Thursday, November 29, 2007

Betcha Didn't Know

This has to be one of the hardest posts I will ever do. There are very few people outside of my family who know my most painful secret. But it's been on my mind a lot lately and I think that I trust each of you enough to be able to share a profound truth that hit me lately. To actually type out all of the details of what happened to me would create far more tears than I'm willing to cry right now, so this poem will have to do:

Seventeen years ago
so far, so near.
I lost my self,
I'm not all here.

A young girl,
no innocence left
suddenly grown up,
feeling bereft.

I was sixteen
shouldering blame;
carrying a child,
consumed by shame;

Everyone stared,
nowhere to hide
what I had done
couldn't be denied.

Why did he leave,
and what did I do?
I sold my soul for love
that wasn't even true.

I was lonely
and scared;
I cried but
no one cared.

My daughter, gone;
I’ll never know her.
Some else does,
I'm not her mother.

My choices, so few
and none felt right;
everything was gone;
I gave up the fight.

I was broken and empty,
heart and soul shattered;
wandering, lost,
bruised and tattered.

A deep void,
this hole in my chest;
a mother's longing
that never rests.

Now seventeen years
has passed so quick;
healing, slowly
my heart still sick.

I'm thirty four
so young, so old.
Lessons learned
but my story's not told.

Now reaching out,
fanning that small spark.
Trusting in love,
coming out of the dark.

Summer will be
Eighteen years ago.
It will be her choice
Will she want to know?

Hoping but scared;
waiting to see
Will she search me out?
I'll wait patiently.

I'm hoping that everyone can figure out that what happened to me was that I got pregnant when I was 16 and ended up having to give my child up for adoption. That was by far the most painful thing I have ever gone through. Nothing else has even come close to equalling the agony and the heartache of that choice. It's not the type of pain that ever fully goes away either. It's like I had a literal piece of my heart ripped out of my chest, and nothing, not even the Savior's love, can fill that hole. But I survived. Only God knows (literally) how I made it from there to here.

But this post isn't about the pain. It's about that profound enlightening I had. I was absolutely dreading becoming RS President. I have never felt comfortable speaking in front of groups and for most of my adult life that has been the most real terror I could face. Heavenly Father knows me so well though. He knew what I would do and how I would cope. He knew that I would go to the library and find a book to help with anxiety. And I found one that had written exercises that forced me to face exactly what it is about getting up in front of people that has held me back for so long. I realized that it wasn't the people I was standing in front of that I feared. It was the terror of being judged and having everyone see how shameful I was. All these years I've carried the shame of being an unwed mother, with no way to let go. When I was pregnant I knew that people were looking at me, talking, gossiping, judging. There was no way not to notice that. I was so stupid at that point of my life. I told myself I didn't care what other people thought. At least I had my boyfriend and he didn't see me as shameful. But then he left too. And then there was no way to escape the fact that my own parents didn't want me in their home, would rather that I live with strangers than have them face the shame I brought to the family. (They didn't get their wish... we all suffered in the same house.) To have to face such an incredibly difficult situation with no real support, to feel so unloved and unlovable was one of the saddest times of my life.

I hadn't realized just how fully I had internalized this shame, just how completely I had let the guilt and self-blame become a part of who I was. I had been through the repentance process, and even finally turned my life around. But inside I was still that 16 year old girl filled with shame and rejection. What I found when I started writing down my fears of speaking in front of people is that that was the core reason for the fear. It wasn't a fear that I wouldn't be able to open my mouth, or that I couldn't do it... it was fear of being judged, rejected, ashamed. And that's when it happened. The light finally went on in my head, and I knew that I WASN'T that girl any more. I don't resemble her physically, spiritually, or emotionally. I was able to accept that I made the biggest mistakes I think anyone can. But I wasn't still making those mistakes. I wasn't being held accountable for those sins, and hadn't been for years. And best of all- my friends love me for who I am. They won't turn their back on me for something I did in the past. I can be accepted even if I share my most shameful secret. (Yes, I have a lot of trust in all of you!!)

When I stand in front of the RS I don't have to be ashamed and feel the need to hide myself, because I'm not shameful. I'm not dirty or sinful. And best of all, I'm not responsible for any judging that does go on. If someone wants to look down on me or think less of me because of what I've been through- that's their problem! I am who I am today because of what I've been through. I wouldn't recommend the path I took to ANYONE, but I also can't change the fact that it was the way that I went. I can't get rid of all of the pain or the regrets, but I can let go of the shame.

I have prayed for years to have the anxiety and fears quieted, to be able to just get up in front of a group and be able to speak. It turns out that God answered my prayer in ways that I hadn't even thought to ask. He didn't just take most of the fear away, but He gave me peace and healing for a pain that went so much deeper. I stood during RS to conduct and didn't feel panicky. There was little shaking or anxiety. I don't know that I'll ever be a good public speaker, (don't expect any improv!) but at least God has given me the ability to do what I needed to do, when I needed to do it. I have to keep holding on to how it felt and remember what He has done for me, to keep hoping that it will continue to get easier.

