My mother used to tell a story about the circumstance of her life before I was born, and how I came to be. She told a lot of stories. Mother didn’t exactly have a close personal relationship with the truth. I would take this one with a grain of salt, just like I did with so many others, but stories have a knack for seeping into your subconscious and coloring your perspective on many aspects of your life in sometimes unpredictable ways. Especially stories drilled into you from a very young age.
Noxious stories could negatively impact you in damaging ways that have far reaching ramifications, which can be difficult to undo. But maybe it’s possible that constructive tales of healing — even the crazy ones — might just hang out in the back of your lizard brain like a silent super power, at times giving you the preternatural adrenaline boost you need to achieve the impossible.
Before I was born, my mother had three other children, one through a youthful fling, and two by a previous husband who was not my father. I never met her firstborn, but I grew up with the other two for a while, until we were all separated. By the time I came along, Mother was a bit older for those days, though not nearly as much as passes for older today (a cultural shift I know a little something about!). She certainly wasn’t past childbearing age, obviously, but was long enough in the tooth that another bun in the oven didn’t seem to be looming on the horizon for the near future in her world.
The story goes like this:
In the early 70s, Mother became increasingly sick over a period of a few months. With symptoms that began like a flu bug, she pushed through for a while, but eventually the pain got so intrusive she struggled to function normally. By the time it impacted her ability to work, she planned a visit to the doctor, which couldn’t have been an easy decision, as her family lived in abject poverty.
The news was devastating. She had contracted ovarian cancer. She likely didn’t have long left.
To say Mother was always a fighter would be an understatement, but it wasn’t just that. She also didn’t always live in reality. Mother refused to accept this news as her truth.
She made some basic modifications to her diet and exercise routine. (Any changes would have to be basic, considering the family’s grocery budget was formed around food stamps.) She was determined to get healthy, though, and beat the odds. She felt a little better for a while, I imagine through sheer will. But she still couldn’t shake the sickness.
Mother went back to the doctor — a different one, this time, for a second opinion — in the hopes of better news and a more functional game plan for overall improvement. The prognosis hadn’t changed. The same path was outlined in front of her, and the trajectory still lead to the inevitable.
Mother’s paranoid schizophrenic personality disorder caused a lot of problems for her (and everyone close to her) throughout her life. But it made her nothing if not formidable. Failure was never an option.
Armed with a greater sense of conviction, she resolved once again this thing would not get the better of her. It would not be the end of her. She had children to care for. A husband to manage. People to save. God wasn’t ready for her to give up. He wasn’t through with her yet.
Mother then turned to her church for help. The congregation collected communally, while elders “laid hands” on her, and conducted a healing ritual, with much prayer, and probably a great deal of pomp and performance. Afterwards, she went back to her life a new woman, this time feeling even better than she had before. Until she didn’t.
In the summer of 1973, Mother once more experienced symptoms that by that point had become familiar to her. Ever the dramatic, she was certain then the Lord was finally calling her home. This time, there would be no more running. She resigned herself to her fate, and began to put her affairs in order. To facilitate doing so properly, she would need to know how much time she had, so she scheduled another appointment with a third doctor. But she wasn’t sick.
At least, not that way. She was pregnant. With me.
Doctors ran multiple tests. There was no more sign of cancer — only a tiny child growing inside her...
a miracle baby.
My mother believed from the day she learned of my existence until the day she died that God gave me to her to take away the poison that was killing her, to save her life, and to renew her faith, for the greater good. Of what, I couldn’t tell you, but she swore up and down that I am in this world today only because it was God’s will. (Her marital relations had nothing to do with it, apparently.)
Mother said that day she prayed to God and promised to devote the life of her child into the service of his will. Meaning me. My life. I have always taken issue with that.
I told Mother, my life was never hers to give away. Not even to God. Just because she’d “created” me, didn’t mean she “owned” me. She’d simply respond that maybe not, but if I thought my life was mine, then I didn’t understand what life is. And the sooner I came to terms with the truth that all of us belong to God, the greater my life would be. :-/
There have been multiple moments within the history of my life that have made me feel like I may be a total failure as a person and nothing more than a complete waste of potential. Knowing my mother’s expectation that my existence is entirely to serve the purpose of some higher power is not the least of those. But, to her credit, Mother was never disappointed in me. She believed all things work out according to God’s plan, even if we can’t see how. I could have become an ax murderer, and Mother would have been convinced it was God’s will. (I guess it’s a good thing for axes everywhere I never bought into all that nonsense! ;-)
What growing up under the influence of this questionable family legend has done for me, though, is to instill a deep-seated belief that anything is possible, even — or possibly especially — that which doesn’t seem to be. I’ve spent a lifetime proving the impossible – isn’t.
