The Sixth Street Bridge

The Sixth Street Bridge
At the tender age of 17, I walked across this bridge, alone, into Downtown Pittsburgh, with $300 in my pocket that my mother had given me to get an abortion. I went into the Fulton Building (in the picture) and did what I was told to do. I didn't have a choice - if I did, I wouldn't have chosen abortion.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Finding Forgiveness

     I’m wondering if I can’t, won’t, refuse to even entertain the idea of sitting down and really consider forgiving my Mom – why aren’t I?  

     Is it because if I resign myself to forgiving my Mom, then there is nothing left?  I’m done.  My journey is over?  Now what?  The circumstances surrounding forgiving my Mom are complicated because I will never, ever be able to actually tell her that I forgive her.  I will never, ever be able to ask her any questions about my abortion.  Because of these impossibilities – I’ve hit a road block.  I know that I can write a letter, prayerfully contemplate forgiving her, imagine what forgiving her would be like and the words that I would say and imagine the words I would want to hear in return.  Part of my counseling is to not only write a letter to her if possible, but write one from her to me with the things I would want to hear from her.  The idea of that makes me feel like I’m 5 years old and I have no right or authority to speak for my mother. 

     I’m not sure it will be enough.  I’m not sure if an imaginary, one-sided forgiveness is going to be enough to chase my past away.  There is a small part of me that wants to pick up the phone and ask her what the hell was she thinking.  Does she have any clue of what my life has been like since having an abortion?  Does she realize the pain that I’ve carried around for 24 years?  Does she ever think about it?  Has she gone to confession for it?  Has she told a priest that she handed her daughter $300 to have an abortion because she was too selfish to do anything else?  Every time abortion is mentioned during intentions at Mass, every billboard she sees, every news debate she hears, every time she hears the word – abortion – does her heart skip a beat for the grandchild she doesn’t have here on earth?  When she takes my girls out to lunch – does she think that there should be one more? 

     Or did she really think it was the best thing to do and her heart was really in the right place?  Was she operating under a set of circumstances that time and experiences were guiding her toward?  Were there other factors involved that I don’t know about?  Had she ever have an abortion?  Why didn’t she go with me to have it?  Why has she never mentioned it to me in 24 years – not once? 
     Quite honestly – the answers that I imagine her offering to me don’t offer much help or healing for me.  I could be wrong, but I doubt it.  I’m quite certain that she would completely deny the abortion ever happening, completely deny her part in the abortion, or completely twist the history around to argue that I was the one who wanted the abortion and not her.

     It’s only been a couple of years that I’ve allowed myself to feel anger towards my Mom and feeling that anger towards her has a payoff for me.  I can hold onto it towards myself for just as long.  And if I’m angry and resentful, there’s little room for joy and happiness.  Depression is easy for me.  Happiness is hard.
     Being angry at my mom over the abortion has proven to be the tip of the proverbial ice berg.  Many of the mistakes of my youth I’m angry over and I’m angry that my parents allowed for a lot of them to happen when they had the power to prevent them.  The biggest of these is promiscuity beginning at such an early age.  Yes, I made the decisions to do all the things that I did, but why did I make those decisions?  Why did I think it was okay?  Why did I think that giving away my body and saying okay to things I didn’t want to do was my only option?  My parents never tried to stop me.  My Dad is off the hook, sort of, for the abortion because he wasn’t aware of any of it until a couple of years later, but where was he during my teenage years?  Where was he when I was deciding to have sex at the age of 15? 

     I don’t want to throw my parents under the proverbial bus because in a great many respects actually, they were really good parents – they still are.  All the good things that I am I owe to them for laying the foundation.  My Mom always told me that I could do anything I set my mind to.  My Dad encouraged my education and pushed me to study harder and to never stop learning.  He’s 74 now and for only having a high school education and one year of college, he remains one of the smartest people I’ve ever known.  My Mom is no dummy either.  She was ahead of her peers as well and skipped a grade or two in her education because of her intelligence at a time when girls being smart wasn’t in fashion.
     My father greatly valued and encouraged my music education and with each instrument I picked up and mastered, his pride grew.  I’ll never forget the first talent show he attended where I sang solo and he was utterly blown away because he never heard me sing by myself before.  He was actually speechless afterwards.  The look on his face and in his eyes – I’ll never forget.

