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.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

I'm a sinner! Who are you? Are you a sinner too?

Whew. It has not been a fun few weeks let me tell you. But, I’m still here. I still feel kind of wobbly and uncertain, but I’m still here. I do feel, thanks be to God, a lot better now than I did just a few weeks ago. I’m sleeping a bit better. No nightmares for the last week. I've started walking and I've walked 6 times in the last 2 weeks! I still think about suicide, but it's not as oppressive as it was. I've enjoyed some good days with my family. I'm trying not to spend as much time in my room, alone.  And I spent one, glorious night with an entire bottle of wine and forgot about everything for a while.  That was fun.  The morning after, not so much, but fun while it lasted.  Everything in moderation, as they say.

I knew Mother's Day could go in any of many directions and it went in a bad one for a while.  I ended up hightailing out of my home and away from my family because I just couldn't fake it until bed time that day, not for another second.  I drove to the nearby retreat center where I attended both of my Rachel's Vineyard's retreats.  I sat for a while.  Then some other people showed up so I got back in my car and headed to another retreat center that isn't too far and there is a beautiful, peaceful, sacred little chapel and I found myself alone there for a few hours.  The wind was whipping up outside and the sound of it coming through the old building in the dimness of the chapel with its stone walls and high ceiling made it feel like Heaven, or somewhere closer to Him.  I sat there for a good long while arguing with myself and God.  I had to make a decision that day to live or die and if I was going to live, well then I had to figure out a way to do just that.

I'm not naive enough to say that this will be the last time I sink down into a pit of depression.  Especially now that I've kind of sworn off any medication, it's inevitable that it will happen again and again.  I hope I remember whatever it was that started to bring me out of it because something always brings me out of it.  I've spoken about always just having the tiniest bit of something inside that keeps me alive.  Hopefully, with each time I'll remember sooner and sooner to tap into that tiny part of me where, obviously, He dwells, and remember why I'm here.

It was kind of the perfect storm leading up to Mother's Day.  I was following the Gosnell trial with voracity and then all of the other under cover videos that Live Action was putting out there.  I prayed outside the abortion clinic the Saturday before Mother's Day.  I was thinking that I was fighting the good fight, but all of the coverage that I was consuming all day long was eating away at me in ways I don't think I recognized clearly.  I even posted about Gosnell and how everyone was so up in arms about his particular brand of abortion and how it was no different than the abortion that I had.  Which, following the logic, makes me no different than Gosnell himself when it comes down to brass tacks.

Reading and watching and analyzing all of the condemnation of Gosnell by everyone on blogs, on social media, and on the news once the story took off - I think I began to believe all of the same about myself.  Why? Because some of it was true!  Gosnell performed however many abortions - I had an abortion.  In my mind it was the same thing.  It's still the same thing.  It started to become that every time I read his name or heard it said I would crumple in on myself a bit more.  The whispers would begin... see, you did that too.  Your baby was ripped limb from limb and put in a jar.  You're no better than he is.  Stabbed in the back of the neck or sucked through a cannula - it's all the same thing.

A bit of a repreieve came when the verdict came in guilty as charged on so many counts.  And just as quickly, the discussion turned to saving Gosnell from the death penalty.  The argument began to surface about mercy for Gosnell.  Whoa - wait just a damn minute... mercy? For him?

Yes.  Mercy for Gosnell.  Mercy for me.  Mercy for us all.

When Abby Johnson first came onto the scene, I had similar feelings towards her.  Wait just a damn minute.... we're going to give her a pass because she suddenly figured out what she was doing was wrong?  How's that fair?  I didn’t want to like her. I wanted to hate her, condemn her. I was guilty of thinking that she didn’t deserve anything good. Abby was the counselor who spoke to me before I had my abortion.   Abby was the woman holding my hand as I lay on that table with silent tears falling down my cheeks. Abby was the woman who gave me three months worth of “the Pill” as I walked out the door of that clinic. Abby was all the girls and women afterwards that I tried to befriend and align myself with in the hopes of coping with what I had done. So, now Abby Johnson gets mercy?

Yes.  Mercy for Abby Johnson.  Mercy for me.  Mercy for us all.  

