Earth Day, Mother’s Day and My Adoptee Epiphany

Today is Earth Day, and Mother’s Day is right around the corner. What does each of these days mean to me, being an adult adoptee? 

Let me back things up a bit and explain what my experience was like with my earthly mothers.

My first chance at a mother did not want to mother me.

My biological mother didn’t want me, so she passed me over to strangers. After a lifetime of searching for her, dreaming, and wishing we would cross paths one day, my one true dream of finding her and having a relationship with her was shattered all over the ground. We met one time briefly in 1995, and that was the last time I ever saw her. What felt like a cold-hearted rejection was her not being able to navigate the pain of her decision and hearing how my life turned out. The better life promised wasn’t better at all. Only different. She felt a deep sadness over learning this reality.

That didn’t change how this rejection has made me feel and the truth that it’s impacted every area of my life. She abandoned me not once but twice. The ultimate betrayal from my biological mother has been the most significant wound I have ever carried, even compared to what other people would consider major traumatic events.

This deep mother wound and disappointment has been impossible to shake, and it will be with me for life. I’ve accepted the pain was here to stay, and that was one of the most healing things I have done for myself. Nothing on earth and no amount of pain I have ever felt compares to this wound. She died in 2010, and I hadn’t had contact with her in over 25 years.

It’s deep. It’s raw. It hurts.

My second chance at a mother could not mother me.

My adoptive mother wanted to be a mother so bad, but the reality was she was so mentally ill, she couldn’t parent me. Instead, I suffered greatly because of her mental health issues. She should have never been allowed to adopt a child, let alone two. My adoptive dad divorced her when I was one years old, and knowing she couldn’t care for us be left and moved over an hour away to remarry, and raise three stepsons as his own. My childhood in my adoptive parent’s homes was filled with traumatic experiences that have impacted every area of my life. I’ve spent years recovering from these experiences and a lifetime of seeing how things shouldn’t be. I never bonded with my adoptive mom, and I despise the facts that I was forced to pretend she was my mother.

The lengths of trauma I experienced in these homes have riddled me with anxiety, fear, and the loss of what so many of us deserve and need, and that’s an opportunity at decent mother and a safe place to live. I didn’t need perfect. I didn’t need a big house, fancy cars, and all the material things money could buy.

I just needed one halfway normal, decent mother.

She was suicidal, manic-depressive, and had severe issues that stemmed back to her childhood. She tried to commit suicide by lying in the street, and she would consistently lock herself in her room and take all her pills and the phone with her letting us know as children she’s about to end her life. We would bang outside her bedroom door, for hours begging her not to die.

She was hurting, and instead of work on her hurt, she adopted two daughters to take care of her. Her main goal was to have two daughters to care for her so she wouldn’t have to go to a nursing home. How do I know? Because back to my early childhood, she talked about not wanting to go to a nursing home, more than she talked about just about anything. Because of the toxicity she brought to my life and because she would not abide by common courtesy boundaries I tried to put into play, we were estranged for several years before she died. I don’t regret choosing to separate, as my recovery and being alive depended on it. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t hard. It was the hardest decision I have ever had to make.

I am sad I had to make such a decision but I did it for myself and my kids.

My third chance at a mother figure, I call my Step Monster.

My adoptive stepmother is no one I consider a mother. She has protected her pedophile son over believing me for 46 years. She has turned a blind eye and has chosen to defend him repeatedly. I won’t go into all the details, but she has never been and never will be anyone I consider a mother figure. We have never been close or had a relationship. For my peace of mind, after being ignored for 46 years about the pain her son has caused me and countless others, I have had to sever ties with her too.

Three chances in the mother area, and I struck out.

Every.

Single.

Time.

While my heartache as a child and teenager is hard to put into words, my experiences in my adoptive home and the abandonment from my birth mother lead me to some dark places. I spent most of my juvenile life as a runaway and locked up in detention, drug and alcohol rehab, and group homes for most of my teen years. I was hurting and hurt people hurt people.

Mother’s Day has always been painful for me as it is for so many people, adopted or not. Some people are sad at the loss of a mother they spent a lifetime getting to know, where they have thousands of memories to hang onto forever. Pictures to reminisce and remember. I get sad because I didn’t get that, and there are no memories to hang on to, to keep forever. I have emptiness, sadness, and abandonment issues that continue to revisit me. Processing grief & loss are going to be with me for life.

