Tuesday, August 26, 2008

This is one shade of my grey

I've never had an abortion. No need for emergency contraception here. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. This is not to say I haven't had a scare (or three) when I went to the local CVS to buy a 12-pack and a pregnancy test. (And may I just say that I hate it when some person behind the counter decides she can moralize? And the rare times I've been in this situation, it WAS a she. "Well, if you're pregnant, you KNOW you can't drink that beer ... " to which I responded, "Yeah, I know. If I am, it's HIS congratulatory drink, but if I'm NOT, it's OUR 'phew, we missed the bullet on that one' toast". Always it was said with a smile, even thought part of me wanted to say, "Shut your damn maw and just tell me the total, you self-aggrandizing bitch".)

Coming of age in California may have skewed my perception. If we had stayed in Utah, I may be singing a different tune, and living a different life, right now. But ... I did, and we didn't, so here I am ...

A few months after getting my first kiss, I lost my virginity. Raised a strict Catholic, I really only heard peripherally about The Pill ("something only whores want/need") and condoms. So, although I was "safe" in exploring my budding sexuality, the fear of getting knocked up was like lead in my head. As I weighed the scales of my own sexual justice, what I came back to were these two thoughts: if I got pregnant, RIGHT NOW at age 16, would I have the kid? Or would I abort? Both thoughts, both options, pulled at me as though I were nothing more than seaside-boardwalk taffy. The scales never, truly, equalized ...

As I was still searching for the ever elusive orgasm, a few friends around me were already on the pill, another had an abortion, and one more was just another "teenage pregnancy" statistic. MY thoughts, and THEIR realities, were at war in my head. "I can't go on the Pill, it would mean I'm a slut" vied with, "Please God, let this condom work as it should!" jockeyed for attention with, "holy shit, it happened to her, it might happen to me", mixed with my relief of, "thank God it's them, and not me".

And some people wondered why I couldn't just let go and flow with the moment. Pfft.

The most vicious attacks against me came from girls. From women. I realize (now) that it was fear driving them. It wasn't me, per se, they wanted to belittle. They had to do it to feel better about themselves, about their place in the world, their self-inflicted hierarchy.

Do I agree with it?


But then I realized something ... we all have our roles to play. Mine, then, was to be their victim. To take what they said ABOUT me, and absorb it into the woven fabric of my soul. To turn their perception into my truth. To accept their taunts, their words, their fantasy, and turn it into my reality. I had to allow myself to be the victim, in order to find my inherent strength.

It's something, hopefully, that taught both teams (them and us, tormentor and tormented) something. Something about compassion, about walking a mile in the others shoes. The tormented learned inner strength and understanding, the tormentor empathy and understanding.

Sure, the learning may not have happened then, hell ... it may not have happened yet, at all, to the individual players. But it will happen. Timing doesn't matter, only that it DOES happen.

That moment of "oh, wow ... ok. I get it". On BOTH sides. I'm still learning that I never knew what was going on in their heads, in their home-lives. It's still just conjecture at this point. I only knew how it affected me. And for a long time I could only hold onto my perception, my reaction. In my smaller and selfish moments, I still hold on.

The middle school "slut", who would sneak out with her bathroom hall pass to steal kisses with the blonde jock? I learned later, much later, that her home life was a mess, a mess to the nth degree. It makes my emotional wobblings look incredibly small in comparison. And now I realize she was just grasping for some control. Something only SHE had control over. SHE was the one who chose to kiss that boy in the hall. That was her empowerment, her awakening. The rest of us? Yeah, we called her slut. And for that, I still feel like shit. Because could I honestly say I wouldn't do the same in her position, then?

Hindsight being 20/20, I understand now what made her act out, what made her target me. I was a geek. I was the only redhead in school. I was the easy target. Physically small, and mentally soft and scared, scarred.

Then though ... ? I didn't understand. And then, it hurt, deeply. Honestly, it still does. Sticks and stones?


Physical wounds CAN heal, but those words ... those words stick like a burr.

I was upset, then, that she couldn't see my life, my outlook, my reality, through MY eyes. The fact that her reality, her 12 short years of life, was skewed through her experiences ... I didn't get that. Didn't understand. I didn't see HER life. Not then, at any rate.

The mutual hurts, of the then, built up a wall of non-understanding. On both sides.

Now though? I think if we ever meet again, that unspoken wall would still be there. But not as solid. Not as real. Not as intimidating. More of an automatic protection; an unconscious feint. Yes, there would be a chink, where we could not necessarily walk a mile in the others shoes, but at least we would have a movie-preview-type of understanding. An understanding that leaves us satiated, yet wanting more.Questioning.

We may separate by looking through each others weakness, and the understanding that comes from it, or we may bring up that armored self-preservation once again, our souls still connected under that hard shell of metal ...

That armor will never be as strong, viable, or whole, again.

In trying to "get" others, or at least accept them, I see more of the universe. By seeing them, I see more of me. In their stories, their lives, I catch a glimpse. A glimpse of something more.

