“Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget the perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything;
That’s how the light gets in.”
Thanks to Susan at Garden of Eden for this quote which is part of Anthem by Leonard Cohen.
Ever since Saturday morning when I read Kelli’s moving post and haiku about her family ties and her own adoption, I’ve been haunted by unsettling emotions.
Kelli wrote about her adoptive family in such loving terms; so full of confidence in belonging; pragmatic in her decision not to seek out her birth mother, yet clearly forgiving and appreciative of her birth mother’s decision.
I think it is Kelli’s statement that her adoption occurred in the 1970’s, and her haiku thanking her birth mother for carrying Kelli for nine months, that struck a chord with me. In our youth we gloss over, and bounce back from, events that only through the lens of life’s experiences do we realize have left lasting impacts, scars or emotional cracks.
I hesitated to refer to Kelli’s post, and asked her permission before doing so, because I don’t presume to comment on her birth mother or the circumstances surrounding Kelli’s birth.
But reading that 1970’s date was a jolt to my heart. Putting me smack dab in my college dorm in 1969-1972, a time when a perfect storm of mixed social messages, blossoming sexual appetites and unappealing consequences made me and many others behave and make decisions in ways we were too immature to handle.
Despite the burgeoning sexual revolution, ‘good girls’ – at least at my Midwestern university – were not supposed to want or engage in sexual activity. Because it was frowned upon, we could hardly make our first-ever visit to a male gynecologist; admit we were having sex; and ask him for birth control. Neither did we insist on condoms since diseases weren’t yet a significant issue, and carrying a condom implied an intention we weren’t willing to admit.
So we had sex; crossed our fingers; and waited with bated breath for our periods to appear. If they didn’t, we marched down the dorm hall to our Resident Assistant’s room and tearfully confessed. Fortunately for 95% of us, our teary confession was enough to get the blood flowing within a couple days.
While I made that dreaded march to my RA’s room a couple of times, I was very lucky to be in the 95% who never faced the choices of a young, terrified, unwed, pregnant college student. None of those choices would have been easy at the time. In retrospect, I find them even more untenable.
Abortion wasn’t yet legal, and carrying a baby to term as an unwed mother was not socially acceptable. Neither was raising a child as a single parent. Marrying for the wrong reasons was no more palatable.
If I had gotten pregnant in those years, I would have begged my RA to help me arrange an abortion – partly to spare the shame of telling my parents and partly because I would have mistakenly thought it a quick, inconsequential fix. Even though abortion was illegal, the channels were established and many girls used them.
Today, all these years later, I tearfully acknowledge how much I would have regretted choosing an abortion. Yet carrying a child to term then giving my baby away would have been unbearable. Either decision would have weighed forever heavy on my heart; I’m not sure I would be able to forgive my younger self.
Where am I going with this? I don’t know, except to acknowledge the bravery of women like Kelli’s birth mother and gratitude for adoptees like Kelli who forgive.
I was a lost child without guidance in those years, and I feel for every female – and male – past and present who finds her/himself in difficult sexual circumstances.
Today’s sexual mores and pitfalls for young adults are no less confusing and risky than they were in the late 60’s. If anything, they might be more convoluted. Without debating specific issues like abortion or sexual assault on campus, I believe that young adults of all genders are as much at risk as I was of being thrust into situations in which they are ill-prepared to make decisions carrying lifelong consequences.
Research is providing more insights into how and when our brains develop, and why our teens and twenties can be fraught with impulsive behavior that, especially when hormonally driven, can be destructive physically and emotionally. I used to think young adults have become far too pampered (and I still do), but I also have come to realize how utterly vulnerable we all were/are at that age.
Comments on: "There Is A Crack In Everything" (57)
Thank you for sharing your wisdom as you reflect on those very difficult times. I was slightly behind you, but the pace of change was still scary. These were very difficult waters for “kids” ‘cuz we were kids, to navigate. Everybody was vulnerable and no one should be deamonized by decisions made under that kind of stress.
Thanks for reading and caring, Dan. ‘the pace of change’ is a very relevant phrase.
I can only agree with every word you have written here. I wouldn’t want to be that age again. Or not without the wisdom I have now.
Good post Sammy.
Thank you, Jude. They aren’t years I’d want to repeat.
