Revolutionary War

 

In this series of posts, we are exploring what would happen if the world suddenly stopped and you were transported to another time in history. Previous articles have explored the WWII and Civil War eras. Now, we will turn our attention to the days of our country’s formation – approximately 240 years ago.

 

Only moments ago you heard the bells ring throughout the city of Philadelphia. You rush to the State House to hear the very first reading of the Declaration of Independence.

 

This day has been long in coming. The men in America have grown weary of England’s taxes and rules. They have decided that they will no longer stand for England’s rule. Thus, they have created a Continental Congress, held secret meetings, and prepared as best they could to hold off the British Army.

 

Battles Have Begun

 

Battles have already begun, but British troops have not yet reached Philadelphia. However, you know that they will be heading toward you soon. The British would love nothing more than to take the city that has been so instrumental in the fight for independence.

 

You love America and have been involved in rounding up men to join the militia in preparation for the day that the British move your direction. You have become connected to this land and to your brothers who have also come here seeking freedom of religion and ideas. Yet, you remain conflicted.

 

Connections

 

Despite your differences with The Crown, you have connections that run deep in your homeland. You have left so many of your friends and family behind in England. In addition, all your ancestors have lived there for as far back as records exist.

 

So, as you prepare for the fight ahead, you do so because your strength of conviction in the goals and ideals you share with the men of this land outweigh your connection to England. Your family and friends are not your enemies and you are not theirs. Neither is your homeland really your enemy. It is simply that you and your brothers in America want to break the connection between yourselves and the King who is keen on taxation without representation and punitive actions to keep the colonies in line.

 

In Your World

 

Coming back to the present, the questions for you are: Is there anything that you believe in strongly enough that you would give up your friends, family, and homeland for it? Do you always direct your anger/conflict in the right direction and toward the right person? How do you handle connections to two things in conflict?

 

In the next article “The Day The World Stopped – Prehistoric Era,” we will dive into a world where humans did not exist.

 

Steppin in someone else's shoes

 

 

People often use phrases such as, “You can’t understand until you have walked a mile in their shoes” and “Before you judge, step into her shoes.” These sayings were likely derived from the phrase “step into someone’s shoes,” which means to take on a particular role that someone else has been doing.

 

In this case, it means to live the other person’s life or to connect with them in a way that you truly understand what has been going on in their life. The idea is to be empathetic to the person. This is never as easy as one might make it out to be because no two people’s experience is the same.

 

Differences

 

Two people that have lost a partner may react differently to that loss. One person may have died suddenly, while another died after years of illness. These two situations are very different. The partner will grieve in both cases, but in the case of the person who dies after a long illness, much of the grieving may have occurred before the actual death.

 

Even two people that are going through very similar losses will grieve differently. One person may grieve over a couple of months while another one may grieve for a year. Additionally, people’s grieving may take different forms. One person may need to surround themselves with friends and family. They may talk a lot about the person that has passed. The other person may grieve very privately needing space and alone time.

 

Empathy

 

Thus, when we put ourselves in their shoes, it is not good enough to have general empathy for the person. It is important to take it a step further. We must listen and try to understand what that person specifically is going through. Additionally, we must be extremely careful not to put our experiences or beliefs on others.

 

For example, if a person has had a loss and grieved deeply and inwardly for months, they shouldn’t believe that they are showing empathy for someone else if they encourage them to be alone and out of the social network. If they do and the other person is the type of person that needs to be out with friends to heal, they are not showing empathy at all despite their good intentions.

 

Truly In The Person’s Shoes

 

This example can be extrapolated to infinite scenarios. It is important to allow people to speak for themselves and express what they are going through. Then, people can support them in their situation. People should not, however, assume they understand what any specific individual or group is going through.

 

 

This is why it is important to give individuals and groups a voice rather than speaking for them. Even when people try to advocate for others with the absolute best of intentions, they are bound to get it wrong. They are advocating a story that they have created rather than the real story. Sometimes those stories overlap considerably; sometimes they don’t.

 

It is only by listening to others and their personal journey that we can have true empathy for them. Attempts at empathy are better than none, but does not stand up to true empathy, which is gained only by connecting to the person and their story.

