24| Marshawn Year

Annually. Yearly. Regularly. A four year, perennial, writing.

20. 21. 22. 23.

And as though no time has passed and as though it all has, 24. I’ve sat in my bed for the past forty minutes reading over what I’ve written on my birthdays eve the past four years and it makes me cry. Not for sadness or want or grief, but because of all the growth that has happened both in these past four years since starting the pre-birthday writing tradition, not to mention the past 364.5 days leading up to my on-the-cusp-of-24th-birthday.

In practice, this writing is not much different than those past: alone, with wine, barefoot, music in the background (for those interested, its John Mayer b/c it takes me back to being fifteen in the most tearfully nostalgic/beautiful/coming-home/calming way).

“I’m twenty-four” is the most adult thing I’ve felt recently. It tucks itself in nicely with my name on a lease, on car and student loans, on full-time-post-college-job-name-tag. I haven’t felt this weepy and grateful and nostalgic on a birthday since twenty; the difference being that I was terrified of being twenty, of being in my twenties. And four years later I am so moved and so grateful to sit at the feet of twenty-four, to let these tears of gratitude wash her feet as she grants me access to my 24th trip around the sun.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve learned to not take for granted the blessing it is to grow up, to slowly grow older. To pocket wisdom and dispense it because, oddly, it’s something I gain–albeit slowly–in certain areas of life.

I read back over my Jordan Year: Welcome to 23 post and I see how young being negative another 365 days makes us, how big and boundlessly we grow in the +365. My twenty-second year, going into my twenty-third, felt very blase. It wasn’t an incredibly good nor an exceptionally bad year…it was just…meh. The woman writing a year ago wanted her twenty-third year to show up and, here now at the end of it, I am here to say that it did.

My twenty-third year showed up. It was loud and scary and v. sun-drenched-Polaroid-feeling, in all the good ways.

This year found me leaving a job of nearly five years, learning how to play to my strengths and how to wrestle with my evident weaknesses. I spent the first five months after leaving North Queen Anne miserable professionally; starting from the bottom is hard. Starting over is incredibly painful. But it reaps some incredible benefits, the most noteworthy of which being that I made a grown-up choice, to leave a job I loved for a job I knew would challenge me, and it was exhausting, but it grew me. I am a better woman, educator, and learner for daring first to leave and then, daring further, to keep going while the going was tough.

This year found me navigating post-college; my friends and roommates moving out of Seattle, or at the very least spread out within it. Starting jobs, relationships, marriages, child-rearing and suddenly, so very suddenly, were very far away. My friends weren’t right down the hallway or making cookies in the kitchen; they weren’t even a phone call away–taken to the edges of themselves– places undiscovered, by boyfriends or school or jobs. This first year out of college was lonely. Here is where I say thank you to the friends who loved me incessantly, despite it all. I see you and you allow me to be seen, too. I owe you my heart.

This year I recognized a woman in the mirror; a woman who was…me. Was me with the hips and the long hair and sleepy eyes and the little hands but yet, and still, was the little girl with shoulder-length-cropped-hair and shin guard tan lines and no cares in the world. I reconciled my girlhood with my womanhood, ecstatic that I do not have to give up either; grateful that both coexist.

I have cried more in the past year than I think I have in my entire life and it has helped me know myself in the strangest, most intimate way. I have read more books, taken more walks, and worked to pay more attention; if we want to be seen we, too, must see. It is give and take. It is learning how to bend without allowing yourself to break. It is allowing yourself to break and marrying that to an understanding that you will not be broken forever.

Being alive shouldn’t feel like a death sentence.

Being alive should be this: barefoot, wine, words, and an open embrace to twenty-four (or seventy-six or forty-two, or YOU) and all there is to come.

– – – –

P.S. —

Because most of the best books I’ve ever read this year add something on at the end, something that is almost always sweeter than the text that precedes it. This year taught me love–something I am not at all surprised I saved til last, that I am not at all surprised I almost left for me.

My twenty-third year brought me a love that terrified, opened, healed, transformed, and made me more alive than I ever imagined that I could be. Twenty-three brought me Nate; a piece of my puzzle, an extension of myself worth waiting twenty-three years to discover.