Great post, Sammy. Thanks for showing me that time in “full color.” It makes her sacrifice more real. It was very different when I was in college.
Thanks for reading, Kelli 💖
Ah yes, that was also MY time, and you described it well. Move back a generation –how even more difficult it must have been for our mothers. I’d like to say we have come so far, but in some ways it feels like our society is stuck in adolescence. .
I can’t see any generation – either males or females – having it easy and not struggling with our roles. I don’t think we are supposed to have it easy, but it’s ok to acknowledge the magnitude of difficulty.
We all face it; that’s part of our shared humanity.
Thank you, Shelley!
Your post gave me pause. I both have so much to say and am speechless. I had a family that told me to get birth control because they didn’t want me to have to be alone in that, and I did, and still I had to make that walk, not to the RA, but alone to a doctor. I was one of the 99% whose BC didn’t work (they say these things in the fine print, that there is a slight chance you can still get pregnant even if you take the pills correctly, and yet here we are with two women in my family that had this happen to them — both due to antibiotics.) I did not tell me family but worked it out by myself, and it was a terrible time. At the time I didn’t know I’d never be able to have children anyway, that I was incapable of carrying a child to term. This brought all that up, poignantly.
The next memory your excellent writing brought up was walking into our living room while Mitchell’s daughter was a having a slumber party, and the 16-year-old girls were watching a fairly disgusting (and banned) show on the tele, laughing their heads off about S&M and making cracks about what they liked. These girls were all raised right and all bright and I decided not to make them turn it off but join them and talk about it. I did not want to say it was bad, and summoned up the type of very good conversation my brothers and my mom might have had with me. I had to talk not from experience, which puts us at a disadvantage, I think. I talked about how MOST of them had not even had sex with someone they LOVED and here they were jumping into degrading things that at best might be part of sex play someday with someone they loved after they had enjoyed sublime sex with their beloved and had a deep amount of trust. How it was dangerous, and there were other ways to get their jollies. I tried to be hip and parental. I tried to talk to them about how this type of thing was not loving, and not to be entered into unless they had had a long relationship with someone. In the end I was shocked beyond anything I’d experienced, and I had lived a pretty wild young life.
These are the two memories you brought up this morning within 15 minutes of me waking and not even having coffee! they are connected, and you have just gotten my stream of consciousness writing for the day!
Oh Katie … Sorry to raise the spectre of difficult times (you must have had the same kind of jolt I got while I read Kelli’s post).
We do heal and we do put individual events in perspective over our lifetime, but I still am surprised at how quickly an old wound can bleed again when triggered.
Can’t begin to list the ways I don’t understand today’s younger generation. I have faith they will muddle through and heal, as we did, but I’m determined to figure out a more supportive role to offer my grandkids than I had. It’s very daunting.
As you can tell, Sammy, you have struck many, many chords.
Thanks, Raye. I shed a lot of tears writing this one.
I would never want to repeat that age. I would never want to repeat that era.
Yup; i daresay those are tough years for almost everyone (and the current era no less daunting). Thanks for reading!
I remember fear of pregnancy like it was yesterday, and I was of age in the early 90’s. I was on birth control for medical reasons long before I needed the actual birth control. Additionally, condoms were a necessity — and even with most of us using two forms of birth control, we worried still.
By the late 90’s I was TRYING to get pregnant, and laughing that I ever worried about pregnancy, since I guess it took us three years to “do it right!” lol
In 2003, despite two methods of birth control, I got pregnant again, which only proves that unmarried me had been right to worry all along!
I think adoption is the greatest gift ever. There were several girls in school who adopted out their babies, and I remember being blown away by it. I could never do something so selfless. I said it then and I’d still say it now. It’s either no baby or my baby.
In my mind, as a young adult, abortion was the only suitable route for me and as a now older adult, I fear vasectomy failure, but ultimately I know I would just be one old, tired, mommy.
When I was young, I thought I’d never marry, and maybe by now, (around 40) I’d want to adopt or get inseminated. I have no idea what young me was thinking, but she sure didn’t want a baby until she REALLY wanted a baby.
From fear of pregnancy to fear of not being able to get pregnant. That is certainly the gamut many run – sometimes more than once.
