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.

Monday, May 19, 2014

A Bridge Too Close

Recently, I had the chance to visit my hometown of Pittsburgh.  Though I’m not that far away and get there pretty much as often as I want to, I always return with a twisted mix of emotions.  While I wade in nostalgia most of the time and have great memories of the ‘Burgh – living a bit away for a while has made it both difficult and easy to return home.  When I left Pittsburgh with starry eyes and a heart bursting with new found, true love,  I was 24 years old – so just 7 years after the abortion.  When I look back over this journey of mine, I realize, sometimes so painfully it’s hard to breathe, just what all took place in those 7 years before my knight in shining armor showed up.  I’d like to say I was well on my way to turning my life around right before Prince Charming arrived, and in some ways I was. I had put my foot down on most of the garbage that inhabited my life until then.  I made promises to myself that I would not allow anyone to hurt me ever again, not my body, and not my heart. I had made resolutions that my life was going to be different.  I had a good job and my own apartment and my first brand-new car.  In a lot of ways, things, and I, were all good.  That is, except for the loss of Grace, whose name I knew, but whose life I had no idea how to grieve for or if I even should or could.  Acknowledgment of her was stuffed down in my soul somewhere.  I had told Prince Charming about her, well not really about “her,” but about the abortion.  It was a short conversation and he made it easy.  It was in the past and it didn’t matter to him.  What neither of us realized is that it mattered to me and it would be decades before I realized how much.

Anyway, when I do go back home, I make conscious efforts to avoid certain places.  I avoid places where a bad memory resides or some bad experience, the memory of which is torture enough so that I don’t need the physical reminders of it at all.  I’ve talked a lot in these “pages” about my lonely walk across the 6th Street (now the Roberto Clemente) Bridge to the abortion clinic in downtown Pittsburgh.  That bridge has come to have so much meaning for me and I don’t yet have it all figured out.  Is it a bridge between my two lives?  Is it a walk away from Grace? Is it a walk toward my destiny?  Does it bridge the gap between then and now, a bridge too far?  Is it just a bridge?  No matter what it is – it’s a bridge that I haven’t walked across in over 20 years and one I turn my eyes from while passing by whenever I’m in town.  

Adding to the bad memories of this bridge is the fact that my mom and I both worked near each other in town while I was in college and we would walk across the same bridge to go to lunch together.  I’m not sure how many times we did that, but it was a lot.  I don’t remember if I thought about it then – I’m sure I had to at some point or other – when we crossed over the hump in the middle of the span and the Fulton Building came into full view… did she ever think about me going there for an abortion? Did she ever think about it at all? Had she ever thought that she paid for her grandchild to be snuffed out? Did she wonder if I was thinking about it?  Did she care?  I have no idea, and I never will, of what may or may not have gone through her mind when we walked past that building together on our way to our many lunches.  

In a sense, the bridge came to be a symbol of everything that happened and the utter loneliness of my long walk across it with Grace still part of me and the lonely, painful walk back without her. 

I had been thinking for a while that I wanted to return to the bridge at some point, not sure of what I would do once I got there or what it might mean for me.  This last trip home I went back.

I parked my car on the north shore and started toward the bridge.  It was a beautiful, breezy spring day with puffy white clouds and happy tourists around.  I started walking across and stopped in the middle.  I started walking again, and stopped again a few steps later to catch my breath which wasn’t lost due to exertion but for everything else.  

I stood on the bridge and looked at the Fulton Building.  I remembered the abortion clinic was on the 3rd floor.  I leaned back against the yellow metal and just was still for a while.  I’m afraid of heights but I forced myself to the other side of the sidewalk where I could see down to the river below if I stood on my tiptoes or peeked through the spaces in the metal.  The familiar thoughts came to mind and I wondered if I had considered jumping 27 years ago.  I wondered if anyone would have cared.  I wondered if my mom would have fessed up and told my Dad that she knew the reason I had jumped.  More things that I’ll never know. 

I took a deep breath and walked down the other side.  There was always a panhandler on the bridge then – he’s still there – in the same spot.  I stopped at the end of the bridge for a while.  I’m not sure what I expected to do or feel.  I suppose maybe I just wanted to walk across it not as a pregnant 17 year old scared out of her mind or back across it as a 17 year old who just had her first experience with a gynecologist – who just happened to perform an abortion along with it.  I wanted to walk across it as who I am today – or who I fancy myself to be today.  The problem was, or is, that that simple walk across a bridge made me forget for a few moments who I am today or who I think I am.  Then I got angry, or sad, or both, at how close I still stand to despair. I began to think maybe I have never been far at all.  

