Carlyn (Kar-leen), from Santa Fe, New Mexico, grew up in a junkyard house in a tough relationship with her adoptive mother. Caryln felt over protected, trapped, and wondering why that was her life.
After submitting a DNA test for fun, Carlyn was connected with a biological relative she had never heard of forcing her adoptive sister to finally reveal Carlyn’s adoption. The news sent a wrecking ball, sailing through her life. Carlyn’s newly found DNA matched biological sister was seeking connection because the woman never really had a family. Soon the pair were told they had no time to waste meeting Carlyn’s birth mother.
This is Carlyn’s journey.
Purchase Junkyard Girl
Who Am I Really?
- Who Am I Really? Website – http://www.whoamireallypodcast.com/
- Share Your Story – bit.ly/2imgrtv_Share
- Apple Podcasts – http://apple.co/2oOd25m
- Spotify – https://spoti.fi/2RN3jcB
- Google Play – http://bit.ly/2oEU7bH
- TuneIn – http://tun.in/piyg9
- Stitcher – http://bit.ly/2DsqBxk_Stitcher
- Player FM – https://player.fm/series/who-am-i-really
- Podbean – bit.ly/2I0ITeY_Podbean
- YouTube – http://bit.ly/2oF3yrH
Damon’s own story in print and audio:
- Damon’s story “Who Am I Really? An Adoptee Memoir” – https://amzn.to/2Y9RNf8
188 – Junkyard Girl
Cold Cut Intro[:[:
And she pulled out two pages and she started reading to me. And the bottom line was, she said,
carlyn you're adopted. And when I heard those four words. I felt like I was completely unmade. I felt like right there, the wrecking ball hit my foundation and it's like all the pieces scattered everywhere.
Show Intro[:ll, sailing through her life.[:
This is Carlyn's journey.
Her parents were immigrants from mexico whom she said were tough parents Carlyn was a lot younger than her three older siblings who she adored and Carlyn is a late discovery adoptee[:ot of friends. So I hung out [:
When are my real parents coming to get me? I know this can't be my real parents. I know , this can't be my life. So from a young age, I was always thinking, gosh, there's gotta be somewhere else that I really belong. And so that really informed the rest of my childhood, you know, as time grew on my parents and I, and especially my mother who was really tough and I think was trying to teach me about being tough in the world because she had it really tough.s a mixture of a lot of love [:[:[:
So it relates to north America, south America. And then, um, you know, there was a percentage of Spanish, Portuguese, and the reason I actually took a DNA. For fun was, and also was to find out how much Jewish there was in my bloodline, because my mother always talked about that. Hmm. And whereas all my cousins were coming in at 40%.en a really big flag, but it [:[:
You didn't know at this time that you're out at the dog, Ken laying up, looking at the sky, thinking to yourself, where are my real parents, but you're asking a question that any adoptee might ask. Did you feel other ways that you just didn't identify with your parents that made you question your, your true parentage.[:But I [:
Wow. And so I was a lot shorter and I didn't look like anybody, but, and when I would question that. I remember, I have an very, very large extended family. I have 63 first cousins. And the thing is, this is the kicker. They all knew I was adopted, but nobody ever told me. And I would question it out loud to some of my cousins who are, I was close to.I just thought my essential [:
I was always more of a person who loved adventure and loved fantasy. In my mind. I was always escaping to places and I thought very differently than they did. All of my siblings have sort of stayed close to home. And I've always been the one who wanted to move away to get away to experience life. You know, I was more of a risk taker, so I could tell I was different from this clan, but I also just put it, you know, put it up to, well, there's always gonna be somebody different in a family there there's, you know, there's and everybody else got along better with my mother and father, but I was always clashing, especially with my mother.[:
Wasn't so much that you sort of questioned your parents. It was the sense I got from you was this can't be my life. Is that exactly? Yeah. Mm-hmm , that's what it felt like as you were describing it.[:[:
And as Carlyn Her parents We're hoarders[:[:
That's exactly the word I was thinking you were feeling was the shame of how life appears in such disarray at your home, right? that's really tough. Can you tell me about your teenage years? Did you have any sort of, you know, are there stories from your teen years where you were just kind of like, huh, that's kind of weird and you.our family or anything along [:[:
