My Sister

I thought I had examined my life.

I’ve read so many self-help books, been in therapy multiple times, went to Peru, and done endless soul searching trying to figure out who I was and where I came from.

After I found my birth mother, I felt a calm I hadn’t felt in a while. I thought it was the turning point of my life. From here, I will go forth. Now, I know who I am. Now I know where I came from.

But the anger remains.

My younger biological sister helped me see this a few days ago as I was sharing with her how depressed I felt. I told her how it felt like everything in my life was shit – business wasn’t working, I wasn’t getting what I wanted. I didn’t know what I was doing and everything felt hopeless. Every direction I turned felt like, “What’s the point of this?”

I’ve never shared that much of my darkness with anyone before. Instead, what I do is withdraw. I hide. I don’t contact friends. I stay in and avoid contact. I come back out when I feel better.

I told her everything because she asks me for everything and won’t accept anything less. This woman, my younger sister. My blood.

When I got it all out, she just said, “I think you’re angry.”

Wasn’t expecting to hear that. I didn’t feel angry, I felt frustrated. I spent another 10 minutes trying to explain what I just dumped.

She told me again. “I think you’re angry.”

I wasn’t getting the connection.

She started explaining.

“You need to let love into your life.”

I don’t know what that means or how to do it.

But she says it with such authority. She knows. I don’t.

I tell her the story about how I’ve been searching for “the woman” to fall in love with all my life. And I tell her how I’ve failed miserably.

And she already knows the story of me trying to find my/our mother and how that didn’t turn out the way I thought.

She tells me, “Sometimes you get what you need and not what you want.”

And I say, “What’re you Mick Jagger now?”

She says, “I think you need to look at what’s right in front of you.”

What’s right in front of me: her.

She’s told me this before and now it’s hitting me differently. I see what she means. I’ve been searching my whole life for a woman (lover or mother) to give me what I want. I’ve had high expectations.

And now, here’s my sister, my blood, offering it to me. Unconditional love.

I think you need to look at what’s right in front of you.

She listens to everything I say. She listens to me complain. She internalizes my pain. She takes it all and helps me through it.

It strikes me that no one else could do this.

Even my birth mother who I thought would bring all my walls crashing down – had she been willing or alive to do it – she wouldn’t have done it. She wasn’t wired that way.

But my sister is doing it. When we talk, the things I thought were healed come up again in raw emotion. I feel the emotion, my eyes get wet, but I resist the tears.

I told my therapist once after an emotional regression, “I’m not going to cry in front of you.”

Later, that changed to, “I’m scared to cry in front of you.”

I do cry. But usually its when I’m alone. For the most part, crying has felt like weakness to me. If I’m going to be the strong one, I’m not going to cry.

I told my sister recently, I bet I stopped crying a couple days after birth. I KNOW I created a wall to protect myself after I was born and my mother was gone.

The infant version of me said, “Well, she’s not here. We’re going to do this alone.”

And I built the wall.

Only I didn’t know it was there. I didn’t know what was getting in the way of greater happiness and fulfillment until my sister came along. This girl, this woman, this wise, knowing sister is changing my life.

So many times when we talk on the phone, I feel the emotion rolling up to my eyes – then it stops. I push it back down. It’s a habit and I’m trying to unlearn it.

It’s been easier to keep it down. I’m afraid.

She would say to me, “What’s the worse that could happen?”

The worst is I think I’d feel weak. I’d be embarrassed. I’d be raw and vulnerable in a way I’ve never been before.

When I get to that edge, it’s like a small boat rocking bow to stern in an open sea. It’s shaky there. That’s how it feels.

We’ve got a song, her and I. It’s Elvis Presley and America.

Don’t you leave
Don’t you leave out part of me, then I can feel
Like I feel before
Like it hurt now, and I see the floor
If you pick me up
Bits and pieces on this floor

She talked about leaving. Cos this is hard for her, too. She’s in it now and she’s got her own story and this affects her, too.

She’s scared and she wants to run away.

The small boat rocked front to back, faster now. I felt the emotion rolling up into my eyes.

I’d told her before in the conversation that the times I go silent on the phone are when I’m letting the emotion go back down. I can’t contain it if I speak. I tell her if I talk, it’s harder not to cry.

The last time she told me she might need a break from me, from this, I said, “Okay, if that’s what you need to do.”

That’s not what she wanted to hear.

She told me later what she wanted to hear that day: “I wanted you to fight for this. I wanted you to fight for me.”

So, when she told me again she was having a hard time and she felt like leaving to protect herself, I remembered.

And with Bono in my head and tears coming through my body again, I eeked out the words, “You don’t get to leave.”

My mother left.

And now I was beginning to cry. I told her, “YOU don’t get to leave me.”

=========

Her and I, we’ve had tough emotional lives. And here we are, helping each other. I felt instantly connected to her the moment we met.

She tells me, “I keep feeling that I’m supposed to put myself in front of you and give you love.”

And I tell her a story about castle walls around me and they’re thick and she’s sending me a message from the outside. I can hear something, but I don’t understand what it is.

I don’t want to sound like, “Woe is me,” but I really don’t understand it. Until recently, I didn’t know how it would feel to look into the eyes of a sibling and KNOW we were related.

And now she’s giving me this love and I don’t understand why.

When I ask her why, she takes a breath and says, “Because you’re my brother.” That’s all she needs. I can’t believe she doesn’t need more proof. I can’t believe I don’t have to do anything else.

She demands one thing – that I be honest.

=================

I thought I was nearing the end of my self-examination.

Now I see that one road is completed. I know where I came from.

But now I’m beginning the process of trying to let down walls, let go of emotional toughness. For the first time, I’m showing someone all of my darkest shit, all the thoughts and actions I haven’t been proud of.

I think about going back to therapy because I think it’s unfair for my sister to be my therapist.

But she is. She’s the only one who can give me what I’m getting. I don’t want therapist garbage. I want the truth. I want love.

My sister tells me I’m worthy of it. So, that’s my mantra, during the day and when I can’t sleep. I’m practicing that thought, “I deserve love.” I know it’s the way – because my sister says so, and I trust her.

I could go on and on, but I’m already so far off track from where I started. But I don’t care.

I’ve got this person in my life who can help explain my past. I’m getting the feeling of family I always wanted to feel – with all due respect to the family I grew up with – I felt different, and now I know why.

This is where I am.

August 8, 2017 Update

Just back from my visit w/ my sister in Baltimore and to meet my nieces for first time.

I realized two important things.

One, I’m angry at my birth mother for giving me up. A picture of her and my sister together surprisingly set me to tears and then I knew it was anger.

I cried multiple times with my sister hugging me, telling me, “I know,” and asking to “let me in.”

I told her I thought our mother was selfish for not seeing me after all this time. She was too weak to confront her feelings around me and in her own life.

Logically, I understand everything she did and I had told myself it was ok. But it’s not. It’s not fucking okay to never hold your baby, to deprive him of love and comfort. It’s sure not okay to tell him “no” when he comes looking 36 years later.

I don’t care what you went through. I was the innocent one. I was the one who needed you, but all you did was think about yourself. You were selfish. I have a right to my anger and no one can make excuses for it. I need to feel it and try to let it go.

I felt physically ill Saturday night. I felt nautious. My head ached. I was chilled and felt nervous and shaky. I didn’t know how much I could take, but I cried in front of my sister and let her hold me for the first time. It was hard, but once I started, it got easier.

Sunday morning after I got out of the shower, I felt I had gotten my body back. It was a weird feeling and subtle, but I felt like I wasn’t as stiff and that I would once again be strong and that it was time to start working out and/or running.

The other thing I learned is:

This wall that comes up is still with me and now I’m more aware of it.

What happened is this – I booked a flight to surprise my sister and to meet her kids. I thought she needed to see me. I told her it was my turn to put myself in front of her.

Up until the time I booked the flight and shortly thereafter, I was excited and felt so grateful and close to her. What a connection we had and what a surprise to have a new best friend.

A couple days before the flight, I began to feel a bit of a walled off feeling.  A bit of fear, maybe. A bit of just not feeling emotional. I felt distant. But I flew and saw my sister and she picked up on it and called me out on it.

And I was mixed up because this is the roller coaster. This is the thing that happens – this walled off emotion – that I don’t understand where it comes from or what triggers it. And when I’m in it, I think its truth, but its not. It’s always been confusing for me, undermining relationships with women in particular.

I feel strong emotion for someone and then I feel cold. I pull away. I withdraw.

It took hours for us to work through it. I cried and told her I was doing my best, trying to manage time with her, my other sister I grew up with and my best friend who I was staying with while in Baltimore. We had a misunderstanding about the intent of my trip. My words weren’t clear.

Logically, I know what’s going on – I get close to someone and then it becomes too much and I pull away. Then they pull away because they feel me doing it and then I chase back after them. This cycle continues and hence, the rollercoaster. This is not how I want to be.

I don’t know what triggers the feeling of “distance” nor do I presently know how to get out of it when I’m feeling it. I want to learn it at an emotional level and when I do, that’s when I think a real shift will occur for me. Its already started. I’m aware of it more than ever. I can see the patterns in my life of doing this in relationships –especially romantic relationships with women.