Thanks for your thoughts and perspective, Joey. The issues surrounding our sexuality for its own sake and for procreation are fascinating, visceral and emotional.
Beautifully written, Mom. I agree that although our society has become more accepting of premarital sex, and making contraception available, young people still take risks, because of where they are in their development, because they don’t think there will be consequences, and because they have not lived enough to understand and care. I was a late bloomer, very late, and so, I found myself in that very position after I was married, pregnant intentionally, and contemplating abortion as a means to access medication needed to relieve anxiety and depression. I am forever grateful for the mixture of luck, risk and support from my husband which made us keep our daughter, but make no mistake, I was reckless and ready to disregard consequences for immediate relief.
Thanks, Elizabeth. We all have similar but very unique experiences, influenced by so many variables outside our control. Doing the best we can; healing and forgiving ourselves; offering empathy to others – those are all so necessary, but once in awhile there’s solace in giving into the pain and loss. None greater than the loss of innoncence.
If ever there was a post worthy of being Freshly Pressed, this certainly is one.
I have very strong emotions on this subject. It breaks my heart that so many who are unable / unwilling to care for a child conceive easily and others who desperately want a child are unable.
It breaks my heart that young people are faced with these difficult decisions every day … often without the love and support of the people they need most – their family.
So well written Sammy ❤
Thank you, Joanne. We are so vulnerable. We can hurt and be hurt in so many ways. Usually armor gets us through the day (thank goodness) but once in awhile I feel like a snail who has lost my shell.
I know what you mean… that’s a really good way of putting it.
A great post, and a reminder that every generation has its crosses to bear.
Thanks, Curt. You are so right – we can’t grow up without undertaking challenging moments and decisions. Sometimes we gotta help each other carry the cross.
Thank you for this thoughtful post, Sammy. I appreciate you for sharing it.
Thank you, Laurel.
I am so glad birth control has come as far as it has. There are so many options now. Of course, getting coverage for them is a whole other issue…
The birth control part is better, but I wonder if the early sexual encounters today are any healthier than ours were. I find it biologically crazy that puberty is accelerating even as longevity increases.
I was of the 60’s era too Sammy and now that you’re writing about it, it brings back memories. My parents would have been amazed and SHOCKED at the number of times I dreaded I may be pregnant .. of course I could not tell them. Fortunately I never had to face the option of abortion or giving up a child …
But apart from that, I applaud Kelli and her birth mother and her parents –
Oh Susan – “grace of God” comes to mind when I think of consequences I could have faced … Or you. Thanks for being here 💓
Here in Ontario, the news from the Ministry of Education is stirring up debate – the new sex ed curriculum has been released. Among the many bullet points, this one grabbed me by throat: children are reaching puberty as early as 7. SEVEN!! And with access to the internet… what a lethal combination! It is terrifying to me. I cannot imagine the anxiety that parents must have.
When I first had my period, I had terrible cramps and other nasty stuff that goes along with PMS. Mom hauled my butt to the doctor and arranged for the birth control pill. The reason being to reduce symptoms of PMS (though the acronym wasn’t in common use in the 60’s.) In hindsight, I expect she was exercising due diligence against pregnancy.
I recall the time I missed a period. I was sexually active and had been on the pill for a few months. I knew that maybe… oh boy, maybe I could be pregnant. A day or two later, we were in biology class and studying samples of our urine under the microscope. The teacher went from station to station to check our work. He looked at my sample, paused, and then quipped, “Better make sure you have your monthly supplies handy,” or some such remark. I was mortified! For a nano-second. And then I almost fainted with relief.
Thank you Sammy, for… your courage, your compassion, your humanity.
Maggie – i think it’s the amount of estrogen in our diet that is accelerating the earlier physical onset of puberty. So many foods are soy-based or have soy additives – very high in estrogen. Soy is a primary feed for cattle, so it’s all connected through beef and dairy. Probably other reasons, but that’s my unscientific diagnosis!!I could even go as ‘woo woo’ far as to suggest it has caused hormonal imbalances for men related to the proliferation of early baldness.
I am aware many of our peers had to take birth control as you did for menstrual problems. That, too, created mixed messages, as you noted. (As did the valium the gynecologists routinely handed out for PMS once we were suitably married and actually went to a gynecologist).