I know that most of the thoughts I was having weren’t true, but that didn’t make them hurt any less.  As my usual m.o., I took on this challenge alone.  I hadn’t even told my husband what I had planned on doing.  So, in a sense, it was my own fault that I was there alone, without anyone to help me process what I was feeling or even just to hold my hand.  I half dialed his number and hung up.  I contemplated a call to the Good Father to ask him to pray with me at that moment, but decided against it.  So, I tried to say my own prayer.

I stood there looking up at the 3rd floor windows of the building remembering that the procedure room had no windows at all.  I hadn’t decided before if I would go inside the building.  After 27 years and a few million dollar restorations, it hardly would be the same at all.  But, in some sense it was hallowed ground.  Grace was killed there. It was the closest I’d get to any real “burial” site for her.  I felt like I owed it to her and to all the others who died there.

The doorman smiled and said hello as he opened the over sized doors to the lobby.  It is a beautiful building and the lobby is grand and added to my feeling so small.  I sat down in a plush, pretty chair just for a moment or two.  I was afraid the knot in my stomach and the lump in my throat wouldn’t be contained for much more than that.  So, I got up and walked back through the door as the smiling doorman wished me a good day.

I sat down on a bench outside the door in the warm sunshine and waiting for my trembling legs to steady.  Right across the street there is a parking garage, and next to that another parking garage. In fact, there are probably 5 or 6 parking garages on the block.  I thought about why my Mom hadn’t told me to park there.  It’s right across the street.  The rate that day was $5.00 so 27 years ago it couldn’t have been much at all.  But, yet, she told me to park across the bridge in the Three Rivers Stadium Parking lot because it was free.  I almost laughed at the idea that she had given me $300 in cash to pay for the abortion but no extra for anesthesia and no extra for parking.

I stood up and turned back toward the way I’d come.  With each step, I tried to remind myself that I wasn’t 17 anymore and that I wasn’t afraid anymore.  I tried to remember that I had a husband who loved me and tried to forget all the ones who came before who hurt me with words or hands.  I tried to remember that I have two little girls on this earth who need me and who hopefully will someday know and love Grace.  I was almost back to my car on the other side of the river when I couldn’t hold the tears in any longer and they streamed down my face underneath my sunglasses, mascara staining my cheeks.  In the safety of my car, there was no holding anything in and I sat there for a while saying the only prayer I could, “Jesus.”  

I had a long drive home and a long time to think.  I know that I’ve done a lot of healing these last few years.  I know that I‘ve worked through much.  I know that I’m forgiven for the abortion.  I know that I am a child of God and that He means for me to be here on this earth whether I feel like it or not.  And even though I know all of this, I don’t always feel the truth of any of it. I still need reminders. If anything, the trek across the bridge cemented the fact that I still have healing to do, things to work out, anger to deal with, room to grow. I hadn’t returned from my sojourn a conqueror. If anything, I returned quite the same as I was before it.  But, I did realize that I need to find a way to not be one step away from despair at any given moment.  I don't have to be stuck in the middle of a bridge between then and now, but I also don’t have to pick a side, do I?

Monday, March 24, 2014

Finding My Voice

I've been writing this blog for almost three years now.  I did not set out with a plan of any kind when I began writing.  It just seemed like it would be an okay place for me to talk about my story and all the rest and whoever read it, read it.  I did think that if I could help just one person then I would have been a success.  I'm not really worried about the success of this blog any more and haven't been for a while.  My blog has become a place for me to talk about my abortion and everything else in my life that partially stems from that trauma and all that surrounds it.  It has given me a place for my heart to speak when I can't manage to speak with those closest to me.  My blog has given me a place where I feel like I am heard. I don't know if I'll ever speak publicly, non-anonymously, about my abortion, but I've done a lot of other things on this journey that I never thought I would do, so I won't say never.  Until then, this blog has become my, "I Regret My Abortion" sign. 

About a month or so ago a regular reader of my blog, Kim Ketola, contacted me about coming on her radio show for a live interview.  Post abortive herself, Kim published her book, Cradle My Heart, Finding God's Love After Abortion, in 2012 and her radio show offers a "safe space for you to connect with others who are finding God’s love–especially after guilt and grief related to abortion, addictions and other life-controlling issues." 

