February’s theme is “Left Turn – Stories of life going sideways.”
I’m embarrassed to admit how much of my life has been spent thinking, “How did I not know that?” Now that I’ve reached the age where I get tendonitis scrolling down to the year I was born in those drop-down menus, I keep thinking I should have most things in life figured out. Even the surprises shouldn’t be that surprising. That’s what I tell myself. But every year something happens and the rug I thought I’d nailed to the floor slides out from under me.
A few weeks ago I found out something about my parents that knocked me sideways. Because I have no memories of my parents ever being kind to each other, I asked my old babysitter, who knew me as a toddler, if she thought my parents had ever been in love. She wrote back and said that my father had been head over heels for mom in the beginning but the feeling wasn’t mutual. She said she learned the meaning of the term “shotgun wedding” on her way to their wedding.
It seems silly now but this was so shocking and revelatory for me that I don’t think I spoke for the rest of the day. My mother’s frustration with me, my father, and her life suddenly all made sense. For as long as I can remember, our family had never been a good fit. I thought it was because I had missed the good years but it turned out that there were no good years.
If there’s anything good in this it’s that the sense of unfairness I’ve felt all my life has suddenly disappeared. I spent so many years wondering why I had to grow up in a house filled with anger and spite. My mother always attacking, and my dad always leaving and coming back, trying to find some way to survive in that place. No other parents I knew acted this way toward each other.
Now I finally understand why every day was so difficult for them. They stayed together as long as they could for all the wrong reasons: me, their religion, their culture, shame. All I feel now is overwhelming sadness for both of them. Both of my parents were beloved in their circle of friends. But they were wrong for each other and they were trapped in ways I never understood until now.
What I’m wrestling with is how do I hold two opposite beliefs within me without cracking up? My parents should never have made a kid together, and I’m glad they made a kid together. Was their misery worth the life I have now? It seems ridiculous to even ask this question since there’s nothing I can do about it, yet it’s something I ask myself a hundred times a day.
Thanks for letting me share this with you. I know this isn’t a complete story. It’s just the beginning. But it’s something that rocked my little world recently and I was thinking tonight that maybe there’s someone else out there going through the same thing. If there is, maybe we can talk. Maybe she can tell me how she balanced the scales. Maybe she can show me who to thank for this life I’ve been given.
Hopefully, some of you will bring your own story about life knocking you sideways. Was it a surprise or was it something you chose? How did you work through it? Did you end up being grateful? Did it change the way you see the world or did it reinforce what you already knew?
Remember to keep your story clean and under 8 minutes. Here are the rules and guidelines for telling at FGS. I update them a few times a year so even if you’ve read them before it’s always good to take a look now and then to see if there are any changes.
If you want to workshop your story before the show, this is a great place to do it:
I hope to see you all on February 21st, at 7pn at Roy Street Coffee and Tea 🙂