to my son was I never wanted to forget anything, any of it, anyone. I’ve had the crying jags, but they’ve also been mingled with adoptee loss, aparent loss, loss in general…when you have the mixed bag, it’s hard to assign the feelings to just one thing over another. But happy, no, never happy…and I don’t believe anyone who uses that word related to placing a child…

  4. Good post, but we don’t have to stop at anger and stay there forever. even if it is better than despair. Beyond despair and beyond anger is acceptance, which is neither happiness nor denial. I do not think that acceptance is the same as happiness, an emotion never connected to surrender in any version I have heard.

    All the “stages of grief” writings teach that the final stage is acceptance, and intergating the loss into our lives, and I have found it to be true in my own life. Not “acceptance” in the sense of thinking that giving up my child was a good thing, or a necessary thing,or that it worked out well for either of us, but just seeing that it is what it is, and nobody can go back and change it. Acceptance is moving on from where we are now, and seeking what happiness there is in the present and in reunion, no matter what happened in the past. I do not think that is denial. I think it is facing reality and trying to live life in all of its complex sadness and joy.

    Our anger as surrendering mothers is more than justified, and can be a motivator out of depression into action, but staying in anger and blind rage forever just turns to bitterness and turns all the beauty in the rest of our lives to ashes. It is a stage we have to go through, but it is not the end of the journey.

    We can have personal hope, peace, even redemption, and we can work together compassionately for change for the future without continuing to stoke the fires of anger as the only meaning in life. Anger or despair are not the only two emotions open to us forever. Getting stuck in either one corrodes the soul, if one stays there too long.

  5. Great post. Despair leaves nothing to work with. And in reunion, anger can usually be dealt with, but despair will always leave you hanging by a thread.
    Btw, I needed to have a good laugh today from the first of your posts. Thanks!

  6. ” We all seem to describe the experience in similar terms…waking up, thawing out, unfrozen, coming into the light, knowing the truth, finding, the Matrix, the blue pill…in all cases, there is some sort of reference as to changing, becoming more aware..and that does ease nicely into denial theory.”

    I don’t think it’s safe or fair to assume that “we all” react similarly, even to similar situations. Because the devil’s always in the details.
    It’s too easy, too comfortable, and it too fits into denial theory rather neatly.

    “Anger is more useful than despair.”
    What would a cyborg know of “anger” or “despair” anyway? It has no emotions, other than those that have been programmed into its database. And they are inauthentic, having been put there so that the Terminator can do the job it has been instructed to do by those who created it.
    Hence “useful”.

    My feeling is that anger may be OK for a jump-start but while it delivers an initial adrenaline rush that feels ’empowering’, I (me myself personally) don’t think it’s something to be encouraged as a regular ‘fuel’ because it often leads to a desire for revenge, especially among those who are angry by nature.

    Indignation, on the other hand, IS useful, because it implies a desire to fight injustice and right wrongs, (rather than to wreak vengeance on those individuals who are percieved as having caused the insult). It’s not *personal* in the same way.
    Just a matter of semantics, I suppose.
    But important.


  7. Dear Writer and guests
    This is the first time I have written to any adoption blog or site because this time, I laughed.
    When you wrote about becoming stippers, meth addicts etc. I burst out in laughter which surprised the hell out of me.
    I have so much anger, such an incredible volume of it that the despair and sadness take a back seat to it, over my son. I have only just starting dealing with the relinquish process even thounhg it happened in 86. I am surprised at the anger and the decete and furious with my father for being dead and not able to tell me why he did not fight to keep my son, his grandchild. Who btw has his hands, arms, voice and feet. Yes I ahve been reunited with my son which is what popped the cork on the deeply sublimated grief that is now a volcano of anger.
    But throuhg all the blogs and stories about being jerked around by adoption agency workers, i had forgotten the shit about my inevitable – freaking INEVITABLE decent into becoming a stipper or hooker as the ONLY thing I would be able to do as a single mother.
    LOL laughed my ass off.
    I had forgotten.
    So much has been buried, there is so much blackness and time I cannot remember but it seems it is down there after all.
    thank you thank you for once, making laugh at the ludacrise crap they told us, and what seems to be a positive little cheerleader in side me who knows I am not a stipper, not a hooker and that I have overcome so much more than those manipulative adoption workers said I would ever endure.
    I think you are pretty cool and I like your blog. I may write more but for now Ihave to keep reading and keep weeding out the bitter growth and mkae room for the joy my child gives me. thanks for sharing.

  8. Oh.. I think you should write more! What you s=just said was so powerful, so elquent, so truthful and raw.. and I do have to say; it does help getting all that crap OUT! It might not really casue the big act of terrible revenge that the idiots at the agencies are rightfull due for separating us from our children, but I do strongly feel that we are like a river a tears.. slowly wearing away even the hardest of rocks in our paths.
    Thank you for sharing that you laughed…we all desearve to laugh! Too much of our joy was stolen from us.. grab it back where you can!

  9. what did I do wrong I gave my daughter up for adoption when she was 4 months old, I have suffered since 1979, I searched and found her, she is in her 30’s now, she is not ready to see me, I’m devastated, and baffled,

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