My therapist said I need to tell myself, “She’s not asking for all of me.” But I get these ideas in my head and I’m afraid. I feel overwhelmed. I feel like it’s going to be too much for me to handle. So I pull away.

Then I feel dishonest. I’m asked what my true emotions are: “How do you feel about me?” And I have no fucking clue. I know at one time I loved you or liked you and felt so close to you. I know that NOTHING changed overnight or from one minute to the next that I can identify that would change those feelings. And then, “BAM” I’m pulling away.

I’m feeling distant and I don’t know why. It’s so confusing for me because I don’t understand it.  I don’t know what happened. But I’m so deeply in it, I can’t FEEL what I felt before. I’m insulated from those feelings. I feel cold, hard, and distant. And in that moment, that is the truth I speak, because that is what I feel.

And she accuses me of not being honest in the first place about how I felt and she accuses me of not being honest with her. And I feel small and helpless because I don’t whats going on either. I say, “I’m doing my best,” and that’s not good enough, either.  So I lose. I don’t get the relationships I want. I don’t get family. I don’t get the girl. I don’t get the sister.

But that’s not true either. Because my sister says she’s sticking around. She doesn’t understand. She couldn’t. She doesn’t know whether to trust me or not, but she’s not leaving. And right now, I think that’s the only thing that matters.

I don’t know where I go from here but I KNOW this is the roller coaster. This is the thing I’ve been accused of and hated hearing. But this is the truth for any woman I’ve ever felt close to. Now I see it for what it is.

I get on the roller coaster and its exciting and I think I’m falling in love. Than its going to fast and I think she might want too much. So I slow down or get off. If she tries to come after me, it won’t work because I’ll feel smothered. That won’t work. I can’t go after her again until things slow down and she pulls away, too. Then its safe. Then I can get back on and we can speed up. But then when it gets too fast again, I have to stop. And she’s confused.

I’m confused. Why am I slowing down when everything was going good? What am I afraid of? What will I lose? Space, privacy, self?

This is where I am today. At last fully aware.

So I come with a disclaimer. I might pull away sometimes if I feel like we’re getting too close. This is my own fear and self-protection. PLEASE, try not to take it personally. I’m working on it. I might go back to therapy. I’m aware of it and know its coming from deeply learned messages I received as an infant and as a child. I know its not acceptable behavior and I see all the damage its done. I see how its in the way of keeping me from the type of relationship I seek with a woman. This is where I am today.

Hypnotherapy

5-26-17

Today my intention was to go back to my first two months of life, between November 8, 1965 and January 19, 1966 – the day my adopted parents brought me home.

I’ve been reading The Primal Wound. The author’s theory that resonates with me is when we are born, we need our mother. After having bonded for nine months inside her body, she is the one person who can intuitively provide for our needs immediately after we are born.

Babies who don’t receive that bonding from their mother can suffer, as they struggle to make sense of their new surroundings. They wonder, “Where is my mother?”

So, while cognitively I’ve been practicing working on my rejection and perfection issues, I would like to integrate my self-knowledge by trying to access my earliest memories.

I know the memories are there, in my brain and body. I know they are there, acting as triggers for feelings or behavior I don’t understand.

Let me share an example:

In January 2017, I’d been dating this woman for a few months. Things were good – I was attracted to her, we connected spiritually, we both are truth seekers. We had fun.

One morning, I woke up and felt distant. I felt like I didn’t even know her. It was as if a switch had been flipped and I felt like I wanted to pull away from her. I had no idea why I felt this way.

I recalled having this same unexplained distant feeling with other women. “She didn’t magically change overnight,” I thought.

So, what happened to trigger this feeling? I looked for logical explanations.

We had just spent two weeks together, so I thought, “Maybe I just need some alone time.”

Another reason I came up with was, “Maybe I’m not as attracted to her as I thought I was.”

What? Stuff like this doesn’t just happen overnight.

Even though I knew this was a feeling I had experienced before, it was too powerful for me to fake my way through it. I reacted and withdrew from her.

The woman knew it, too. She could feel me being distant and was wondering, “What the heck happened?!”

A couple months later, the relationship was over and I went to see a psychotherapist.

I told her the story above and asked her, “What is that distant feeling? Where did it come from? Is there a label for this? I’d like to know what it is so I can work on it. I have no explanation for it.”

She told me, “Maybe you had a dream you didn’t remember, but the dream’s content triggered your feeling. Or maybe some other unconscious memory was triggered.”

I think she was right: Something I was unaware of triggered that feeling of, “I need to pull away.”

That notion, combined with what I’ve been learning in The Primal Wound are what led me to my hypnotherapist today.

I asked her, “Can you help me try to remember something from the first two months of my life? Or even the first few days after being born?”

I feel the first few days are important for me to consciously remember because my birth mother did not see me during this time.

Regression

So, here I am today, relaxed in a chair at my hypnotherapists office.

She begins regressing me one decade at a time. I’m asked to remember May 2007 and I do. During that time I was mourning the loss of another girlfriend, plus my adopted Mom had died. I’d just moved and been laid off from my job. It was a difficult time.

Then we went back to 1997. I’m 31 years old. I remember working for the Baysox and dating a woman.

1987. Now, I’m 21, playing softball. I’ve got my first full-time job. I’m partying and drinking a lot. My daughter’s been born, but I’m ignoring her.

In 1977, I’m a kid – 11 years old. Christine (my hypnotherapist) suggests I feel my body, being smaller, at 11. I do. I’m playing wiffle ball. It’s sunny. I’m in Elementary school. The Orioles are good. I remember what I look like from class pictures taken during that time.

Then she says, “1967. You’re around 18 months old. This is a time where we’re stumbling around. We’re trying things out.”

She said, “You might not even have words for this time in your life, only feelings. But see how little you are. Maybe you weigh 24 pounds and you trip easily as you walk through the grass.”

Then back further and somewhere in here I started to lose her.

That’s because I began feeling something I’ve felt before and never knew what it was.

“You might not even have words for this … only feeling.”

It feels like my torso, arms and face are framed, like those parts of my body are wooden. It’s light at first, but I can feel it.

It feels like there is a slab of wood in my chest and there are posts inside my arms and shoulders. My face and head feel wooden.

I’ve felt this exact feeling many, many times in my life and I’ve never given it much thought other than, “That feels pretty weird and pretty cool.”

I usually like to stay with it because it’s so unique. It does feel ‘cool’ to me.

Christine is still talking, but now her voice is background music. I am staying with this feeling. I know this is an important experience.

“You might not even have words for this … only feeling.”

It’s growing. It’s becoming more intense. I’m wondering if this is the thing I wanted to “get off me” when I drank San Pedro in Peru.

I feel it pushing outward, but I don’t know how to allow it to go further. I begin to feel like I might have an anxiety attack.

I stay with it as long as I can. The feeling is palpable. It keeps getting stronger.

At other times in my life when I felt this, I’d just enjoy it and wonder what it was. Now, I am diving into it. I know it is something.

My mind is drawing connections to other times it’s happened, rapidly asking questions, getting insight: What provoked it other times? I’ve had this feeling at night a lot. Javier, my shaman, said I’ve been carrying armor, it no longer suits me. 

All the while, I’m breathing, trying to relax. The wooden frames inside me feel heavier and thicker than ever before. It’s getting to be too much. Something might burst; I don’t know how to be right now. I’m scared.

I open my eyes.

Deep breath.

“It’s too much,” I say.

I explain to Christine what happened. She moves closer and asks if she can touch my shoulder. I am comforted.

This morning, while I was in it, I didn’t know if I was going to puke. I didn’t feel emotional, like crying. This was my first time making the connection between this weird feeling and perhaps some wall of “armor” I built up early in life.

A friend told me recently, “Maybe the wound of your birth mother giving you up is even bigger and more profound than you’ve imagined.”

Maybe she’s right.

We’ll see.

I go back to see my hypnotherapist in two weeks – 10am, June 9th.

3 Ways I Stop Moodiness Or Depression

Here’s what moodiness and depression are like for me:

Hold up your left hand so it’s perpendicular to the ground.

Now take your right hand as a fist and slap it into the palm of your left hand. Keep it stuck there.

Your left hand is the wall of depression.

Your right hand is your brain, getting stuck to the wall.

So, I can stay stuck there, feeling bad and bringing that crappy mood to myself, my body, and everyone around me.

Or, I can get unstuck.

And here’s the weird thing – I’ve found if I can put my mind on something else for a minute or less, I forget all about the moodiness.

It literally goes away and I forget that I was even in a bad mood in the first place. Yes, I just forget.

If you believe this is possible, here are the three strategies I practice for getting unstuck from moodiness and depression.

The Strategies

  1. Gratitude. Gratitude is often a quick fix for when I’m not feeling to good about myself.

The moment I feel myself slumping into a depressed state of mind, I try to think of one thing I am grateful for. It could be my dog, a friend, or my skill at playing guitar. Sometimes I might be grateful for something silly like the Seinfeld TV series.

It doesn’t matter what I choose, as long as I keep focused on it for about 15-60 seconds. Whatever I’ve chosen to feel grateful about, I stay with it and try to feel it on a deep level.

