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.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Thin Line that is Mother's Day

The last few weeks I have felt like a hamster in one of those little plastic balls that you put them in to run around the house, like I'm running here and there but not really getting anything accomplished.  I just keep bumping up against things and the impact catapults me in some other dizzying direction where I have to refocus my attention and then start running furiously again.  A poor analogy I realize, but it works because sometimes I feel like I'm trapped in a cage, a cage of secrets, shame, sorrow, confusion, depression, but I can see what's out there just beyond my reach and I am powerless over the little latch on the door that if only I could figure out to unhinge it, I would be free!  And when I'm not trapped in the cage, I'm in my little plastic ball, running "free," but still trapped and not able to engage fully with this fabulous life that He has blessed me with.  The difference between me and the hamster?  I'm not actually powerless to my confinement.  I have a way out.  The problem is feeling worthy enough to set myself free.

In all the business of the past few weeks of normal life around here, I could feel a little tugging at me starting to surface, that little voice in my head starting to take up more space.  I figured out why as I sat down to fill in the family calendar for May... it's Mother's Day.  I circle the day with a heart on the calendar and then make a note to get cards, have the kids make cards for my mom and my mother in law.  Thinking about my Mom leads to other thoughts, which lead to other thoughts.  If you are a parent you probably are familiar with the series of books, "If Give a Cat a Cupcake," "If You Give a Pig a Pancake."  It's kind of like that.  There's a book idea.  I digress.  So, it dawns on me that Mother's Day is trigger for me emotionally and as each of these dates come and go, the battle begins with how am I going to handle it now.  It was so much easier when I had this all locked deep inside me.  How can I handle it with Grace in my heart and only a few people who I can talk about her to and the secret that she remains to be?

Mother's Day is no different.  I started to think about how often I write "mother of two" or when someone asks me how many children I have and I answer, "two," but somewhere inside I'm screaming, "three! I have three, but let me explain..."  I wonder when I will be able to answer those questions or identify myself in that way without the need for explanation either because it's nobody's damn business really and because I don't feel the need to explain it in the first place.  I am a mother of three... period.  I'm not able to do it yet.  The thin line of Mother's Day is celebrating my own motherhood and accepting cards and presents and whatever concoction is presented as "breakfast" in bed with the guilt and shame and sorrow I feel over the one who isn't here to help with breakfast.  Grace would be 25 this year... I imagine breakfast would vastly improve were she here.

The thin line exists between thoughts like those above, when I'm able to think about Grace in that way and not fall to pieces... and the falling to pieces.  Mother's Day is also a reminder of what I did, what my mother did, what we can't undo.  I've been harboring a lot of anger and resentment towards my own mom lately and now I'll have to buy a mushy card to give her and the words I really want to say will never but uttered.  I have to balance the fact that in most other ways and for my entire life, my mom was a fantastic mother.  She taught me so much, she was tough but I'm the better for it.  The thing I'm most grateful for is that she taught me that I can do and be anything I set my mind to and not to take crap from anyone.  My Scotch/Irish tenacity is both genetic and very much a nurtured quality.  But, I fight the urge to flip the card over and begin to write on the back, "so, do you ever think about the abortion that I had, yeah, the one you paid for?"

The good thing is I've figured it out far enough in advance hopefully ready myself for the spiritual battle now.  In helping my one daughter with her religion homework the other day, she had a whole page on how "Jesus," just saying his name over and over can be a prayer! I always miss the obvious since I'm looking for some grand, sweeping, gesture, but thank You for hitting me over the head with the simplicity that it can be.  Just Your name.  So, I'm taking the hint that simple is better.  Simple doesn't mean shallow.  The prayers of a child are no less significant than some grandiose one chanted high on a hill in some monastery somewhere, right?  And Mary, please Mary, help.  Please help to me realize that you understand the line that I tread and help me to find peace in it.  Nothing I have ever suffered in my little life can compare to what the Mother of God endured, surely she can understand and give me hope.

So maybe, just maybe, armed with some spiritual warfare weaponry and braced for battle, I'll be able to enjoy this Mother's Day and be thankful for the blessings I've been given.  Thankful that I have two healthy children despite all the physical odds against it.  Thankful for my husband, without whom I wouldn't have them in the first place.  Thankful for my own mother who gave me lots of things to reflect on positively and I pray for the grace to understand the other choices.  And somehow, just somehow, please, I'll be able to be thankful for Grace, despite the circumstances of her every existence.  I hope to be able to think about her when someone wishes me Happy Mother's Day without the further noise, of "yeah, but you killed one."  Be with me Grace, this Mother's Day.  I hope and pray that I weather the storm and learn to hear the thunder in the distance but remain focused on the here and now and not retreat into a room of my own until the Mother's Day flowers wither and it's safe to come out again.

