Star interview: Mo Levy
Sitting several floors up in Dublin’s Black Church Print Studio overlooking the crowds on Temple Bar below, my conversation with Mo Levy was one of those in which I felt like we only just scratched the surface. She told me about her experiences of adoption and how having children of her own has given her roots. She told me how she uses humour as therapy, and how we never know who our teachers in life will be. We laughed – a lot.
As a therapist, improv comedian and print artist, Mo is someone who has many different roles. She’s someone who is always communicating and is adept at using her skills to help others understand themselves. Whether it’s with people with mental health issues, with blind people, with teenagers in wheelchairs – she uses humour as a means of catharsis.
Born in Quebec, Mo was adopted into what she describes as a ‘challenging’ family and knows very little about her birth parents. She tells me how the experience made her very solitary and self-reliant from a young age.
She says that Jeanette Winterson sums it up well in her book Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal, explaining how being adopted is like arriving on stage after the curtain’s gone up.
As a therapist, she’s used to looking back at previous generations to see what the patterns are, and says what has happened before does affect you, but if you’re adopted it’s not your story.
Here’s the passage from Winterson’s book in full:
Adopted children are self-invented because we have to be; there is an absence, a void, a question mark at the very beginning of our lives. A crucial part of our story is gone, and violently, like a bomb in the womb.
The baby explodes into an unknown world that is only knowable through some kind of a story – of course that is how we all live, it’s the narrative of our lives, but adoption drops you into the story after it has started.
It’s like reading a book with the first few pages missing. It’s like arriving after curtain up. The feeling that something is missing never, ever leaves you – and it can’t, and it shouldn’t, because something is missing.
That isn’t of its nature negative. The missing part, the missing past, can be an opening, not a void. It can be an entry as well as an exit. It is the fossil record, the imprint of another life, and although you can never have that life, your fingers trace the space where it might have been, and your fingers learn a kind of Braille.
It’s been a rough ride for Mo. Her mother died when she was 23, and she found herself the main carer for her father when he was diagnosed with MS. In many ways she felt trapped – but as she says, “I made a lot of art in this time…I did lots of good things that I wouldn’t have done otherwise. And that part of my life is over.”
“But it’s the back story for people who think I have the absolute craic in life.”
Many of the people I’ve spoken to on my Compass journey have a very spiritual, religious outlook. For Mo, it’s about taking personal responsibility, following your inner moral compass and taking time to understand why you behave in certain ways.
“I don’t believe in a little man in the sky who cares.”
“Who does care?”
I loved my conversation with Mo. She’s someone who’s been through so much, but chooses to laugh, smile, engage and to communicate…she’s an inspiration. The difficulties she’s faced are something to learn from, not drag her down. Her children have given her roots. The people who have hurt her along the way are her teachers.
I’d love to hear more about your own experiences of adoption. Or maybe you’ve found guidance in a situation where you least expected it? Do comment below and tell me more.