So, let's take the whole abortion argument out of it altogether.  What about just a your run-of-the-mill sinner?  What do they deserve?  What if I never had an abortion?  What if my biggest sin was premarital sex and some vulgar language?  Tell me then what would I deserve?  What we all deserve, quite frankly – hell. But, thanks be to God – there is abundant mercy and infinite grace to be had. Too often I forget that part. Too often do I minimize the abundance of His mercy.  All too often do I become consumed with my own little pity party when instead I should be on my knees 24/7 thanking Him for sparing me from the loss of Heaven.  In all of my narcissistic self loathing I forget that He loves me. 

Thank God - for He has placed in the tiniest recesses of my tortured and scarred heart a tiny place where only He dwells.  Where from he reminds me that He loved me into being and everything that I have is because of Him in spite of myself.  And that is what I must cling to for dear life, with slippery fingers and the Devil himself stomping up and down on my knuckles trying to get me to just… let … go.

He loves me.

He loves Kermit Gosnell.  He loves Abby Johnson.  We are all the same sinners and we all can be awash in mercy and forgiveness and love whenever we ask for it. Sometimes, I forget to ask.  Or, sometimes I ask, but I don't listen to the answer or wait for a response.  Hopefully the next time I feel a backslide coming on, I'll run a little faster to Him.  Maybe I'll meet him halfway.  Maybe someday, I'll never leave His side.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Faith in the Heart

O Christ Jesus,
when all is darkness
and we feel our weakness and helplessness,
give us the sense of Your presence,
Your love, and Your strength.
Help us to have perfect trust
in Your protecting love
and strengthening power,
so that nothing may frighten or worry us,
for, living close to You,
we shall see Your hand,
Your purpose, Your will through all things.

By Saint Ignatius of Loyola
Mother's Day has now seemed to have morphed into Mother's Day "Weekend."  I guess it's mostly the retail industry trying to drag holidays out as long as possible toward the bottom line.  I've taken to drag it out prior to the actual day it seems but for my own selfish reasons.  Last year I did the same so I guess I can categorize Mother's Day as an absolute trigger for me. 
As I visit the two posts, here & here, that I had written last Mother's Day - not much has changed.  I'm still feeling stuck and without direction.  I'm fighting the urge to create a graph on which I can plot out certain keywords and themes and blabber.  It's a good thing I don't have too much free time with which to prove my failures.
A big difference between last year and this year's Mother's Day - pharmaceuticals.  In fact, it was shortly after Mother's  Day last year that I had increased my antidepressant to a  higher dose.  This year, it's all me.  I don't even have any wine in the house.  Last Mother's Day was a good day, I seemed to be okay for the most part without a backslide into despair.  This Mother's Day, or at least this weekend, at its beginning, is not looking as okay.
I'm tired physically and emotionally. I physically ache with headaches and a backache that recently started out of nowhere.  All of this could be chalked up to the yet more weight that I've put on.  I'm heavier now than I have ever, ever been in my entire life, and that includes two pregnancies.  I'm a petite person so all of this weight is taking its toll.  Without any antidepressants or antianxiety drugs, the only pill I do have to take is a cholesterol lowering medication and I haven't been taking it.  I'm afraid of what I'm waiting for to happen if that makes sense.  Slowly  committing suicide with elevated cholesterol and sweets?  I think it's more a case of just not caring at all.   It's also a way to isolate myself even further if that's possible.  More weight means less activity, less wanting to do anything at all, less sex as I try to convince my husband that there is no way he's remotely attracted to me in this state, less engaging in anything at home for lack of energy.  I'm wondering if this is rock bottom with no further down to go?
Which brings me to my little graphic at the top of this post - a tiny flicker of faith.  There's got to be one inside of me somewhere because I'm still here and it's not just about being too much of a coward to slit my wrists, it's something more.  As the tears roll down my cheeks as I type, with the pain now physical, I'm still here.  I'm still blogging for Christ's sake.  With the little pixie in the other room, happy and content with her crayons and a juice box and with 80 pounds of fur at my feet, is this all there is?  If I was suddenly not here - how would this picture change? 
Please Lord, give me something.  Show me something.  Please let me feel something good.  Send me a list of what you think I'm doing right.  Please show me in some way that my pathetic little life is important and significant in some ridiculous way.  Please Lord, let me feel you near me.  Allow me to see that something I do is worthwhile.  Please show me that taking all of this on has a purpose or meaning.  Please let the darkness lift or give me the strength to leave it so I can see what's smack in front of my face.  Please take away my stubborn pride and self absorption and give me something else instead. Please, I beg you, help me keep getting out of bed to do something. 
And Grace, if you're listening, help me figure this out and if I can't figure it out, help me to find some peace in the mess.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

And just who does God mean for me to be exactly?