Soul of Christ, sanctify me
Body of Christ, save me
Blood of Christ, inebriate me
Water from Christ's side, wash me
Passion of Christ, strengthen me
O good Jesus, hear me
Within Thy wounds hide me
Suffer me not to be separated from Thee
From the malicious enemy defend me
In the hour of my death call me
And bid me come unto Thee
That I may praise Thee with Thy saints

and with Thy angels
Forever and ever

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Not an elephant, but the Monster in the Room.

Over at the Lumina blog, another entry that hits all too close to home, especially for those whose abortion histories are so intertwined with their own mothers and others who coerced, forced, and otherwise convinced them to have an abortion.  It's a fine line between worrying for their souls as well as your own and harboring  anger and resentment that eats you alive.

The Monster in the Room

Friday, April 13, 2012

Postabortion trauma or postabortion drama?

I had gotten a notice that a healing mass for "victims of trauma" was going to be held nearby.  I'm thinking about going.  Well, actually I'm trying to decide between that and a Divine Mercy Mass that is being offered.  I haven't decided because I don't know for sure what I need or do I need anything at all?  One would think it would be an easy question to answer, "am I a victim of trauma?"  Alas, it's no easy answer for me.  In some ways, it's plain to see the scars that my past has made on my body, soul, mind, and heart.  Healing from all the scars and damage and hurt and pain is what I have been most occupied with the last few years.  But, I hesitate at really labeling myself as traumatized.  I guess because I would tend to reserve that term for other people who are really traumatized with far bigger wounds than I have, who have suffered so much more than me with sickness, and loss, and problems that I can't even begin to imagine.  So in my general m.o. of overanlyzing things to death before making a decision - I've spent the last few days thinking about it.  What would it mean if I do attend this Mass for the traumatized, for victims of trauma?

So, let's take the clichéd route and see what Merriam has to say about it....

noun, plural trau·mas, trau·ma·ta
1. Pathology. a. a body wound or shock produced by sudden physical injury, as from violence or accident. b. the condition produced by this; traumatism.
2. Psychiatrya. an experience that produces psychological injury or pain.  b. the psychological injury so caused.
Origin: 1685–95; < Greek traûma wound
I think the victim part is the real stumbling block.  I'm not sure its a label I want to take on, in fact I've spent most of my life trying to not be a victim, to anyone, including myself.
noun 1. a person who suffers from a destructive or injurious action or agency. 2. a person who is deceived or cheated, as by his or her own emotions or ignorance, by the dishonesty of others, or by some impersonal agency: a victim of misplaced confidence; the victim of a swindler; a victim of an optical illusion. 3.a person or animal sacrificed or regarded as sacrificed: war victims. 4. a living creature sacrificed in religious rites.
1490–1500; < Latin victima sacrificial animal
Holy hell.  Sometimes, ignorance can be bliss, I think.  So, on paper, I am a victim of trauma, but do I want it to stay on paper or do I want to take it on, call a spade a spade so to speak, and then I can do something about it.  I fear my melancholy, inner Virgina Woolf would take this info and wade in it for days on end.  Or, could and/or would this new, grace filled and Grace filled, aware of Who's daughter I truly am, person spur me on to go get this healing and take it as a gift and let every drop of it soak into my soul?  Avoiding the label of victim could be what's victimizing me now and how much energy to I spend trying to avoid it, trying to hide it, trying to ignore it?

However, I remain torn.  Shocker, I know.  I am definitely traumatized from the physical act of the abortion itself.  It was horrific, and I remember every detail due to the lack of anesthesia used at that time.  The abortion itself and the memory of it can come up at many times and unexpected times.  I'm traumatized from the years of harboring this secret, that I still harbor on some levels.  I'm traumatized from the years and still moments that I spend despairing when I'm absolutely convinced that I will go straight to hell when I die.  I'm traumatized by the way my Mom chose to deal with my unexpected pregnancy at the age of 17.
But, a victim? To me a victim is a victim because of someone else's doing.  If I'm a victim because of my own feelings - does that really make me a victim?  Herein likes the difficult part to flush out.  Because of my past, the choices my parents made in raising me, because of the freedom I was granted and lack of supervision, because of my non-existent self esteem, and whatever 100 other reasons, I was, for a long time, a recurring victim of a lot of things, physical and mental and I feel like those thoughts and memories are the ones that are eating me alive currently.  And some of them are my own fault as well, I don't want to find a scape goat to thrust them all upon and call it a day. I don't want to be like all the girls I've known who have sex with everyone and anyone and then when someone finds out about it, all of a sudden she calls it rape.  I was complicit in a lot of my past - but the whys surrounding that complicity cloud the picture significantly.  There were times when I wasn't complicit at all.