And I think I thought to myself, I'm a, I'm a pretty smart person, but I never figured it out. I, I did have people say all the time, gosh, you don't look like anybody. That's your sister. Wow. You don't look at all alike. Here were, you know, my, my two, two of my siblings looked exactly like my father, my father had green eyes, you know, they all had these Aqualine noses and I didn't, I don't look anything like that. I'm short and I'm darker skinned. I. You know, a smaller rounder nose, a round her face. So I didn't look like anybody. And I always wished I did, because I always thought they looked so just amazing.viously knew I would say it. [:
I sort of thought I was trapped in that house and forever for some odd reason. So, , when I was growing up I wished I had been, you know, part of something else, but I didn't think it through enough to feel like I was part of another family or part of something else.[:
Her mother forbade her from going away to school. Carlyn's father asked where she wanted When she said Loyola, Marymount. Two hours away in Los Angeles. Her father agreed Agreed[:
I was trying everything and doing everything. So I escaped into, , movie making. And as I grew up, I got to work at places like Lucas film and I was a film editor, But one of the things that was interesting. that I could not understand about myself is even though I had all this freedom, one of the things that kept plaguing me, and I couldn't understand why my parents had been married forever.s with them growing up, they [:
And they kind of go on with their life where they cry for a little while and it's over. Why do I feel such an intense feeling of abandonment? Like it's excruciating. And so I went to see a therapist and I said to her, you know, I wanna deal with this issue. I don't understand why I'm feeling this. And because we didn't know that I was adopted, she concluded that because my mother was the way she was, she was very tough.bly why you feel the way you [:
So I did kind of feel that. And now that's a little bit more explained to me because I think a lot. Late discovery, adoptees feel that, but as I was going through life, you know, I had a divorce, which was again, excruciating, but it was good that I moved on.
And then I met the love of my life after that. And, , he was somebody who I had known for 20 years, and life was going pretty swimmingly. You know, I I'm an author and I loved writing.
And then. The big revelation came about after I took that ancestry test.[:
Carlyn thought it would be fascinating to know more about her heritage. Like if she was part of some historic global population, She didn't anticipate being connected to or something fun Like that[:looked at it and it was some [:
and I went, what? And, and so I thought this guy's flirting with me, so I ignored it. But then he came, kept coming back and it said, Hey, um, don't you think don't you think, look, and he sent me a picture of her. And I was looking at this lady thinking, I don't look and I look asked my husband, do you think I look like this lady?
And he says, no. And so I ignored it, but he kept writing me and saying, well, come on, don't you think you could be cousins or this or that? And I, because I'm kind of sarcastic. So I wrote back to him and I said, I think the only resemblance your wife and I have is that we shop for glasses at the same store mm-hmmmy throat just, or my breath [:
And I went, and I remembered that I had taken this ancestry test, which I had sort of ignored. And I had seen her name on it as a possible close. Relative. And if I had known how to read one of those tests, I would've seen that. It said possible sibling. Oh my God. And yeah. And at the time I, I had just sort of ignored it cuz I was so busy and I thought, okay, well, all right.
I said, well, if she thinks, you know, whatever, I maybe there's some, some relation somewhere. Yeah. We have a huge family. And I said, well, why don't you have her email me?[:
Carlyn didn't recognize a single name from their extensive family tree. Carlyn told Martha, she would ask her siblings who were much older than she is and see if they knew anything. Usually when Carlyn called her siblings, there was always lots of jokes and laughter between them. When she called to ask about the unfamiliar connections she had found on ancestry DNA. Carlyn's siblings were very serious. She had spoken to two of her siblings And they both said the exact same thing.[:[:he just really wanted to see [:[:
And I have to talk to you about it. wow. And I was like, oh my God. Oh my God, is somebody sick? Is somebody getting divorced? What's the deal? And I thought, well, if it was why didn't she could just call me, but she said, no, no, let's, let's just get some tea. Then we'll sit down. And so it took us, you know, I always think of that thing of dead man, walking, how somebody feels like they're going to their execution.