When I was little, I never believed I would ever escape the small town life I came from. Where I grew up in a sharecropper’s shack in the middle of an orange grove on the outskirts of anything considered remotely civilized. Where I wore goodwill clothes with mismatching patches and mystery stains, shoes with holes, and anything donated by charity. Where I developed an iron constitution from learning to pick the moldy green bits off the bread, and just stomach it down.
But I did. Because it wasn’t impossible.
I never could have imagined I would one day perform before a global conference at the Headquarters of the United Nations. But I got to. Because it wasn’t impossible.
I never figured I’d make a film, much less one that would get me recognized by the Toronto After Dark Film Festival and earn me a credit on IMDB. But you can find me there today, for my first attempt. Because it wasn’t impossible.
When I was in a car accident, doctors told me I would never walk again. But I did. Because it wasn’t impossible. Then they said I wouldn’t ever walk normally. But I learned to. Because it wasn’t impossible.
I never suspected I would find myself guilty of planning and coordinating a heist to aggressively rescue a handful of severely abused exotic birds. But I did it. And I don’t regret it. Because it was the right thing to do, and it wasn’t impossible.
After years of estrangement, I didn’t think my adopted family would ever be a part of my life again.
But they are now. Because it wasn’t impossible.
After losing a decade and a half of myself to abusive relationships, turning down 9 proposals and reaching my 40s, I suspected I would never be married. But I am. Because it wasn’t impossible.
After losing a pregnancy in my 20s, getting married in my 40s, and being considerably beyond grossly obese with a thyroid condition, I didn’t believe I could bear children. But two and a half years ago, I had a beautiful bouncing baby boy who is my heart, my joy, my reason for being, my everything. Because it wasn’t impossible.
I never suspected when I accepted my first contract role right out of high school with no college degree, that more than 25 years later, I’d have expanded that experience into a functional career that significantly contributes to our household bills and helps to keep our family afloat, without ever having a “real job.” But that’s how things have played out for us. Because it wasn’t impossible.
I never thought of myself as a writer, but then someone turned me onto this little online project called LJ Idol, where I discovered not only a modest talent, but a true passion for writing. Because it wasn’t impossible.
I never thought anything I would have to say could be considered valuable, but then I began to share my experiences with others, and have been moved by seeing people take away lessons from my life that have impacted their own. Because it wasn’t impossible.
I never believed I could conjure up decent fiction concepts, but then I paired with a handful of other creative types during partner challenges, who spurred me to realize I’m brimming with ideas.
Because it wasn’t impossible.
I wasn’t sure with only 6½ hours left to write before the deadline this week, I would get my entry in without having to take a bye. But I got it done. Because it wasn’t impossible. ;-)
I haven’t lived an impossible life. I’ve just surmounted tremendous obstacles, and overcome incredible odds. Because that’s what it takes to get make your way in this world, one day at a time.
The truth is, I haven’t done amazing things. Yet. But I’d like to. My life is fantastic, and I love it. But it’s not all that incredible. Though I want it to be.
I want our family to buy a house, even though I don’t officially have a “real job.” Others might say that’s impossible. But I don’t think so. In fact, we’re so close now, we can almost taste it.
I do want to get a “real job,” with enough stability to assure me I won’t have to keep looking for the next project 2-3 times a year anymore. Because constantly selling yourself becomes tiresome after a while. Like every few decades or so.
I want to use the income from that stable “real job” to set us up with a firm foundation of financial security, and enough discretionary cashflow to fund side projects and hobbies that will pay for themselves.
I want to run a thrifting business that converts one man’s trash into another’s treasure (mostly to pay for my own thrifting obsession).
I want to own and operate rental properties that provide a second chance to the disadvantaged, in preparation for home ownership.
I want to start a Montessori style neighborhood co-op school that in addition to a standard educational curriculum, would also teach children about... developing a love for global cultural diversity, so they don’t have to be afraid of others who aren’t like them; caring for animals, so they understand the importance of safeguarding the environment; tending to a garden, so they have the means to feed themselves without having to suckle from government subsidized corporate mass marketing; managing finances, so they know how to secure their future; appreciating the beauty of art and music, so they can find joy in life; ...and a great deal of other important life knowledge they would otherwise graduate without ever having learned.
