The Voice of Choice

All the abortion ban legislation and related posts the last few weeks have been a lot for me to handle. My relationship with abortion is complicated and still evolving.

I was raised Catholic. At one time I thought I was being called to be a nun. My parents are so pro-life that they used to organize the parish trip to the march in Washington every year.

Even when I left the church when I was around 20, I continued holding most of the anti-abortion beliefs I had been raised with. Individually I would support anyone in her individual choice, but I still primarily identified as pro-life…or at least I walked the middle of the road in such a way that nobody wanted me on their side.

Last year my views started to shift. I began my studies as a bereavement doula. One of the areas that some bereavement doulas work in is supporting women through abortions. The course material brought up old trauma, and I was determined to work through it. I felt called to provide this kind of support, and I knew the only way to do that was to deal with my stuff so that I could be fully present with them and not pull away into my own triggers.

I did research online, read books, talked to people who had abortions or had supported others through them. I did inner child work and released more fear, anger, and grief. I talked to my daughter who had been aborted. My views began to shift as more about the circumstances surrounding the many individuals I was learning about came to light.

Then last month as all these dangerous, cruel, scary pieces of legislation were surfacing, I began to get angry. I was angry about the hardship, danger, and oppression the government is imposing upon the citizens of this country.

There was one particular post that stood out to me. It was the story of a woman whose father, a doctor, had repeatedly raped her as a teenager. When she became pregnant at the age of 13, a buddy of his performed the abortion. She was given no choice. Her mother told her that everything that happened was God’s will. There were parts of it that resonated with me and my own story, even though other parts were very different.

That post made me want to share my own story and to speak out for the right for all women, girls, trans, intersex, and binary people to choose what happens in their very individual circumstances.

Here is my story…As a young teenager, around 14, I was repeatedly raped by men I knew who were not related to me. After months of terrible abuse, I became pregnant. I remember feeling so scared and alone. I also felt so much love for the life growing inside me. I wanted that baby.

I confided in one of the men. He had shown me small kindnesses during my ordeal. I naively thought he would help me. First the rapists tried beating me to end the pregnancy. When that didn’t work, the man posed as my father and took me to have an abortion. I didn’t know what was happening until it happened. I started to scream, and somebody put a hand over my mouth.

I didn’t remember the rapes, the abortion, or my baby for over 20 years.

My choice was taken away from me, and with it my memories and my voice.

Over the past 5 years, I have worked through healing those related traumas using all sorts of tools. I have released layer upon layer upon layer. I am dedicated now to helping others to release and heal sexual trauma.

This is my story. I add it to the millions of voices with their own stories of trauma or shame or illness or poverty or pain or hardship that so many others have faced.

I, Rev. Niki Kissell, am adding my voice because it is more important to me now than ever before that those faced with this most difficult of decisions have access to choice in a way I didn’t have. I am telling you this because societal changes aren’t made because of statistics or political affiliations or dogma. Changes are made when people encounter individuals – when they meet somebody with a face, and a name, and a story.

This is a call to be heard! Not everyone is in a position where they can or want to share their story. Not everyone has this kind of story to share. Other ways you can help to add your voice for the right of choice is by making financial donations to organizations working on the front lines like the ACLU, SisterSong, The National Abortion Federation, and the Yellow Hammer Fund; voting for legislators that support women’s right to choose and encouraging others to vote as well; calling and writing to your legislators; learning about this issue more deeply and learning the stories of those involved on all sides and in all kinds of situations.

Just Ask

Image of a sideways question mark with a stick figure on the dot scratching its head

My word of the year for 2018 has been “ask.” It’s not as sexy as some of my previous words. Trust, Power, and Choice have all served me as excellent guides over the last few years. ASK has been just as enlightening and empowering.

I can’t count the number of times that I chose to ask a question because I reminded myself about my word of the year.  The first time I remember this happening was asking for a refund for an outing I had booked with my kids. The website clearly stated no refunds within 24 hours of the reserved time, but armed with my word of the year, I called and asked anyway. And guess what? I got the refund. But even if they had said no, asking was so empowering. That’s what helped me to keep asking.

And it wasn’t just those questions that led to rewards. Asking personal questions that I had previously felt too intrusive led to all sorts of insightful and connective conversations. The closeness and sharing they brought to light would have gone by the wayside if I had kept to my old habit of waiting for someone to share whatever they felt comfortable sharing. I never once regretted asking those questions. I can’t think of one negative outcome from pushing myself beyond my comfort zone. If there were answers that were less than I had hoped, they must have been so insignificant that I’ve forgotten.

I shared sexual desires more freely and asked my lovers for direction in giving them pleasure. I spoke up and asked for help with emotional struggles and technical difficulties. When I was feeling alone, I called out to the Universe for assistance, and helped poured in from expected and unexpected places. My guides showed me the way every time I asked.

Most importantly, I learned to ask for clarification. If somebody makes a statement that I feel a strong reaction to, at least some of the times now, I can repeat back how I heard it and ask if that was what they meant…I can’t tell you how many valuable exchanges came out of that line of inquiry.

I even learned to ask questions to clarify when communicating with myself. Recently I was feeling jealous. Sitting with that feeling was uncomfortable, so I decided to learn more about it. I asked myself why I was jealous and was rewarded with important insights and more questions to ask. The jealousy vanished.

2018 has rewarded me for asking in so many ways. The empowerment this word has shown me has gone far beyond any expectations I had when I started on this year-long journey.

So now I ask you, what can you ask to lead you further down the path of empowerment.

A Year of Choices, a Year to Ask

“Ask, Trust, Allow” – Author Unknown

Picture of three open doors, with the word "choice" superimposed over them

2017 was a year full of choices, partially because I asked for them. As I mentioned in previous posts, (this one too) my word for 2017 was choice. Granted, every year is full of choices. Not a day goes by that we don’t make choices, even if that choice is to maintain the status quo.

One of the things I learned throughout the year was to remember that I had a choice, and even more importantly, that just because I had chosen something at one time, I did not have to keep choosing it.

So I chose to close the healing center that I worked so hard to create. I chose not to choose a new goal right away. I chose to be gentle with myself as I transitioned away from the old dream. I chose to enjoy myself and return to some hobbies I had not made time for in years. I chose to feed my soul be attending and sharing in groups that others were facilitating. I chose to honor my body, to nourish it with movement and better nutrition. I chose to release more trauma stored in my body. I chose to claim my power regarding who has access to my body and I how I want to share it. I chose to embrace my sexuality with joy and power. I chose to heal and grow, rather than stagnate. I chose to begin dreaming new dreams.

For 2018, the word I choose to bring with me throughout the year is “ASK.” For far too long, I have held back in asking for what I need and for what I want. I have lived my life in fear of being told, “no,” mistaking that “no” for a rejection of the validity of the request or of myself. I have hidden my need for help, mistaking vulnerability and need for weakness. I have forgotten that even when human help isn’t available that I have a legion of guides and gods in the spirit world, not to mention my True Self, ready to supply answers and aid if I only ASK.

So this year, I chose to face my fears and ask.