I’ve accepted it.

I’ve also accepted these were the cards I was dealt. For the last 11 years, I have been on a healing journey. If you read back over my website, you can see the changes and growth that have transpired over the years. In that time, you will see that nature is something I gravitate towards, and if you follow any of my social media, you will see waterfalls and Mother Nature have a considerable space in my life.

You see, nature, aka Mother Nature, has been a sacred space for me since my early childhood, growing up in the country in Iowa. Inside any of the homes, I was in was chaos and trauma. So outside, running wild in the forest was the only freedom I had as a child. It was healing for me, and it was an escape. It was one of my first loves, along with the sky. Read “The Sky & I” to learn more about my tie to the sky.

As I circle back around and will soon be celebrating nine years of living a life free from alcohol, I’ve been reacquainted with my first love, Mother Nature. Of all the areas I’ve been incorporating into my life for self-care reasons, nature has always been the only one always to be dependable and always there. It wasn’t my birth mother, or my adopted mother, or my step monster.

It was and is MOTHER NATURE.

Bucket list Adventure, Pine Island Double Falls – Daniel Boone National Forest, Kentucky

As Earth Day is here and Mother’s Day is to follow, I am making a conscious choice to redirect myself to focus on the mother who’s always been there – Mother Earth.

As I discover who I am, I have found joy in adventures in the Kentucky forest by chasing and finding waterfalls. Kentucky is filled with over 700 waterfalls, and exploring nature and taking as many people as I can is one of the most powerful healing tools I have yet to find. Trust me when I tell you, I have tried it all. Between 27 years of alcohol dependency, church hopping, religion, other people, places, and things, nothing has provided me with what mother nature has.

Many aren’t aware, but there are healing dynamics to being close to, in, or near bodies of water. I always felt it, but I never knew it was an actual thing. I have a friend and fellow adoptee in recovery named David B. Bohl, and David is an advocate of BLUE MIND.

Q. What is Blue Mind?

A. Blue Mind: A mildly meditative state characterized by calm, peace, unity, and a sense of general happiness and satisfaction with life in the moment.

It’s also described in the book Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do

David shares, “As many of you know, I am a student of Blue Mind science, an advocate for Blue Mind methods, and a practitioner of Blue Mind daily living techniques.  There is no doubt in my mind and experience that proximity to, and engagement in, water provides physical health, mental health, and spiritual/relational benefits that have been scientifically identified – and are essential in today’s stressful world.”

Please check out David’s full article here – Blue Mind and Addiction Recovery

Coming to know David as a friend and fellow adoptee in recovery, we have discovered that we have many things in common, but our love for being near water is one of them. David shares online his outdoor trips in and near water, and I do as well. Mine are usually running off into the forest to chase waterfalls all over the state of Kentucky. We aren’t too far from our next adventure close to a body of water, whatever we are doing. Thank you, David for your continued inspiration over the years!

Surprisingly, after reading the beginning of the Blue Mind book from David’s recommendation, I learned that the author of Blue Mind, Wallace J. Nichols is also an adoptee. I will not lie; something about that shook me up! I had no idea he was an adoptee, but I was so excited to now know of 3 adoptees who have found the healing and therapeutic benefits of being close to water. I can’t wait to read the rest of his amazing book! I’m sure there are many more adoptees who find healing around bodies of water.

While 2021 is moving swiftly and Earth Day is here, I’ve been thinking of ways to connect to Mother Earth and give back to her and to give to others in the process. I can reflect on my childhood up to my current days. I no longer drink alcohol to cope with adoptee pain, and I celebrate nine years of sobriety in August 2021.  This is a massive milestone for me, especially finding both birth parents and learning they are both alcoholics.

One of the things I’ve learned about recovery is that you need to replace it with something else when you remove something. My connection to mother nature has become exceptionally strong in the last nine years. I consider my nature adventures as one of the most effective self-care practices I have yet to discover.

While I think of all Mother Nature is to me, and how she’s been there over my earthly mothers, and she’s never let me down, I get emotional. My truth that no one can come between that connection or take it away is something I think about a lot. Even back to my childhood, she’s been there for me and continues to be there. I call it wilderness wellness, and it’s FREE.

Top of the falls, ya’ll.

