My book, Sunlight on My Shadow, begged to be written. It sat there for years, this quiet weight on my heart. It was a story bound in secrecy that was there yet obscured by years of neglect.

It was oppressive holding this story inside of me.

So about 5 years ago, I started tapping on the keyboard. The words flowed easily but when I thought of anyone reading what I wrote, I cringed and the words dried up. So I just wrote it for myself, pretending no one would ever read it. It seemed the only way to keep the words flowing onto the page and I knew the writing was good for my heart and soul.

During the process, I remembered the painful dichotomy that I lived when I was a teen. I had the great pull of first love and wanting closeness and sex with this high school boy but I was haunted by my catholic training which taught me that sex outside of marriage was a grave sin. I was torn to shreds by the pull of my desires and what I had been taught was RIGHT. Finally, I rationalized that I no longer believed in the catholic rules. But it wasn’t easy to shake what I had been fed since I was a baby and I secretly hated myself for my lack of self control and weakness at not being a good catholic girl.

As I wrote my story, I re-lived the dark guilty place of losing my virginity and the horror of my condition as I attended Regina High, concealing my thickening belly for five months, holding my uniform skirt together with looped rubber bands.

While writing I revisited that home for unwed mothers. Back then, I had expected when the baby was born that I’d be free. I imagined myself resuming my solid place of honor in society as a good college bound student. but instead when I heard the baby’s first cry, I fell in love with her and was hopelessly attached.

But I couldn’t acknowledge that I loved her and wanted her because that wasn’t in the plan. I just put one foot in front of the other and let them carry her away to her adoptive parents.

When I came back to school in my senior year, I pretended I had recovered from a kidney disease and was now better. Then, I suppressed any gushes of emotion that accompanied my memories of the baby. The minute I felt any grief, I switched my thoughts to nothingness. I built this wall around me posted with “do not enter.” I had a secret to protect.

Of course the shield made me half alive because along with not feeling the grief and shame, I also wasn’t able to feel any of the joy or light heartedness that a young girl of 17 should be feeling.

So I was damaged. I went through the motions of being ok. I plastered a smile on my face and graduated from high school with my class. I talked to no one about it. Not my friends, not my parents, and not myself.

But writing changed all that for me. I came to love and understand that me-child and I forgave her. If not one person bought my book –it still would have been the greatest thing I’ve done in my life because it changed who I am …

When you are able to walk in your own shoes, you find a strength and a confidence. You don’t have to couch words or slink with your tail between your legs because there is no longer anything to hide. You are just you. What a freedom that is. Secrets and shame are cancers to the spirit.

I hope this is the message that readers take away from Sunlight on My Shadow. Secrets rarely accomplish their intended duty of making you look better, because the part that is hidden causes a partial death of the spirit.

Bless the day I wrote the last word in my book. The binding strings of secrecy unwound and the story was out. I was finally able to grieve for the loss of my innocence and my baby girl by writing and talking to others about my story. As I revised the book for publication, I decided to keep the raw incriminating truths within the pages, because that was my very healing: Accepting my humanness and understanding that sweet teen age girl from 1967.

I’m grateful for writing my memoir and being done with the shame and secrecy.