I’ve found that if I can stay with the thing I’m grateful for for as little as a minute or less, my mind moves to a happier place.

I get unstuck from the wall of depression. I forget all about what I was depressed about in the first place.

2. Be Objective. Gratefulness doesn’t always work and when it doesn’t, I try to be objective to my emotions.

By this, I mean I detach myself from the depressing feeling as if it just a thing that is happening, like a car passing on the street. I see it going by.

I try not to react to the mood, I just notice it. I say to myself, “Oh, I feel like I’m in a bad mood right now. Hmmm.”

Another thing I do is de-personalize the emotion. I say to myself, “The mind is in a bad mood right now.”

With practice, I’ve found that being objective works pretty well for not turning the mood into a big dramatic thing. It’s just an emotion I’m feeling.

I’m aware of it, but I don’t have to react to it.

Experience tells me if I ruminate over a bad mood, it can be like going down a rabbit hole. The more energy I put into whatever’s got me down, the longer the depression lasts.

So, I just notice it, like I’m watching that car go by.

I’m just watching the emotion rise up, like an objective bystander. I accept it and try not to allow the moodiness to effect my actions.

3. Practice Compassion. This is my latest strategy and the idea comes from a good friend.

She told me:

“When I feel like I’m in a bad mood, I think ‘that’s a really selfish thing.’

“I think to myself, ‘I have everything I need. How can I be of service to others?’

“And when I can do that, I feel better.”

I like this and am trying to integrate it into my “Get Out Of Your Bad Mood Repetoire.”

When I go to this place of “I have everything I need,” I really do.

I have the essentials – food, shelter, health, and financial security.

But on top of the that, I have great friends, hobbies I enjoy, and I get to work from home, which means most days an alarm clock doesn’t wake me up. I got a pretty good gig.

When I start feeling that mindset of how lucky I am, it’s pretty easy for me to want to give to others. How can I be of service?

It might be holding the door for someone or a playful conversation. Maybe it’s helping someone with their business or maybe just a smile.

Whatever it is, it comes with no strings attached; no agenda. And that feels pretty good.

What was I depressed about again?!

Conclusion

Moodiness or feelings of depression have taken away from my enjoyment of life.

In the past, I didn’t know how to get shake these bad feelings. I recall thinking as a younger man, “Well, this feels shitty.”

When I got a little older and smarter, I thought, “Well, this feels shitty, but it’ll pass.”

And now that I’ve achieved great wisdom at age 51, I know that, “This feels shitty, but it’s not going to effect me or how I relate to the world.”

The Search For My Birth Mother

I always knew I was adopted.

My Mom and Dad must have told me when I was little because I have no recollection of ever being sat down and told.

But I always felt like I was “different.” Even though this was my family, I wanted to know where I really came from.

I recall as a child my grandmother once musing at the dinner table, “Your Great Grandfather Haddaway…”

Not MY grandfather, I thought. I was 10-12 years old at the time.

My Parents Supported My Search

Both my parents were supportive of me tracking down my birth mother.

As I got a little older, I asked my Dad, “Where is my birth mother? How do I find her?”

He said, “She probably lives somewhere right around here.”

I said, “Dad, do you know where she is?”

He said, “No, but when you get a little older we can connect you with the adoption agency. They can help you. I hope you can find her because I would just like to thank her.”

That was my Dad. Sweet, sincere, and kind.

Of course, I did get older. I’d think about her, then get busy with life and forget. I’d think about her, then forget again. She was off and on in my thoughts.

I told myself, “If I ever get to the point when I’m thinking about her for weeks at a time, I’ll take action.”

I was probably 30 at the time and she was starting to pop into my head more and more often.

Act I – Deciding To Make Contact

Somewhere in my 30’s, I developed the belief that she was just waiting for me to make the first move. I was so sure she was respecting my privacy and was waiting for me to initiate contact.

In my mid-30’s, I finally made the first move.

I called my Dad and he gave me the adoption agency information. I made contact and was instructed that the first step was for me to write a letter.

I remember being advised to keep the letter brief, not to identify myself, and let her know that you want to make contact.

“Hmmm,” I thought, “I would actually rather write a letter that goes deeper and which does identify me. I wanted to connect with her, not play a careful game of chess.”

I sat down at my living room table to write the letter they suggested. In that first moment, I felt something move in me I’d never felt before and have not felt since.

I felt a crack – like I was a hard-boiled egg – and the first crack had been made. It was an eerie, emotional feeling.

I wrote my letter – brief and light, just like I was instructed – and mailed it. It was 2002. I was 36 years old.

Rejected Again

A few weeks later, I got a call from the adoption agency:

“We found your birth mother. As I spoke to her and confirmed it was her, she asked, ‘I thought this was private and confidential?’ I told her it was and we set up another time time to talk that was more convenient for her.”

Ok, wait a little longer.

The next call I got from the adoption agency, I was at work. It was in the summer, I was working for the Bowie Baysox at the time and it was in the afternoon on a game day – a busy time for us at the stadium.

This is what I was told:

“I told your birth mother you wrote her a letter and that the next step is we send it to her. She asked not to be sent anything, but said it was okay if I read it to her.

“So, I read her your letter, and when I was finished she said, ‘Tell him I’m glad he is doing well, but I wish not to be contacted again.'”

It didn’t really register. My mind was on work, it was pretty hectic that day.

The next thing I hear is, “Are you okay?”

I think I mumbled something and she asks me again, “Are you okay?”

I told her yes and we got off the phone. I think it was a Wednesday.

I was so busy the next couple days I didn’t think about it.

That Friday night, I had a call with an ex and explained what had happened. Then I lost it. I cried so hard and couldn’t stop, “She doesn’t want to meet me.”

Next night, same story, different ex. I told her I’d heard from the adoption agency about my birth mother and she doesn’t want to be contacted again. More crying. Exhausting weekend.

Act II – 15 Years Of Wrestling

In Maryland, the fucking law is mutual consent – both parties must agree. Since she said, “No,” that was it.

It was my understanding at the time that there could be no second chances. You get one shot and unless she changes her mind or the law is changed, that’s the end of that. I’m pretty sure that’s what I was told.

What About My Birth Father?

A while later, I called the adoption agency back and with a laissez-faire attitude asked, “What about my birth father?”

They said, “Ok, let us do some research and we’ll get back to you.”

Honestly, I never really cared about my birth father that much. He never knew I existed. It was her I was always trying to find.

I think in the back of my mind – if I can find him, maybe he can lead me to her.

Well, they did find the man they thought was my birth father. He was in the right place at the right time, they told me.

They got a picture of him and said they were corresponding back and forth. She couldn’t confirm yet that he was the birth father and at one point, she slipped and mentioned his first name.

“You didn’t hear that,” she said.

Right.

After a few weeks, he stopped communicating. Contact was lost.

The Heritage Letter

The woman at the adoption agency sent me my heritage letter along with a picture of my possible birth father. (I never thought I looked like him and neither did anyone else until recently).

The heritage letter contained all the details of my birth mother’s meetings with the adoption agency.

There were several clues, but nothing conclusive:

  • She was a single woman who had a brief fling with a man and got pregnant.
  • She didn’t feel she had the means to support us both and put me up for adoption.
  • My birth father was in the Army and transferred to Germany after the encounter. He was never informed of the pregnancy.

For years, I wrestled with what to do: Respect her privacy. No, I have a say in this. Let it go. I want to know where I came from!

Hiring An Investigator

I thought about hiring a private investigator – in fact, I even talked to one on the phone.

I asked him, “How do you usually get the names of the birth parents?”

He said, “To be honest, lots of times, it’s dropping somebody a $50 and telling them to look the other way.”

I didn’t hire this guy at the time. I wish I had.

Instead, I thought about her a few more years, always going back and forth between “letting it go” and “wanting to know.”

Finally, around 2012, I got angry and decided, “Dammit, this is my life, too, and I’m going to try to find her.”

I couldn’t find the contact info for the prior investigator I talked to and wound up paying OmniTrace $1,500 to find her.

I gave them everything I had. They ran check after check and turned up nothing.

In 2013, I sent a notarized request to the Maryland Department of Human Resources for my original birth certificate. No records found, is what I got in return.

At various times, I would do my own research on the internet. I thought, “If I could get the birth records of all the women born in 1943 in the state of Maryland, her name would be in there. Then I could weed through them until I found the ones that were close to 6′ tall with light brown hair of German descent.”

Needless to say, I couldn’t find such records.

I nagged OmniTrace now and again, but they found nothing.

At some point, I felt I had cried enough, gotten frustrated enough. It was time to let it go. It was time to stop blaming her for my missteps in relationships and move on. Heal thyself.

Act III – Trying Again

In 2015, I saw a hypnotherapist and asked her, “I’d like to go back to the womb. I want to know what was going on with my birth mother at that time.”

Thirty minutes later, after being relaxed, I began to feel my heart beating in my stomach. I was very emotional, near tears and received this message:

“You were given up out of love, not out of rejection. You just misunderstood the message that was being sent.”

