Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Things Are Not As They Appear

A few years before I got sick I read a book called The House of Sand and Fog. It was quite good but a sad story all around, about life when it really goes wrong. What tweaked my attention most about this story was the multi-layered necessity of pretense. "Things are not as they appear," the father tries to explain as disaster comes crashing down around him. But it is too late. Newly immigrated to the U.S., his family has put on quite a dog and pony show to promote prominence in their ethnic community. This is not only for ego and pride, although those certainly come into play. But it is quite necessary for the success of his children, too. In order to provide the best opportunities and marry them off to the right families the appearance of affluence is critical. There is no end to the masks he wears to achieve this. Highly educated, he drives his expensive car to a fancy skyrise each day and parks it in the underground garage. Then he changes out of his suit and tie and into grubbies, setting off to do his real job, manual labor. And on the way home after work? The same charade lands him walking in the door back in the suit and tie.

For entirely different reasons I understand this man, get his motivation. It is very hard to live a nice lifestyle and lose it. My personal standard of living is drastically different now than it was before I got sick. I found it was quite helpful to have that thing called a job, to be able to pay my own way and enjoy a little of life's splendid and diverse offerings. Unfortunately such luxury has vacated us, and for how long I do not know. But my pride has gone nowhere, and I am not apologizing for it. Refusing to roam around with torn clothing and a dirty face, the absolute last thing I want is anyone's pity. No limping along like Tiny Tim, holding out my hand and mewing, "Alms for the poor," for me. So I too cloak myself in smoke and mirrors. People choose how to deal with their hardships in life in a way suitable to their person. This is how I have chosen to endure mine.

But this choice has subject my husband and myself to a fair amount of criticism and judgment. Folks just don't understand why we have money for one thing but not another. I know we appear self absorbed and quite selfish at times, and to a certain degree it is true. But not at all for the reasons others assume. I look for any opportunity to cut costs so we can afford what is important to us. This has placed me in a position I am ill prepared for, the family barber. Not only do I groom Yorkie and Porkie but I gave my husband a damn good haircut on Sunday, if I do say so myself. Then I brushed my hair over my head and into my face and took the scissors to my broomstick split ends. I ain't gonna lie, it hurt. I felt sorry for myself, and angry. Life was not supposed to turn out this way! I am 35 years-old, college educated and had a professional career that was nothing to sneeze at. But alas it has turned out this way, as life sometimes does. No matter how hard we steer the boat it simply veers off in the wrong direction. I whined to my husband about how terrible it was, poor me posing as my own stylist. He asked if I would sell either Yorkie or Porkie for $80 million dollars. It didn't take me a second to think about it. "Of course not!" I replied, shocked he would suggest selling my children. "Then shut up," he replied. "You have what is important."

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  1. You have no idea how much I appreciate this post. Thank you so much for writing it.

  2. I've experienced and learned a lot lately on the truth about why others appeared to be so upset about my condition or question Doctors, what role my husband and son play in it, what we spend money on, where I live (re: the state I live in and not choosing a better climate); and so on. Noooo is not b/c they are going to make a difference in anyway. It is b/c of how it affects them and what they want out of it.
    So good for you in standing your ground and doing it your way.

    P.S. I'm so tired of being asked how I'm doing if they really don't want to hear it. Also, quit telling me to put damn ice on it.
    LOL...just venting.

    Diana Cowan