A darkness swallowed me the morning I stepped out of my childhood silhouette, into the hallway, down the stairs and onto the frostbitten patio of my first adult home along a lakeshore path in Minnesota. I waited for an Uber to pick me up, deliver me to the airport, transport me home across the country to vacate my body of a soul that the love of my life had so gently and accidentally planted in me.
Will you marry me? He’d asked me mornings before. Water fell from my eyes as I nodded, the words of our future in my belly trapped at the bottom of my throat; their reality hidden from him beneath my skin.
My mom held my hand as we walked toward the clinic, past picketers in overalls, holding signs of bloody babies and condemning me with thoughtful gazes. Does it hurt you to see them? she asked after handing my Catholic father’s cash over the counter. Don’t do this, I’d let his eyes find mine for the first time since telling me he was leaving. Their color, blue as beneath the ocean on a sun-kissed day, easy to see how my mom had been unable to resist them. Don’t make a choice you will regret. He’d made a decision, I understood a decade too late, that he’d felt in his soul was necessary but to which he’d been unable to assign an explanation to justify the hurt it would cast over us like a blanket of burning embers.
I squeezed her hand, the maroon latex squishing beneath my thighs, a baby behind my belly button. My whole future. My own family. I forgive him, I told her. Who? she asked. The men? nodding to the picketers outside the window, more than one of them tracking our awareness through the slits in the blinds. Not the picketers, how could I judge them when I had been one? Walking around outside the abortion clinic on 7th Street every Friday, megaphone in hand, leading the rosary? Dad, I told her.
Christina? The nurse called me in to abort the dream I’d cupped in my heart since falling into the maddest love I’d experienced. That I’ve experienced, still. In 11 seconds, the room went black. I woke to relief washing my skin, rinsing me of fear, tucking my hair back as the clinic offered me a juice box for my loss, my mom’s hand over mine. We got up, waved goodbye to busy, smiling nurses, past the picketers’ judgement, back into life marked by calendars.
Survival is a chameleon. It masks as necessary, leading us through a reality that relies on paychecks, social peaks and quantifiable accomplishments. For 18 months, I survived. I swallowed my stomach back into place when my roommate asked me if I was okay, I smiled when I told my lover that I didn’t want to be together anymore. I met with important people - businessmen: CEOs, presidents, and titles well above mine - across the country. You are an impressive young woman, these men told me always over laptops and stiff drinks at long, glassed-in tables, and I was supposed to let their approval lift me.
Impressive, because I knew the right words, dressed beyond my pay, used the right manners during dinners. You have a bright future, they told me. But anytime I looked forward, it was dark.
It is so dark, I finally broke down to my roommate, I can’t see. The floor had retreated, the ceiling was uncapped. There are no walls for me to reach out to for identification of where I am. Of who I am. And I don’t know if I’m still falling. She held me tight, and promised never to look away.
A seed of emotion budded somewhere deep in me, spreading vines through my body, stretching up and out past my skin like a tree aching to outgrow a human. I looked in the mirror at blank eyes. Held the curling iron around hair until it singed. Called my mom from across the country to sit in silence as I cried alone in my bed, and she in hers, feeling in her heart the pain for me I felt for the soul that I’d abandoned and returned to the universe.
You have to forgive yourself, the counselor said. Lips tight and unable to open, I nodded my head, begged the water filling my eyes to retreat. The tree throbbed beneath my skin, begging to be released, to grow outside my skin. Repeat after me, she told me as we tapped along the meridian lines in my body.
Even though I had an abortion,
Even though I had an a-, my tongue trembled.
Even though I had an abortion, she repeated.
Even though I had an abortion.
And that was as far as we got for three weeks.
I had an abortion.
Even though I had an abortion, we tried again.
Even though I had an abortion, my words calmer.
I deeply and completely, she said.
I deeply and completely, I meant it.
I deeply and completely, she repeated.
I deeply and completely, I quivered.
Love, accept and forgive myself
Love, accept and for-
But my head shook, unwilling to permit forgiveness.
If I forgave my 20-something self from the eyes of my 14-year-old self, I would have to say goodbye to the projection of the woman I’d thought I’d grow up to be; the one I’d so diligently worked toward becoming. Without my young idea of my self, I would have nothing. I would be lost.
I was lost.
Anything that mattered to me, I’d let go. My virginity, my belief in life over choice, my boyfriend, my morals. I’d left my family for the freezing cold, I’d overlooked my heart’s desire to travel the world for a salary, I no longer believed in God, any notion of faith I had left sat like the remnants of stale drinking water at the bottom of a glass in a corner of the house that continually got overlooked during cleaning.
I gripped, for lack of more meaningful jargon, onto any morsels left of my old self. The guilt, the shame, the sorrow, it all kept me connected to the phantom of a person I thought I needed to be. As long as I trembled in the dark that consumed me, the phantom was within reach.