That was a big moment and further confirmed the vision I got while in Peru, that my birth mother did love me before she decided to give me up.

In a follow up session with my hypnotherapist, I received another powerful message: “I didn’t write the letter I wanted to write.”

Again, I was tearful. I was upset with myself for not following my gut instinct and writing the letter to my birth mother that I wanted to write -not the one they advised me to write.

I left that session feeling, “Maybe if I’d written my letter the way I wanted, I could have connected with her and she would have agreed to see me.”

I regret not standing up for myself and doing what my intuition had told me.

Geneaology

In 2016, I paid for a saliva test through ancestry.com. I was interested to find out my ethnic origins.

During, the phone call, I learned that many people connect with family members through their DNA.

Hmm, hadn’t even thought about that.

So, I did the test and got my results. There were over 100 possible cousins to me in their database.

I emailed all the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd cousin matches. Only one person responded – a predicted 3rd or 4th cousin – and this turned up nothing.

I Thought I Had Let It Go

With geneaology leads exhausted, private investigations turning up nothing, and all these years having passed, I felt I had moved on.

Over the last couple years, I’d still think of her, off and on. But it felt more healthy – I felt I had finally let it go and worked through it.

Or at least that’s what I thought.

My girlfriend helped me make a video using the picture I had of my birth father, along with clues from the heritage letter.

I posted it on my Facebook profile and asked friends to share it. Later, I spent $300 promoting it to those living in the Baltimore area.

I thought, “Somebody’s got to recognize him.” Of course, I was hoping if I found him, he could lead me back to her. It was always about her.

My girlfriend and I broke up in March 2017. We dated for almost 6 months and the breakup hurt me deeply.

Things Come To A Head

Saturday, April 22, 2017

I’m walking at the dog park and I’m thinking of my ex-girlfriend and I begin to feel emotional.

And then, pow!

Out of nowhere, I’m almost in tears, but it’s not my girlfriend, it’s my birth mother I’m about to cry about.

I was shocked. I thought I was over this. Guess not.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

I had a friend in town and we had things to do, but the next day after he left, I let the tears flow once again.

I guess I’m not done with this after all.

Monday, April 24, 2017

On Monday morning, I woke up having just dreamt of her – I had NEVER dreamt of my birth mother before.

In the dream, she left me a voice mail, “I know you’ve been looking for me. If you’re looking for financial help because you’re scraping along, I’m not going to be able to help you with that. I’m going to go ahead and leave you my phone number, so you can reach me.”

And she did. The full phone number.

But as dreams go, I only remember the area code – 267. But even better, she left her name – Ellen Newman.

I woke up tired and instead of going back to bed, scribbled down the information. I made coffee and hit Facebook and Google, searching for “Ellen Newmans” in Maryland or Pennsylvania (the 267 area code is Philadelphia).

There were a couple, “Well, maybe,” but nothing jumped out at me.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The next day, I decided to call the adoption agency again to restart the search for my birth father and to check to see if any laws had changed with regard to me finding my birth mother.

Much to my surprise, I reached the same social worker who’d found my birth mother 15 years earlier!

I thought she was retiring, so I was thrilled to reconnect with her.

As we started talking, she whispered, “Have you tried DNA testing? A lot of adoptees have found their birth parents this way.”

“Yes,” I told her. I couldn’t find anything out. But she planted a seed.

We talked further and she said, “Your mother was one of the most clear of all the birth mothers I talk to. She was firm in the fact that she did not want to be contacted again.”

I told the social worker, “I am upset because I did not write the letter I wanted to write.”

She said, “Write another letter!”

What?!

I thought I only had one shot at this?

She said, “It’s been a long time, maybe things have changed.”

So, the next couple days I started working bits and pieces of my new letter. My ex-girlfriend (the one who helped with the birth father video) even took notes over the phone while I labored through an emotional attempt at dictating it.

At the same time, I was reading The Girls Who Went Away.

I was getting a pretty good picture of the attitudes toward unwed pregnant women in the 50’s and 60’s.

As I read story after story, I cried. I felt for my birth mother – the shame and embarrassment she must have endured.

Things were different then. In the culture that followed the end of World War II up through Roe v. Wade in 1973, birth control was not readily available.

Women who got pregnant prior to marriage were shunned, many of them sent away to homes hundreds of miles away from their home to give birth and give away their babies.

The social worker told me about CUB and I watched the video below on their site.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

I’m reading more and more stories in the book, but here’s the one I’m waiting for:

The birth mother gives up her baby.

The baby grows up and contacts her.

The birth mother rejects that baby again.

I want to find that story, so I can really get into the headspace of how she could not want to see me 36 years later.

I mean, I understand the whole idea of giving me up for adoption. The Girls Who Went Away has helped me make sense of this.

But I don’t understand the part about not wanting to heal. I don’t understand how you wouldn’t want to let go of all the hurt and embarrassment from so long ago.

So far, all the women describe happy reunions with their children.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

On Thursday, I get to thinking and I email the social worker.

“I’m working on my new letter. Any way to confirm my birth mother is still living?”

I’m getting really emotionally involved and before I go too far down the road of hope, let’s see if she’s still still alive.

I mean, I’m guessing she is, she’d only be 73, but let’s make sure.

I’m also hit with a ping of, “Why did she come to me in a dream if she’s still alive? That seems weird.”

The social worker agrees to do some research and get back to me.

But I decide to go a step further. At 2 in the morning late Thursday night/Friday morning, I can’t sleep.

I get up and re-email a few 1st-2nd cousins from DNA matches on Ancestry.com. I also send multiple messages to people who are related to two different Ellen Newman’s on Facebook.

I scratch out a fast. emotional letter (version 4 at this point) detailing our first Act – my first 36 years up to making the first move to contact her, the second Act, the 15 years in between after she says no to seeing me, and what I believe could be our third Act, where we re-unite, heal, laugh, and love.

Friday, April 28, 2017

On Friday morning, I wake up early, having only slept 5 hours.

I’ve decided I want to try to hike Dog Mountain once a week and today’s the day to do it again.

It’s a very difficult hike. It takes me 90 minutes to get to the top. I always try to go non-stop: Slow Don’t Stop.

I arrive at the top exhausted and nautious. I plop down and before I can stomach the food I’ve brought, I check my email.

I have a response from a woman I contacted on Ancestry.com:

Mike,  

My name is ______ and I live in Bel Air, Md, which is just north of Baltimore.  My mother , who is 89, is I’m guessing, the CW you referred to in the email you sent my daughter. My Mother’s name is ________ and is the first cousin to the person that I think MIGHT be your birth mother.   

I have been on the computer for most of the morning looking for info and now I need to get ready for work.  Very sorry to tell you that the person has passed away. I’m just giving you the info I have and I hope it helps.
As I type this info, I realize it isn’t really much proof.  The  thing that made me think it was her is that she had brown eyes, long light brown hair, was thin and was very tall. She was also very sweet. I will dig more when I get home.

 

Everything jibes with what I have on the heritage letter.

So that’s it.

I’m not emotional right away. I’m exhausted at the top of this mountain. I’m drained after 51 years of wanting to know her name. I don’t know where I’m going to get the strength to get down this mountain.

Of course, I do get down.

I recite her name the whole way down.

This is where I came from. I get emotional and tear up.

Keep treading down this mountain.

Same middle name as my Mom.

She died 5 years ago. What was I doing in October 2012?

Dating someone else. Maybe at her friends house for Halloween giving kids trick or treats. I remember that evening. We didn’t drink. It was fun.

Her name. After all this time, now I know.

I haul ass home because I have a pre-scheduled appointment with my hypnotherapist. Ironic, yes, I’m seeing her again during this intense self-help period in my life.

By the time I get home, I’ve got another email and a voicemail from someone else on Ancestry:

Hello Mike.

I left you a message as I thought you needed a answer after all this time. You can find him on facebook but I do not think he is on there a lot. I will try to reach out to his sister as she is in Salt Lake City.

When it rains, it pours.

It Was Always About Her

Contact with my birth father remains to be seen. The woman who gave me his name is trying to track him down. He hasn’t been heard from since leaving Georgia 4 years ago. She’ll let me know.

Honestly, I only ever wanted to find him to get back to her. If he or anyone from his family reads this, I hope they won’t take it personally. It’s just how it is. For me, it was always about her.

My whole life – from feeling different at childhood, wondering about her as an adult, being shut down as I reached out the first time – to trying again; I wanted to know where I came from.

Trying To Understand The Rejection

Thanks to Ann Kessler’s book, I have a good idea now why my birth mother gave me up. That makes sense.

What I don’t understand is why she wouldn’t want to see me after I reached out to her.

Friends and counselors speculate that, “Maybe the pain was so bad, she just couldn’t go there again.”

I wanted to help her heal. I thought I could give that to her, if only she’d met me.

Now, it’s only me that needs to heal and move on.

I’m contacting Ann Kessler. I’m half way through her book and so far all the birth mothers express such remorse, such regret over their decisions to give up their babies.

This is what I sent her:

Hi Ann,

I’m 51 and adopted. My birth mother opted not to see me after I reached out 15 years ago.

Yesterday I finally found out through geneaology she passed away 5 years ago.

