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.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

What do I know of Holy?

     Along my journey I’ve learned a lot that I never knew before.  Being a cradle catholic and a product of the 70’s and 80’s catechesis does not lend itself to becoming a properly and well-formed Catholic adult.  There is no syllabus available that I know of or a guide on how to get started on getting your spiritual groove back.  I read a lot.  I read a lot on line and visit the Catholic blogosphere.  There is a lot of great information and great writers out there.  But sometimes even those forays can be exhausting and frustrating.  I never knew there was so much division in the Church.  Can’t I just be Catholic?  Do I have to be a traditional Catholic or an orthodox Catholic or a NO Catholic?  Sometimes I feel as though no matter what I do at Mass, I’m doing it wrong according to somebody.  Sure, I have my preferences for what I like when I go to Mass. I have those things that make it feel more authentic to me.  Give me an old, Gothic church with real candles, tons of them.  And I’ll take a reverent and holy priest that takes 15 minutes to do the dishes over someone who whips through like he just picked up a cheese tray at a cocktail party.  But, you know what, I’m not in charge and I’m not there to police how it’s done.  I’m there for what I hope is the right reason.  But, of course, those kinds of statements make me sound just like the people I’m complaining about I suppose. 
    I try to remain focused on my spiritual growth and that of my family.  Just because I’m coming to terms with my past and am healing, I don’t want to stop the spiritual journey that I’m on, I’m just not sure where to go next. 
     I try to keep my spiritual world a nice little “neighborhood” where I don’t have to worry too much about what’s going on the other side of town because if I do that I lose sight of what I need, what my soul needs, what my family needs.  So, I try to learn as I go.  Now that I have some free time on my hands, I’m looking for classes I can take or spiritual programs at nearby retreat houses and the like.  Even though I’ve learned a lot, I still have times when I feel like I’m at my confirmation Mass and I’m trembling with fear over being asked a question by the Bishop and not knowing the answer.  (I did get a question by the way, and I knew the answer!)
     This post abortion journey has become what I hope to be a lifelong spiritual journey overall.  Sadly, often, I just feel like I don’t know a single thing about God, or Jesus, or my religion or how to be a good Catholic.  At those times I just have to give up and give in that sometimes I don’t know anything.  I just have to be at peace to just be, because I can only be what I far.

I am so much more than this...I am so much more than this...I am so much more than this...

     I have had a lot of change in my life over the last month or so.  For the most part it has been positive change, the kind that the march of time makes inevitable.  At the same time, some things remain the same and some of those stagnant things are not very positive at all.  So, I’ve been frustrated and overwhelmed lately by both good and bad and trying to keep my head above water in the process.  Some days are better than others.  Some days I just hit the auto pilot button and mechanically go throughout my day.  Other days, I’m overscheduled and my to-do list is much too ambitious which leaves me scrambling and exhausted and frustrated at my failure at not doing it all at the end of the day.  The payoff for muddling through either of these ways though is that it doesn’t leave much room for feeling anything good, bad or indifferent and sometimes that’s just the way I like it. 

     I think most of my floundering with the recent life changes was caused by my belief that I was prepared for it when the reality is I was poorly prepared, if at all.  All of the day-to-day and big change turmoil threw me into a “I have no idea what to do next” panic.  But, a wise and gentle priest reminded me one time that there is grace to be found in the times when I have no idea what to do next.  The grace may come in something unexpected that I hadn’t thought of or it might come from taking good and effective time to flush it out.  Or more possibly, it may come from His revelation to me and I just have to be patient and wait.  Patience is definitely not one of my virtues. 
     It’s often in these times though, that I become confused and misguided.  I try so hard to do everything that I can’t focus on one or two or a few things.  Then I become weak in mind and spirit.  I begin to feel as though I’m tackling everyday demons and real demons.  I will have vivid and brutal nightmares that intrude on my sleep and shudder me awake.  I will have impulsive thoughts when I’m alone that are scary and seem to come from nowhere.  The kind of thoughts that if you utter them aloud, you’re sure to buy yourself a nice little vacation at the local mental rest home.  Those thoughts are difficult for me to talk about with even those closest to me, because I’m afraid that I will shatter the image they have of me. 