Baby—you have made me brave and humble. More kind and gentle, yet more fierce and fearless. You have affirmed what the world, what my past, may have tried to strip me of: my right to be loved, to know I am valuable, to see I am beautiful, and to put in the work–for health, education, for us–that is necessary to reap the result we want. You have allowed me happiness and repaid it a thousandfold, you are selfless, gentle, and kind even when I don’t deserve it.

You have seen me through my fears, my insecurities, the best and worst of the highs and lows this year has brought. You have held me when I cried, regardless the reason, regardless of the time of day. Thank you for letting me sleep on your shoulder/lap/arm/legs and *almost never complaining.

Thank you for never letting me go to bed angry or upset. Thank you for talking through problems as they’ve risen up, rather than sitting in our frustrations. Thank you for paving the path to an incredible future by reminding me that we don’t need to fight because we are so good at just talking.

You are my best friend, my partner, my person.

I am grateful for the quiet hours alone in our apartment to write this, while you work so we can keep adding adventures to our life together; but I am ready for you to be home so we can talk about how old I’m about to be and about how old we’ll get to grow together.

I love you big, big, big.

– – – –

I am so ready to embrace twenty-four.

It’s my Marshawn year, baby, let’s go.

 

 

 

 

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I think I am writing about you

There is a moment right before lightning strikes. The clouds glow. The air is heavy, the weight of the world in your lungs, your heart still feels the reverberations from the thunder. It has shaken you. You are not the same.

We never are.

Ripples on a on a pond; skipping stones, feet wading through the shallows, flirting with the idea of the deep. Of going ever deeper. Fish scared from the reflections hop-scotching across the surface, darting away to hide.

I do not have to hide.

In this world there is lighting and thunder. Here, especially, in my little corner of the ever unfolding stratosphere, there is storm and sun in the same instance. What a life metaphor, right? “When it rains, it pours.” “It is always darkest before the dawn.” This and all the many other nuances we speak for comfort in the face of darkness or fear or loneliness.

You are none of these.

Not dark or fearsome or lonely.

You are the moment right before the lightning strikes. You are the aftershock of the thunder: the glow of the clouds, the heart-reverberations.

As kids we are told that kindness goes a long way: that we are to pass it on and give it out, freely, as often as we are able. Adulthood teaches us how unkind mankind is. So, in the vast gray of no-man’s land between childhood and the eternity we are each given–each lesson learned, painfully or otherwise, in between–it is truly something to have found you.

To lay beside you. To watch the lightning in your eyes, feel it from your fingertips when they grace my skin. How lightning so often leads to rain; how I’ve never been happier to storm, to thunder and speak, knowing it’s well received. That we may be in the eye of this storm: untouched, spinning, all feeling-feet-off-the ground-but, love, look at how much this storm has manged to grow.

Look at what happens when the skies do not fear opening up.

How the rain falls.

And love grows,

greater than the storm that fed it.

Jordan Year: Welcome to Twenty-Three

I have *almost lived twenty-three years worth of a lifetime. Or, at least, my lifetime so far. This year, like most others in the days leading up to my birthday,  I tuck myself away to reflect. This is the four year anniversary of me doing something like this which, in itself, feels so strange. I started this comforting, transformative, simple habit on the eve of twenty at, what now feels like, a very baby nineteen years old.

20. 21. 22. And now, 23.

I mark my years birthday to birthday, rather than from 2015-2016 or by school years or the zodiac calendar or what ever other form of year-tracking we humans use to prove the passage of time.  So for me, my year is over in about 26 hours.

As I sit here, barefoot with a glass of wine, I think of how different I am now, on the precipice of twenty-three, than I was almost a year ago going into twenty-two. I have graduated college (all official with my fancy degree and debt), I have blonder hair and a few  more piercings than I did a year ago when I wrote in the beginning of my twenty-second year.

Today I stood on a rope climbing structure with a dear friend and co-teacher, a fellow Cancer whose birthday follows three days after mine, discussing the respective ends of our twenty-second years: “You know, it sort of feels like…a gap year? Like the end of a book or t.v. series where you go…okay, so what’s the point?”

Twenty-two has, in many respects, felt like a gigantic 365-days worth of “Um…so what?” Which, as I sit and read it now, makes my year sound as though nothing good, or beautiful, or Polaroid-tinted-memorable took place. This isn’t true: I’ve had belly-laughs, adventures, and sadness/anxiety/bum-days, too. It just hasn’t been one of those years. But, as I was telling Sarah earlier today, as a writer, not having something to glean from this year, even if initially, is frustrating. There has to be SOMETHING I can take, even from a seemingly lesser year than years and birthdays past.

