Thursday, May 31, 2012

Every Tongue Got to Confess

About fifteen years ago, I read in an interview with Drew Barrymore that she despised the phrase "kicking a dead horse." She said something about how she didn't want any part of anything that had to do with a dead animal or the kicking of one. I don't know why I remember that statement, but I do know why I bring it up, and that's because I'm about to do that very thing. Before I do, though, I just want to say two things:

First, you know that don't shoot the messenger quote? Well, consider the messenger me. I know this may sound implausible to you, but I don't pick the Stories I tell--the Stories pick me. Sometimes--like with this one--I even try to resist them, but the Stories, they just won't leave me alone. They accumulate inside of me, getting bigger and heavier until I have no choice but to let them out. And second, unless something absolutely insane occurs, which I absolutely don't foresee happening, this is the last I have to say on this subject. Cross my heart.

Last week I was talking to a woman I'll call Melanie and  mentioned that Glenn and I were staying together. She was, of course, happy for me and even happier for the kids (you know, because that's the normal reaction for a person to have), and in the discussion that followed, she told me the story of a man and woman she knew who had gotten divorced. The man, who was cheating on his wife, was out to dinner with said wife in a restaurant in which the other woman coincidentally was also eating. She spotted them there, came over to the table, and told the wife about the affair. The husband and wife divorced soon after, and the wife felt devastated for years, but, according to Melanie, after a lengthy period of time, she moved on, got remarried, and was eventually able to have a civil relationship with her ex. Melanie then compared divorce to abortion. She said, "It's like if you've ever had an abortion. The memory will always be there, and it will always hurt you, but you'll get over it."

At the time of our conversation, I didn't exactly pause to reflect on that statement, and in the week or so since, I didn't consciously do so, either, but over the past couple of days, that statement has crept into my mind several times.

It just so happens I did have an abortion. Unlike Melanie's assertion that once a person has had one it will always haunt her in some kind of way, though, it hasn't haunted me for one single second. Not only has it not haunted me, but it also didn't haunt me, and what I mean by that is that my decision to have an abortion was not a decision that caused me a great deal of anguish and pain, nor was the impending abortion once I'd decided. I don't mean that I took it lightly in an oh, it's-just-an-abortion, what's-for-dinner? kind of way. I mean only what I said.  It did not cause me anguish and pain. And that's one of the things I've thought about a lot in my last few days' thinking: the lack of anguish and pain my choice to abort/my impending abortion gave me in comparison to the enormous amount of anguish and pain I felt over my once-impending divorce.

Why? I asked myself. Why did my abortion not cause me anguish and pain? Why did the extraction of a potential human being--a potential human being that I made--from my body not cause me anguish and pain? Well, for one, I was only 17 when I got pregnant, which is hardly the age when one should have a child. Two, I had potential. I know this is going to sound bad, but one of the things that went into my decision was the fact that I was in my second year of college and highly intelligent--hardly the kind of person who should throw her life away on a baby. Too much would be wasted. Three, I wasn't in any semblance of a relationship with the father; in fact, I wasn't even entirely sure which of two guys the father was. I know worse situations than mine exist, but mine was pretty damn bad. Too bad to bring a baby into, that's for sure.

That's when I realized--my decision to have an abortion didn't cause me anguish and pain because it was indubitably the right one to make. It was a life-altering, momentous decision, but for me, somebody who can barely make a decision to save her life, it was a fairly easy one. It doesn't take a braniac to see that if somebody isn't ready to have a baby and can't give a baby the type of love and care that s/he needs, that baby should not be brought into this world. And that realization--the realization that little pain comes with the certainty that the right thing is being done-- led me to the next one--the reason my decision to get divorced was so painful was because it was wrong. Whereas my abortion felt right, has always felt right, my divorce just felt wrong. It felt like this stupid cliche my dad sent me in an email once that read "When everything is coming your way, you're in the wrong lane." At least I think that's what it said. Or maybe it was about a fish? Something about swimming against the current maybe? I don't know, but either way, the message was the same:

Signs. Heed the signs. I personally try to ignore them, but it never works out. I just can't make my way through the oncoming traffic. Or all the damn fish.

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