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

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. 

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