And then like fate or maybe like God or chance a sliver of wisdom hit me; it’s one of the voices I hear somewhat often that sounds very much like the type of line-drive wisdom and glacier-lake clarity with which I imagine God speaks:

The book. 

THEE book. In many respects the bible of my late teens and so far into my twenties:

Eat Pray Love.

Finding the quote that struck me as I sat on the rope structure was inspired by an entirely different quote sent by a friend via text shortly before (inspiration tsunami’s, truly) and finding the quote I wanted was quite the task. I’ve written on almost as much as I’ve talked about my deep, visceral, marrow-deep love of Liz Gilbert and her Eat Pray Love. As I scanned through page after page, all highlighted in different colors from the many different times at which I picked up the text and it did its work in saving me–from myself and the world around me–I found it:

 “I will leave with the hope that the expansion of one person–the magnification of one life–is indeed an act of worth in this world. Even if that life, just this one time, happens to be nobody’s but my own.”

And I started to realize: it’s not a gap year, it doesn’t not-count just because it doesn’t seem to weigh as heavy as the others, and it certainly isn’t a “so what?”.

It’s the center piece of the puzzle.

I am the youngest I’ve ever been while also being the oldest I’ll ever be, right now.

Upon initial reflection, I’ll admit, twenty-two has felt small in comparison to all the years that have preceded it. But how am I to finish the puzzle without the piece that connects it all? Which is to say: without twenty-two I don’t connect to twenty-three, the puzzle doesn’t get finished. And in twenty-three more years, probably still barefoot and drinking wine–maybe raising a soul-song daughter of my own–I’ll know there has been this year. It may not have been the year of the heartbreak, or the dead brother, or the ultrasound but it will have been a year: a year alive, and breathing, and living in spite of all the things trying to convince me it’s not worth it.

This is where the Liz Gilbert/EPL quote comes in;

A year is an expansion of a person. My very act in sitting down and delving into my life is my way of magnifying my life so that I can look at it objectively. And even the years, like this past one, that have felt blah and gaping wide-open-what-the-fuck-have-I-done-with-a-year– those years have worth.

They’re the center piece of the puzzle. It ties it all together. It completes the final. It makes one whole.

So right now, this one time, as with every birthday’s eve: I magnify my own life. Sure, there’s seasoning of narcissism and vanity in doing so but it’s also done in a hope of splaying myself wide open. Naked. Vulnerable.

Because I am just like you. I’ve gap years and full years and I drink too much, some days, and I never write like this enough. Or do enough art. Or do enough of the “enough” that completes us all.

Mine is this: the writing, the critiquing, the words that come–contracting my soul–until I labor them into the world messy, yes, but so damn beautiful, too.

I sit at the feet of almost-twenty-three grateful I know that the pains of my art, the birth of it, bring this serenity. I sit at the feet of almost-twenty-three…grateful. Overwhelmed and overjoyed and ready to live into twenty-three.

I’ve had my rest. The contractions have come, the words birthed.

And now: twenty-three.

“We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.”
― Anaïs Nin

xoxo,

-KR

A Process

I am sitting in a little white room. Paintings dot the walls. From my little room that borders the bathroom I can hear my friend speak to her daughter; she lays in the bath and her daughter sits on the toilet listening to her speak: the last time she washed her hair, how she feels with the sunshine on her skin. I try not to listen because this is not my moment. My moment has never been with my mother in her bath and me on the toilet talking about the day. My moment has never even, truly, been in the sitting down and listening.

I’ve spent far too much time doing, wanting so desperately to be the quiet, listening woman. “I talk a lot” I tell my boyfriend, though at the time he is not yet my boyfriend, as he holds my hand in the white light din of my christmas lights and he tells me, no, it is okay. I listen.

And I try not to envy him. I try not to want to be what I am not. I am first a talker, second a listener and it has never been and will never be the other way around.

“Try not to drink this problem away” my mother tells me. And I know that she means well. I know she looks in the collective DNA of myself and my father and she sees problems, misplaced, run rampant in acts of suicide and addiction and the pain we all pass on to our children in one way or another.