Some of these horrible things from my past, all of which I've confessed, albeit generally, and received absolution for, still haunt me and roll over in mind, and torment me.  I need to get rid of them and I'm not sure how to do just that. Some, a lot, of memories I have never uttered aloud to anyone.  Would I be able to take those with me to this healing Mass for victims of trauma and leave them behind when I go?  Or maybe I'm not ready for such healing if I can't even talk about the things that I may need healing from?  How can I move on from it if I've never said it?  Is this all postabortion trauma or just more drama?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Mercy of God

Someone dear to me shared this poem with me to reflect on this Holy Week.  I read, and read, and re-read it last evening before the beautiful Easter Vigil. I allowed the words of this poem, and the beautifully stunning words of our Easter Vigil liturgy sink down into my soul.

I tried to quiet my mind to all of my noise and let my only request of Him to be simple - "help me."

Help me, Lord, to stop trying to fix myself, myself.  Help me to stop thinking that I can even do that at all, that I even have a chance without You.  Nothing I do will be good enough.  Help me, Lord, to stop trying to become perfect before coming to you, when  you are the one to make me perfect.  Help me, Lord, to stop trying to change what I think needs to be changed to step worthily into your presence.  Help me, Lord to realize that  my "acres (and acres and acres) of self that I tended with passion," is a toil in vain, for all of the work I can think of to do, could have been done by you by my simply asking.  Help me, Lord, to stop turning over fields that have long since produced their harvest. Help me, Lord, to know that the "woods" of Your mercy are not frightening and an intimidating unknown.  Help me, Lord, to "wander forever in a wilderness of [Your] mercy alone."

I am copying down in a book from my heart’s archive
The day that I ceased to fear God with a shadowy fear.
Would you name it the day that I measured my column of virtue
and sighted through windows of merit a crown that was near?
Ah, no, it was rather the day I began to see truly
That I came forth from nothing and ever toward nothingness tend,
that the works of my hands are foolishness wrought in the presence
of the worthiest king in a kingdom that shall never end.
I rose up from the acres of self that I tended with passion
and defended with flurries of pride:
I walked out of myself and went into the woods of God’s mercy, and here I abide.
There is a greenness and calmness and coolness,
a soft leafy covering from judgment of sun overhead,
And the hush of His peace, and the moss of His mercy to tread.
I have naught but my will seeking God;
even love burning in me is a fragment of infinite loving
and never my own.
And I Fear God no more;
I go forward to wander forever
In a wildness of his His infinite mercy alone.

Jessica Powers, Sister Miriam of the Holy Spirit, O.C.D.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Holy Week or Hell Week?

I keep forgetting when I started this blog except for when I try to go backward and find some answers or inspiration or whatever it is I think I'm looking for.  Then I am reminded that I starting writing it just this past summer.  So, to revisit last year's Lent I had to go back in my journals and archived emails and the like to try to get a handle on where I've been and how far I've come.  In some ways, I've come a long way, baby... [supposed to be a clever turn of a advertising tag line... but becomes a stumbling block because of the word "baby" - tempted to delete - won't this time].  The reason I won't delete what I just wrote is because it's a perfect example of how far I have yet to go. 

I wasn't very prepared for this Lent for various reasons and for none in particular.  Life has been busy and hectic and we have some scheduling adjustments that had to be made that are still working themselves out and working me over in the process.  It feels like Lent snuck up on me.  What is my Lenten project, my focus, my sacrifice?  Turns out I had nothing to really offer, but then it worked out anyway because the last few weeks have been mentally exhausting and some days were a struggle just to make it to bedtime which subsequently was interrupted by some insomnia and with days interspersed where the, thankfully, fleeting idea of just walking into that lake until my feet start to come up off the bottom were very near the surface.

Now with Holy Week upon us, knowing how the story ends (or begins) on Easter Sunday, doesn't make the next few days much easier.  I think this is both good and bad.  Holy Week is a good time to refocus ones gaze, realign priorities, figure out what's really important, and take real time out to contemplate just what happened and what He did.  When I attempted to google "holy week" my automatic form filler-inner thingie popped up with "hell week," where I found this... "Of all the battles a SEAL (Sea, Air, Land) must fight, none is more important than their first – the battle of mind over body ... Basic Underwater Demolitions and SEAL (BUD/S) instructors know the human machine is capable of amazing endurance even in the harshest of conditions and environments, but they also know the mind must be made to ignore the pleading of the body."  Okay, that's applicable in a lot of ways to this week.  On a personal level - really applicable. 