April 29th marked the Feast Day of St. Catherine of Siena and, accordingly, Facebook and Twitter were abuzz with quotes from this sainted lady.  Probably the most popular was this one:
“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”
I'm a lover of quotes and this gem from St. Cat is part of my little collection of words of wisdom.  What I like about quotes and snippets is that you can always revisit them for new meaning and insight.  I don't feel I ever quite arrive at a quote or depart from it the same time, every time.
“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”
These words became a sort of "ear worm" for the rest of that Monday and for a few days after.  I finally packed them away again when I became rather frustrated and distraught over the fact that I had no idea who God means for me to be.  I mean, yes, most of the intentions of my life are quite obvious, wife, mother, sister, daughter, aunt, friend...  Though sometimes, even these easy to spot descriptions are hard for me to imagine being part of God's plan for me.  I don't think God planned for me to become so frustrated with my kids that thoughts of duct taping them to the wall cross my mind.  Thus I began my steps down into the big "D's" from this one little quote... doubt, depression, despair, disillusionment, and ultimately hovering just inches apart from despair.  Aside from the monikers listed above, who am I supposed to be?

I've struggled with these ideas often in the past couple of years, frustrated over my journey of healing, but yet still hiding this big secret from most aspects of my life.  I could talk for hours about the mercy and forgiveness I have found since facing my past head on, but outside of this blog, I don't really talk about it.  I haven't used my new found powers for any real good.  I've been asking myself for a while now, what next?  I don't have an answer yet.  I've tried asking the same of God.  I've no answer yet.  When I'm frustrated and the depression is winning, I often start to lament ever starting this journey in the first place.  Wasn't I so much better off before when abortion wasn't part of my life in this way? Wasn't I happier? Wasn't I fun to be around?  The fact is I don't know for sure because I don't remember that person very well.  This has become who I am, but I fear the scale has tipped too far in the other direction.  Now I'm all abortion and nothing else, aren't I?

So back to setting the world on fire.

Who does God mean for me to be?  Is this all there is?  Full time wife and mother, part time employee?  I have no career or grand accomplishments to boast about.  I haven't written the great American novel.  I haven't done a whole heck of a lot actually in the last ten years or so.  Instead of moving toward some thing bigger, better, I've been in a kind of holding pattern just managing the day to day while it seems everyone else's life has some kind of inertia quality that I haven't attained.  I'm not sure I ever wanted that, however.  Yes, I have a college degree, experience, a nice applicable resume, but really all I wanted to do and still want to do is be at home and take care of my husband and kids.  There is not a lot of support for that idea.  It's also in conflict with what I must do, which is work at least part time to make ends meet.  I'm not sure I've ever really found peace with the facts of my life such as they have been. 

But, what else does God mean for me to be?  I'm wondering if I'm grieving, in some way, the "old" me.  The me before this journey.  I'm wondering if I'm lamenting who I could be if I didn't have this big secret. I think I grieve for the person I would have become had I not had an abortion at all.  I constantly question and doubt all of my choices and wonder if I've made a huge mistake in not pursuing a career and money and sent my kids to daycare so I cold work full time.  Everyone else does it.   Then, I become frustrated because I have an image in my mind of what I'm supposed to be and I'm too weak and scared to be so.  I'm frustrated because maybe I'm over thinking all of this and I already am who God means me to be - and boy am I boring.  How am I supposed to set the world on fire this way?

Perhaps now is not the best time to hash this out as I'm still fighting the depression and the constant lump in my throat and the tears the seem to be constantly at the ready.  I know I'm not the first or only human who has asked these questions, but I feel awfully alone in spite of that knowledge.  Depression is a very lonely and desolate place and you wind up breaking your own heart every minute of the day when you can see the swath of glorious light just beyond your reach or step, and even though no one and no thing is holding you down in the dark, you remain.  I stay here.  I'm a functioning depressive.  I can cook and clean and care for my children.  I can even make it look as though there is not a thing wrong with me all the while mulling over a dramatic demise.  I'm pretty sure this is not who God means for me to be.  Maybe all I am meant to be is a wife and mother, but this darkness that surrounds me can't be part of that plan.