Fifteen months ago I found out I was pregnant. One of the first things I thought about was one of the times I listened. I was in my best friends living room and her mother was talking about politics and school shootings and violence and she said something that shook me to my marrow: “I did not have children with the intent of them being raised in a world like this.”

And the more I do my job and speak with people with far more wisdom, and far less, than me I learn this: we never do.

We never mean to sit in the little white room and listen in on a moment we know is not ours. We do not mean to birth our children–be they people or ideas–in a world ill equipped to treat them with kindness.

We never mean to resent who we are: women who talk first and listen later.

But no matter what we mean or do not the consistency of ourselves remains. We are so effortlessly human. So hell-bent on criticism without ever a spoonful of grace.

I am challenging myself to love myself with grace. Absent the criticism of who I think I should be and an embracing of who I really am.

I am learning. It, as everything, is a process.

Grad-U-YAY-tion

Yesterday I walked across a stage. In heels. And I didn’t trip.

But inherent to that statement is this truth: yesterday I walked across a stage, among the 30 or so other students in my department, and I was given my diploma*

*there’s nothing in it yet.

*it’s empty until my actual degree** gets mailed to me

**EXPENSIVE degree

It’s all very surreal. In the past 27 hours the whole scope of my past eighteen or so years of schooling and my life therein have changed. A lot of my peers have expressed their stress: how or will I find a job? When or where will I find a permanent place to live? Holy shit WHAT WILL I DO WITH THE REST OF MY LIFE????

Maybe I’m still in shock. Maybe I’ll walk into every living room for the rest of my life and be surprised that there aren’t a bunch of nursing students studying on Wednesday nights. Maybe it hasn’t hit me that I’ll never go to an undergraduate class again, never spend hours on end writing youth-based curriculum. Maybe there’s a lot of maybe’s that I haven’t processed.

This doesn’t feel like shock, though. It feels like being right where I’m supposed to be, right when I’m supposed to be there. I feel like I’ve earned this; through every long 35 hours work week on top of writing curriculum, papers, reflections, and essays. For the tireless hours in the reference section learning about/from King David or Torah or midrash gedolot. I’ve worked hard for a LONG time and this feels like the next logical step.

I don’t stare into however many years my future may be and feel fear. Yeah, there’s lots of students loans and I have not a damn clue what my next job will be or what city I’ll live in. But none of that feels scary because it’s so exciting. 

I’m sure I’ll spend many of my post-college years to come reflecting on my future, piece by piece, as it unfolds. So for now I think I need to say thank you.

There is a village of so many, too many, people to name that have gotten me to the point where there is a college degree with my name on it in my hot little hands. That list isn’t limited to the past few college years, alone. I’ve had an incredible family and friend-base from the very beginning up til now that have played an integral part in my success. And then, upon moving to Seattle, there have been the families of the children I’ve been lucky enough to teach the past four and a half years. There’s been my professors that have forced me to be a better student, a better learner, and a more aware person; more capable of writing papers, yes, but also about learning, loving, and living well.

So to everyone at NQACC, SPU, and the SOT: I am so grateful for who you’ve helped me to become. I will carefully tuck away all that I’ve learned so that it arrives with me and every other stop I’ll make on this grand adventure I am living.

Inshallah. Shalom. Amen.

xoxo,

-KR

A Year In The Making

“It has been one of the greatest and most difficult years of my life. I learned everything is temporary. Moments. Feelings. People. Flowers. I learned love is about giving, everything. And letting it hurt. I learned that vulnerability is always the right choice because it is easy to be cold in a world that makes it so very difficult to be soft. I learned all things come in twos. Life and death. Pain and joy. Salt and sugar. Me and you. It is the balance of the universe. It has been a year of hurting so bad but living so good. Making friends out of strangers. Making strangers out of friends. Learning mint chocolate chip ice cream will fix just about everything… We must learn to focus on warm energy. Always. Soak our limbs in it and become better lovers to the world. For if we can’t learn to be kinder to each other how will we ever learn to be kinder to the most desperate parts of ourselves. –Rupi Kaur

___________________________________________

Perhaps, maybe, I thought a year would make me braver. Perhaps, just perhaps, I thought that adding 365 days of pain (albeit, not always) on top of pain might make my words wiser, more swallow-able, tasting a bit less bitter and a bit more of grace. And I am here to tell you that I am no braver or wiser in word nor deed now than I was a year ago. But, then again, maybe the simple action of sitting and writing in the first place is evidence to the contrary. I’ll let you decide for yourselves.