And it feels like the longest bath to that place. Mm-hmm , that's how I felt going to sit down in my living room. And I was just like, oh my God, okay. What is it? What is it? And she sat down, she looked at me and she just burst out crying. And she said, I'm sorry, I can't even tell you. I wrote this down, cuz I knew this would happen.And the bottom line was, she [:
And she was about to knock on the door when she heard a woman crying in the background, in the backyard area. And when her friend came to the door, she said, Hey, who's this woman, do you know her? She's crying back here. And her friend said to my adoptive mother, Oh, that's my cousin. She's here from Chicago and she has two children already.rtion was illegal everywhere.[:
We'll take her and we'll raise her. And then my adoptive mother and my father took this family home to live with them for the next six months. And . My sister later told me it was only, my sister was only nine at the time, so she didn't remember a lot, but she said, yeah, well, I remember we, my mother would take really good care of her , and she would tell her to eat.t together. And she said, we [:
And then my parents gave my adoptive mother money to go back to Chicago with her two children.[:[:I was adopted, but I am so, [:
So my birth mother had had an abortion. Okay. You know, I probably wouldn't have known any difference, but I actually have had lived a very full life at this point. And I think of all the connections I've made and the people I've loved and who've loved me. And so looking back on it, it was all like, oh, I almost didn't have a life.
And that's pretty sobering.
And my parents were not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination. I mean, I've described how we grew up living yet. She did this and I was in that moment. So blown away that my mother had done that because I had grown up just fighting with her and arguing with her and thinking, God, I wish I had any other mother except this.t moment was, how grateful I [:[:
I'm so sorry to hear that. That was the feeling you had. I wonder, can you just take me, I'm gonna start with that moment. Just take me to the moment where you're sitting, I guess, with your sister and she has just told you that you're adopted. Can you just, can you remember what it felt like right then?[:
Or at least at the moment we felt we were okay. But then feeling like something was going on with my hearing, like, I couldn't, he, I could hear people talking, but they felt very muffled. And that was exactly what happened when she said that as soon as she said adopted. And then when she said your mother wanted to have an abortion.
And I think I realized I was almost not going to, you know, be alive. I suddenly stopped. Like my ears felt like they were full of cotton and she kept reading and I could see her lips moving and I could hear her words, but they sounded like they were across some canyon somewhere. And then I thought to myself, because , I always have thought that I'm somebody who does well when they're in shock or when something happens.ed. And I'm probably sitting [:
And I thought to myself, is that what I look like? Because that's kind of how I feel. So it was all this was going on. You know, people were having their reactions. My sister was reading yet. I was having this out of body kind of experience where I felt like in some way I was floating over them, just watching all of this happen.or something in his eyes and [:
This is huge. And this is happening to me. So I think that's what was going on at that moment as she was reading those pages. And then I'll just say that when she was done, she looked up at me. I looked up at her and. The one of, and then what she did was she pulled out this little snapshot. That's one of those old ones you remember from the sixties.
And she just slid it across the table towards me. And I saw this snapshot that I had seen a million times, and it was , my two brothers and my sister holding me as a baby. My one of my brothers was holding me as a baby. And there were these two other little kids in the shot. And I had asked a million times who are those little kids in the shot?t? And then she said, that's [:
And that was my half brother Robert standing next to her. wow. So all this time I had grown up seeing that photograph in my family, and that was my half brother and my half sister[:y lived that, like, that's a [:
Your brain sounded like it was detaching from the moment and almost shutting down functionally because of the shock of what you had learned about your own life. That is wild.
tell me a little bit about. The aftermath. You said you realized you kind of went into shock. tell me about the rest of your sister's visit. You know, she's calm and it's snowing. She probably just didn't dip in and then leave an hour later.
Like how was the rest of your visit with her and what went through your mind?[:probably the therapist told [:
I mean, I, we, Ken and I, my husband could not stop talking about this story. It was this like a, a, you know, a turntable just over and over and over and over, because I think I was in such shock. So while she was here, I did have to ask her, like, you just had to re-ask me the same question I had to ask her again, what happened?