Knowing that I blog anonymously, Kim and I arranged for the interview via email and agreed on a pseudonym to use for the show.  I didn't think a whole lot about saying yes to Kim's invitation, but I was quite anxious leading up to it. What if someone recognizes my voice?  What if I'm really bad at it?  I'm a writer, not a speaker! What if my Mom hears it?  Adding to the anxiety was that Kim wanted me to talk about my abortion experience itself.  I knew that it would be difficult as I've only told the story, out loud, a few times and it doesn't get any easier.  Saying the words can send me right back there on that table, in that space and time, and render me utterly ignorant of all the grace, love, and peace that has reigned down on me since that day so long ago, yet so near in my heart and mind. 

I suppose the main reason I agreed to do the interview was that it would give me a chance to use my voice and not just my words and that, I thought, could be very powerful and perhaps just as beneficial for me as perhaps it might be for someone who may be listening.

So last evening, my phone rang a few moments before the live show and then I had the chance to use my voice to tell my story.  I think it went well and it helped immensely that Kim understood where I had been.  Of course, time constraints make it difficult to share every single detail, but I hope what I did get the chance to say was enough.  Upon that statement, a dear Priest, whom I cherish, would ask, "Enough for who?"  I suppose my first thought would be enough for God, but I don't have to be enough for Him. I hope enough for someone who may have been listening, is still hurting from an abortion, and afraid to seek help. 

After the interview, my mind was swirling for a few hours. One of the callers who phoned in was quite passionate about my forgiving myself.  Believe me, I know!  But, it remains difficult.  Maybe one day it won't be difficult.  It's hard for me to picture a day when I'm completely at peace with my journey and all of its steps, but I know not to say never. 

If you are postabortive and you've been reading my blog or you just got here - please know that no matter how desperate and overwhelmingly dark my story gets at times, there is always, always, His mercy that is bigger than all of it.  That truth is what keeps me going even on my darkest of days.  I would be no where without it.  I am nothing without it. 

Here's a link to my interview with Kim, if you'd like to listen... Connecting your story to God's story after abortion.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

One foot in front of the other...

I haven’t been writing for a while, probably the longest stretch of non-writing I’ve had in the last few years.  I just haven’t been able to; just the simple act of putting pen to paper or hands on the keyboard proved too much.  Lent usually is a time when the words come pouring out of me – but that’s not the case this year.   This year Lent seems to be what, hopefully, is the tail end of a depressive episode unlike any other I’ve had in decades and damn close to being one of the worst.  My biggest problem with depression is that I have it at all, that I have that label and it’s written in my medical history over and over again with a list of medications stopped and started to try to manage the symptoms because there seems to be no cure.  No amount of optimism, faith, trust, love, hope, sunshine, or happy circumstances can crack the darkness of depression – that is, until it does.

I know I must sound like a broken record on this blog. I sometimes go back to see what I've written in the past few years and I’m sad to say that my topics don’t branch out all that much.  I’ve been here before on this blog and in my life.  As much as I try to deny the diagnosis and inevitable accompanying symptoms, depression haunts me. The symptoms of depression exist within me on many levels and reveal themselves in varied ways.  Some of them can be managed with medication, some respond to just the distraction of the daily routine, and others I can just push away or aside if I’m able to focus on something, anything good.  The sunshine, a glance from my husband, the dog, the laughter of my girls, the words of the Mass, the Eucharist, or a great cup of coffee can sometimes offer a temporary reprieve.

This time, however, the symptoms ingratiated themselves far down in the recesses.  I feel this depression physically as though I have a pile of bricks on my shoulders as I go about my day. I feel my heart beating faster.  I can't concentrate.  I'm forgetful. It feels like I’m choking but nobody notices as the lump in my throat never subsides and the tears fall profusely against my will.  I have learned over the years how to successfully hide the symptoms of depression and have gotten good at functioning in spite of what I’m feeling and what is stirring about in my mind.  The suicidal thoughts and grand schemes remain and it takes an exhaustive effort sometimes to not pay attention to them.  

Adding to all of this was an allergic reaction to a medicine that I was taking for about a year.  It seemed to just stop working one day and I had horrible itching and hives and slight fever.  I had to immediately stop taking it – which is never a good idea with any antidepressant.   The timing couldn’t be worse for a medication change over and the subsequent waiting period for the new medication to start working.

Thank God, the new medication seems to have started working ever so slightly, just in the last week.  I am starting to feel as though I can breathe again and I’m able to concentrate a little better which may be debatable by the readers of this particular blog post.  I’m far from 100%, but I’m at least headed in that direction.  I have to be.  