It was in a desperate search for salvation that I walked into a dark, damp yoga studio and learned about the light that lives within each of us. I learned to move to give it fuel, to breathe and control its pace, to see the same light in others, to see it in myself at all times, and to illuminate it in order to navigate the dark.
Forgiveness is for giving, Luka Lesson’s words slipped into the aura of my reflections one day, down into the soil of this seed growing the giant tree within me, wanting fiercely to take up space in the world, to nourish the lives around me. So give yourself this gift from time to time.
Even though I had an abortion, we tried again after sixteen weeks.
Even though I had an abortion, I could say without interruption.
I deeply and completely, her gaze intent upon mine.
I deeply and completely, I kept her eyes, my shoulders strong.
Love, accept and forgive myself, she nodded to me to repeat.
I nodded back, swallowing to the rhythm of the words I was supposed to say, the sounds trapped beneath my tongue.
She nodded, held my eyes, you can do this.
Love, accept and forgive myself, it came out steady.
I love, accept and forgive myself, water in her eyes mirroring mine.
I love, accept and forgive myself.
And I was free.
I forgave myself.
I loved myself.
I love you, I looked into the mirror.
Even though you feel bad, I talked to me the way I talked to my belly for the greater part of the previous two years, praying the soul of the baby could hear me and forgive me.
I love you, I told me this time.
I forgive you.
I’m not going anywhere.
I saw myself, for the first time - maybe in years, maybe ever - in the mirror. Not a five-year-old girl with doe eyes and soft hair. Not a young teen with ambition to change the world through judgement and pro-life campaigns. Not a young adult, striving toward success of a white picket fence, a husband and the approving nods of powerful men in suits.
All that time I crawled lost in the dark, I
needed me. I
Not from my mom. Not from
me as a mom
for my baby.
I needed nourishment
Of the universe
And to myself.
I needed me.
I am the constant,
I can write this to you without hesitation in my fingertips, without wondering if it’s really true.
I am the line of energy, distinct and
bright, running vertically through my
body, piercing the crust of the
earth, searing toward and into and
past the core. The same line driving past
the crown of my head, beyond the
roof of my house, thru the low-hanging
drear of Minnesota March, into the space with stars
and dust way up and out of where my imagination
ceases to create.
It took years at the battlefront to stand confidently in the calamity of these words. They were within me always, begging to be found and grown. They are in every warrior of the light, sitting idly in the abysses of depression, emotional trenches and dark spaces, masking as unfathomable terror, breeding treasure if we muster to courage to dive down and retrieve them.
There is your mind, my yoga teacher explained.
And there is your body.
The two compete,
and we observe the back and forth,
trying whole-heartedly to get them in sync
Peel back, he said.
Who is observing the constant quarrel between the two?
This is you.
This is me.
I am the third entity.
Not a baby birthed by the union
and my lover
who so desperately
I wanted to marry and
for all the years of my
planned life and grey hair.
But an entity
birthed by the union of my perceived self,
my child self,
with the unknown,
the dark side of the world,
the underworld, we call it,
laden with creatures, temptation and trickery,
out to slip fright into dull moments
that otherwise are but a pathway toward
I am the merging of the known
and the unknown,
the light and
old me and
a coexistence without conception
the observation an answer.
The truth seeker, my yoga teacher paced the floor, is silent.
I couldn't understand her words until I found my own.
This is my truth, now.
An understanding I found in breaking silence
Breathing sound into forgiveness
of my myself
of my lover
of my father
of a Father
that I was raised so diligently to believe in and
It was an adventure, and
it is a story that I can tell you and
write about without tears
because I am the triumph.
The darkness swallowed me,
that morning I woke and descended the stairs
onto the frostbitten patio
awaiting my ride home.
Stole me from who I was,
led me without guidance
through a wilderness of guilt and
disdain for myself and the world around me.
It carried me deep into my roots
through turbulent waters that left me nearly
swallowed, sometimes willingly,
by the sea.
Stranded on a desert without resources.
Fed me to a fire that burned so
it singed my skin
and forced me to place a hand on my belly,
feel my body
a new body.
To find breath as my ally,
release me into a trunk of
of heights unfathomable and
branches of wide reaching
options for personhood too
varied and vast,
the air of eternal
Would I float away
never to find ground again?
The darkness swallowed me,
I used to think.
But I know better now, that I dove down to unleash my light, inhaled it until my whole being glowed so white that the darkness faded into a brightly lit jungle of unimaginable color and creation.
I swallowed myself,
that morning I flailed and fought to make a decision based on my
to meet the depth of my being that
is the essence
I swallowed myself
to forgive myself.
To give birth to myself
that always was and
Written by Christina Scannell