I was talking to a new friend of mine. And he shared with me how his parents denied him after they found out he was gay.
His family was very religious, and they didn’t understand his coming out. They didn’t understand what he was trying to explain to them.
At 17, he made the brave decision to come clean and tell his family that he was never going to get married in a church, that he would never have children, and that he can never live up to their expectations.
At 17, they denied him. On the surface, he attended every family function. But his parents never stopped badgering him to go for counselling, to go for confirmation classes and they never stopped hoping he would “change his wretched ways”.
He’s 32 now. He’s getting married in Germany soon, and they’re planning to have a baby through surrogacy. His family is still in touch with him, but he no longer feels that they’re his family. By denying him, they have chosen to put a distance between them and him.
Who’s wrong, and who’s right?
I recall another memory of my childhood friend, whose father had 2 families. His first wife knew about the mistress, but accepted it as a matter-of-fact. She even once bought him a shiny red car, so that he would stay. Barely a few years later, he met yet another woman, married her and had a baby – 23 years younger than his second daughter.
Two daughters took their family fate very differently. The eldest one was always closer to her father, and she supported him by attending her step-sister’s birthdays and school events. She got married very early on, moved out and left her younger sister with their mother.
After being abandoned a second time, their mother fell heavily into depression, and never was the same again. She just couldn’t find joy in life anymore.
My own grandmother, was sold as a baby – for $12 Singaporean dollars. Her adopted parents were lovely people, and also adopted another two children. At 19 however, her father suddenly died of a heart attack, leaving behind his wife, my grandma, and her two step siblings.
A week after her father’s passing, her mother died of an aneurysm, after having cried for 7 days in a row. Her heartbreak killed her.
At 19, my grandmother became a mother, father, and an elder sister. She no longer could think about herself. She had to learn how to survive and thrive as a young female in 1930s-40s of Singapore.
Very quickly, she learnt different trades, and converted each skill into a business. She rented a shophouse in tiong bahru, teaching people how to sew on the 2nd floor, and teaching people how to do floristry on the ground floor. She also learnt that investing in a payphone would be good in the long run, and collected a good side income from that.
My grandma survived and thrived, raising 2 step children, and later on 4 children, mostly all on her own.
But her insecurities never went away. She ended up marrying a man who was not worthy of her.
Till now, even after 60 years, she still suffers verbal abuse from him every day, and she’s still living with her decision of marrying a man who behaves like a child.
I share these stories, so we can learn from them
Everyone has suffered through something in their lives before. What we cannot control, is what others do to us, and how tribulations surprise us from time to time. No one can cheat death, heartache, or grief.
But what we can do, is control how we respond to life. We can decide if we want to let them cage us in an unhappy cycle of hurt and hate. Or – we can decide to transform all of that pain and rage into beauty. Beauty in the form of extending compassion to others. In the form of apologizing when we’ve done wrong.
We can choose to become better human beings, by righting our wrongs, and deciding that from this day forward, we set intentions to be better. To listen better, to empathize more, and to put down our egos and place ourselves in the other person’s position more.
We forgive those who deserve forgiving. And we work on loving people around us more.
As much pain as we hold, it gets better when we share it around, and when we know we’re not alone.