     Most people who know me would probably describe me as confident and self-assured, not afraid of a fight and not easy to back into a corner, loyal to a fault and brutally honest.  Most of these attributes I would agree with and own.  However, the tragedy of my past makes all of these qualities somewhat of a uniform that I’m able to put on to face the world.  I’m also able to remove it – or have it removed for me – in the places where I feel safe enough to do so or at least when I’m vulnerable and hurting enough to allow someone else to take my guard down for me.  This is sometimes not an easy task, as my husband will tell you.  I will often put up walls around my heart that no one has a chance of getting through.  It is at those times when I’m at my weakest and my most hurting and sensitive, when all shred of confidence is long gone and I can’t even raise a hand to shoo a fly.  This is what the circumstances of my past life and my abortion have done to my soul and I hate it.
     Surprisingly, even at the depths of this hopelessness, I have never really lost the ability to love or to give love. I can do that.  I can pour it out on other people and never reach the bottom of the well.  It’s the receiving of it that I sometimes am completely unable to do.  I simply will refuse love.  I refuse it from my husband.  I refuse it from my children.  I refuse it from God.  Why?  Because even though I’m healing on this journey, along the way, there remain pieces of time, some small, some not, when I close off my heart, refuse to see good, refuse to feel joy, refuse to luxuriate in the precious life that He has given me. 

     A new strength found on my journey is the ability to recognize this refusal of love for exactly what it is and where it comes from.  It’s my Achilles’ heel that, though scabbed over, will sometimes be torn open once again leaving the wound as raw as it was the day I walked across that bridge. 
     Living with the shame of having had an abortion can permeate everything about the woman who has one.  I’m trying to learn how to not let it permeate me so much as integrate it into and with my life.  It will always be a part of me, but I can decide how it will be part of me.  For so long it was a part of me that was pushed deep down and often bubbled to the surface nearly destroying me from within.  Now I still carry it with me but I know what to do with it, most of the time.  Now that I acknowledge having done it, and have dissected all of the circumstances around it, and believe that Grace is in Heaven watching and waiting for me, I try to find ways to let all of this be part of me but not consume me.  [Interesting choice of words here still... “it,” “it,” “all of this,” as opposed to abortion, abortion, abortion – like I said, a journey.]

    In my now days (as opposed to weeks, months) of refusing to be loved, I begin to realize all the more quickly that I am hiding from no one really. No one important to me anyway.  And how utterly ridiculous of me to think that I was really hiding out from He who knows my every move before I make it and my thoughts before I have them.  More quickly do I feel the gentle nudge to go to Adoration, to visit Church, to pray.  My being a postabortive woman is not the only thing that I am.  Some days it feels like it is, but I’m so much more.  Maybe if I say that enough I will start believing it and the doubt will finally and forever be gone. 

Friday, September 9, 2011

Lil-Wayne's Prolife Message from

Can't say I was ever a Lil Wayne fan b/c I'm just too old to "get it."  However, came across this link on the Liveaction blog... had to share.  Wow.  That's all I've got.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

On the Ravages of Abortion

In this enlightening article by Meg Matenaer on - Fr. Matthew describes the ravages of abortion.  Personally, the embedded conflict rings true as does the despair - which has to be the most insidious part of being post abortive.  I don't know if the despair will ever fully and completely go away.  The rest of what Fr. Matthew lists could serve as a checklist for a lot of my life.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Stay focused on the road.

     August 22, 2011 was the 24th anniversary of my abortion.  This was only the 2nd year that I actually acknowledged the date that I lost Grace.  It remains difficult for me to talk about it in concrete words like, “lost.”  Did I really lose her?  No, I allowed her to be taken.  Actually, if you get down to the nitty gritty, I allowed her to be killed.  It remains painfully difficult on some days for me to acknowledge any of this and there are days when I hate the fact that I do at all.  I hate how weak and vulnerable facing this fact of my life makes me feel.  I hate how pathetic and ridiculous I am about it sometimes.   Faking strength and wholeness was much easier than this.  I hate even more that a lot of it wasn’t even my fault.  I hate making what sounds like excuses for what I did.  If all of it was my fault and I was the one person 100% responsible for my getting pregnant and having an abortion, I think I could deal with it better.  I would have one person to hold accountable and answer to.  I would have one person to take out my anger and rage on.  I would have one person to blame and one person to answer my unresolved questions. 