I want to establish a restaurant that caters to particular dietary needs.
I want to be part of a regularly gigging performance group.
I want to get back to filmmaking, even to do it enough that I can say that’s what I do for a living.
I want to achieve enough success though my many endeavors to be afforded the external resources that would... release me from the shackles of having to stay forever in the 9-5 grind; let me retire from the oppression of a “real job;” provide the freedom to be at home with my family, to travel the world, and to be able to make the choice about how I answer the question, “What do you do?”
Others might say these things are impossible, especially for someone who came from nothing. But I don’t think so. I believe anything you want can be accomplished as long as you have the will and the means to do it. And if you don’t, well, then, you just have to find a way to get them. Obstacles are meant to overcome. And some are harder to break through than others. But many things only seem impossible at first. Until they aren’t.
The most seemingly impossible challenge before me right now is managing how we’re going to handle the takeaways from my husband’s cardiology appointment yesterday, which made getting in the right mindset for celebrating our 4-yr anniversary last night something of a challenge. You see, among other wonderful things that make my husband special, Minion is also a mildly overweight early 40s diabetic with hypertension and a heart condition, who had a heart attack when he was 22, an angiogram a few months before we were married, and an aortic episode that landed him in the emergency room a couple weeks back. It was pretty scary there for a few days, and I’m not going to pretend it’s not quite a bit still.
Minion has the body of a former athlete — one who maybe let himself go just a little — and is carrying about 30ish extra pounds or so, mostly concentrated around his midsection. His cardiologist said he has to lose the weight, now, and fast, to get his blood pressure — which has been through the roof lately — back down to healthy levels, if he’s going to have any hope of being able to avoid having to undergo open heart surgery.
She wants him to work more exercise into his regular routine. We will figure out how to do that. (We have decided to get him a peddling apparatus for under his desk, and to have him take the dogs for a walk when he gets home in the morning before he goes to bed.)
And, she wants him to go on a fast for 90 days, but since he’s also a diabetic, that’s not an option. The diet she originally wanted for him is $2000 a month of prepared meals. But we don’t have it.
I would max out all our credit to make it work, if that’s what it took. My husband would not be okay with that, though, because it would set us off track for home buying. And to that I would say, screw getting another house. I would stay in this tiny little hovel we hate that’s half the house we left, for two years or more, if it meant the difference between having him around another five years or another fifty.
But I know that’s not practical. Because even if we could tighten our belt, pinch every penny we have, call in every favor we’re owed, and somehow pull it off, what happens when 90 days is up, and now they need more money for some other miracle cure, and we’re flat broke and barely able to make ends meet?
So, we’re going to have to wing it.
And that’s the most unsettling part. How do we put him on a diet that’s “mostly” fasting, while still making sure he gets enough protein and nutrition to manage his blood glucose at healthy levels? Especially without a roadmap to follow?
Well, not much of one, anyway.
The rules we have are:
No carbs, no sweets, no salt, no seasoning. Many more portions of vegetables, some protein. Mostly water and tea. Which pretty much translates to: No fun, no taste, no joy; not much to eat, a comfortable relationship with hunger, and probably plenty of headaches.
Minion has been the member of our household who does most of the cooking, because that’s the way he likes it. But I don’t want my husband cooking separate meals for the baby, for me, and for himself. That’s way too much work! The baby needs foods he can eat that don’t negatively impact his development, that we can’t change. But I can certainly lessen the workload so it’s not an extra step for me. What the hell — I could sure stand to take some pounds off. And I’ve never even officially been on any diet.
So, we’re in this together.
Right now, my job for the next week is to eat all the remaining leftovers that were cooked with “old rules” that he can’t have any more, so we don’t waste what we already have. Then I will join him in this misery for the next three months. (Holidays are going to be a blast this year! *sob*)
Boring, bland menu? No sweat. Solidarity is a strong ally, and my husband is worth the sacrifice.
Losing weight? I can do this. Because it’s not impossible.
Losing my husband — that’s unthinkable.
We are resilient. We will get through this. We have what it takes. We will survive.
Because it’s not impossible.
Keeping the house “guest worthy clean” with 200# of dog and a 2½-year-old baby?
Now that’s impossible!
LJ Idol | Season 11 • Week 4 - Topic: IMPOSSIBLE
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