Thanks for your kind words. Those aren’t years I remember fondly nor want to re-visit.
“Those aren’t years I remember fondly nor want to re-visit.” Can I say the same thing? Mostly. But: Drama club and choir and band…and all that. I was miserable most of the time, gangly and awkward and mortified. How could I possibly want to return? No, I suppose I don’t. But there is a part of me that does remember the time with a fondness – I suppose influenced by Disney and Hallmark and Hollywood.
Maggie – I’m glad you DO remember some fond times. I had some great college friends; it wasn’t a total bust 😋
Estrogen in our foods, and some of the glysophate also masks as estrogen — I was an early starter at 10 but so was my mom so she was half expecting it.
I had a blast in many ways — high school in Laguna Beach didn’t hurt — so ditching meant walking the back streets to the beach with our bikinis on under our shorts and tops. There was a FEELING of freedom that we just don’t have once we are older. This week has been nostalgic, as my first high school boyfriend is dying as we speak. It is the weirdest thing. Not as strange as my two brothers being gone but weird nonetheless.
Katie – I’m glad you have some fond memories of HS – you are right – a beach and sun help!! I’m so sorry about your former boyfriend. Even though we have faced – and will face many more – losses, each one is as unique as the person we love. My prayers are with him and his family.
I got pregnant at that time, way to young. But it wasn’t due to circumstances like those you described here.
I was in love, we were together and we got married. Pregnant and wed before turning 18. Not a good start on grown up life.
But not getting married was no option. Having an abortion wasn’t even to think of. And I don’t think any of us involved thought of that. Least of all I.
So we got married and within 5 years time I was the mother of three girls. After ten I was divorced and almost broken down. Anxiety attacks, overeating… even though the divorce at the same time was an immense relief.
I didn’t think much of it at first with marriage and all that, things happened around me without my doing it seemed, but many years later I started to put things together. And even though I can’t prove anything, and asking him would only lead to denial, I’m pretty sure he was making it on purpose that I would be pregnant – without telling me
… and again… and again…
he cheated me… saw to I should end up pregnant so he could “have” me…
I realized that when I had learned to know him and his ways better, and that many took years after the divorce.
I fled, by the way! Not necessary to go inte to that in detail here and now.
I shouldn’t have any kids at all really, I’m not a mother-type. On the other hand, I don’t know how it would have been if I just had had the opportunity to get older first, maybe I had started to long for children then. I never did that you know, wanted kids, never have.
Perhaps another man had done the trick… don’t know…
Oh, gosh, Ninna. I’m so sorry for your troubled years. I think many of us would like to re-do our early adulthood differently but only with today’s wisdom and strength. I do hope, in spite of your comments about Motherhood, that you and your daughters love and enjoy each other. Thank you for being willing to share so much about your past. We all need to practice empathy and forgiveness for our earlier selves.
Well, he doesn’t bug me any more. Not since I realized he was just like a big child. He’s intelligent and so…
But his behavior have hurt the kids as well, so neither of us have been having good years at that time and after. And additional I got blamed afterwords for not stopping him. As if I could! I didn’t see it then.
No, the eldest and I don’t have a good relation. And of course it’s my fault…
But I don’t bother any longer. She’s grown up and have to take responsibility of her own lives.
With the youngest I have a good relation, she unfortunately live so far away from me.
She in the middle! It’s to and fro. As long as she could use me, I was alright (she thought) and she was nice. But now, she couldn’t care less.
That’s life sometimes
You are right – we all have to grow up and get past our childhood hurts if we have a shot at healthy adulthood! Even when relations sour, I tell myself they are never static, but no one should stay in unhealthy situations.
(Did I answer this, or did I just think I should answer it? You don’t know with this new (dys)functions of WP…)
But it seems that some young people nowadays wants the benefits of both childhood and grown-up life. Being treated as grown-up when that suits them, AND gettin the benefit of being pampered (mommy does the dull things, including taking care of the grandchildren)
NinnaO I think all kids do that — in all times — and good parents nip it in the bud and it is a constant nipping until the day they leave home and have to change their own TP roll!