 

Social Media

 

 

Social media usage has risen dramatically over the last decade. In 2018, Pew Research stated that 68% of adults in the U.S. use Facebook. * A lower percentage of adult Americans use Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Snapchat than Facebook. However, none of the platforms dips below 20% and the total numbers are quite significant although even considering overlap of usage between apps.

 

The reason for the rise in social media usage is a combination of general industry growth, desire to connect, business demands, and a desire for attention. The industry has grown as new platforms evolved – each with its own focus and its own attraction to various age groups and types of businesses.

 

Desire To Connect

 

The initial boom in social media – and what keeps it going – is the desire for people to connect. Although you can know what is happening around the world almost instantaneously, people are not as connected to those around them as they were 100 or even 50 years ago. Thus, people turn to social media to (re-)connect with their family and friends that are often spread around the world.

 

People also join groups of like-minded people to discuss issues that are relevant to them, such as, parenting, hiking, or genealogy. Thus, people connect with new people and often receive support for the challenges that they are facing in life.

 

Business

 

As these platforms have grown, businesses have turned to them as a way to connect to their clients. They utilize these platforms for advertising, event announcements, and client engagement. They have replaced some of the traditional marketing methods and are especially important in the coveted 18-49 market, as they are the highest users of social media. It has also allowed businesses to expand their client base in new ways.

 

Desire For Attention

 

For some people, however, the use of social media isn’t really to connect with anyone. It is simply to draw attention to themselves. They use it to dramatize their life or a life that they choose to portray. Often, they play on people’s emotions, gaining attention from people they don’t even know. One must assume that they are starved for attention in real life. Thus, they create a more exciting or dramatic life online by making sure that people notice them. As a result, they gain the attention that they desire.

 

Cause Disruption

 

Some of these attention seekers take it a step further. They purposefully attempt to anger people and create arguments. These trolls never provide real facts and are quick to make highly judgmental statements. If those don’t create enough rage, they will turn to name calling and personal attacks. These trolls gain attention for themselves, but the joy they get is in seeing other people angry. Nothing makes them go away quicker than a calm, logical response where you completely ignore their inflammatory statements.

 

As you can see, there are good, bad, and ugly aspects of social media. It is important to prop up the good. The rest is something that we all have to work together to overcome. Thus, the next time you see an inflammatory statement or post consider what is going to create a positive outcome. If we could make everything on social media positive for even one day, it could change the world!

 

 

*https://www.pewinternet.org/2018/03/01/social-media-use-in-2018/

 

found now what

 

In the previous article “The Search,” I discussed the roller coaster ride of searching for birth parents. In this article that concludes the 3-part series, I will discuss connecting to birth families and the associated emotions.

 

Emotions All Around

 

When a person finally identifies their birth parent, they can be overcome with emotion. Emotions range from excitement to guilt to fear. Thus, taking that step to contact the birth parent (or even a half/full sibling) can be overwhelming.

 

It is impossible to know how the birth parent is going to react. Thoughts that people often have when contacting birth parents include: Will they accept me or reject me? Does their spouse/kids know about me? Are they a good person? What if they aren’t a good person? And, in the case of fathers . . . Does he even know about me?

 

All of these thoughts and concerns are valid. Some birth parents welcome their long lost children with open arms. These are the stories that keep people searching. The mother (and in some cases the father, too) that tells the person that they have been thinking about them every day and hoping they would find them often lead to amazing connections.

 

When Things Don’t Go Well

 

Other birth parents are not nearly as welcoming. They would like their “secret” to stay “secret.” In some of these cases there are extenuating circumstances and painful memories involved. Therefore, it is understandable. However, it is no easier on the person who is searching for their birth parent.

 

In many cases, however, these people have some image that they are trying to protect and have not told their spouse or children about the other child. In the worst of these cases, the biological parent threatens legal action against the person if they contact them or other family members. Although legal action may not be possible, clearly connections with the family are going to be limited.

 

In other cases, the people are simply being cautious. They are fearful of people taking advantage of them. Alternately, they are trying to protect their estate for their family.

 

Some of these people will come around. Other times, the parent’s other children are willing to build a relationship despite the parent’s concerns. However, these relationships are not the same as being fully included in the family.

 

Clueless

 

Of course, there are those that have no idea what the person is talking about. It is understandable for fathers that never knew about the pregnancy. However, it also includes mothers that claim to have zero memory of having a child. It also includes mothers and fathers that don’t claim to know each other despite what the DNA says.