A glimpse of sympathy.

A glimpse of empathy.

But underneath it all, a small, minuscule glimpse of understanding.

And selfish satisfaction, selfish cognizance.

I'm trying to view people past the armor they put on to the world at large. Trying to see past the bravado (theirs and mine), to the core underneath.

This whole acceptance thing? In a word (or two) ...

... it sucks.

By viewing others, it forces the mirror back at the looker. The observer. And makes them ask questions. Questions they may not be ready to answer, or at least answer to the world at large. Sometimes not even be able to answer to themselves.

Growing up, life was very black and white. We were ALL sinners. There was no real grey. The grey you saw, that you questioned? It was answered in a very black and white way.

"Why does she pick on me?" .... "It's because you're different."

It wasn't until later, much later, that I learned that their version of "black", of different, was truly charcoal. Their version of "white"? Ecru.

I DO admire, envy, and feel pity for, those people who CAN view life in complete black and white. There were, and are, times when I wish it were so easy. Black equals bad, white equals good. If only it were that simple, and that clean. That striated ...

... She picks on me because I'm "bad", I'm "other" and I deserve it ...

What happens when you mix black and white?

You get grey.

And that's where life lives, and thrives. And grows.

Life isn't that clean cut, that striated. It's in the shadows, in the mix of black and white, where understanding, sympathy, and empathy take root. And where the most fun, interesting, and fertile times of our lives take place. It takes place in the shadows. In the grey.

I cannot tell you that your combination of black and white is better, or more pure, than mine. Both are just shadings. Both add depth, and character.

Sometimes the hardest lessons are the most meaningful. And the most slippery and obtuse. I keep trying to remind myself of that. That *this* shade of grey is MY life, right now. And I must understand, or at least tentatively grasp, this shadow, this shade, before I can move on.

Would I, or could I, get an abortion right now, at *this* moment in my life? The right here, and the right now?

No. I don't think I would. Or could. It's too deeply a mottled mix of black, white, and grey.

However, I want that choice. No, let me rescind that. I NEED that choice. Need that palette of options, of colors, before me.

I don't agree with the way our country is headed, the way our world is headed. But I still harbor hope. Oddly.

If someone tells me that *this* is the way I should think, or that *this* is the way I should behave, or that *this* is the box I should fit in ... I rebel. Down to my soul, I rebel. It may not be an outward manifestation, but I DO rebel.

Maybe some of it is genetic. Maybe some of it is learned behavior, like Pavlov's dogs. Either way, I balk at the restraints put on me.

And that's just it - while I'm working on breaking myself free of self-, or other-, imposed shackles, I try to never put those on another person. It's hard. Really hard. It's easy to moralize from the safety of your own chair, your own mind, your own life. Harder still to take a moment to take a stroll in their life, and out of your own.

And it's hard to *not* denigrate, or belittle, another. To put them in a box that's easily understandable to you. Even when they try to do the same to you, to enshroud their own safety. It's a gut-jerk safety mechanism. On both sides. Fight fire with fire, yanno?

My mother is no longer here. Nor is her mother. My blood. My heritage. My history.

However, *I* AM. I am here. Here, using the black, and the white, to create my own personal shade of grey.

And I refuse to let their their voices die, because I am afraid to use my own. Hell, they were the ones who gave me my voice in the first place, even if they didn't agree with what my vocal chords produced ...

Both of them were nurses. RN's. They saw the fallout of the 60's and 70's. They didn't agree with it, not on a spiritual or religious level. (Maybe Mom did. She WAS a hippie and just ... was ... and just ... accepted ... )

But on a human level? Yeah ... they mixed their own shades of black and white.

Maybe I'm just searching for human contact. Not necessarily connection, because that would mean me giving up part of me. But maybe reaching out for just a touch? A sense of someone walking in my shoes, while I walk in theirs?

A touch of compassion would be nice about now.

Maybe what I'm trying to get at is this:

If you are my friend, I will support you. NO MATTER WHAT. Hell, I may even provide an alibi.

If you aren't my friend, but my acquaintance, I will support you. NO MATTER WHAT. I may not provide an alibi, but I will wholeheartedly give you my ear, support, and guidance (for whatever that's worth).

If I don't know you, I will support you, as long as you are forging your own color, your own place, and are doing it with openness and honesty. Being true to yourself. I may not agree with your views ... but if they are come upon honestly, and with empathy, I will give you my support. (Just don't put your own spin on my charcoal creation.)

Each of us creates our own palette, our own mix of black and white.

Who am I to say that your grey is the wrong shade?

Who are YOU to say that MY grey is wrong, or immoral?

What started this blather was partially this: http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/blog/2008/08/08/plans-b-damned-the-quest-emergency-contraception

Some of it is this: http://projects.washingtonpost.com/congress/members/m000303/key-votes/

I'm just finding my voice, after a long hiatus. Please don't make me raise it. Or silence it. Just let it ... speak.

And listen.

And I promise the same. I hope.


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