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.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Through the Eyes of Grace

In some ways I've completely underestimated the effect the Christmas season can have on me.  Perhaps that's not totally true.  Perhaps, this year, this "far" along in my journey a more likely story is that the drama has quelled a bit that it's not so much that Christmas snuck up on me, but that there isn't that much to sneak up?  The tug of melancholy or grief isn't much of a surprise.  Maybe I'm starting to live my life in some integrated way, acknowledging Grace more regularly as part of my life now, a real part, that doesn't need drama and histrionics to come about. Healing the wounds of the abortion itself has seemed to allow Grace to be part of me, minus most of the pain.  Honestly, sometimes the histrionics still win out - albeit for shorter times and at longer intervals in between. 

Recently, a challenge was put to me for this Christmas - to think about what I'd like to give Grace for a Christmas present.  Seems manageable.  After the tumbleweed thinking of, "I could have given you life..." is stamped down, I can think of some other things that I'll hold in my heart for a while.  However, the bigger challenge was to think about and pray about and ask Grace what she might give me for Christmas this year.

Come on, really?  As I clench my fists, stamp my feet, and my bottom lip starts to stick out.

I began to contemplate the idea for a moment and then just as quickly began pushing it aside thinking that I won't have to deal with the idea until I actually sit down and clear my mind (yeah, right) and pray with big words, grand contemplation, and perfect meditation.

I should really know better by now. 

In the midst of a hum drum task of my vocation as wife and mother of which I'll spare you the details, Grace took the initiative to tell me what she wanted to give me this Christmas.  Turns out she has been paying close attention lately. 

"This Christmas, I want you to see yourself as I see you, as Daddy sees you, as all of the people who love you see you, and most of all - how He sees you." 

In internet lingo.... Oh. My. God.  Literally.

I stopped for a moment, almost out of breath, and tried to listen intently. 

"And I want you to be the person we all see and quit hiding behind who you think you are."

As I sat on the bed and the tears began to fall it was as if I felt her hand that was just on mine, softly depart and then I was left alone with her gift, maybe one of the most thoughtful and love-filled gifts I have ever received - that is if I accept it. 

In a few moments, the normal, familiar thought patterns returned perniciously.  Yeah right, see you as they see you - they all see you as just what you are... unworthy, ugly, frumpy, tired, old, stupid, wasted life, wasted career, wasted degree, fat, fat, fat, out of shape, bad mother, worse wife, age spots, wrinkles, used up whore, damaged goods, fooling everyone with your "good Catholic woman" act, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, and blah.  And that's on a normal day, not even a bad day.  And she wants me to turn that around?  She wants me to see myself as worthy of love not only from her, but from everyone? 

Therein lies the problem with what Grace desires to give me.  As Flannery O'Connor puts it, "All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful."

Amen, Ms. O'Connor. 

So now I am resisting grace and Grace, but what would happen if I accepted grace and Grace?  Let them both in and see myself through the eyes of both and each?  Grace wants to change me.  She wants me to change myself and I'm not sure I can deal with more pain, the pain I know is going to come, at least temporarily, with that kind of change.  I'm not 100% convinced of what's on the other side of that pain or change and I am fully aware that I'm never going to be 100% sure of it until it happens, until I make it happen.

It's so, almost impossibly, difficult for me to think about myself in ways other than what I'm so accustomed to at this point.  But, at the same time, my choice to view myself in the ways that I do allows me to continue to do all of the things that keep me trapped in this unhappy place where I won't even allow myself to be in a photograph with my kids because I'm afraid then there will be photographic proof and long standing evidence of how truly horrible I was.  Every once in a while, when I have a good day, and a good hair day, I allow myself to feel good for a short time.  I notice the sparkle in my eyes or I allow myself to feel good about something I did during the day, but it soon fades or becomes overshadowed by the negative.  I can stand in front of the mirror every day, putting in my contacts and applying my make up and never really see myself at all.  I never really look.

I asked someone how they get the motivation to stop the negative self talk and find a way to look in the mirror and say something positive, see something positive. Part of their answer was to "make it up if you have to." 

So, I started a made up list, that started to morph into a real list.  I'm not sure if this is how Grace see me, or how my husband sees me, or the people that love me see me, and I have no idea if this how He sees me, but it's a start.

I am intelligent.
I am funny.
I have a great sense of humor.
I think quickly on my feet.
I'm good at any job I take on.
I learn things quickly.
I am fiercely loyal.
I am protective of the people I love.
I am a pretty good writer.
I am a pretty good singer.
I am pretty good at a lot of things actually, jack of all trades.
I am a great cook.
I have pretty eyes.
I like my freckles.
I have a cute nose.
I have near perfect pitch.
My husband loves me no matter what.
My kids love me no matter what.
I'm a great friend.
I like all of the scars that I have. 
I love to learn.
I love to read.

Repeat as necessary. 

I'm already starting to feel guilty that I won't be able to unwrap this gift from Grace on Christmas morning.  I'm so, so afraid of the change I know will come with its acceptance and I'm even more afraid of what will happen if I don't.


  1. Merry Christmas!!

    I hope you unwrapped your gift. :-)


  3. Are you afraid you will forget Grace if you change? I think there is a difference between forgetting and release.
    With kind regards and prayers,
    ~ Angela

  4. I am not sure, if my previous posts will actually be posted. I accidentally lost my conclusion post. I will come back another time. I do not have energy to go through it, now.

    I will say, that I can appreciate your blog. I regret coercing my daughter to have abortion. That is one that still haunts me!