     But then there are other expressions and reflections in his eyes that I’ll equally remember forever.  I remember his disappointment over me packing up my instruments and leaving the marching band because I wanted to be a cheerleader.  This was a bone of contention for a long time. It remains a running family “joke.”  I remained in concert band and choir and participated in district and regional orchestras and choirs – but since I chose to also pursue something that seemed fun to me – but frivolous in his eyes – he never got over it.  But, instead of sitting me down and telling my why he was disappointed and challenging me to rethink my decision – he just let his condemnation be known in belittling and hurtful ways.  It hurts even more now, because to this day – I see that he was right all along. 
     I got further and further away from music.  I still every now and then will pick up my flute or clarinet just to see if I can still play, and I can.  It saddens me to think of the applications to colleges I passed over because they were for music. I have a guitar in the back of my closet that I long to learn to play – at least more than I already know from self instruction.  I think in the back of my mind of how great it would be to help with Youth Groups and maybe retreats, guitar in hand and touch people with music and song.  But now, it seems so far removed from who I am presently.

     It seemed there came a point when I was about 13 or 14 that Dad just washed his hands of me.   He didn’t agree with me being a cheerleader for football so he stopped coming to games later on in high school.  So, he wasn’t there when I left after to go be with a boy or run with my friends with no supervision.  I would come home late and my parents would be asleep.  Sometimes my Dad would be awake reading, but he wasn’t up waiting for me, he was up because he hadn’t finished his chapter yet. 
     Sometimes I want to pick up the phone and call my Dad and ask him what the hell was he thinking.  How could he be such a good Dad in so many areas but then completely fail in others?  I want to know what he thought after he found out about the abortion.  Was he angry with me or with my Mom?  Did he let her have it and defend me and scold her for failing as a mother?  I doubt it.  My Dad will and has always defended every action my Mom has ever taken, good, bad or indifferent, to himself or to anyone else.  He’s so steadfastly loyal to her that I would find no closure there either.  Does he ever think about the grandchild he is missing?  When he sits with the girls on his lap reading to them from the newspaper or telling them which political pundit is an “idiot” is he missing the third one that should be there? 

     In their defense, it was a different time and my parents are of a different generation with vastly different child rearing practices than I practice myself.  Maybe they didn’t ask questions because they didn’t want to hear the answers.  They gave me freedom as a reward for excellent academic performance and proper choices in extracurricular activities, but they had to know what other activities I was up to. Or they knew but didn’t care.  Or they knew and they didn’t care enough to stop me, or even to try to get me to slow down, or at least ask me what was going on.
     There are few conversations with my Dad that I remember like they were yesterday and one was shortly after I broke up with my boyfriend for the umpteenth time.  The weekend came and I had a new boy coming to take me out on a date.  Before he arrived, my Dad came to my room which in and of itself was a rare event.  But, he came in and looked me in my eyes and told me that he knew I was sad about the breakup and that he could see how much I cared about him, but I was young and this was the time to date and have fun and that boyfriend wasn’t going to matter one iota later on.  He said he also saw how my boyfriend didn’t always treat me in the nicest of ways and maybe I need to give someone else a chance to treat me better.  I guess he was paying more attention than I thought.  The new boy came to the house, rang the doorbell, met my parents, offered me flowers, and off we went.  I had a new hope in my heart that things were going to be better and that I would be able to put away my Air Supply records until the next heartbreak. 

     Sadly, I only had one date with the new boy.  We had a nice time and a fun night, but at the end of it, when he brought me home, I about attacked him in the car and pretty much let him know that I was a sure thing if he wanted it.  That one pep talk from my Dad wasn’t enough to undo what I thought of myself or what I thought I needed to do for a boy or what I was supposed to do.  The only thing I thought I had to offer was physical.  My Dad said to give him a chance, but I thought that making things easy for him was giving him a chance.  That was the only thing that any boy had responded to for me in my young life.  So even though I remember that talk from Dad and have carried it with me – that I deserved better – I should have heard it a lot earlier and a lot more often and I should have heard it from both my parents. 
     To this day, my mother can un-do me with a turn of a phrase.  Hell, a look from her can send me into a swirling storm of self doubt and second guessing. 