A little more than a year ago I sat at the kitchen table watching Parenthood, pausing occasionally to holler at Kate in our bedroom a few episodes behind when she’d exclaim over a plot development or character stupidity. I went to classes a year ago. To work. To babysit. To that little blue room. To Cheryl’s. To Tacoma. I was a person who went: places. Did: things. Lived: constantly. In my naivety, either the error of my humanity or an error of my youth, I was surprised when life did a three-sixty, sucker punched me, and then kicked me about seventeen times while I was already down.

Before all that, though, I was drinking wine with my best friend on Valentine’s Day and talking about this guy I’d met a few weeks ago who was so stupid good looking that I couldn’t quite believe he bothered to spend time with me. I was laughing while wine warmed my cheeks and made me a bit shameless and honest with that best friend of mine; we talked about how young we know we are and yet how old we felt. We talked about the mountains we’d seen moved in our lives and the ones too stubborn to budge. We projected how we thought this still-pretty-new-twenty-fifteen was going to change us, grow us. How this was going to be the best time of our lives up to this point. The best year.

The worst year.

Fast forward about two weeks exactly from that moment to me:

Laughing. Kind of crying. Probably both.

Because I am not the person that things like this happen to. I’d had the whole of 2011 to account for all the pain one is supposed to feel by the time they turn twenty-one.  Lest we forget Life and its sick right hook and deadening left jab.

Positive. Positive. Positive.

Four of them.

Four Positive. One, reluctant (me).

I could not be pregnant. I could not be. It simply defied the logic of contraception which, clearly, had failed. But still.

PregnantPregnantPregnant.

I repeated it in my head like a mantra.

___________________________________________

I looked at those four little tests on the back of my toilet and I laughed at them, remember very clearly telling them that they were wrong and then walking away to cook dinner. When I came back twenty minutes later and they still hadn’t changed their tune that’s when I went crazy. Like really, truly, diagnosable type crazy.

Which is to say I called my sister, then Stephanie, then Karen and sobbed.

It was not real, right? A cosmic joke from God who’d finally decided to come out of hiding and say something, right? Like, HAHA, just kidding—I’m here, just wanted to remind you how bad it could be! But it’s not. Go back to your life.

Except God did not speak.

My brain, however, made up for a lot of the silence of the benevolent.

I remember sitting in my living room despairingly sobbing to Stephanie, about what I do not remember. My brain would not shut off. It wanted to be logical and brainy and smart. My heart though, my trusty, sturdy, reliable heart

 was silent.

She did not speak. She did not move. She whispered,

gently, quietly, tenderly:

You have always known choice.

Long before having been kissed, before even being brave enough to talk to a boy, and LONG before sex I knew: that if I got pregnant—when I was not ready, when it was not time, when there was not love—that I would have an abortion.

I bet so many of you reading cringed. Or, just as likely, stopped reading all together when you read the “pregnant” first, then felt out the tone of this piece, and finally justified yourself whatever you feel about my choice by the time I wrote “abortion”. And, if that is the case, I ache for you. I am sorry that you cannot sit, even now, and listen. That you think to immediately shame me or throw bible verses at me as though you speak for God. Or me. You are in every prayer I don’t have the words for because there is never any peace when no one is willing to listen. Damn your pride. Your justifications. I do not ask for your tongue more than I plead for your ears.

I digress.

My heart knew. My mind caught up. And then I slept; the type of sleep you rouse from knowing that, to some extent, you slept but also knowing the exhaustion would not leave. I dressed myself gently, almost as if I was noticing my body for the first time. This long hair. These small fingers crowded with rings. These breasts. The belly button ring. The thick thighs. The feet so constantly cold.

I paid attention to the whispers of this body, quietly:

Wash your face. Okay.

Wear your favorite shirt. Okay.

Do not turn on music. But. Shhh. Listen.

And I did. I sat in that little kitchen, sun slanting through the blinds and playing hop-scotch on the floor. I listened to the birds. The dripping of the bathroom sink. The quiet of my home. I reflected on the choice I was about to make, the subsequent journey that it would spin me off on. I wondered at how long I’d been pregnant and not known then, alternately, wondered what knowing I wasn’t pregnant would feel like. Would my heart still whisper gently? Would the quiet still feel so sure?