One of the best things about this blog are the wonderful comments and emails I get from readers with all kinds of support and suggestions and directions and prayers and I remain overwhelmed and grateful for every single one.  The difficult part is figuring out what to do with them all.  For someone who typically hates being told what to do, I don't think I would argue too much with someone who would just tell me exactly what to do next.  I've received kind and touching emails encouraging me to "cling to Christ," "throw myself at the foot of the cross," "offer up all of my suffering," "make an act of the will..."  At first read, I get what the person means, but then upon deeper reflection, or trying to reflect, I'm clueless.   How do I cling to Christ when I have one child literally clinging on to me and another clinging to her raging, about to burst out of wherever they come from, hormones.  How do I throw myself at the foot of the cross when getting out the door to go to Mass in one piece is sometimes undoable?  How does one do that anyway? How can I make an act of the will, when I barely have time to make the bed?  Of course, a lot of this has to do with my flair for the dramatic and controlling nature.  I can't cling to Christ in my state, he wouldn't want me.  Throw myself at the foot of the cross and take up all the space for those really in need of being there? 

I need some focus here people, I need a focal point.  In my younger days, I trained as a figure skater and one of the most important things to learn is how to stay fixed on a focal point during spins to avoid certain disaster.  Of course I know what, or who, the focal point should be, but how do I stay focused on it throughout the course of my regular day when my attention is splintered off in 100 different directions?  This journey of mine has led me near and far and all over the place and I fear I'm left in the realm of all over the place without the knowledge to find my way back to or on to what's next.  I need to stop spinning, whether its focused spinning or not.

I've spoken before about my ability to love the hell out of my loved ones or other people in my life, friends, and family, but loving myself is a non-issue because it doesn't happen and I'm afraid the not loving myself is starting to detract from my ability to love everyone else which was bound to happen.  I was sent a passage of an old homily called The Armament of Love which speaks about St. Stephen and St. Paul and how they are ultimately reconciled in Heaven after Stephen is stoned to death by Paul (pre-conversion, a real sinner's sinner), but love wins out in the kingdom of heaven where, "Paul feels no shame because of Stephen’s death, and Stephen delights in Paul’s companionship, for love fills them both with joy. It was Stephen’s love that prevailed over the cruelty of the mob, and it was Paul’s love that covered the multitude of his sins; it was love that won for both of them the kingdom of heaven....Love, indeed, is the source of all good things; it is an impregnable defense, and the way that leads to heaven. He who walks in love can neither go astray nor be afraid: love guides him, protects him, and brings him to his journey’s end."  It says a lot more about the communion of saints and how each one aided the other's path to salvation, but what I got most out of it is the part about love and how love aided them in getting to Heaven eventually.  A beautiful story, but what do I get for love right now?  What do I do now and for however long I have on this earth before then?

Somehow I need to get over myself and get back in it.  I was also given a notice about an upcoming Mass of Healing for those who have experienced trauma, but then I thought about it, am I really traumatized? If I wrote out my life story and included all of the gory details, hell yes, I most certainly have been and still am traumatized.  But, can I love myself enough to heal that trauma?  What if I let it go?  How do I let it go? How do I let go of some of the things that have so, so damaged me?  How do I let go of the things that ruined me when there are parts of my life today that conjure up the ruin at seemingly every turn?  Memories that were long locked away now appear in the most loving of moments - I'm not convinced love conquers all at those times.  Sometimes the thoughts come up that it's all some sick joke played at my expense - let's give her these gifts and talents, then lets find some people to twist them all around and damage them forever, and then lets give her some more wonderful stuff and people and see how she works that out... ha ha ha.  Therein lies the hell part.

I love Holy Week.  I love all the Masses, I love Good Friday, I really love Good Friday if it rains, I love Easter Vigil - but now it all seems tainted.

I need to figure out how to do Holy Week and every week after - without the hell part, or at least minimize the hell part to a manageable size.  I need to find the love that isn't overshadowed or colored by the past.  I need to start loving again without the fear of the pain that I know is possible. 

In the end, Jesus wins...

I do hope some of my readers who, too, are postabortive, are following along with Lumina's Lenten series... Monday's was particularly poignant. The title alone is enough to get me going... Jesus wins.  We know the outcome, but here I sit still doubting and wondering if it will ever sink in.

In the end, Jesus wins.

Another great read from the Anchoress...

A perfect and timely reminder from The Anchoress about how confession is just so good for the soul, whether it be a 7 year old soul, or any age.

Fanning My Bright Red Sin