     All of these mitigating factors and the surrounding circumstances leading up to that day complicate my decision to allow myself to grieve the loss of Grace.  After almost 2 years of therapy, I still continue to carry most of the burden of my abortion myself, even though I was 17 years old and had no wherewithal to not do what my mother told me to do.  It was a different time.  Getting knocked up was still scandalous and brought shame to your family.  I literally had no one to turn to for help or a differing opinion about what I might be able to do instead of having an abortion.  But with one sentence, one order, one command from my Mom that we were never to speak of it again, the event of that day was swept under the rug and into the deep recesses of my soul.  I remain amazed and overwhelmed that His Mercy also dwells in the deep recesses of my soul.
     I can’t speak to what my Mom did with the memory of that day.  I can guess, but I’ll never know.  It’s not something that I can ever talk to her about or find some resolution for, for a number of reasons.  I will never, ever have the kind of closure that I would like to have or need to have.  So, I try instead, to pray to not need it.  I pray that I can remove some of this guilt and burden from my shoulders because it was never mine to fully bear. 

     As the anniversary date approached, I wanted to find some small way to honor Grace that wouldn’t make me fall to pieces.   I decided I would visit the retreat house where I attended a Rachel’s Vineyard weekend.  After a rough weekend filled with all of the usual drama and every day catastrophes and ups and downs, I anxiously awaited my husband’s return from work that day so I could go out alone for a few hours.  I stopped and bought a pretty bouquet of flowers.  When I arrived at the retreat house, I carefully separated the bouquet into two bouquets.  I had brought two little cards and some ribbon and on each card I wrote, Grace Anne, 8/22/87.  I placed one bouquet in a little Mary Garden at the retreat house.  There is a statue of an angel that looks kind of like what I picture Grace to be, a young woman with angel wings.  I stayed for quite a while in the silence.  I wrote a bit.  I cried a bit.  I even laughed a little because as I looked over the little garden, I noticed a randomly odd little menagerie that accompanied Mary in her woods.  In the garden also were two dragonfly stepping stones, a little “thinking” turtle, an owl, and a few chubby cherubs.  I chuckled as I tried to figure out if there was some meaning behind their placement that only some higher minded individual could interpret.  The only hidden message I could figure out is that it’s all random and none of it makes much sense to any of us mere mortals. 

     The 2nd bouquet of flowers I placed on the Memorial to the Unborn at my parish.  This was done under cover of darkness and is quite a big risk for me as I’m always afraid someone I know will see me.  My husband suggested we go and plant a bunch of flowers there…in broad daylight.  I told him he was nuts.  Someday, maybe…not yet.  I quickly placed my bouquet there and drove home.  

     The rest of the evening went as most of our evenings do and I’m sure I did a good job of seeming okay.  My hubby tiptoed around me a bit as he often does when he’s not quite sure what I need.  Admittedly, I had been pretty emotionally shut down for the week or so before this anniversary so I can’t blame him for steering safely clear.  But, as he often does, he found a way to touch my heart from a safe distance and had left a letter for me in my car with instructions to read it when I got to where I was going.  I won’t share all of his words to me because they are ours alone, but I will share a part of it and it’s the part that titles this blog post. 

     He told me how proud he was of me and my journey of the last two years and though it will always remain somewhat forever incomplete, that I could take solace in the fact that even though my steps have been fraught with distractions, self doubt, pity and loathing, that I had, for the better part, remained on the road that had always been there from the beginning.  I had remained for the most part on the lighted path and had only side stepped a few times into the misery and despair that darkened the other pathways. 
     He also took care to remind me that even though I may sometimes still feel like the scared girl that walked across that bridge 24 years ago, I have now become a gatekeeper of sorts of that same bridge, able to give others pause before taking the next step.  These are the words I hold onto as I stay focused on the road.