I asked myself every question my brain had rattled off the night before and the resounding answer—mind, body, spirit—was the same.

We are sure. Sure as we’ve ever been. Sure as the birds and the hop scotch sun.

“Okay.”

I said it aloud in that kitchen and my words filled the empty. I knew that it was okay, that I would be okay. That I had nothing to prove or justify or explain to anyone.

To no government. To no person. To no end.

Okay.

___________________________________________

The appointment took four hours.

I had to keep myself from laughing when the nurse informed me that they were required to prove the pregnancy using both a urine sample and an ultrasound to entirely rule out the possibility of a false positive or an ectopic pregnancy, given the four (excessive) tests I’d taken already. I was asked to regurgitate every bit of health information about myself and my partner that I could. I had to sign away my life, literally, saying that the clinic was not at fault if I were to bleed out and die because I was made fully aware of the risks, which I was.

I laid in that warm little room as they put the cold, cold jelly on the light saber (essentially) that they’d place up inside me to get a good look at what was in there. When the nurse turned the screen toward me she pointed at a spot of black, said “That’s it.”

“That’s it?”

She nodded. “That’s it.”

A little black blip. A jelly bean (that’s what I’ve always called it).

“You’re barely four weeks.” She told me. “Most women don’t catch it this early.”

A Year In The Making Blog

After each portion of the appointment they verified if I was sure.

Post-ultrasound.  Yes, I’m sure.

Post-counseling of my options. Yes, I’m sure.

Post-paperwork. Yes, I’m still sure.

And then, finally, they put me in a gown. Gave me a Dixie cup of what felt like a million pills (probably it was ten). They prepped the stirrups for me feet. I remember feeling warm. Relaxed. Exhausted.

That moment, naked under a gown, holding a friends hand was the most honest I have ever felt. The most true. Sure, the most laid-bare-naked-vulnerable-and-scared-shitless, but honest nonetheless.

Fifteen minutes later it was done.

All I could muster, through the tears and the gratefulness and the clarity was to say “thank you” to the receptionist and the nurses and the doctors and the friend who went with me. And I cried; tears a result of knowing I’d done the right thing (note: the right thing for me. For myself, for my partner, for my life, for my own subset of beliefs. Not yours. And that is okay).

I went home. I went to bed.

And then I woke up a day in a half later: went to therapy, to work, to school, and to bed again.

 Like nothing had happened. Like everything did.

I took care of myself like I have never taken care of myself before. I had to learn to speak the language of grace, indecipherable as Arabic and complicated as Greek to me. To know when silence was good. When talking was best. I learned to unpack my exhausted body from clothes, from conversations, from community and how to tuck myself into a corner and write until I was worn enough to sleep. Pack, unpack, tuck, live, work, study, cry, breathe. Breathe again.

Okay.

I learned a few things very quickly after the abortion:

I learned clarity. As honest and raw and real as grace can be, unadulterated. It nurtured me.

I learned silence: knowing that the not talking was just as okay as the talking.

I learned allowance: allowing him to kiss me again, allowing myself to stay away, allowing myself whatever felt best and most caring. I allowed myself the grace of only saying yes or no to myself, for my own sake, on my own terms.

I did not learn a few things, too:

I did not learn regret. Nor shame.

Once, in reference to something I had posted regarding abortion someone had written that—in the case of women having abortions—any healing they have, any assurance is false. That we say and do and mask a lot of things to justify our actions or protect ourselves.

I responded with something airy. Lighthearted though pointed.

What I should have said is that she was wrong. That my mental health (thanks largely in part to the part of me sane enough post-abortion to get myself into therapy) was perfectly in-tact. I was neither projecting nor deflecting any feeling I had at any given point in time. To the contrary, I never once felt shame or regret from my decision. Because it was mine to make—uncoerced, legally, safely, with my best interest in mind. To some that may sound selfish and heartless. But when I looked at that little jellybean on the screen, thought about that beautiful man I cared about, thought about myself, thought about the life I’d envisioned for myself, I did not for one second think of an alternative. I was that sure.