While I am happy to finally have her name and explore that, I still need to really understand how she could reject me after all that time.

Logically, I get it – she was in pain. But I really need to hear it from someone who lived it. I want to know it.

I’m half way through your book and haven’t heard that story yet. Maybe it’s coming. I intend to finish.

If there is anyone you feel moved to share my story with, I would love to hear from them. I would love to heal the second rejection.

Thanks,
Mike Munter

I’m waiting for the story from the birth mother who explains how she was contacted and despite her longing, she was still unable to go back. I want to understand and have it integrated into my soul how she could reject her child a second time, after all these years.

Logically, I do get it. But emotionally, I want to feel it.

I know I’ll hear back from Ann. I hope to hear from a birth mother who can really take me there.

Denouement

Doors close, doors open.

I now begin processing all of this.

Hopefully, I can speak with siblings, family members, and friends of my birth mother to find out who she was.

Did anyone know she had another child? Am I disrepecting her privacy, even now that she is passed away?

I don’t know. But I still want to know about her and what kind of person she was. I’ll feel this out and I decide where to draw the line. At last, the decisions are in my hands.

In one of my new letters, I wrote, “I can’t imagine the pain you must have felt your entire life.”

In another, I wrote, “I love you even though I don’t know you.”

As I sat atop Dog Mountain, I felt, “I’m glad she’s out of pain.”

She’s getting my messages now. Her and I are connected. I believe she knows. I’m working on taking her into my heart.

A close family friend wrote me:

Hey Mike,
Can’t imagine what you must be feeling right now..relief, sadness, elation and certainly expection of what else you might discover along this journey.  I’m happy for you that you finally have some information about your birth mother and perhaps you have siblings that you will learn about.  Know that we are thinking about you.

 

Relief and sadness for sure.

I just wanted to know where I came from. Now I know.

Now I get to move through it and let it all go, once and for all.

My Ayahuasca and San Pedro Experiences In Peru

In January 2009, I travelled to the tiny village of Pisac in Peru, to drink Ayahuasca and San Pedro.

If you’re considering travelling to Peru to try Ayahuasca and you want an easy itinerary, you can do what I did: Stay at Paz Y Luz and contact Javier to conduct your ceremonies. I was told Javier is a shaman, but he prefers to be called an ayahuascero.

Ayahuasca is called “The Purge,” and you can expect to throw up and have diarrhea – multiple times. Most people receive insightful visions that help them learn about themselves.

Javier regards ayahuasca as “medicine” and ceremony is personal, sacred work. He quipped once that, “People can do months of therapy to feel better… or they can come drink ayahuasca for the same insight.

Below, I share my visions and insights I received during the three Ayahusca ceremonies and one San Pedro ceremony I participated in. I welcome your comments/questions if you have them.

Why I Decided To Do Ayahuasca

I met my friend JenniJo for dinner one night in 2008 after she returned from Peru and multiple ayahuasca ceremonies.

Her face looked incredibly clear. Her spirit seemed peaceful.

I thought, “I want some of that,” so I asked her to put me in touch with her connections for lodging and Javier, the ayahuascero who conducted the ceremonies.

I emailed Javier about how I wanted to find my life’s work (I was out on a mid-life crisis at the time). I wanted purpose and I wanted to work through some negativity I felt I had. I think my email was several paragraphs.

His reply was short and to the point, “Well, if you want to face your negativity, come to Peru.”

For six months, I thought about whether or not I would take this trip to Peru. I make decisions like this verrrrrry slowly.

In addition to the unknown of working with ayahuasca, I was also afraid to travel abroad alone. I had never done it before.

When I finally made plans to go, I notified Javier I was coming. He advised me, “No sex or alcohol two weeks before and after your ceremonies.”

Well, I respected the alcohol request prior to leaving, but not the sex. I was dating a woman at the time and didn’t feel like abstaining for 2 weeks prior to leaving. I think I abstained for 2 days 🙂

Preparation For First Ceremony

When I got to Peru, I had a one on one meeting with Javier and he asked me why I was there.

I told him I wanted to find my next line of work. I wanted to know what I was supposed to be doing with my life.

I’d been laid off 2 years prior and had no inkling of what it was I would do to earn my next dollar. I’d blown through my savings, my mutual funds and was quickly headed toward having to start pulling from my 401k.

Needless to say, I was desperate to find my passion and get restarted earning money again.

Ceremony #1 – Ayahuasca

There were seven of us in my first Ayahuasca ceremony. We were asked not to eat on the day of the ceremony. The only thing we could have was tea.

(To this day, I can’t drink chamomile tea without remembering Peru).

The ceremony took place in Javier’s temple, an octogonal shaped space with padded benches around the perimeter. Each bench was about 7′ long, so each of us had our own space.

The pitched roof of the temple had lots of windows which made for a mystical setting, considering the ceremony began at dusk.

Javier sat at one of the benches with a table in front of him where he kept his rattling leaves (they sound like a maracas when shaken), smoke blunts, and ayahuasca.

Everyone had a bucket for vomiting and the toilet was adjacent to the main space. After all, ayahuasca is known as, “The Purge.”

Javier opened the ceremony with smoke and laid down the ground rules. As I recall, he asked us to hold our own space and respect the space of others. If we needed help, just call his name.

He reminded us to put our intention into the drink (the medicine), but also said, “She will take you where you need to go.” Ayahuasca, the medicine, it seems, is a female 🙂

One by one, Javier called each of us to drink. I focused hard on my intention: “I want to see what my passion is. I want to know what work it is I should be doing.”

With that, I drank the thick, bitter, vile liquid and returned to my seat.

When all seven of us had finished drinking, Javier himself drank with a celebratory “Mazel Tov!”

He began singing various chants and songs. He mixed in spiritual poems, blew smoke and rattled his leaves. The mood he created felt sacred to me. He has such reverance for his ceremonies.

As Javier felt guided to do so, he would visit us individually. He’d share words of wisdom or just be near us when he felt needed. He is very intuitive and selfless.

About 45 minutes into the ceremony, it was dark out and the room was quiet. Then someone threw up. “Oh boy, here we go,” I thought.

But I didn’t get sick in the first hour. I was called to drink again and that sucked. I mean, this stuff is just awful tasting. It’s hard to get down.

I laid down on my bench and closed my eyes and received my first vision. It was an Indian with a headress and he was smiling at me. No sooner did I see his smile, did his face begin to turn gray with decay. Then his teeth fell out and his entire face disintegrated.

“Whoa, that sucks,” I thought. “That wasn’t pleasant at all.”

Before I knew it, my next vision came. Again it was two smiling faces, side by side, like in a masquerade. The faces were smiling at me, but then they two went dark, turning ugly and black, before disintegrating.

This pattern repeated itself over and over. I kept seeing happy faces or things turn black, decay, die and fall away.

About two hours in, I was the only one in the room who hadn’t gotten sick yet, but I was in a lot of pain. My stomach wretched in pain – sort of like when I had food poisoning.

Needless to say, I was not enjoying my experience. My stomach ached and my visions were depressing.

Javier came and sat with me. He brought me more ayahuasca to drink. “Great,” I thought.

He said, “You haven’t gotten sick yet?”

I said, “No.”

He sat with me a bit. He said a couple things I recall – one of which was poignant:

“You’ve been wearing this body of armor to protect yourself. It used to serve you. It doesn’t serve you any more.”

I understood exactly what he meant. I’d built a wall around my emotions most of my life. I rarely cried. I had a tough exterior.

He put his arm around me and before I knew it, he was pressing his fingers into the side of my stomach, feeling for the spot.

He found it and I threw up hard for the first time. I heaved and got sick several times and quickly became exhausted.

But I wasn’t finished. I got sick twice more that night, each time violent and painful.

At one point, writhing in pain on my bench, I lie on my back, holding my head in my hands.

Javier came by and said, “Does your head hurt?”

“No,” I answered.

“Then why are you holding your head? Put your hands on your stomach where the pain is.”

I didn’t even realize what I was doing. But I remembered every time I’d ever gotten sick in my life, I always put my hands on my head as I prayed to God to please don’t make me be sick.

It felt so counterintuitive for me to move my hands from my head to my stomach to help ease the pain.

It didn’t help me that night, but Javier had planted a seed in me that moment. I later discovered the power of healing hands through Reiki and now every time I feel nautious, I gently put my hands on my stomach. Most of the time I heal myself.

I also use my hands on other parts of my body when I have pain and I am almost always relieved within seconds. We have a lot of power in our hands. But I digress.

Toward the end of the ceremony about 4 hours later I was still feeling horrible pain in my stomach. I remember thinking, “I came all the way down here for this?! It’s like having food poisoning.”

Nearly everyone else was done with their experience and felt fine. Javier went around the room asking each person if it was okay to close the ceremony.

When it came to me, of course I said, “Yes,” but I couldn’t move. I had no intention of leaving.

There was another woman who was pretty sick, too, and we both stayed.

Javier asked us if we needed anything else before he left and he invited us to stay in the temple as long as we needed.

I think sometime around midnight or 1am, I finally stumbled weakly back to my room and crashed for the night.