Can you say that again? Because I don't. I said, I think I was in shock and I don't think I heard it all. And the primary feelings that were going through me and I don't know that I explain it well, because it doesn't make any sense to me. I never, in my mind thought that my adoptive family would abandon me, but maybe it's because I've always had this feeling of abandonment lingering, and now I get it because so many.her adoptees feel a sense of [:
Can you just all hold me here? Can you just like, tell me I'm not being abandoned again? Cuz that's what it felt like. So my sister and I were walking through Santa Fe after we had breakfast and all I could think about in my head was, oh God, please. You know, this is, this feels terrible. This feels awful.
And I, but I finally looked at my sister and I said, Lily, why didn't you tell me? I tell you everything. Why wouldn't you tell me. She sort of started crying again. She said, because, you know, I didn't wanna lose you. I didn't wanna lose you. And I, I think it initially all started because , my mother especially took my siblings aside while I was in this crib in a room.[:
And my siblings always did what my parents said. And so I think it started off that way. And even after my parents died, my siblings kind of just had in their mind, we made a promise. We're supposed to protect. That's what we do. And they didn't think it through of how it could affect me in my life. But. My sister looked at me and she said in that moment, when we were walking through Santa Fe, she said, I just didn't wanna lose you.please don't let go. And so [:
But, so that's what it was like then. And then when she left and I was on my own with my husband, it that's when everything fell apart, that's when that wrecking ball hit. And I felt like all the pieces scattered because I'm not, I, I feel like I'm a pretty tough person and I know that's part of my upbringing and I don't cry a lot unless something really, really big happens.
but I was crying all the time. I was washing the dishes and I'd suddenly start crying. I would tie my shoe and I'd suddenly burst into tears and I was like, what's wrong with me? Why am I crying all the time? And. I was feeling such a turbulence of emotions, of, of sadness and grief and loss. And, you know, periodically some anger would kind of pop up.husband, oh my God, this is [:
So for me, it was like, okay, today, right now I'm feeling grief right now. I'm feeling sadness right now. I don't know what I'm feeling, but at least to give it a name, to let it pass through and to try to get to the other side and, and let it move through so I could get to the other[:ntify, give it that name and [:
Right. Mm-hmm and it does, it helps you to identify, like, if I'm feeling grief, I may need to sit quietly for a while, but if I'm feeling anger, I might need to go to the gym and work this out. You know what I mean? Right. Right. I think identifying is really important.[:Valentine's day and I called [:
And oh my God, it was, she suddenly, it was like her mind suddenly started remembering everything cuz she was seven years old when sh my mother had brought them to live with them and she started remembering everything. She remembered my mother's name. She remembered living in California. She remembered my sister.
She remembered the Chihuahua was my sister had. And so she was beyond thrilled. And the thing was, this is an interesting thing. She had been looking for family her whole life. I had not. So we were coming from completely different places. Like I could feel her and I understood, you know, she's happy, she's happy.
She has a sister. And I'm like, oh my God. Oh my God. It's too much. It's too much. I, it just felt so overwhelming. So we were coming from kind of two different places. And then, and then here's the kicker. I said, do you. Think our birth mother's still alive. And she said, no, how could she be she's she would be in her mid nineties.mentally ill. She, the last [:[:sked Carlyn if she wanted to [:
Carlyn admitted that some people might have slowed down a moment to try to process what was happening in her life. But she also admitted she's the kind of person who enjoys adventure and she was craving the truth about her life.
It was upsetting to her that her life had been a secret for so long And Carlyn was not going to let anything stop her from getting every answer she could from then on. Her adoptive parents had been deceased for over 10 years, but still Carlyn felt guilty that going to meet her birth mother would be trade them somehow. Three days after speaking with martha Carlyn was on a plane to chicago to meet her birth mother and sister
There was this feeling of, even though they're gone, I'm betray them somehow. And I remember my sister saying, no, you're not betraying them. You're not betraying them. And then it was like, my parents started talking from the beyond saying you're not the betray us odd because all these really weird synchronistic things started to happen.Like for example, I [:
And that's why the attorney was looking for his closest relatives. And when I saw my brother's death certificate, it was stamped on my birthday. So all these little weird things were happening. And then I got to the air airport, and I was looking at the flight chart up there that tells you when things are departing and, and arriving.is? She goes, I don't know. [:
This is all just too much. 4, 6, 1 9 were the numbers that I grew up with on my phone number for the last, you know, since I was a baby, it was the number we still have and for me in that moment, I felt like my parents are saying, go, go find who you are. This is the time. So there were a lot of strange little things like that happening.