In the days, weeks, and months to follow I will not tell you that regret, shame, and guilt did not come up. They just weren’t a direct link. Not because I didn’t think about them (I definitely did) but it wasn’t a thinking as a result of direct feeling more than that of being aware. Aware that regret and shame were there but they were not mine.

In the months post-abortion I’d be called a whore, by some. Heartless, by others. A sinner in need of repenting if I ever wanted a man to care about me again or if I wanted to get into heaven or if I wanted to be able to look myself in the mirror every morning, for the rest of my life.

“It makes me sad” I’d tell my therapist each time I reported one negative response for the five other positive ones I had received.

“Why?”

And my answer then, as now, is that same.

Because our conversation and choice to talk about sexuality, contraception, birth control, and abortion is done in a slew of statistics and politics and religion all while, in the wake, we’ve left women, couples, and families with stories behind. In the dust. Choking on the fumes of our intolerance and unwillingness to listen.

To clarify: I think there needs to come a point where we (generally speaking) draw the line on when we allow abortions. To be clear, if I had found out about my pregnancy at a time in which that jellybean had developed into less of a substance and more of a human with a heartbeat (debatably anywhere between 12 and 17 weeks) I would have carried to term. That simple.

But as I sat in that room not so much weighing the options as recognizing them, I knew the result of this life altering moment had one conclusion.  One ending. One option. And I took it.

Listen, I’m not writing this to convince anyone to be “Pro-Choice”. I am not writing this to shame anyone for whatever stance they do or do not take. I do not write this as an expert on children, women’s health, politics, or abortion. Though I do write this as an expert in my own choice and my own experience.

I am not doing this as a celebration of abortion (see the Buzzfeed lash back in which thousands of women use the hashtag #shoutyourabortion in an attempt to break the shame of silence and stigma and are then, systematically, called whores by the very people using Bible verses to assert their “right stance”).  I am not writing this with an intentional political or religious agenda.

But here are a few reasons I do write it.

I write it, first and foremost, because it is time. I have spent the past year since February 28th, 2015 doing a lot of listening, a bit of responding, and much silent reflection. I have stood by frustrated by tampons being taxed as luxury items, mother’s not getting paid maternity leave to raise the children they choose to keep, and hurt that—even now—the response to abortion is to sling Bible verses and call women whores, a clearly effective and obvious method of conversation.

I write this because I recognize a serious deficiency in the church to speak in the very love into which they want to live. This is a statement neither misguided nor over-embellished as every single hurtful and negative response I’ve had to sharing my story has come from people with a cross around their neck. You’ve broken my heart with the way you misrepresent God. And I think I’ve every right at this point to give a very pointed “shame on you.”

Finally, I write this because I have a voice. A voice housed in body with the insatiable need for conversation over argument, love over hate, and allowing people to be catalysts before we’ve the audacity to crucify them with words for simply making a choice.

I write this in the hope of being a catalyst for change in the way we approach the subject of abortion: snubbing out the grief and loving with our grace. My god, to think of where I’d be 365 days out without grace. I write this because it is necessary. Because I am angry and frustrated and so much stronger than I was a year ago; a strength that does not allow me to be silent.

And so I will not be. Not silent, nor apologetic.

I refuse to be a woman who apologizes for my body. I am above allowing myself to be a victim to your subjections.

Yet, I write this also with a very present, tangible, terrifying fear. Because I know that I could, and likely will, lose people over this. That people with itch to scold, to argue, to explain their “right.” But unless it is a conversation I reserve my right to disengage.

I write this knowing that I babysit, nanny, and teach a handful of children, whom I love in the deepest part of myself, whose parents might think this choice clouds my judgement as an educator, a caretaker, and provider for their children. I write this knowing there are professors who might read it, friends, friend’s parents, grandparents, former cabin-girls, high schoolers I mentored who might read and might turn away. Be that the case, my heart will ache. But I also understand that each of us reserves the right to expose ourselves to that which we see as beneficial.

To and for our own selves, on our own terms.

My story may not be beneficial for you. And I do not hold that against you.

If you have read this far through, at this point, I must say thank you. I must reiterate that nothing I say is ever done to harm. Or with ill intent. Nor malice. Nor hate.

But I have been silent too long.

 I’ve held my grief and struggle and let it go;

It has come back in words that are a relief and a blessing to finally write.

As a result of grace, self-love, and the undying need to write out everything,

–Kaeleigh