Kids yes! But when they aren’t kids any more, let’s say around 40!!!!! And are, or have been, married and have kids of their own!!!! That’s not okay – if it’s only a one-way-thing. “You must help me ’cause you’re the mother but I don’t have to do a thing for you!” (not even speak nicely)
There is a simple antidote to that scenario. “No.” Know your boundaries. Boundaries are kind of cool things.
And please Katie, I understand you mean well, but you don’t know anything about me and my life – other from what I wrote here as a comment. Neither how it has been nor how it is now. And you don’t know anything about my daughters either.
And if things went wrong – they did – I wasn’t the only one there! So please! Spare me your advice for events since long gone. I’ve had enough of bad conscience and low self esteem. Never more!
“But it seems that some young people nowadays wants the benefits of both childhood and grown-up life. Being treated as grown-up when that suits them, AND gettin the benefit of being pampered (mommy does the dull things, including taking care of the grandchildren)”
This is what I was commenting on. I know that SOME young people feel that was (one of my stepkids included) and “no” was what moved that grown child.
I never said that your children were right and you were at fault or viceversa, so perhaps you should read what was said? Having raised kids I rarely fault parents, because kids can be impossible.
That said, you brought all this up publicly. I don’t ever post things publicly that I don’t want someone to comment on — but I will make sure not to comment on your items again. Ever.
Ninna & Katie – i’ve never had this kind of exchange in comments and I’m very sorry you both ended up being upset with each other. I know you both as kind, thoughtful bloggers, and I’m sure you both had good intentions in commenting.
Please, let’s stop the conversation; take a cleansing breath; and move on from what was an emotional topic for all of us.
Again, my apologies to you both.
Sammy I’m not upset — not a bit — and the topic itself was not an emotional one for me. I will honor the requests. No need to apologize to me.
Thanks, Katie. It’s all good!
I’m sorry if I may have offended you. I never meant to.
You see! I don’t mind a discussion on a topic, but what you gave me was an unwanted personal advice about how to raise my kids. You’re a stranger! You don’t know them, not me, nothing at all about my family and my life. And they are forty+ now, you know. With kids of their own.
I did say “no” to the two it concerned.
And I said “no” to you in the comment. And you didn’t like that, did you?
Well! Neither did my kids when I told them I didn’t like them being disrespectful towards me. Cause they were.
I don’t think you were disrespectful. You were being nice and thought you would give me a good advice.
But I didn’t want any advice! I didn’t need any!! What happened, happened years ago! It was just meant as an example.
I think I have the right to make comments, just like you, but I also have the right to say “no” when I think it’s getting TOO personal. Is that okay with you?
I don’t feel any grudge against my kids, I love them! And I love my grandchildren!
And I don’t feel any grudge against you because of this. I hope you will continue having a good life with a lot of love and respect in it. You seem to be a good caring person and you deserve that!
It’s so easy to misunderstand each other, both on the net and IRL, and to read and hear different things. I think we answered on two different things. Both of us. Shall we let this be now? Conversation finished?
Sammy! I don’t know how to comment directly on your comment, and I didn´t see it until now! I’m not upset, sad or angry or anything. You certainly don’t have to apologize to me. It’s I who shall apologize to you, if I have caused you any discomfort. And it’s quite okay with me if you want to delete all replies between Katie and me. And my first comment of course.
So please accept my apology!
Ninna – thank you. As long as you and Katie aren’t upset, neither am I! It’s sometimes hard to ‘read’ emotions as you know. I like your suggestion to accept what’s been said, acknowledge some misinterpretation and move on. As you say, this was all in the distant past.
A difficult read for me, Sammy, since we have tried so hard to have a family and been faced with loss after loss. I know every woman has a choice, but even reading/speaking of abortion brings about such a visceral response.
I do appreciate your transparency, however.
I truly do.
I know Dani. I think of you in so many instances and this was one of them. It is so hard to comprehend your losses. We can’t live our lives looking for ‘fairness’ but it doesn’t lessen our sorrow. My love continues to go out to you.
Agreed, Sammy. I know my path has twists and turns where others’ don’t. And others’ have dips and forks mine never will.
I remind myself of that every moment of every day.
Still your sorrow can’t and shouldn’t be mitigated just because others have sorrow too. Your losses will always be with you, but hopefully they are partly because of love.
They are wholly because of love.
Hollow to hallow, friend.
Hollow to hallow.