So that's what I felt hopping on that flight
carlyn said that whole flight. She was reliving moments of her life. Re-examining her past with a magnifying glass, Trying to see moments. She had lived through the lens of being an adoptee. When her plane landed, Carlyn needed an hour in her hotel, just to decompress from the depth of historical review she had focused on in the air. Before her hour of solitude was over Carlyn, made her way to the restaurant .lm her mind get some tea and [:[:
And then, , We sat down and just started talking immediately, just started, you know, with, with superficial conversation to begin with, how is your flight? How's your room? You know, how are you doing? And then we started getting into things and I could tell I was much more, a little more reserved than I usually am.like, oh, she was saying, I [:
So that initial thing was, it was fine. It was fine, but I knew I wasn't my whole self in that moment. Cuz part of it too is I had such an allegiance to my adoptive family. I really did. I mean, those were my siblings, those were the ones and it was hard to imagine anybody else coming into that fold. Right.e wanted to see her aunt who [:
And so we drove to her house and the aunt looked at me and, and she said, we never knew about you. We never knew about you. So then we picked up the ant and then went to the state hospital, and this is the thing that was, I was in denial still. You know, there are all those five stages of grief.
I was still way in denial of this. Can't be my new, this cannot, I just can't believe this is happening to me. But then I would go through a checklist in my head, like, Nope, your sister told you, here's the proof, here's your half sister, the ancestry test didn't lie. And I'd be like, okay, okay. It is true. But then I'd be like, no, this can't be true.in, I went, this can't be my [:
And I thought her ears were a little pointy it didn't look like that. And I thought, okay. And so the thing was, she had dementia, really bad dementia mm-hmm . And so she didn't even really know who Martha was. And so I remember I just was looking at her, you know, the entire time I kept my distance cuz she didn't want anybody to touch her and anybody, you know, when Martha would come and hug her, she'd push her away.
And so I just was observing, I was observing, I was observing and there came a time when I was sitting next to her at a big table. and I thought, okay, I don't feel anything for this person. And that's odd because I tend to feel like I'm a very compassionate person and I connect with people really well, but I, I thought I don't feel anything for her.Isn't that odd. [:
And I remember reaching over when she wasn't looking and just slightly, just gently, ever so gently touching the back of her hand and thought, okay, now I'm gonna feel this recognition. Now I'm gonna feel a connection to my birth mother. And I felt nothing. And in that moment, she realized I was touching her and she just kind of flicked me away.
So I just always thought that was so strange that I felt no connection to her whatsoever.[:
So it would be, I would actually be surprised if you immediately sat down and found a connection, given that you just found out that you were. An adopted person. I can see what you're looking for, but it's not irrational in my mind to think, oh yeah. She just found out how could she feel connections to other people?
She's still exploring what she feels for like her own family. You know what I mean? Mm-hmm[:And I looked over at her and [:
and I guess what she was saying was that she gave me up or she abandoned me. And in that moment, I really thought about this woman. And I thought about the parents I was raised with, and I thought, boy, my, my birth mother and I had some, there was a lot of love between us, but there were a lot of, there was a lot of anger and resentment and, you know, there was a really a tough growing up there that I thought your adoptive mother, myself, my adoptive mother mm-hmm , but I thought I loved her and I'm glad for the family I had, you know, I adored my siblings and my father was amazing, you know?
And I, I thought of that. And I, I, I looked at her and I said, there's nothing to forgive. And she looked at me again and I said, really, there's nothing to forgive. because I felt that the right choice was made, I also I later learned from Martha that their upbringing was not a good one.It was a really bad one [:
So I thought, wow, I just escaped that. And you know, that phrase their, for their, but for the grace of God, go, I mm-hmm , that's how I felt.[:ity to parent appropriately. [:[:
And, uh, I do see that my half sister and my half-brother really suffered for it. And I, I guess I, I, in my mind, I'm like, yeah, she was mentally ill, but in my heart, I'm like, I felt for the kids. I felt like God, they didn't deserve that. They did not deserve that. And I'm, I'm pretty impressed and amazed how Martha came through with her life and was able to forgive and let go and have her own family, which is all she ever wanted.