I like to combine my mother nature adventures with not only seeking waterfalls, but getting wet and dirty and not thinking twice about it. I think many times we’re groomed from childhood to not get wet or dirty. I see countless people never want to get their feet wet, or get dirty and it pains me to see. Water and dirt have never hurt anyone. Take your shoes and socks off, get in the water and get dirty. I promise you, you won’t regret allowing yourself to be free in this way.

It could mean putting your bare feet in the grass (grounding) or taking a walk outside at your closest park. One of my main goals in life is to encourage people to seek wilderness wellness in their backyards because we all have endless adventures in our state, and most of the time, they are free. You might need a tank of gas and a few snacks. My discovery of how Mother Nature fills me up has been rejuvenating to my mind, body, and spirit in many ways. My adventures are a combination of forest bathing, hiking, nature play, blue mind, grounding, walking, and doing everything in my power to be a kid again. I feel like I’ve been searching for home my entire life, and finding Mother Nature has brought me back home.

As Mother’s Day can be perplexing for adopted people at best, I have decided I’m going to honor Mother Nature for Mother’s Day moving forward. I’m a firm believer that we can all write our stories to suit what fits us the best. Focusing on the mothers that failed me is agonizing. I believe each Mother’s Day will still feel a sense of sadness when it comes to them, and I’ve accepted I always will. I will save space for processing that pain; however I need to process it.

I want to try to shift my focus on how much Mother Nature has done for me and Earth Day – today is HER DAY. I wanted to write this article dedicated to her, to share how much she means to me. It’s not all about what she does for me, but what can I do for her? I salute HER and will do all I can to take care of her moving forward.

I’m not sure where you are with your healing routine and your self-care regimen, but I encourage you to add some wilderness wellness to your self-care toolbox and share it with your friends & family. I love taking elderly people to nature because they are a population that is lacking that resource due to mobility limitations and many other roadblocks.

For me, when so much is lost, never to be seen again because of adoption, I get comfort in knowing that Mother Nature something no one can take away from me. Today I celebrate Earth Day for so many reasons! Mother’s Day I will celebrate being a mother to three incredible humans and Mother Nature because she’s always been there for me. If you feel like following along on my Into the Wild: Kentucky Wilderness & Waterfall Adventures please like my Facebook page today by clicking here. You can also find me on Instagram under @intothewildky.

 Here are a few of my outdoor adventures shared with some of my friends & family. I encourage you to escape for some nature play and wilderness wellness. You might find what you have been searching for all along.

Do you like to get outside in mother nature?

Do you find it to be healing and theraputic around bodies of water?

If so, what are your favorite nature things to do?

How are you celebrating Earth Day and Mother’s Day this year?

What do you do to cope with Mother’s Day if it’s a hard day for you?

Thanks for reading,

The views and opinions expressed in this article are that of the author, Pamela A. Karanova. Reproduction of the material contained in this publication may be made only with the written permission of Pamela A. Karanova

Adoptee Dreaming & The Island of Lost

[DREAM] – Indulge in daydreams or fantasies about something greatly desired.

[LOST] – Having gone astray or missed the way; bewildered as to place, direction, etc.

Dreaming – One more adoptee robbery to add to the list of LOST. The traditional concept of dreaming has been out-of-place for most of my life.

While other little girls were dreaming of what dolls they wanted for Christmas, I was dreaming of finding my birth mother, living in mental torment every day. She was nowhere to be found.

While other little girls were celebrating their birthdays, I was wishing my birth mother would come back to get me, feeling like an outsider on the island of LOST.

Being adopted comes with a heavy cost.

While other little girls were thinking about one day getting married and having children, I was obsessed with finding my birth family. Who were they? Where were they? Why haven’t they come back to find me?

While other little girls were dreaming about what college they wanted to go to, and what they wanted to be when they grew up, I was fighting the world to find out WHO I AM? Where did I come from? Who do I look like? Why am I so tall?

While other little girls were playing with barbies and baby dolls, I was searching for my people. Everywhere I went, I was looking for them. Who matches my hair and skin tone? Could they be my people? Is that my mother?  Is that my sister or my brother?

While other little girls excelled and enjoyed school, I was riddled with anxiety and fears about the previous nights traumatic experience in my home. Concentrating on school and school work was impossible.

While other little girls were playing outside with their friends, I was trying to escape the prison I was adopted into. Chore lists the size of poster boards was all I knew. The work was never done. Ever.

While other little girls were watching Saturday morning cartoons, I was searching in my adoptive moms filing cabinet looking for any clue as to who I really was.

While other little girls sit back in awe as they hear their birth story shared by their families, I had no birth story. When you have a birth story, you feel real. Feeling REAL has always been a struggle. Having no roots contributes to the magnitude of being on the island of LOST.

While other little girls were having sleepovers and telling their friends which boys they liked, I was rubbing my adoptive moms back, feet and legs. Brushing her hair and putting makeup on her. Running her bath water and scrubbing her back. Fetching her Pepsi’s and pills.

While other little girls were being spoiled by their grandparents, I was recovering from witnessing my adoptive mom trying to commit suicide. Over and over. Trauma wounds piled up.  

Mental torment was my constant companion, and I did not have time for typical little girl dreams. A childhood misplaced, but I have survived. It has taken me 46 years to feel even a little alive.

I must make up for all the lost little girl dreams, it seems.

I want to be free, with the sunshine all over me. I want to see the rainbows even on the darkest days and climb trees to the top. I want the teardrops to stop, to sit on the mountain tops and make new memories with those I love, nonstop.

I want to love and be loved with no agenda. I want to be surrounded by friends where I do not have to censor my thoughts. I want to connect with mother nature because we are one – This is just for starters.

I am not close to being done.

I must make up for whatever has been lost, no matter what the cost. The future belongs to me, but I must be the one to see. Brightness is all around, no more letting others let me down.

Smile. Be Free. The future is bright but only if you see that beauty surrounds us in everyday life. I have learned to embrace feeling LOST, because being adopted comes with a hefty cost.  I’ve learned that in feeling lost, I’ve actually been found.

Dream little, dream big, I must be true to me and do whatever it is I love to do. It is never too late to look myself in the mirror and embrace what I see, the key is learning to love ME.

This is my adoptee reality.

It’s time to take back what was stolen from me.

Learning to Just Be…

img_0319I’ve been working really hard at being okay with doing nothing, learning to JUST BE. I must be honest, It’s a new place for me. One more silver lining I give to Covid-19, but if I’m transparent,  it hasn’t been easy.

For 45 years of my life, I have been busy. Busy raising kids, busy finding my truth, busy working, busy with friends or family. I’ve been busy pouring my heart and soul into other things, a lot of the time being left empty. I’ve been busy with recovery and working on a million root issues. I’ve been busy over committing myself and over extending myself. I’ve been busy finding myself by learning who I am and what I like and don’t like. I’ve been busy creating resources and tools for the adult adoptee population and being an advocate for the community I hold very close to my heart.

Almost all of my commitments and life I’ve been taking care of other people. All the way to being born, and adopted into a family where my adoptive mom couldn’t care for me due to her own mental illness. She showed me that being still or resting was unhealthy, and I don’t want to be anything like her. I remember catering to her wants and needs from a very early age, (5ish). I took care of her, she didn’t take care of me. I was her caretaker.

At 21 I had my first child, and then I had twins at 24. They are all 3 the best part of me. I took care of and raised my 3 children 100% solo with no child support, and no help at all from their fathers. My kids are all adults now, and have turned out wonderfully considering they have come this far without their dads in their life. Not only was I their caretaker, I was mom and dad. I wouldn’t change a thing because they have been worth every bit of the struggle but I will never be able to make up for their dads being missing.

In 2005 I started taking care of a stroke patient for a living. This October I will be with her for 15 years. We’ve rode it out all these years, and she’s been the biggest inspiration of my life. The position I have is a Team Leader position where I’m on call 24/7, which is a significant responsibility. It’s kept me busy and has given me more rewards than you could ever imagine.

Being an advocate in the adoptee community has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my lifetime, however it’s been draining as hell! I am not lying and I have no way to sugar coat it. I wouldn’t change a thing, but I’m defiantly making changes for myself moving forward. I’m no longer always available like I always have been. I’m putting my mental health first and setting boundaries that work for me.

All of these caretaker roles all the way back to the beginning of my life have taken up5c223d79-ea3c-4e69-8089-92a20d21ba4f ALL MY LIFE. It’s safe to say care taking is in my DNA which is interesting because I don’t feel like anyone has ever taken care of me. Crazy how that works…

Part of finding myself and what I love to do has been such a wonderful and freeing experience. It’s been a lot of fun, and I plan to continue on this amazing journey. However, for some reason I’ve felt for the last few years that I’m running out of time. I plan on writing about “Time” soon, but it’s way too complex for this article. Running out of time makes me feel like every minute of my life I need to be DOING SOMETHING and BEING STILL has never been in my forecast. Being still makes me feel like I’m wasting my life away, and when time is running out that’s a NO GO.

I’ve always been a “Go Getter” and I’m a doer. I don’t just talk about things, I do them. I hate relying on others, because I always seem to get let down so I try to do EVERYTHING on my own, and normally I do a pretty good job at it. I’m all about integrity and I’m a woman of my word. If I say I’m going to do something I do it. I hate being late, and I’m very proud that 99.9% of the time I’m always a little early or on time. I’m always going, taking advantage of every minute of time I’m given, because after all I’m running out of time.

Over the last 8 years of being in recovery, it’s been a shit ton of work. I’ve worked on more “Self Help” topics that I can even share here. 8 Whole years of my life I can’t ever get back, but all those things I worked on have helped me arrive at the destination I am today.

I’ve never been a napper, or someone that rests. The only time I will be still is if I’m sick or my busy life catches up to me and I wear myself out and I make myself sick. Cell phones don’t help this, but enable the havoc we experience in our everyday lives. Having hand held computers at our fingertips, along with social media our minds never stop running. Little by little I’m prying myself of all the ways of the world, finding what works best for me. One of the biggest hurdles I’ve had to experience is to learn to just be.

Be Still.

Be Quiet.

Just Be.

But how?

How do I do this when I’ve been running for 45 years? 

As you can see, learning to JUST BE hasn’t been easy for me! 

One of the biggest rewards Covid-19 has done for me, (among many) is allowed me the space to learn to JUST BE. What does “just be” look like to me? Doing nothing, reading a book, resting my body, relaxing, going to bed early, calling a friend, writing, unplugging, sitting in nature, watching something I want to watch, etc. To me, “Just Be” is being still for awhile.

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It’s a whole new thing for me but I can tell my body is enjoying a break, and I’m taking on the full time responsibility of whispering to myself that it’s okay to JUST BE. It’s okay to be still, it’s okay to rest. I truly feel the alternate of staying busy all the time, over committing, over booking, and over stimulating my mind, body and spirit was only taking a toll on my emotional, mental and physical health. If I didn’t make these changes, I’m sure I would end up in the hospital at some point, likely sooner than later.  I think a significant piece of this journey is learning to love yourself, by yourself. Embracing your own company.

I decided to share this because being an adoptee, staying busy was an escape for me. I didn’t have to think about my adoptee problems. I worked 3 jobs at one point last year, and also managed to pull of Adoptees Connect, Inc. I was always afraid to be by myself, for idol time and to be alone. But not anymore. I have so many things I like and love to do while I’m being STILL. Writing is one, and I’m doing a lot more of that lately. As well as making time to talk to my friends on the phone. I’m 100% certain if I didn’t get my truth regarding who I am, I wouldn’t even be alive right now let alone in the space of learning to enjoy to JUST BE.

Finding a healthy balance between all these things has been exceptionally challenging if not impossible. I have tried, but I still was way too over committed for it to make a difference. If you can prioritize your life, and then eliminate things that no longer serve you a purpose, then you can find the healthy balance between those things that you decide to keep.

Let me share that there is nothing on this planet worth your health. Nothing. If you feel like you are being spread thin, please reevaluate your commitments and put yourself first. Whatever you can discontinue in order to put your emotional, mental and physical health first please do it. It’s so easy to be that person who’s always there for everyone else, but become depleted because no ones pouring into you or your cup is bone dry empty. If you can no longer keep commitments you have made, communicate that to the reciprocating party/s. Sometimes we have to learn to slow our roll. Put yourself first.

Everything in my life has changed since Covid-19 and I hope you are taking this opportunity to make the changes you need to live a happier and healthier life. No one is going to do it for you.  It’s all on you!

**What changes have you made for yourself since Covid-19 hit? Have you been able to find any silver linings? Do you have trouble resting and being still? How does that impact your daily life?

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