In a society where card games are so prevalent, it’s funny how closely life resembles one, you’re dealt a hand and you have to play it. You can build your deck, you can fold your hand, you can have a partner, you can draw or discard, you can even bluff.
For instance, I’m loud.
I can’t help it, it’s just how I am. Being loud is one of the cards I was dealt in life. I couldn’t take it out of my deck if I wanted to. This is partially due to being almost completely deaf in one ear but the biggest reason is because I just can’t quiet the lion that dwells inside. Whether it’s funny or infuriating, my volume naturally rises with my level of excitement. It’s not just me, all the women in my family are the same way. Whenever we’re passionate about something, good or bad, we explode in a verbal fireworks display. We’re also bold, seemingly fearless, and a general blast to be around. Mostly this has landed me as center of attention at parties or groups, being the perfect candidate for retelling stories or animated conversations, but occasionally, it has put me on display as a distraction or as a riot inciter.
What can I say? My passions govern my actions to a large degree and tact was one of my hardest lessons.
I’ve never been good with social filters and I think tact was so hard for me to grasp because it took me longer than most people to actually find my voice. So, when I did, it raged inside ready to roar out at any moment for any reason. If I thought something, I said it. It’s a blunt truthfulness I’ve always been addicted to. Imagine being unable to breathe on your own and then a miracle happens and just when you’re able to freely take in the crisp air, you’re stifled by a gas mask. Luckily, respect has always been something I’ve valued over all other virtues, save perhaps compassion. You can probably chalk that up to the heavy influence of both sets of grandparents.
So, why did it take me so long to find my voice?
Simple answer: My childhood sucked, a bad card. My father was an asshole and I was trapped for a long time in hell. I’ll spare you the details for now and suffice it to say, I was oppressed in a way many children are, severe abuse and neglect. I had no voice and no way out until I was very nearly a teenager. My escape from hell was so pure, so exactly what I had wanted for so long, it took a couple years for the gravity, the trauma, the brokenness to actually set in(insert PTSD). When it did, it hurtled me into a black hole that has taken me the rest of my life to climb out of. I had to learn how to be a person, how to respond and react, how to grow and mature.
I’d like to think I’ve finally reached the other side, the side of “Normal” or better, “Healthy,” the place broken people dream of. The truth is, this destination moves and shifts as we do. I’m constantly chasing it, consistently working towards it. To the outsider, “Normal” is a blissful facade, a place where you can stop and harmonious life just happens to you without much effort. This is because some people are born with the right cards to play, good parents, picture of physical and mental health, above average intelligence, at least an average amount of attractiveness.. and they don’t appear to put forth much effort into obtaining happiness. Being surrounded by this “Normalcy” makes us feel like good things are just not in our future, that some people are here to suffer, and even if we were born with some of these good cards in our deck, tragic events are destined to trip us up. However, “Normal” and “Healthy” aren’t solely for privileged people. You can control your life and happiness is absolutely in your deck, no matter what cards you were dealt.
I tell this story often because it so adequately sums up my life. When I was growing up, I lived with my father in the poor section of a poor town where crime rates were high and hygiene was low. My mother’s family, on the other hand, was well to do and a pillar to it’s community. Whenever I came to visit, it was like being in a different world and I’d end up shell shocked for most of the visit- think Annie. (That’s what it felt like.) I remember being in my great aunt’s garden, learning how to properly trim roses, when she turned to me, quite seriously, to impart some wisdom she apparently learned the hard way. She told me, when I was to go snorkeling, I was to make sure I did so in the Florida Keys before I went snorkeling in Hawaii, because if I did it the other way around, I would ruin snorkeling in the Key’s, because snorkeling in Hawaii was so vastly superior. I gaped up at her stupidly and thought.. “Yeah right, lady. Like I’m ever going to go snorkeling at all, much less in the Florida Keys, and Hawaii doesn’t even really exist for me, that’s just not in my cards… Tell me something useful. I can’t effing relate to that.” Cut to about 15-20 years later, I’m about 6ft underwater, watching an eel going in and out of it’s hole, when her words float into my head again. I realized I had unknowingly done exactly what she told me not to. I almost drowned myself from laughing, it was so ridiculous! I wanted to go back to little me and shake myself out of it and say “No, really.. you should listen. This directly applies to you.” I wasn’t just visiting Hawaii either, I was short term living there. I did laundry, grocery shopping, went on dates with an Army soldier.. and I have yet to go snorkeling in the Florida Keys. My point is that sometimes you can’t see all the cards in your deck because they haven’t been dealt and you can think your life is heading in one direction only to end up somewhere you thought was impossible.
I still have to deal with my past demons and other crappy cards, but that’s the secret to overcoming them, dealing with them. If you take the time to build your deck, you can win the game. Simple. I say it’s simple, because it is.. in concept. In reality, it’s hard and slow to start, it’s tedious and frustrating, and it would seem easier just to quit, but that’s where you kick in. Truthfully, your life is what you make it. You can play the cards you were dealt and live with the consequences, or you can chose something better for your life, you can choose to be happy, and that is what this blog is all about.
“Every gambler knows
That the secret to survivin’
Is knowin’ what to throw away
And knowin’ what to keep
‘Cause every hand’s a winner
And every hand’s a loser
And the best that you can hope for is to die
in your sleep” -Kenny Rogers/The Gambler