When the veil of depression descends, it touches every part of one’s life; at least it does for me.  Everything just goes black.  I go through my days like a robot already programmed with the required tasks to accomplish.  There’s no joy, there’s no laughter, there’s no happiness.  Everything that’s bad  is magnified and the anger becomes angrier.  And when it’s really bad – there’s nothing.  

Nothing is the scariest part.

While I’m in the nothingness, my mind starts to rewind back to every bad thing that’s ever happened to me.  It’s not just the abortion –it’s everything from start to finish.  It’s everyone who’s ever hurt me and it’s me convincing myself that I deserved it.  I start to replay moments in my life over and over again, obsessing over the details, trying to remember even more clearly what would better be forgotten.  The soundtrack of my mind accuses me of any and everything.  Before long I’m walking around and even sleeping with a thousand thoughts, all of them bad, sucking the very life out of me.  Everything in my life is then viewed through these gray glasses where any glimmer of goodness is darkened.  Anything that’s remotely good, my mind convinces me is actually bad.  I am a horrible person. A complete whore. You aren’t fooling anyone.  You’re a joke. God doesn’t even know who you are. There is no God. 

Things that are nuisances most of the time become overwhelming and paralyzing.  And pretty soon I’ve descended so far down that even attempting to crawl out seems pointless so I don't even want to try.  Where would I start?  It doesn’t even matter anymore.  I’ll just stay here.

Wouldn’t it just be better if I weren’t here? Wouldn’t it be better if my husband didn’t have such a screwed up wife? Wouldn’t it be better if someone else raised my children, someone who they would listen to?  Wouldn’t it be better if I just ceased to exist somehow?  If I just faded into the background while their lives continued on?  Maybe if I just disappeared now, before things get any worse, then perhaps their memory of me would be better than the reality.

For weeks I felt in my soul that this was true.

Even when I don’t admit it, even in the blackness, there remains some small flicker of light which is just enough to make me reach out for help, to ask for help in any convoluted way, so long as it brings the help I need and the help I didn't even know I needed.

I’ve found hope in a few places to sustain me the last few weeks and hopefully will continue until I’m on the other side of this depressive episode.   Apparently, there is nothing I can do to make my husband not want me and believe me…  I’ve tried.  I have succeeded in making him not very happy, but I can’t convince him to leave me.   No matter how depressed and miserable and irritable and mean I can be, he still likes me.  No matter how much I retreat physically and mentally – he’s still here.  No matter how many times I remind him of my past and how I’m damaged goods and I had an abortion – he’s still here.  And even in the worst of this depression, there remains a sacred space and time between a husband and wife where love is all there is.  There are moments where all of these feelings and depression and memories cease to exist and peace and joy take their place.   He’s chosen to love me through it, again and again, whether I allow him to or not.

In my darkness and solitude I begin to convince myself that my children would be better off without me. They don’t love me. They don’t listen to me.  They don’t respect me.  But, every so often, a smile comes across their face that reminds me that I am irreplaceable in their lives no matter what kind of day we’ve all had.  No matter how long I sit on my bed and convince myself that I don’t even deserve happy, healthy, beautiful children because I killed the first one, one of them inevitably busts in the door and reminds me that my love and attention is what they seek out above all others and there is nowhere else they will find it.They are oblivious to my horrible past and my present despicable behavior doesn't really matter to them either because there are far more pressing issues at hand like nails that need to be painted, snow that needs to be played in, or books that need to be read.

Even in my darkness, I’m reminded that no matter how much I yell at God and pout and lament every bad thing that has happened in my life, there is good that remains.  No matter how much I try to ignore Him and shove my Bible and all my spiritual reading stacked on my nightstand into the drawer in a juvenile attempt to tell him to @#$@ off, He remains… waiting.  And when I go to find him, He’s there.  When I come limping back, crushed under the weight of this ridiculous mental state that has no rhyme or reason that I understand, He’s there… waiting.  Just when I think He actually listened this time when I shouted in my mind, “what’s the @#$#ing point? I don’t need you,” He somehow reminds me that I do.  Sometimes it’s the lyrics of a song, sometimes it’s the beat of my own heart, sometimes it’s the touch of his hand. 

Because of my abortion, because of my past, because of my depression, because I am a wife, because I am a mother… I need him.  And even just because, I am... I need him.  He’s the light that remains.