The Morning After

The next morning at 9am, the seven of us gathered in Javier’s living room to share our experiences. Javier gave us his feedback.

It was pretty interesting to hear everyone’s experience. Some were unpleasant like mine and others were euphoric.

It was really intense and super personal. You get to know a lot about people in those circumstances. I made friends there who are still friends to this day.

I don’t recall every vision I had in my first ceremony, but I do recall what I took them to mean: I always look at the negative side of things. No matter how bright something looks,  I would always find the negative side of it. That’s where my attention went.

I confided in a couple friends that I’d met at ceremony that I was thinking about leaving. My first experience was so bad, I didn’t want to go through it again.

The next day, there was a knock at my door. “Javier wants to see you.”

So, I went to see him.

He asked me, “How are you doing?”

“I’m thinking about flying home,” I said.

“I heard,” he said.

Hmmm. Matt and Ana told him. You can picture me clenching my fists like Jerry Seinfeld saying “Newman.”

“Matt and Ana!” I said to myself.

I explained to Javier that my experience was horrible. I felt so sick and I got no hint of a vision even close to showing me what my purpose was.

“Yes, I thought that was a crap intention,” he said.

“What?! Why didn’t you tell me?” I thought. I guess I had to experience it for myself.

Javier then told me, “It does not matter what you do.”

Interesting. Okay. At the time, I thought it did, but okay. He had my attention.

I told him I needed his help – I had no idea what to do.

He said, “I think you should finish what you came here to do.”

The way he spoke to me – there was no arguing. After all, I did come here to do work. To bail, would’ve been to quit on myself.

“Okay,” I said, “But I have no idea where to go from here. I need help with my next intention.”

He said, “Well, usually the best place to start is with your parents.”

“I’m adopted.”

“Even better!” he exclaimed.

Then he gave me one of the best self-help books I’ve ever read:  Heal Your Wounds And Find Your True Self by Lise Bourbeau.

That day and the next, I devoured that book. I got so much insight into my life that no therapist had ever mentioned before.

The next night my intention was clear: “To heal my relationship with all four of my parents.”

Ceremony #2 – Ayahuasca

My second ayahuasca ceremony was the exact opposite of my first.

In this ceremony, I only had to drink the vile liquid one time. And when I got sick, there was no drama, no fighting it. I felt a sudden urge and I puked effortlessly, easier than I ever had in my life.

My visions were incredible. They centered around both my birth mother and my adopted mother. I recall two visions vividly.

Vision #1 – My Birth Mother

My birth mother sitting in a rocking chair rubbing her stomach with joy. She was 5-6 months pregnant.

I saw it as, “She did love me before she gave me up.” (Although this vision runs counter to my interpretation of what my birth mother told the adoption agency).

Vision #2 – My Mom

I sa myself at about 19-20 years old downstairs in my bedroom playing guitar. My Mom stomped on the floor to get me to stop.

I got so angry, I took my guitar and stormed out of the house and into my car. (This really happened, multiple times when I was younger). I’d speed away and drive to a quiet area by a brook where I could sit outside on the trunk of my car in the dark and play until I got tired.

But in this instance, my older self appeared behind me in the back seat and put his hand on my shoulder saying, “She doesn’t understand.”

This meant to me that she didn’t understand music and it’s creative importance to me. To her it was just noise.

And then my older self said, “Don’t speed away. It scares her when you drive fast.” Even to this day, this vision brings tears to my eyes.

In the same instant, I saw my Mother upstairs, smoking a cigarette, tears in her eyes. My Dad came into the room and asked her what was wrong.

“He’s speeding again,” she said. (I never saw or knew of this scene in real life, but it makes a lot of sense and helps me see how my anger and actions effected my Mother.)

My Mom had died 3 years earlier, so we never got a chance to talk about this stuff.

In this second ceremony, I went back and forth from crying to laughter multiple times. The visions were so loving and powerful – Javier knew I was having a great experience.

So much so that at one point during the ceremony, he joked, “Another shot of ayahuasca, Mike?”

In my final vision of the ceremony, I was taken around the world and shown different cultures, each of them welcoming me in. I’d been afraid of travelling abroad and had been raised with the notion that the world was a scary place.

My final vision helped me see it another way.

Ceremony #3 – Ayahuasca

In my third and final ayahuasca ceremony, my intention was to be shown my insecurities.

Looking back, this was kind of a weak intention, but I couldn’t come up with anything better at the time.

My experience was simple and thematic.

I had three visions, in the first, I saw this short Peruvian woman walking up stairs. When I thought she’d gotten to the top, the stairs would go at a ninety degree angle in a different direction.

When I thought she’d reach the top, they’d continue in another direction – all the while going higher and higher. She just kept climbing and I kept watching her. I grew frustrated that she never reached a destination.

Next, I saw this man walking through the desert, over rolling hills and dunes. He kept walking and walking, over the hills and onward. I asked him, “Where are you going?”

He half-turned, shrugged and continued walking.

My third vision featured the giant Paul Bunyan statue that stands in Kenton, near where I live in North Portland.

The statue stands 31 feet tall and in my vision, it was walking through the neighborhood, aimlessly. I asked it, “You don’t know where you’re going, do you?”

Paul Bunyan shook his big head, “No.”

Hmmm. “Shocker,” I thought. I hate not knowing where I’m going. I hate not knowing what the goal is or how things might turn out.

This “not knowing” still trips me up to this day. Sometimes, I fail to take any action at all because I don’t have an idea how it’s going to go. In 2017, I’m getting better and very aware that this is something I need to be careful of.

I only got sick once during the ceremony. I probably could’ve had more ayahuasca and was a bit scared that Javier was going to call me to drink more.

Honestly, I was done. I was sick of getting sick and I was ready for a break from the “medicine.” Three ceremonies in 7 days is pretty intense.

Ceremony #4 – San Pedro

A couple days later, a few of us drank San Pedro in Javier’s living room.

San Pedro is a cactus. The drink is green and doesn’t taste nearly as bad as ayahuasca. Javier said San Pedro is “the heart opener.”

Unlike the ayahuasca ceremonies, we drank San Pedro during the day, around noon. We weren’t urged to have an intention, although you could if you wanted. I didn’t.

San Pedro is meant to open your heart, perhaps bringing you in touch with Mother Earth – Pachamama, as the shamen of the region call it.

My first few hours after drinking San Pedro were euphoric. I went outside and laid in a corn field for a long time, admiring the strength of the stalks. I felt at one with the corn as I literally laid in amongst the stalks, my head on the Earth.

Looking back now, it’s no suprise that I developed a primal urge to grow a lot food that summer. I didn’t know what it was – I just knew I was meant to have a big space to garden, which I found with the help of my neighbor, Joe Purkey.

After I was done with the corn, I decided I wanted to walk to the river, about a quarter mile away. Somebody told Javier and he hurried up to come with me. He cared for each of us and I think he was afraid I was going to jump in.

I arrived at the river before Javier and as I looked up at the sky, the drizzling rain stopped and clouds parted into beautiful sunshine. I thought, “Why do I always look at the negative side of things? Light is just on the other side.”

After that revelation, Javier arrived.

I was still pretty high from the San Pedro. There was this huge rock I stood on and I said with authority, “This is my rock!”

Javier smiled. He knew what was happening with me.

We talked for a bit and I learned I’m a month older than him. Both of us 43, he asked me, “Are you ready for the second half of your life?”

Of course I was. Especially if it felt like this!

We chatted for a little while and after he got me to assure him I wasn’t going to jump in the river, he left to return to the others.

I sat on the rock near the river for a long time. Then my experience started to go bad.

All I wanted to do was get “it” off me. I can’t tell you what “it” is – it was a feeling that there was something in me or on me that I wanted to get rid of.

I tried spitting, I urinated, I cried a few tears. I wanted it out. I tried to get sick and couldn’t. I wanted to have diarhhea. Whatever was in or on me, I wanted it out.

I walked back to Javier’s house and by this time, everyone else’s experience was ending. Mine was nowhere near over.

I was comforted by U2 on the stereo – I’d mentioned loving the band when Javier and I talked at the rock. For a while, I got a reprieve from the madness and felt good again.

Someone went out to get dinner for the group. I went to the temple and laid on the floor, following ants with my eyes, waiting for my trip to end.

The food arrived and everyone ate, but I remained in the temple. It was dark now and the feeling “I want to get ‘it’ off me,” returned.

I felt sick and body ached. I walked into the house and asked Javier if he’d come help me get sick.

He got up from dinner, so selflessly and joined me back in the temple.

I sat rocking in pain all through my lower back up into my shoulders. My entire back was sore, tense, and aching.

I told Javier, “I feel like there are these 2 sides of me trying to fight it out.”

He rared his head back, and said, “Oh my God, you are such a drama queen!”

That was funny. It was also harsh. And it was real. I was being a drama queen. There weren’t two sides of anything – there was only me.

Then he said words I’ve repeated to others who try to pull that bullshit on themselves: “YOU – are creating ALL of this.”

Man, was he right. I was manufacturing shit, right there in the temple. I was creating a whirlwind drama full of self-imposed bull shit.

Then I confessed, “I have a daughter.”