I am eternally grateful for the Lord's hand in my life. I know that He brought me to this very special ward family full of loving brothers and sisters. He has brought me so much healing, and so much love already in the few years that I've been here. I have never felt so at home as I do here with all of you. I hope that you know what a huge impact you've had on my life. I have had more understanding of the Savior's love because of the example you are to me. Thank you for your love, support, and friendship.


Steve and Jamie said...

Oh my gosh, Patty. I'm sitting here sobbing at my computer. Thank you for sharing. I've been thinking about the "sorrows that the eye can't see" this week. I think EVERYONE has things that they hide, things that cause us pain.

I'm so glad you had a breakthrough. I've been praying for you, and I know that you will do a great job in your new calling.

Please know that I love you, mistakes and all.

Leslie said...

Dear, sweet Patty! This post touched me on so many levels! I read this, holding my daughter, who came to us in much the same way that your daughter came to her family all those years ago. The day we received her, her birthmother wanted to hand her to us face to face. That was the MOST heart-wrenching, self-less, moment I have ever been witness to. She did for us, something that we could not do for ourselves. Her self-less act will never be forgotten, and I hope that she, too, can experience healing, and learn to accept herself.

I love you -- ALL of you! Thanks for trusting us enough to share. I'm so grateful for the things you have learned, and the healing that it is bringing to you. God will continue to bless you, you are one of His precious, beloved daughters!

Papa D said...

I'm also trying to type through tears, as Mama's are dripping onto my arm - since she is leaning over me while we read together.

Thank you SO much for sharing this. On a practical level, I would suggest *strongly* that you edit this just a bit and submit it to the Ensign. I mean that seriously. It is a story that needs to be heard by as many people as possible - especially with such a beautiful, wrenching poem.

It is absolutely amazing to me how the Lord knows exactly what we need years before we know we need it -or years before we have any clue about how we can receive it. I believe strongly that my first job was offered specifically so Jeff would be able to receive free speech therapy - something we didn't realize he would need. Likewise, I have no doubt whatsoever that you ended up in our ward for two reasons: 1) you would need this calling to gain this understanding and 2) the women in this ward would need your experience and spirit in this calling.

Yes, this was for you, but I am convinced it also was for others.

Mama D said...

Wow... It is an amazing blessing to see ourselves as Christ sees us -- no shame, no blame, no "terrible person." He sees us and knows us. He loves us and believes in us. That offers me so much hope!

I am glad that you are experiencing this healing and love. You were wonderful conducting in RS on Sun -- no (visible) shaking and fear. The Lord sustains us and helps us do even the most difficult things.

You truly are no longer that young girl. I don't see a shameful young girl; I see a wonderful, faithful, humble, thoughtful, kind woman, wife, mother, RS Pres!

Most of all, I appreciate your trust in us as your friends to share this. I love you!

Mama D said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
lou said...

You are my sister, I Love You.

ANTSYLLI said...

Patty, your post touched both myself and Eric. We were kinda like mama and papa, reading it together while the tears flowed. The Savior's ability to reach each of us so personally always touches my heart. I am humbled by this and also by your trust in sharing such an intimate part of your past.
For years as I struggled with my childlessness, I was jealous in a way of those who could get pregnant so easily. As I matured, I began to understand the difference between the consequences of a bad choice and the blessings from a good choice. Patty, you will find no judgement here...only the unconditional love of a friend. Thank you for trusting me. You are a blessing and an inspiration to all who know you. How thankful I am that you are part of my life.

gordonfan said...

I have a deep honor and admiration for people who have faced trials in their lives wether it be physical, spiritual, or emotional, and have overcome them. You honor me by placing your trust in myself as well as our fellow bloggers by sharing this post. Syl and I couldnt be happier being friends with you and Dave

Pampered Princess said...

Patty, I have no special words or comments. I hardly know you yet, because I've been off in Sunday School or taking care of Jared. But, I know you a little bit through Amy and I think you have a beautiful smile.

Shane's birth mom was an unmarried 17 year old girl. And I love her so much. She too had the courage to send her baby boy off into the arms of another family. I hope to meet her someday, either here in this life or in the next and tell her how proud she should be of the wonderful man her son became. How amazed she would be to see him now.

You are very courageous and I'm looking forward to getting to know you better. (especially since Jared hits nursery soon!!!!)

Shayleen Lunt said...

Patty - I think that age 16 is so different from who we are now, althought it does play a (big) part in the shaping of who we are now.
You are loved! I think you have a lot of prayer being offered in your behalf too!
You are such a great person!
Keep smiling (you have a beautiful smile).

Dory said...

Thank you so much for sharing this. I love to hear stories of how the Lord works in the lives of all of us. He has a plan and a way to make it happen. I know that with everything I am. Thanks again.


Dory said...

Thank you so much for sharing this. I love to hear stories of how the Lord works in the lives of all of us. He has a plan and a way to make it happen. I know that with everything I am. Thanks again.