No matter how hard I try, my emotional state or station doesn’t predict His existence in me. He’s here regardless.  When I’m broken and crawling through the dust or happy and laughing - there’s no criteria that needs to be met for needing Him.  I used to think that I had to be perfect before coming to him, perfectly worthy to go to him – lately I’ve been afraid that if I’m not broken I can’t go to him for I’ll have nothing for Him to fix.  I often think of myself as the woman about to be stoned, or the woman reaching out to touch the hem of His garment – but I never really think past it and what happens to the woman after she gets up and goes on her way?  She must have had a life after that moment.  What would her life have been like after touching, really touching, Jesus?

I wonder if He would still take my hand and hold me when I’m not broken in a myriad of shattered pieces?  Could I ever so slightly began to see myself through His eyes and allow love to grow within and He would still be there for me for any reason… or none at all?  Does He only pay attention when I’m at my wit’s end and my life is in shambles?   Is He still paying attention when I’m content in the love of my family?  Does He only listen when I pray out of desperation or does He ever listen when my ramblings put a smile on his face?

Would my husband? Would my children? Would Grace – whom I came to know only after I was so broken that I had no choice but to face her? 

In all of my depression and self-pity and self-destruction I think about how no one could possibly love me, or even like me.  And there He is, in the middle of it all, showing me that unconditional love exists in the very air I breathe every day. 

I pray that as I take each step out of this episode of darkness – that He’s there in the sunlight. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

New Logo A Loving Embrace of the Postabortive

Yesterday on my Twitter feed I was happy to see that a new logo for the March for Life was unveiled.  Honestly, I held my breath for just a moment before taking a good look.  I exhaled and smiled at what I saw...

Ta dah!

I was even more happy after reading the symbolism behind the new logo from March for Life President, Jeanann Monahan.  In part...
"You'll notice the new logo encompasses a mother and child. We march for moms and babies. Abortion not only snuffs out a life filled with potential, it harms a mother emotionally, psychologically and physically.  We embrace every woman and child with hope for happier tomorrows."
Back in August of this year, I offered my 2 cents on How to Win the ProLife Fight, wherein I talked about how embracing the millions of women who are postabortive is the key to certain victory. I have my own little collection of horror stories from my limited experience in the ProLife arena, but it's enough to make me hash out seven ways to Sunday plus infinity whether I step out again in defense of life.

About a year and a half into my healing I first went to witness outside an abortion clinic along with the Helpers of God's Precious Infants.  I continue to do this when I'm able to up to this day.  Two years ago I mustered up the courage to attend the March for Life for the first time and it was life changing.  I was there again last year and I plan on being there this year.

The anxiety will continue to ramp up to the 22nd as I try to brace myself against any negativity, temptations to despair, and try to keep from falling head long into the fact that I had an abortion as I take up my spot among the hundreds of thousands of people in D.C. that day.

I will be there, still quite anonymously, without a knowing hand to hold, when the panic creeps up into my throat as I walk that stupid block with all the wretched pictures and abortions on loop.  However, this year, I'm hoping and happy that I'll be able to refocus my gaze on the new March for Life logo depicting mother AND child and feel as though I belong there.  I hope that it continues to make me feel like it did when I first saw it, that I am now represented.  I hope too that all of the people at the March for Life remember the mothers so horrifically hurt by abortion along with the babies lost to abortion  every time they see both beautifully portrayed... together, wrapped in each arms.  To be able to hold our babies in our arms, I would guess, is the thing most postabortive women yearn for in this life, but won't have until the next one.  Until then, we carry our children in our hearts, minds, and souls.

The trending campaign for the March for Life is #WhyWeMarch. Last year the day before the March I wrote,

Tomorrow is the March for Life in Washington, D.C. and I'll be there among the crowds, just one person, one woman.  Even in the thousands and thousands of people, I will feel alone at times, a desperate loneliness.  But then, I remind myself that I'm not alone, that I'm never alone because He is with me and Grace Anne is with me.  She's part of me forever. 

The nerves are increasing because tomorrow is a day when both of my "lives" intersect for a while and I delicately tip toe through despair, joy, hope, sadness, guilt, anger, intense self scrutiny, meek attempts at prayer, and polite conversation.  Come, Holy Spirit, please... and don't ever, ever leave.

So, tomorrow I walk for Grace Anne and for me.  I also walk thanks to my husband because from the moment he came into my life, he changed it forever, for good. I walk for my girls so that they never, ever have to go through what I went through. 

Thank you, Jeanne Monahan, and the March for Life, for reaching out a loving hand to touch the heart of the postabortive, for reaching out a loving hand to me.

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.