It’s hard to say (or write) that I have felt, since I was in my mid-twenties, that I have a “calling” to help protect and promote access to abortion; that I was put on this Earth to do this. It seems like such an odd thing to feel called by God to do, but I genuinely feel I have been. Despite genuinely having felt this for almost half of my life, I have done virtually nothing to act on this calling. If you are very close friends with me, chances are you’ve heard me speak about reproductive rights and abortion laws. I’ve made a few posts on Facebook about it, too. I’ve made donations to and volunteered from time to time at Planned Parenthood and other pro-choice organizations, and I’ve even written a few letters-to-the-editor and participated in lobby days where I’ve spoken with elected officials about reproductive rights. But for the most part, I have obsessively followed the attacks on access to abortion and birth control from the safety of very pro-choice New York, and I have been silent, and I have not acted.
Mostly I have been silent out of fear. Fear of speaking out loudly about one of the most contentious issues in America. Fear of upsetting my mother and other relatives. Fear of saying the wrong thing or not enough. Fear of being called crazy. Fear of actually being crazy. Fear of losing whatever job I had at the time. Fear of not being able to make a living doing what I really want to do. Fear of losing friends. Fear for my safety and the safety of those I love. Fear of success and fear of failure.
I’ve also stayed silent because I have felt overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by the gravity, weight and extent of all of the information I consume. Overwhelmed by my passionate feelings for this issue. How can I ever adequately express how I think that abortion and specifically, how it has been used as a political tool by the Right (and less-so and wholly inadequately by the Left) for over twenty-five years, is the key to so many of our political and social ills today, and may very well be the key to protecting democracy as we know it? How can I possibly organize all of the information I have consumed and express this coherently and not sound crazy? And how can I help fight such a seemingly huge, uphill battle?
In addition to my fear of being called crazy, I have been afraid of being called a hypocrite. How can I be “called by God” to do anything if I have renounced my Catholic religion and pretty much never pray or go to church? Despite having found a loving, wonderful and brilliant Lutheran pastor (who I still adore) when I lived in New York, I haven’t exactly made an effort to join a new church since I moved (geographically) away from her church years ago, let alone my more recent move to a new state last year. I have wanted to find a new church – even went so far as to find two near me to check out, but when Sunday morning rolls around, I always find anything I would rather do than wake up and go to some church I’m not familiar with to see if I feel like I might belong there.
Besides the religious hypocrisy, isn’t it potentially heretical to say that I am “called by God” about abortion? How is that even possible?
But mostly, I have hidden behind the fear and the overwhelm and the hypocrisy silently waiting... waiting for my passion and my “calling” and my caring and my feelings to just go away, already! Waiting for the day that I would just wake up and no longer feel this obsession. Waiting for the day that soooooo many people told me would come. That magical day when I would “grow up” and “realize I can’t change the world”, so maybe I can just “get a regular job and donate to causes” instead of having to fight for them directly.
As I write this, I need to call bullshit on myself. For twenty years, I’ve watched good friends of mine passionately pursue their dreams and callings. They’ve self-published books and written blogs until publishers finally published their books. They’ve created beautiful works of art that are shown in galleries and art shows while working regular day jobs. I saw friends struggle financially for years after putting themselves through master’s degree programs in Social Work, who now have thriving private practices or have advanced to some of the highest levels in their field. My two dogs are rescues from my personal friend’s own dog rescue that she worked toward forming for years; started by taking dogs in to her own apartment before opening a separate facility.
In addition to my friends who have been published or who run their own non-profits and therapy practices, I have friends who are successful engineers; teachers; consultants; researchers and high-level managers at Fortune 500 companies. I am literally surrounded by successful friends, but I have remained paralyzed by self-doubt and fear. Why? What the hell is wrong with me?
As I mentioned in a previous post, I have had the pleasure of being unemployed for a few months, and that has offered me the luxury of time to think about what I have and have not done with my life (both personally and professionally), and about where I want to go and who I want to be. Not everything I have learned or acknowledged about myself is flattering.