Growing up. She told me all I wanted was a family because she didn't have that.[:
She had just met two relatives after discovering she's an LDA. And that was enough for the time. Only three months after they Carlyn's birth mother passed away. However Carlyn still felt like she needed to know more of the truth of her own story. She started interviewing her relatives to learn what they knew and it quickly became clear. No one knew who her birth father was. Eventually it hit Carlyn that it didn't matter who the man was anyway[:s. I, I stopped caring about [:
And, and yeah, if there was somebody who showed up as a sibling, somehow I, I might do that. But at this point , I've had enough with like, okay, I was able to say, what is family, who is my real family? And I've decided it doesn't have to be blood. My family who I grow up with is part of my family, you know, this new woman, this woman, Martha who's come in, you know, slowly, we we're getting to know each other.can choose who you make that [:
And to me, that is family.
That, that makes a lot of sense. And I've often heard that kind of feeling and I've encouraged other adopted people to think about things that way, because. You can be placed in a family and get along famously or not get along at all. And you can have friends throughout your life.
Some of them come and go seasonally and others are there through every element, thick and thin high water, low tide, right. And then, you know, there's people that you in adoption end up finding in reunion and you are so deeply connected to them and others that you're not. And it's a, it's a combination of all of those people and the groups that I've described that can end up actually being your family throughout your life.at you said that you sort of [:
Yeah, and I, and I'm extremely grateful.
I mean, I, I, I, I always say that a lot of people understand what it feels like to lose a loved one, or lose a friend to disease, you know, disease or whatever that is, but few people know what it feels like to lose your sense of self, who you are and what this has given me the opportunity to do, which I never would've thought twice about this one.owed me to kind of come back [:
You know, it, it's not like it ever goes away. I think it's been three and a half years now that I discovered I was a late discovery adoptee, and I do get triggered. You know, I heard an episode that you did recently and I felt myself getting very emotional, listening to the late discovery, adoptee telling her story.
So I know a lot of that emotional upheaval may still be there and needs to be processed. And that's all that tells me. It's like, okay, you've got some processing to do and you know, just recognize what's happening. But I also feel a lot stronger from this
So I'm glad to hear that you feel stronger. Yeah. That's, that's amazing.[:
And suddenly I felt that, oh, these people feel, feel like I do. I suddenly felt like, oh, there was a tribe that you could listen to. And that's partially why I decided to write a book about my experience, cuz I hope that I saw how much pain other LDLs are in. I mean, it, it reminds me of when I see somebody on one of those Facebook groups who says, oh my God, I just discovered I was adopted.
It feels like they're one of these newborn little deer that are born, that are on spiny legs and they're trying to find their footing, but they can't quite, and I, I, I love that the community kind of goes around them and goes it's okay. It's okay. Just breathe. It'll be okay. But I also hoped, you know, that I could help in a greater way.
And that's why I ended up writing a book about my experience, cuz I hope that people could take something away from that and realize it's it's it feels like the end, but it's not the end.[:
When does it come out?[:[:
Cuz it sounds like it happened. Super fast with very little sort of time to prep or think or focus. And it sounds though, like you've done some work in terms of therapy to get to this other side where you're feeling like you're stronger for the journey. And I think that's incredibly powerful. So Carlyn.
Thank you so much for being here. It's been really awesome talking to you.[:[:[:
The whole jarring experience of learning, she was adopted was so fresh in her head and she was meeting a woman. She had never thought of before that moment in her life.
I respect where Carlyn landed on trying to find her birth father, the space of a father figure is already occupied in her heart and mind. And there's no reason for her to explore another father figure.onnections to other adoptees [:
That understanding and empathy can go a long way toward your healing. I'm Damon Davis, and I hope you found something in Carlyn's journey that inspired you. Validates your feelings about wanting to search or motivates you to have the strength along your journey to learn who am i
So, , can I just ask on a personal note, my wife has a huge star wars nerd and loves Lucas Flo. Oh, can you gimme some like something to take to her that you edited? I'd love to say my guest today edited blah, blah,[:there. I think she'd be much [:
, but the other part that's hysterical is he is also the voice of Jabba the hut dying in the number in number three, Star Wars. Are you[: