Archive for the 'privacy' Category


June 7, 2014

I spent a lot of time with another family while I was growing up, and after we adopted children, that relationship fell apart.

Years later, one of family members got in touch with me on the occasion of their marriage.  It seemed as if nothing had really changed, so I wished them well, declined the invitation (which I don’t think included our children), and sent a gift.

I included a family photo with the personal note I sent.

I got a note back sometime after the wedding that mentioned how they had used the photo in a presentation they had made during the festivities.

My kids are adopted, one through a closed domestic adoption, they were young when this use of the photo occurred, and I was accustomed to schools and extracurricular organizations asking permission to use photos of children.

I was taken aback by the use of the photo at the wedding.

I felt that my privacy had been invaded and I felt that the prevailing cultural norms had not been followed.  I felt that while our relationship had changed for the worse over our children (at the outset, when the children were newly adopted infants and toddlers), the wedding person was happy to use a photo of them, even against the children’s best interests, if it helped the wedding person with what they wanted to do.

On the other hand, I could see that the person probably had no clue about how it would feel to me, and that that was part and parcel of why there is no longer a close relationship.

For me, a big challenge in life is letting go of my apparently airbrushed versions of people, and to see them as they are.  It’s not that I condemn them for how they turn out to be, but on the other hand, I don’t owe people a relationship if I find it doesn’t work for me, especially if it causes me harm.

In this case, the issue falls under the heading, “I don’t know how to accept you in my life if you don’t accept my relationship with my children, if not the children themselves.”  In many cases it has felt as if I were being asked to collude with the relative or person I was friends with or teacher or neighbor against my child, to gang up with someone else against my child.  The answer is no.

I found myself discussing this issue with my internist at my annual check-up this spring, and he said he couldn’t do it either.  He’s a brisk and upbeat person, and had never experienced this himself, but he allowed himself to enter into what I was saying my world can be, and he could see why I handle things as I do.  That kind of acknowledgment I find helpful, not only because then the person isn’t asking me to do something I feel is harmful (and would require me to try to twist myself into some kind of emotional pretzel), but also because it allows me to move on more easily.  It’s not that I haven’t shared this experience before, and learned from others that it has happened to them, over adoption, interracial issues, etc., but somehow getting a little understanding from someone on the outside felt noteworthy.

Of course, it doesn’t provide a road map for going forward, but I try not to expect that from other human beings at this point in my life.


Poets, mothers, and privacy

January 31, 2012

I was reading a piece (it’s called, “The Awful Rowing toward Anne Sexton,” by Lawrence Kessenich, and I read it here) that included the fact that someone writing about Anne Sexton gained access to tapes of her sessions with her therapist.  And, apparently, was planning to listen to them and draw on them in the book she is writing about Sexton.  The piece also mentioned Sexton’s daughter, although I’m not sure about her connection to the tapes.

I don’t know what the law is on this point involving a privileged relationship and the need for consent to put aside that privilege after the person holding the privilege has died.  (I think I once did know something about it.)  But from a non-legal perspective, I don’t see how another person can really give consent on behalf of the dead for disclosing their confidences.  How can they know it is acceptable to the deceased, to disclose something so personal?

My own mother has a very well developed sense of respecting other people’s privacy.  I know how much her own privacy means to her from this.  I suspect I’m willing to be a lot more open about my own life, and I remember thinking at one point in my life that this had something to do with having gone through the process of becoming an adoptive parent — you get somewhat used to your life being an open book.  At this point, I’m inclined to see correlation more than causation — I’m probably a more open person than my mother and hence I probably end up in situations in which more disclosure occurs.  Whatever the explanation, though, I am sure that she and I have different sensitivities about it, just as we, for all our closeness, have differences about other things.  And it’s not a matter of not wanting to shock her, it’s about trust and respect and consideration and maintaining closeness.

So, I know I would need to pay attention to the standard my mother would use about her own information if I were ever faced with a situation about privileged information about her after her death.

I hope that the people involved with Anne Sexton’s information have thought about this, too.  Just as we have memorial services to honor the dead, we can on the other hand dishonor them, I think, by doing something they might regard as betrayal of their confidences.