After months of having a hard time reading the chalkboard at school, signs which we passed by on the highway, and getting headaches from squinting, I got glasses when I was in 8th grade. What a world of difference it makes to be able to see the world clearly, especially for the first time in a long time. I had to wear glasses for an entire year before the eye doctor would let me even try contacts. If you’ve ever worn glasses, you know how cumbersome they can be at times. So, a year later when I was able to get contacts, I welcomed the change!
The goal of every refraction is to get you to see 20/20. When your eye sight is as near-sighted as mine, without contacts or glasses, everything is incredibly blurry. Dark rooms are even harder to see what or whom is in the room. I’ve mistaken people as objects or for someone else completely. Glasses and contacts help me to see the world as it really is.
A truth I have learned, and even more so as I get older, is perception is reality. Our perceptions, whether they are accurate or not, become the reality in which we base our judgments. For instance, on the playground at school, if you were to be punched by the class bully and you retaliated and punched back and were the one caught, you were the one that got in the most trouble. Why? Because they teachers perceived reality is that you are starting a fight. Everything you say after your actions becomes a “he said, he said” debate, especially if the bully denies his actions. For the principal, whatever the teacher perceived to be the truth is all they can draw on to render their verdict.
As a Jr. High and High schooler of the 90’s, it seemed that everyone’s family structure was incredibly sound. I only knew one person whose parents divorced, but by the time I met Brandon, his parents were remarried and it all seemed to be going really well. But, in our worst moments we don’t see the dysfunction in others lives, because we can’t see past our own. The water is murky, especially when it is crashing against you like a tsunami tidal wave.
When my parents’ divorced, I didn’t want anyone to know. I was incredibly ashamed. I no longer invited friends to my house, because I was completely embarrassed. And on top of the embarrassment of divorce, the reason for the divorce, my dad going to jail and the grotesque reason for going to jail, further propelled me into embarrassment and shame. I didn’t let people in to see the mess that was my family. My perception was that my family is more dysfunctional than any other and no one would want to be around me if they truly knew what was going on at home.
I constantly steered conversations away from me. Through my teenage years, it was easy for me to help people through their struggles, because I knew if we were talking about their lives, they wouldn’t ask me about my own. They wouldn’t know about the deep, dark secret in my family life.
I did everything I could to cover up what my dad did and to just blot it out from my family life. I was so embarrassed and ashamed that I wanted nothing to do with the parts of me that were like my father.
A year or so after dad went to prison, I was about 13, and an aunt of mine, nonchalantly made a comment comparing my personality to my dad’s and said, “You are going to be just like your daddy.” By that comment, I thought I was doomed to make the same mistakes and life choices in which my father made. That comment sent me on a trajectory to rid myself of anything that resembled my father. I didn’t want to have anything to do with being “like my daddy.” I was embarrassed. I couldn’t handle it. My perception of what she meant set me on a life-path as far away from reflecting my father as possible.
Today, I know she meant nothing by the comment and didn’t even remember saying the statement. She meant that we had similar personalities and that we were both a joy to be around, but in the throws of the embarrassment of my father going to jail and my family being the only people I knew of having to deal with this situation, it wrecked me.
We have to be careful in the assumptions we make and in our perceptions. We have to make sure we fully understand the situation and get all the facts. In this instance, not getting clarity, was my fault and that is an assumption and hurt that I lived with for over 20 years. Not until last year, was I willing to look past my perception to find out the truth. Our perception is our reality, but it may not be the truth. Seek truth over feelings.