I recently admitted that I was jealous of a friend’s success, and that seeing pictures of her successes on Facebook actively make me feel bad about myself and paralyze me (cue the Morrissey song, “We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful.”) Unlike the song, I don’t wish her harm or want to destroy her, but I most definitely identify with the following lyrics:
“You see, it should’ve been me
It could’ve been me
Everybody says so...”
If I am being honest, and I always do want to be honest above all, there has always been a part of me that thinks I am “special”, and because I am “special”, I am going to be “great.” “Great” means something along the lines of “famous” and “powerful” and “influential.” Because I am “special” and going to be “great”, I don’t need to do things “regular” people do like “work toward my goals” or “save money.” (Wow, to see that written out really is eye-opening and scary and sad.)
Now, I don’t really believe this about myself. I don’t have actual delusions that I’ve been “chosen by God” or “fate” or "the universe” or whatever. I think it’s more of a general defense mechanism I developed a loooong time ago to make up for the intense feelings of inadequacy I have always felt, mixed with a genuine need for attention. I am not proud of these feelings at all, but after 45 years, you either realize who you are, or you don’t, and sadly, I know who I am.
I was really into acting in high school; have a Minor in Theater from college, and made a short-lived attempt at acting professionally, but I gave it up. I did not love acting; I loved the accolades and especially the applause. Maybe it’s because I am the youngest of ten kids, and have always felt the need to stand out. I don’t know. I’ll leave it to my friends with social work and psychology degrees to diagnose me. But there is a reality there that I had not truly thought about. Mixed in with my fear and sense of overwhelm is a genuine desire to be somebody and to matter, and those desires have been getting in my way of my own happiness and success. Instead of steadily plugging away toward achieving personal and political goals like my successful friends have, I have been waiting for “inspiration” to do, say and/or write the “right things” in the “right way” at the “right time.” I have had the desire to make an impact versus genuinely wanting to make change. I have been trying to prove to the slew of people – friends, teachers, colleagues and family alike, who told me in my twenties that I would never “change the world” and would never “be anyone,” that I could “be someone.” But instead of actually “being someone” or actually being my freaking self, I’ve simultaneously waited for either my calling to go away and/or for divine intervention to make it happen.
I did not intend for this post to turn into this at all. But like the Flannery O’Connor quote on my Facebook page says, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” More accurately (and a lot less funny), I would say “I write because otherwise I can’t make any sense out of what I feel or think.”
I do believe that I have been put on this Earth to fight for reproductive rights; reproductive freedom; reproductive justice and democracy. I do believe this is my calling, and I do believe I was meant to do it by writing about it (and maybe someday running for office.) But I will also do my best to incorporate direct action into my life by volunteering with organizations again, and if I can’t work for a place like Planned Parenthood or the Guttmacher Institute, then I will get a job that doesn’t completely suck all of the life out of me, so I have the time and energy to write and volunteer on a consistent basis.
I do want to explore my faith, not because I believe that Christianity is the “one true religion”, or because I’m afraid I’ll go to Hell after I die if I don’t, but because I genuinely love the teachings of Jesus and believe wholeheartedly in the power of Love, and I have too much respect for the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to just dismiss Christianity and leave it behind. I am also utterly furious that one side of the political spectrum thinks it owns religion and specifically, Christianity. Like Ghandi said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” I am furious that so much hatred, violence and damage is justified and perpetuated in the name of Jesus, and I wholeheartedly believe that stigmatizing women around abortion and birth control and sex is very much a part of that (not to mention the racism and the demonizing of the poor, but it’s all related, and I’ll get to that.) Fuck the fake “War on Christmas” and all it stands for. I want to do my best to put “Christ” back in “Christianity”.
And I will write and share and volunteer and work and explore from the most genuine and sincere place in my heart that I can, and not in hopes for some fantasy of greater recognition. I like attention and crave accolades. I do. It’s why I write here and not just in a journal. But what I truly want is to share as much of myself as possible in hopes of making you think and feel and discover parts of yourself you didn’t know existed before. I want to share things I’ve learned that maybe you didn’t know before. And I want more than anything to share my journey from pro-life to pro-choice to actual reproductive justice advocate here, and maybe inspire you to get involved and become an advocate as well.
Sharing my thoughts in hopes of defining myself and connecting with you.