In Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, she states:
One image that helps me begin to know the people in my fiction is something a friend once told me. She said that every single one of us at birth is given an emotional acre all our own. You get one, your awful Uncle Phil gets one, I get one, Tricia Nixon gets one, everyone gets one. And as long as you don’t hurt any anyone, you really get to do as you please. You can plant fruit trees or flowers or alphabetized rows of vegetables, or nothing at all. If you want your acre to look like a giant garage sale, or an auto wrecking yard, that’s what you get to do with it. There’s a fence around your acre, though, with a gate, and if people keep coming onto your land and sliming it or trying to get you to do what they think is right, you get to ask them to leave. And they have to go, because this is your acre.
She was talking about creating characters for her writing, but I immediately started thinking about how this applies (or doesn’t) to my (adopted) life.
I do admit that the parenting I received made this all worse, but I believe even adoptees with perfect parents may feel a little like this:
I feel like I didn’t get my own emotional acre.
I got an acre that was supposed to be the acre of my adoptive parents’ biological child. They tried for a child to put in that acre, and it didn’t happen. They eventually adopted me, and put me in THAT acre, but because it had lain fallow for so long, and untended, it became overgrown with scrub and weeds.
So I was plopped down in that acre. Since it was all full of brush and weeds, and I was just a little baby, I got very scratched up and hurt trying to climb around in it.
My parents could see nothing wrong. “What do you mean it hurts? It’s a fine acre! It is perfect for a child of ours! We gave you a whole acre, what are you complaining about? You should be thankful you even have an acre.” At some point they realized it was better for them to take off the gate and lock to get in and out of my acre more easily.
I very, very slowly learned to hack at and cultivate my acre a little bit. But I only had MY kind of seeds with me, and they developed a very different kind of plant than my parents expected. They didn’t usually say anything outright, but often enough I would see disgusted looks and hear, “Where are your tomatoes? Your zucchini? All I see are potatoes and apples.” *grimace*
Once in awhile I asked to look for farmers that grew apples and potatoes so I could learn to grow mine better, because I felt I was doing a terrible job. But my parents would wail and cry, “How could you do this to us?? Please don’t, please don’t look for potato farmers. We make good tomatoes here.”
So I secretly learned to hate my potatoes and apples and grow tomatoes and zucchini.
They would often look over my acre lovingly and say, “What beautiful land. What beautiful produce! What a good little farmer you are.”
I hate tomatoes.