     It sounds so cliché to blame your mistakes in life on your parents and I hate to even go there for a millisecond. I feel like it’s a cop out.  Having been taught my whole life that I could do or be anything that I wanted, having failed at so much and made so many mistakes has to be only my fault because I was the captain of my ship and no one else.  But, that’s where I’m wrong and I have to keep reminding myself.  My parents did drop the ball in some areas and this was a doozey.  I carry the wounds from this screwed up thinking to this day.  My husband constantly has to remind me that in this life, we are in everything together.  Whereas I will go down the road that it’s my fault that this happened to us, or my fault that that happened, or where we are in life is because of my choices and my decisions, he is quick to remind me that since we said our vows it has never been just me – it has been us.  But I can’t seem to let go of the feeling of isolation for the negative parts of my life.  When I’m happy – it’s all of us.  When I’m not – it’s all me.
     Even with this journey, he’s held my hand all the way through.  He’s made himself available whenever I needed  to talk and has pushed me to talk when I didn’t want to and rightfully so he’s been frustrated when I shut down and don’t talk for weeks because I feel I’m all alone in this.  What an insult to God for not using the most perfect gift he gave to me in a spouse.  Will forgiveness of my Mom and my Dad and, therefore, myself, bring me back to joy?  Since I can’t pick up the phone and offer my forgiveness and I don’t expect a call from Jesus reminding me of my being forgiven – where am I to find it?

     If I refuse to forgive, if I refuse forgiveness, the pain remains.  I’m still in love with the pain.  My journey has brought many wonderful and grace-filled things into my life, I’m afraid that if the pain goes, I have no more right to them. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Child of My Heart

I've carried this song around for a while and it really speaks to me and all that I've gone through.  It captures how I feel about Grace and where she is now, where she's been since all those years ago, what I picture her to be know and how my journey has gone since losing her.  I can't write much more about it right now.  I'll let the music and pictures speak for me.

Monday, October 3, 2011

I've lost my joy in the shadows.

     Through all of my counseling over the last two years I’ve learned so much. I’ve revisited a lot of my past and tried to make sense of most of it. I’ve tried to accept the things that I can’t make sense of or have no control over. I worry though – as I seem to be reaching some kind of precipice in my healing journey – if I have truly lost a part of myself that I may never get back. Of course there were circumstances and events in my life beside the abortion that have picked apart my confidence and self esteem, but I’m not sure if any compare to the abortion as far as the complete obliteration of any sense of true happiness. It has picked away at my ability to feel sheer joy.  

     I’ve had a long struggle with recurrent depression and now more than ever I’m able to recognize the cyclical nature of its appearance and dormancy, but before the depression moved into to my mind and heart to take up even part-time residence, I was happy. Now, I find myself waiting for that happiness to return and so far, nothing. I keep thinking that someone is going to come along and say, it’s okay to be happy now! 

    It’s as if I’ve sealed myself off from any pure feeling of happiness. I find myself stifling the feeling when I can on purpose so I don’t feel it. My personality has changed over the years – probably the last ten in particular – from outgoing and gregarious to the point of almost having a panic attack in a room full of people. It’s not all the time and I’m able to manage it for the most part – but I’m different and I don’t know if I’ll ever return to a happy and carefree person and that is kind of scary because I want to be happy. I miss that person.

     Typically my husband and I are pretty good at balancing each other out. When I’m down, he pulls me up. When he’s down, I provide the pep talk … but not so much as of late. It’s become quite unbalanced in that I’m the one that seems to be always down and I’m afraid I’ve left him feeling as though he needs to walk on eggshells around me. I’m not sure if it has to do with my drudging up so much of my unpleasant past. All of the bad and horrible things in my life took place before my husband even entered my life and it’s caused me to feel that I’m still back there in that time and space and now I can’t shake it off. I tried so hard to forget so much and I’m afraid I won’t be able to forget it again.

     What if this is my punishment? What if as a trade off for searching for recovery and healing and forgiveness, I’ve had to turn in my joy card? What if now I have to make up for the 20 years that I didn’t feel horrible about my past? From the day I met my husband on, I was happy and joyful and little by little that joy has eluded me.

     We had a few stressors in our young marriage, but we made it through and our relationship never once faltered. If there was one constant that I knew I could cling to through it all – it was my husband and my marriage. I wonder if seeking out this healing and recovery from my past has now cast a shadow over my marriage that didn’t exist before. I’m afraid that my past is now creeping into the last bastion of goodness that I have left. I’ve forced myself to confront this head on and in that confrontation, my husband was by my side for every step but now I’m afraid that it’s become part of him too. What if I’ve robbed him of happiness in the process?

     Or is this just another mind game to make me think that I’ll never be okay? Just another issue drummed up in the darkness of my soul so that I will never, ever escape the shadow of my past and just to make sure of it… it will now overshadow my husband too so don’t get any ideas about trying to be happy myself – it won’t work. My mother-in-law used to always tell me that I had a light inside me…I’m afraid it’s gone and it won’t ever be lit again.