Behind Closed Doors

Picture by MSN Clipart Provider

I recently read an Internet article on the Power of Perspective which stirred my thinking from perspective to perception. Perspective (outlook), perception (interpretation) and judgment (response) are all similar in meaning with different results.

I thought of my life and how can I best tell a story through my own writings … but wondered how it would be perceived.  I can only relay what I’ve learned and hope it makes a connection with you.

I believe one of the most important things in life is compassion.  I learned what you see is not always a picture of the truth.  What we see can be rain-colored through our conditioned beliefs and undeveloped mind and senses and we immediately make judgments.  Sometimes, it’s necessary to do so but too many times the conditioning takes over and clouds the perception.  Let me give you more of my history that has brought me to this understanding.

My parents, God bless them, raised my sister and I with their own beliefs and conditioning – they did the best with what they knew and I loved them very much.  My mother was a beautiful, intelligent woman with an LPN and my father handsome and strong, a World War II Veteran.

They were also a little eccentric you could say.  But as a child living in the same household I gained a different perspective and first-hand knowledge of the struggles going on around me.  It’s was a part of my life.  It was like day before WWII when my sister was born and night after WWII when I was born. From what I hear they were so much in love and then something happened, I never knew what.

We lived in a normal suburban neighborhood but apparently not so normal was my family.  My father struggled to make a living and my mother fought her demons of jealousy making the struggles mostly between them with my sister and me almost invisible.  The challenges they created for themselves made them distrustful of the world and everyone around them.

As a result of their struggles, many times we were without food and heat with my father having a hard time holding down a job.  Let me be clear – there was no alcohol, drugs or physical abuse – just the pull and tug between them.  There was no convincing my mother that my father was not cheating on her and over time it became an obsession.

To be fair, I don’t know whether he cheated or not but he’d have to be a miracle worker with her demands – no pocket-money, allotted so much time to get home from work, no phone and she was with him everywhere when he wasn’t working – to name a few.  I had come to the conclusion later that my mother may have possibly had a chemical imbalance or was manic-depressive which was never diagnosed but may have explained some things.

Family life presented some problems for my sister and me as we grew in trying to fit in with the outside world with neighborhood kids and school.  We saw and felt the judgments on what we wore, how our clothes smelled from a portable kerosene heater and how we appeared different.

As years went by my parents aged living in their own isolated world continuing their battles with each other.  We grew up, got married and established normal homes (I’m surprised) though not without our own challenges.  Things got worse for my parents in poverty having not provided properly for themselves in their ‘golden years’.

My sister took on the responsibility of helping them as much as possible with me half-way across the country but they were proud and stayed in their home even if it was severely run down.  It was their home.  My mother passed away in her late 60’s and my dad lived another 15 years coming out of his shell and trying to recover without her. It’s another story, another time in how I found closure on the loss of my mother through a vivid dream.

Having lived behind the same doors with the struggles of my parents I learned compassion for them through the good times and not so good.  I felt their tenderness for each other, my sister and I, heard their political and religious views, made my reconciliation pitches and wept with them when they faced some of their biggest fears.

Later in my dad’s life is when I observed my full awareness of my reaction to a neighbor’s perception who lived across the street from my dad.  Through some bad choices my father had befriended and trusted a neighbor and ended up losing everything he had to the final loss of selling his house for a minimal amount while in the hospital with heart surgery.

I went with him to meet this neighbor out of curiosity to understand his trust in her and was met with another forceful, opinionated neighbor she had asked to join us. He proceeded to ream me up one end and down the other about the kind of daughter I was allowing my father to live in those poverty conditions.  He only had the physical perception of the conditions of the house and what life appeared to be from the outside.

As I watched this neighbor rant and rave, I noticed my father as his head hung down realizing the bad choices he had made and could only love him more.  He finally understood what my sister and I had lived trying to fit in this world of perception and nothing more had to be said.  My only rebuttal to the disgruntled neighbor was, “The only way you would understand is if you had lived behind those closed doors.”

I think so many times of the people you hear stories about on the news and the misfortunes that have fallen on them.  I wonder what life was like behind their closed doors, the pain and their reactions to it that brought them to the life they now live.  I hope they can make some sense of it, find understanding and compassion along the way and pass it along.

We all have our stories, perspectives and perceptions – may we all take more time before we make our judgments.  I hope you will share some of your stories.