 

In some of the cases, the parents stick to the story that the DNA is lying. It is hard to connect with them when they won’t acknowledge that you could even be their child. However, some of these cases, particularly fathers that never knew they fathered a child, eventually lead to strong connections.

 

Emotional Roller Coaster

 

Even when the birth parent(s) is found and starts to build a connection, the person should continue to expect a roller coaster of emotions. Some people report that they connect immediately. Meanwhile, others have a complete distaste for the biological parent. Even those that connect immediately and have a growing relationship often find that things don’t go as well after the honeymoon period.

 

Family drama is another emotional challenge for adoptees. It is rare to find a family without some drama and if there have been secrets, there is bound to be more!

 

Family connections are always interesting, especially when one or more people that are not their biological parents have raised a person.

 

the search

 

 

In the previous article “Family Connections,” I discussed some of the reactions when people learn that one or both of the parents that raised them are not their biological parent. In this article, I explore the connections and feelings that often arise during the search for a person’s birth parents.

 

Now, rare cases exist where the person takes a DNA test and immediately finds their birth family, everyone loves each other, and they live happily ever after. However, that isn’t the norm.

 

Expectations

 

A person shouldn’t expect anything other than a rollercoaster ride when looking for a birth parent.  Emotions will go high when the person sees a DNA match. Then, they will fall through the floor when the match does not respond to messages or hides all their information. This process may repeat several times.

 

Likewise, the person searching may contact a DNA match, who puts them in contact with other family members. Just when they start building a strong connection, someone else does a DNA test and it blows a hole in the theory of who the birth parent is. Now, they are left dangling.   They feel connected, but they aren’t connected the way that they think they are. In some cases, they may not be connected at all.

 

News of a mis-connection can be almost as emotional as learning that one or both of your parents are not your biological parents. This is especially true in cases where the new connections were supportive and welcoming, while the parents that raised the person are deceased or the relationship with them is strained.

 

The Process

 

The process can be lengthy and the result is not guaranteed.   It is very easy for people to become too excited, which often scares off DNA matches. It is equally as easy for people to become frustrated, lose interest, and just give up.

 

The best possible approach is a slow, steady approach where the person makes lots of connections. This allows emotions to be more even while allowing the person to build relationships with people that are related, if only distantly. Building connections with these people helps the person learn information that is useful in solving their parentage puzzle. Possibly, more importantly, these connections help the person to feel connected to family.

 

The final article in this series “Found, Now What?” will discuss the ability to connect with birth families and the associated emotions.

 

family connections

 

 

As a genealogist, I have become involved in helping people find their birth parents. It is always an interesting journey and although there are various common scenarios, each journey is unique.

 

The Reactions

 

Some people who have found out that one or both of their parents aren’t who they thought they were express no interest in identifying and meeting their biological parents. These people usually feel a strong connection with the parents that raised them. Often their perspective is that there is no need to find out who their biological parents are given that they will always consider the parents that raised them as mom and dad.

 

Other people report always feeling like they were adopted or never believing that their dad was their biological father. These people are not at all surprised when a DNA test reveals that their intuition was correct. Many of them report feeling disconnected or like something was missing in the relationship.

 

Other people fit somewhere in between these two perspectives. Some are surprised, but embrace the possibility of connecting with more family. These people still view their parents as their parents, but are open to learning more about themselves and their roots. Some people that fall into this category are people who grew up as only children. They are excited at the prospect of finding siblings.

 

Another reaction is to feel lost and/or angry. In these cases, people feel as if they no longer know who they are. For these people, learning that one or both parents who raised them are not their biological parents is devastating. It can take time and professional counseling to get through this very personal crisis.

 

Connected?

 

To me, it appears that some people sense the lack of connection all their lives. But, others want what is comfortable or desire a connection with the parents that raised them so much that they fear knowing about their biological parents. Yet others are comfortable with any and all connections. It is a very personal situation and is unique to that person.

 

If you are going through this, know that although your situation is unique, most likely there is someone out there that has been through something similar. Seek counseling if you are struggling. Also, know that there are groups of people that can help you find your birth parents if you so desire.

 

The next article in this series “The Search,” will dive into expectations when searching for your family.