“Ahhh,” he said, like we’d just discovered the New World.

I hadn’t met my daughter, Gavrielle yet, and wouldn’t for a couple more years.

So, I talked about some of that stuff, maybe including being adopted, too. I never got sick. I never got rid of the “it” I wanted to get rid of. Whatever this, “it” is, I still feel burdened by it today and I’m eager to be free.

I don’t know what the feeling is, it’s likely tied up in being adopted, and as I write this in April 2017, I’m investing more time and money once again into finding my birth Father, in hopes that it might lead to my birth Mother.

Eventually, I went inside and nibbled at some food. The feeling fell away and I went to sleep.

That was the last of my four ceremonies in Peru. As a reward, I went to Machu Picchu and climbed to the top of Wayna Picchu. I love to hike and what a great payoff at the summit – even though it was cloudy the day I went.

My Advice

If you’re interested in getting a deeper knowledge of yourself or perhaps have an issue you want to work on, ayahuasca could help.

Do your research and if you decide to drink, I recommend treating it as sacred healing medicine, just like the shaman of the Andes.

How I Stopped Being A Road Rager

I used to be such an angry driver.

On highways, I was a tailgater, always trying to “push” people out of my way. I lived in the fast lane, speeding 15-20 miles over the speed limit, in a rush to get to wherever I was going.

If you were unlucky enough to get in my way and you didn’t move, I’d give you the finger. Or when I got pulled up next to you to pass, I’d be sure to scowl at you – I wanted to see just who it was that was blocking. And then I’d flip you the bird as I sped by.

If I ever got cut off, I took it personally – just another opportunity for me to road rage. I couldn’t wait to get around you so I could cuss you out.

I remember the tension in my stomach as I raced and wove through traffic. I remember the anger I felt whenever someone got in my way and I had to slow. Man, I hated when things didn’t go my way.

But my road raging wasn’t limited just to highway driving.

On residential and side streets, I rarely obeyed the usual 25 MPH signs and instead raced from one stop sign to the next – never actually coming to a complete stop.

This poor behavior continued from Maryland where I terrorized motorists and some of my own passengers for 20 years straight on to Portland, where I moved at the end of 2004.

I had a short commute to work from my condo in the Northwest Hills to the Rose Garden Arena where I worked. Each day I took off down NW Everett, a congested city street that often featured lots of pedestrians on the sidewalks.

There are traffic lights every few blocks, which helped make a short commute into a long and frustrating one for me.

“I only live 2 miles from work,” I thought, “Why does it sometimes take me 15 minutes to get there?”

Each day, I ran late. Each day, I looked for an edge around traffic, to beat the next light, so I wouldn’t be late for work.

I thought to myself, “I’m going to show these Portlanders how we drive on the East Coast.” Can you believe that? I actually thought I was going to continue my aggressive driving in Portland and change the way an entire city drove!

But Portland is different. Here, drivers yield to pedestrians at every opportunity. If you’re standing on a street corner like you want to cross the street, drivers will stop for you – crosswalk or not – and let you cross.

It was a moment just like this one that woke me up.

I was driving into work one morning, running late as usual, and traffic was stopped.

“What the fuck!” I screamed at no one. I peered ahead – there was no light. I didn’t see an accident. Both lanes were jammed and there was nowhere to go. Man I was pissed off.

Then I saw what the problem was. There were people slowly crossing the street at a crosswalk. The few cars in front of me had stopped to let them cross.

Then it dawned on me: “If you don’t slow down, you’re going to kill somebody.”

Curing Road Rage On Residential Streets

This was the moment where my change began.

First, I back tracked and thought, “Why am I always running late?”

You see, on an average day it would take me about 10-12 minutes to get to work. So, if it was a quarter til nine – I had to be to work at 9am – I knew that gave me a few more minutes to get something done….like unload the dishwasher, put clothes in the laundry, take out the trash, you name it.

I was so bent on “maximum efficiency” with my time that I put myself in a position to have to rush. I put myself in a position where any unplanned delays could make me late for work.

And I hated being late. Besides it being a mark against me, I just hated the embarrassment of walking into the office late with no good reason for it.

I soon realized that my desire to “get one more thing done” was what was causing me to risk being late each day. My need for efficiency was causing me undue stress behind the wheel and putting others at risk for a fender bender or worse.

I had to let it go. Gradually, I stopped trying to be “perfect” before leaving for work. If I a had a few extra minutes to spare, I simply let the dishes sit and instead drove to work.

What a relief it was to me physically and mentally to not have to worry if I caught every light. I had time to spare.

If someone was crossing the street, I understood. I stopped and let them cross.

Curing Road Rage On Highways

My road rage on highways was a different story and took a lot more work.

While I stopped rushing around so much and gave myself a buffer of time to get where I had to be, I still had an underlying anger that rose up whenever someone cut me off or got in my way.

At the time in 2005, I was seeing pyschiatrist Dr. Manfield and he gave me the clue I needed.

At the end of one of our sessions, I asked him, “Why do I get so mad when someone cuts me off in traffic?”

I’ll never forget his animated response. He stood up and shook his finger at me, saying with raised voice, “Because the message you get is that YOU DON’T COUNT!”

Oh, man. The child inside still gets a little emotional reliving that scene.

At the time, I’m sure we were discovering that a lot of my issues stemmed from being given up for adoption and from having an overbearing Mother who constantly shut down my voice and my creativity.

I knew that, but I went looking for a strategy that would help me deal with the anger I felt when someone cut me off.

I found a book about changing your mind talk to change your life.

The premise was simple: Once you are aware of the “story” you are telling yourself, you create other positive stories to replace the negative one.

In my case, instead of reacting with anger shouting, “You cut me off!”I began to come up with other things to tell myself like:

  • Maybe he didn’t see me
  • Maybe he his wife is about to give birth
  • Maybe he’s got an emergency

And my all-time favorite:

  • Maybe he’s just an asshole like I used to be and hasn’t realized it yet

These were all plausible reasons for why someone would cut me off and I’m guessing you can probably add several more.

Now that I had some new things to tell my mind, it was time to practice.

Slowly, I reached a point where getting cut off didn’t “hurt” me anymore. I stopped taking it personally and realized whatever was going on in the other driver’s car had nothing to do with me.

This practice continues to this day. I still have to do the work of telling myself, “Maybe he didn’t see me” each time I get cut off.

Wrap Up

One day I hope to get to the point where I am clear of any emotion whatsoever when someone cuts me off. I am well on my way and still marvel at how friends have no reaction when they get cut off in traffic.

They are a good reminder for me to do the same.

I’ve also rode with others who haven’t dealt with the issue yet, and I see how scary it feels to be a passenger.

An ex-girlfriend when I was in my 20s once told me how she was scared to ride with me because I tailgated and swore and got so upset when I got cut off by another driver.

Even though I dismissed her feelings at the time, I now know how she felt. I now know how I felt, being the one holding all this rage inside.

These days, I like to leave early. I don’t have to be so efficient. I’ve learned that’s just me trying to be perfect – which is another story altogether.

When someone’s an idiot on the road, I don’t glare or give them the finger as I pass by; I just shake my head and try to laugh.

I’m still dealing with the hurt beneath the anger that’s at the root of my road rage, so my cognitive practice continues.

I drive slower now. I’m more courteous. I feel better in my body and the roads are a tiny bit safer because there’s one less asshole driver out there.

I hope you find this story helpful.

Fear And What I’ve Learned From It

In 2006, a life coach gave me a couple of pearls about fear. I’ve applied these insights and shared them with others over and over throughout the years.

The first is: “Fear is your sharpest definition of yourself.”

So true for me. I’ve let fear define me for a lot of my life.

When I was in high school, fear kept me from talking to girls I liked. It’s why I delayed getting a driver’s license until I was 19.

In my 20’s, fear kept me out of fist fights. And when I was sober, fear was still in my way of approaching the women I liked most.

In short, fear held me back from trying and doing a lot of things I could’ve otherwise done – more on that later.

For the second pearl on fear, he explained it to me like this:

“Look, here’s the thing about fear – you have to do the thing you’re afraid of so you can find out exactly what it is.

“When you do what you’re afraid of, one of two things is going to happen.

“One, you’ll come face to face with exactly what it is that frightens you. You’ll know it for sure and you’ll own it. So, now that you know it, you can accept it, put it in your bag, throw it over your shoulder, and get on with your life.

“Or two, when you do what you’re afraid of, it’ll be like stepping over an invisible line on the ground – you’ll find there was nothing there to be afraid of in the first place.”

I’d like to share a couple of personal experiences where each of these two paths has played out.

Example 1 – Knowing What I’m Fearful Of

When I was a youngster, I never really learned how to ride a bike. I had a bike, but my Mom was pretty fearful herself, so the only place I got to ride was in the back yard.

I recall going around in circles, trying to stay balanced, but there wasn’t a lot of room to maneuver, so I never got good at it.

Since riding on the sidewalk or street was out of the question, I never really “learned” how to ride a bike.

After a while, I lost interest, or at least that’s what I told myself.

Over the next 20+ years, if a situation called for bike riding, I didn’t go. I always had an excuse. Truth was, I was terrified of riding bike. I think I thought I might fall or whatever else was going on my head.

