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I Am Amazed

As I look back over my life and times, I am amazed at the journey. I’m not a well-traveled person, nor one with much higher education. Yet I believe I am highly educated on life and all of its lessons. Not bad for a first-grade dropout. That was a stutter stop in the world of learning. Though in my defense, that hill was high to climb to get to the one-room schoolhouse, winter weather in Wyoming is treacherous and my brother tired of carrying me when I’d sit down and refuse to take one more step. Not to mention I may have gotten sick once too often and after all, I was barely six when I started for the first time. Yet I can’t remember a time when I didn’t like to learn new things. Maybe just not in classrooms.

As a little girl growing up in Wyoming, I believed I’d marry a rancher or ranch hand, live in the country, and raise my children where my job would be a wife and a mother. That is what I believed my parents had groomed me to be. I had no desire to go on to college. I only wanted to complete high school and settle down with a loving spouse. Yet life had other ideas. A series of circumstances made school attendance impossible much of the time. So, this awkward feeling young lady felt even more outside the candy store looking in, as I watched my friends and classmates enjoying/hating all that goes with being an active teenager in high school. Often, I soothed my frustration by telling myself it was all silly stuff, anyway. And as I was looking for a place to fit in, I accepted the first offer of marriage and planned to finish my high school by correspondence course. Did I marry a ranch hand, staying close to home? Of course not. I married a Seismograph crew worker who moved with his company every few months. This naïve young 17-year-old began her life of ‘let’s pretend’ as I faked my way into wifehood and adulthood. Looking back, I feel bad for my first husband and his childbride. Back then, it didn’t seem all that unusual. In today’s world, there would be much talk about a 28-year-old man marrying a 17-year-old girl. But in our defense, I believe we were more mature back then as we, anyway I, grew up thinking, and doing. Playing with others was much more difficult for me as I perceived myself as too mature for that. Of course, this marriage was doomed from the beginning. Books were my salvation and my sanity. I was ill-prepared to fill my days without friends my age, hesitant to step out of my comfort zone, so, since I wasn’t happy to be the wife, I knew what I must do. Have a baby.

There we have it folks, the beginning of my search, to find the thing, the person, the this or that that would make me feel inside like everyone else looked on the outside. On this, I was a slow learner. It took another failed marriage, four more children, and a swan dive into addiction for me to realize that there wasn’t anything out there that could do it for me. Many times, over the years I would begin to write, to explore my feelings or build other worlds, only to tear it all up for fear someone would see it and make fun of me for even trying. Ironically it was giving birth to a child with serious birth defects and my use of alcohol that led me to find my voice, to speak up, for my child, and speak out so as not to return to the doormat station in life.

Recovery helped me learn to balance without losing my voice, to honor that frightened girl who grabbed at the first things that came close, like a drowning person trying to keep her head above water. And that is all a part of education. Every choice we make over the years is an opportunity to learn. It’s our job to learn and if we don’t, we’ll continue the downward spiral only getting worse and more lost.  Once I found some footing in the middle of the quicksand of life, instead of recriminations I found hope, I began to take risks to grow that little flame that had begun to flicker in me, to lose my fear of exposure, that I’d be found a fake and a fraud, hiding behind a mask that hid my true self and worth. I didn’t have to fear that when I was no longer wearing the mask. Life is not a masquerade ball, yet many of us live it that way. Afraid if you got to really know me, you wouldn’t like me.

Ironically in my version of my life I’ve been the outsider, living on the fringe, someone no one noticed, quiet and unobtrusive, yet I find people do remember me, not just short term but over the long haul, see what I cheated myself out of? Thank God those days are long gone. I remember a workshop I attended with educators. For anyone who’d ever attended them you know, we’re assigned tasks, broken into groups and assignments. I was at a table of school Principles, as well as teachers. I don’t remember what the task was, but I shared with them that at times I felt like a phony and would wonder what they would say if they knew I was a high school dropout, who didn’t complete her GED until her late 20s, as a single mom of five children. They sat in silence for what seemed like forever but were seconds when one of the principals spoke up. “I find it interesting that you are afraid we would think any less of you after you are the one, we’ve turned to all throughout this exercise. It doesn’t matter how you are educated it’s your knowledge that has impressed us.”

I once read that life is like a tapestry, we’re underneath with all the knots, but God is looking down at the whole picture. As I look back over my life, I can now see something besides the knots, I look back and see the beauty the picture of my life has painted, all the shades and nuances that go into a long life well-lived. I’m happy to see there are more bright colors than dark ones. It is a tapestry that is yet to be finished and I hope to bring it to an end with the most bright and beautiful colors ever. I look back at all that’s unfolded and the one constant throughout the years is my love of books and the written word. How when they are strung together in certain ways, they can bring us to tears, laughter, take our breath away, and soothe our souls. Until the day I die, I pray that my love affair with words will never waver, whether they are ones living in me waiting to be poured out or ones that I inhale written by others. When I look back at the story of my l life, I am amazed at the meandering road I’ve been on to bring me to this point and the richness of it. I wonder, which path shall I choose next?

Author: Gayle Parish

As far back as I can remember I've always loved books. I love the feel, the smell, and the way words are put together to pull me into a story. I've dreamed for years of writing a story of my own, and here at last I've done it. I hope you'll join me as I share with you some memories, hopes, dreams, exploration of a life well-lived.

11 thoughts on “I Am Amazed”

  1. Your life has blessed the lives of so many others. It may have been challenging, but it made you the person that you are today. The person who can help so many others. Keep up the great work, Gayle. I am glad to be able to call you a friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Gayle, I pray my response posted. As I was putting in my website it suddenly asked for my password. I sure don’t remember if🤪 If there’s no comment from me let me know and I’ll try to recreate it tomorrow!!

    Bless you! Jo

    Sent from my iPhone


    Liked by 1 person

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