As an adult adoptee, the older I get the more mannerisms I see in myself from my parents. If there’s any question regarding the nature versus nurture debate, I can tell you firsthand that it hardly matters if you’re bought or birthed. By way of example, my brother (Jeff) and I were adopted from separate families and not related beyond sharing a last name, yet we both exhibit considerable features of our parents. If you were to meet Jeff, your first thought would likely be, “This guy’s an asshole, and nothing like his genteel Midwestern parents.” Though, he is fiscally responsible and likes khakis and hotel robes as they do. Whereas, I’m overtly kind, but a tragedy with money, and an aversion to chinos and shared monogrammed clothing.
Though I’ve gleaned countless positive characteristics from my parents, there are two traits I wish I never shared with them: anxiety and cancer – conditions that give no shits about heredity or lack thereof. Anxiety can come via “anxiety seed-planting” through our parents. Most often, however, it’s a result of a genetic predisposition combined with environmental factors. How you arrived at an angst-ridden life is not as important as how you manage one.
My dad, a clear victim of indecisiveness, often had me second-guessing my own choices, or not making one at all. To this day, if he thinks I made a less-than-prime choice, it has me strongly reconsidering – to the point I’m often paralyzed by an Applebee’s lunch menu.
With mom, I currently share the mixed blessing of cancer remission. I’m remarkably gracious to be in remission with her; but uncertain how as an athlete I succumbed to a smoker’s cancer diagnosis on my birthday. Or, far worse – how my mom was hit with an exceptionally rare stage IV breast cancer. I would take hers on if that was ever an option in my regular fantasy where some omnipotent entity grants us the power to switch maladies.
Being in this unique position, I’ve learned that the only thing worse than your own pain is helplessly watching a loved one suffer. The first being purely physical; the latter crushingly emotional. Yet it does not stop me from trying to will health or strength upon her.
There is always an upside or takeaway to every hardship, though it often takes time and distance to source it. In my instance, I am much closer to my parents through our shared experience caring for mom. Adversity also gave me the incentive to leave a dead-end job, and relegate my only sibling to the “acquaintance pool.” Sometimes you get the best light from a burning bridge. I regularly lean on prayer, daily gratitudes, and striving to stay rooted in the moment. Helpful tactics I would not have learned otherwise.
There is no education like struggle. Suffering is a conduit to empathy and awareness. Adversity yields purpose and refinement in life that can only come from life trials. Hug your family and your hardships. They’re trying to tell you something.
“Try to exclude the possibility of suffering which the order of nature and the existence of free wills involve, and you find that you have excluded life itself.” – CS Lewis