The real truth – which I didn’t know then – was that I had no idea what I was afraid of. I just thought I couldn’t ride a bike and I was afraid to try.

Moving into my early 40’s, I decided enough was enough. I wanted to dive into this fear and overcome it.

My friend Josh graciously went with me to help me get a good used bike within my budget. I asked him to test it out because I was too afraid to ride it out on the street.

I did sit on it to make sure the height was right and eventually, I rode a block down the side walk with my fingers hard on the brakes in case I had to stop.

I just wanted to get the bike home to where I could practice myself without being embarrassed.

Before my first trip out, I recall telling my neighbor Joe what I was doing. (At that point in my life, it was a pretty big step simply ADMITTING I was afraid of something.)

I said, “I didn’t get to ride a bike much when I was younger and I’m afraid to do it. But I’m going to give it a try.”

I remember him smiling and wishing me well.

So, I went.

I cruised down my street and carefully turned right which put me out on another street where the speed limit is 25, but cars commonly go 40. The bike lane is immediately adjacent to traffic.

As I was pedaling along and working hard to stay within the bike lane, I heard a car approaching behind me.

Instantly, I felt my body tense up.

And in that moment, I knew exactly what my fear was: I was scared of getting hit by a car!

It’s still emotional for me to write this now as I know it’s expressive of some greater love coming from a place deep inside my memory.

At last I understood. I felt so vulnerable on my bike with no protection and cars whizzing by at 35 or 40 miles an hour.

My fear was palpable, but now I knew exactly what it was I was afraid of.

I veered right a bit to give the driver (and me) more space and soon I was off the road and onto a bike path.

The bike path was safe and I followed the trail out along the backside of Portland International Raceway.

It was there that I stopped and got off to sit in the sun. I felt so free out here! I was elated with the freedom of being out, miles from home, on my bike.

It truly was a joy ride!

So, by doing what I was afraid of, I learned exactly what it is that scares me.

I’m not afraid of riding a bike – I’m afraid of getting hit and hurt by a car. I love riding my bike; I just don’t like doing it around traffic.

The funny thing now is when I talk to others about my known fear of riding next to traffic, many people share the same fear. Even my friends who commute regularly on city streets have expressed how scary it is.

So, I’m not alone with this any more. It’s out in the open. It doesn’t control me and it certainly doesn’t stop me from doing something I really enjoy.

Example 2 – Nothing To Be Afraid Of

My second example is skydiving.

For whatever reason, I built the idea of jumping out of an airplane up into this huge fear.

I distinctly remember a couple of times being in a social situation and the topic of skydiving would come up.

I felt myself shrinking away because I was scared and had never done it. I felt gripped by this thing for whatever reason.

Jump ahead again to my early 40’s (I did a lot of shit in my early-mid 40’s :).

I finally decide – I’ve going to jump out of an airplane.

I called Skydive Oregon to set it up.

And when you call, it’s not like you just say, “Hey, I’m coming,” you have to make an appointment.

My appointment was on a Wednesday. Six days away. Six fucking long days away – I get to think about it and worry about it and know it’s approaching.

Why couldn’t I just go today and get it over with. No, I had to wait.

When Wednesday finally came, I got in my car and started the 45 minute drive South to the place.

It was like I was outside of my body and someone else was driving the car. Or, my car was driving itself, and it wasn’t going to stop until it pulled into the parking lot of Skydive Oregon.

I got there. I got out of the car and nervously walked to the office. I completed all the paperwork and waited for my name to be called.

I went through the training where the one thing they emphasize is to get into a swan position – arms and legs up, belly down – right after you jump.

I practiced my swan. Easy. Nervous.

I got introduced to my tandem jumper who suited me up and asked if it was my first jump.

Soon, we were in the plane and my nerves were peaking.

As we approached the jumping altitude, I thought to myself, “I can still say ‘no.’ I don’t have to do this.”

Then someone loudly slid the hatch door open with a thrust and my fear amped to another level.

I turned to ask my jump buddy if we were attached. I felt him yank me back to check as he said, “Yeah!” over the noise of the plane and the wind that was now rushing in.

The first tandem got up and into position. They slid down to the jump area and then they were gone – out in the sky – disappeared from my view.

“Holy shit,” I thought. My jumping partner and I slid up. We watched the next tandem go.

Now it was our turn.

“Holy fucking shit!” I thought as we were in position, my legs dangling over the edge of the plane.

And in the moment my fear was reaching it’s thickest point, he pushed and we were out.

And in the immediate – and I mean immediate – instant when we went airborn, I was awash in the realization, “What the FUCK was all the fear about?!”

I’ll never forget that moment. I was free.

Again, I was write, I’m moved to tears. Tears of love for myself, for doing it. For doing the thing that scares me, so I could find out there was never anything there at all.

It was just some stupid belief that got in my head along the way and snowballed into fear over time.

As we fell through the sky, I struggled to breathe, then remembered how.

My jump buddy tapped me and told me to get into swan position – I’d completely forgotten.

Within 60 seconds, the thing I was most afraid of, was over. He let the parachute and we peacefully drifted back to Earth.

And it was so fucking beautiful.

We got down and I was high.

I rushed out to a nearby convenience store and bought a 6-pack. I came back and watched others come down from the sky, knowing what they must be feeling.

I offered a beer to anyone who’d take one and hang out with me. I wanted to celebrate. I felt I could do anything. I was ready to take on the world.


When I share these stories with people, I usually feel a strong connection. and that feels really good to me.

I hope I always have the strength to do what I’m afraid of, so that it doesn’t own me, and so that I can know myself better.

Even now, it still can take time to work up the courage to do some things. But in the end, it is so worth it.

Love is all that’s left.

Is “Romantic Love” Sustainable?

“Romantic love” as I’m using it here is defined as those first euphoric feelings we get when we are attracted to a new love interest.

I’ve had these feelings many times. They feel incredible and make me feel “high” with emotion.

As a younger man under this spell, I often felt I’d met “The One,” as the rush of emotions overpowered me.

Inevitably the feelings would fade and I was left scratching my head wondering what had happened. Who was this person I felt so strongly about just a month before?

As a result, relationships that began with feelings of romantic love often ended shortly after the initial attraction wore off.

As I grew older, I learned that this was a natural occurrence – many of us go through it. Still, I found myself chasing that high in every new relationship.

I don’t recall pursuing too many women for long term relationships unless that strong ping of attraction was there at the beginning. I thought that that was how everything started.

Then one night while I was in my 30’s I was having beers with Larry Pastorius. Larry and I worked together and he was probably 20 years my senior.

I was talking to him about my challenges with regard to sustaining relationships with women and he shared a story that stuck with me.

He said, “Mike, I know what you mean. Before I met my wife, every relationship I’d had began with those euphoric feelings. Every one of those relationships was prone to huge up and down swings. And you know what? Every one one of those relationships failed.

“When I met my wife, there was none of that. We just liked each other. And that’s what has lasted.”

Hmmm. Interesting, I thought. Could “like” be more important than what I’d thought was “love at first sight?”

It’s always made me wonder in the 20 years since that conversation with Larry.

And yet, I’ve been addicted to that feeling most of my life. I’ve looked for that strong physical attraction over and over, only to realize after a month, “I don’t even like this person!”

So, I recently started a relationship with a woman and we’ve shared with each other that neither of us feels those “romantic love” feelings.

From my perspective, I like her. I’m attracted to her and after we met I felt we could talk together, had a nice connection and maybe wanted some of the same things out of life.

But I didn’t feel this overwhelming physical desire for her that I’d felt at the start of other relationships. In fact, the lack of this addictive feeling has caused me to question what we’re doing and I know it’s caused her to ask the same questions.

When the two of us get out of our heads and focus on how we feel when we’re together, everything is fine. We’re sweet to one another. We cuddle. We talk. We share stories and are getting to know each other a little at a time.

But still, we question: Shouldn’t we be having all those strong feelings couples have at the start of a relationship?

Pondering this question is what has led me to the title of this blog post, “Is Romantic Love Sustainable?”

The reason I ask that question now is because I’ve seen and experienced so many relationships go off the rails after the shine wears off.

So, are these relationships that begin with stomach flutters long lasting? Or is this initial ping we perceive to be an intense connection merely a sexual attraction that really has no foundation?

Whenever I hear of a couple who has broken up and then gets back together, I know they are experiencing great sexual chemistry. The lure of that physical connection is so strong, it’s like a drug.

But I’m not sure it indicates anything other than what it is – a strong physical connection.

I have another friend, Randy Kirk, who is 20 years my senior and a year ago I asked him, “What is love? What does that even mean?”

He said something really interesting. He said, “When I was married, I liked my wife. Each day, I woke up and decided to love her.”

With love seeming like such an elusive, undefined thing, this is interesting. Maybe “liking” someone is a better foundation for a relationship than all those endorphins that fool us in the beginning.

Maybe that’s why this woman and I have been questioning our relationship. Maybe that’s why it will last – because our foundation is built on all the things that make friendship successful – not because our foundation is built on stomach flutters and skipping hearts.