formerly Diane's Addled Ramblings... the ramblings are still addled, just like before, and the URL is still the same...
it's just the title at the top of the page that's new

Monday, January 12, 2009

Defining Moments

Defining moments… those unexpected moments that come from nowhere and hit you like a brick; that alter your life or your perspective and change your course – or steady it; the ones you can pass right through without realizing their significance until much later; the moments that give you parts of yourself and show you who you are and what you’re made of.

Though I’ve certainly experienced many life-changing events and made many life-altering decisions, I’ve only had a few defining moments. Each lasted mere seconds… and each changed me profoundly.

I wrote about the first one the other day (you can read about it here). Though I can look back on it and laugh, I wasn’t laughing then. My 7-year-old self was terrified. But the moment I looked the bully in the eye and told him I was willing to take whatever he had to dish out, I realized I was braver than I’d ever believed. That moment gave me power.

The second happened when I was 15. I’d fallen head over heels for the most wonderful boy... a boy who made me feel special and beautiful (things in short supply for a gawky teenager). He was funny and smart and utterly charming… he was also black. And my parents – my ultra-conservative parents – would not have approved of me dating anyone who was not white. Certain the repercussions would be severe, I was afraid to disobey them, and though I could have lied to him (and I debated doing so), I decided I owed this beautiful boy the truth. So on a hot summer day, sitting in the shade of a massive oak, I looked into his eyes and explained that although I cared for him deeply, I couldn’t see him because my parents wouldn’t allow it. I was afraid he would be furious. Instead, he took my hands in his, smiled at me, and said he understood. Instead of anger, I saw pain and sadness in his face. My heart ached because I knew I was hurting a wonderful, kind, loving person and because, in that moment, I knew beyond all doubt that my parents were wrong. That moment changed the course of my life forever. It changed the way I would see the world and the people who would cross my path. In it, I gave myself permission to dissent; to open myself up to people and experiences I’d never encounter in the small world in which I’d grown up. That moment gave me freedom.

The third occurred the day I found out I was pregnant. Learning I was to be a mother, however, wasn’t the defining moment (although it certainly did change the course of my life!). I called to tell my parents, hoping such good news would make my dad, who was very ill, feel just a little better. After I told him, I asked lightheartedly, “So, you think you can hang on ‘til your grandchild gets here?” He answered, “I’ll try.” I’ll try. My dad was an “I’ll do” sort of person, not an "I'll try". It was in that moment I knew I was going to lose him… that he was really dying. I hadn’t been able to face that possibility – that reality. Hearing those words forced me to look at death – and life – in a way I’d never seen it. That moment gave me profound and lasting sorrow.

The fourth happened just over three weeks later – the day of my dad’s funeral. I was supposed to deliver the eulogy but I really didn’t think I’d be able to do it, as I was a complete mess. But as I stood by myself in a small room off the chapel, I felt a strong sense of peace settle in and around me. I felt my dad. Never a religious person, I’d struggled to find some sort of faith my whole life. I’d bounced from atheism to agnosticism and back and back again. But in that moment, for the first time ever, I believed with all my heart that there is something beyond this life; that our spirits don’t just die. And finally, I needed nothing more – I was satisfied. That moment gave me peace.

The last moment happened shortly after my marriage ended. Ryan had just started kindergarten and she was struggling with an intense new schedule and more structure than she’d ever been used to, so, not wanting to disrupt her life any more that was necessary, my ex and I decided not to tell her we were splitting up right away. He was working away from home during the week, so it was relatively easy and when he came home on the weekends, he didn’t sleep with me ‘because he snored’, an excuse Ryan accepted readily. The weekends were incredibly difficult for me, though. Trying to provide some semblance of normalcy for my little girl was eating me alive. Luckily I’d just gotten Sundance and, to avoid being in the same house with my ex, I’d take him out for hours. During one of our long walks, I noticed a little girl, about 7 or 8-years-old, standing in her driveway with her mother, a small suitcase at her feet. They were obviously waiting for someone and when I saw a man pull up, I assumed it was her father. The little girl got into the car but her mother never went near it. She just waved at her daughter from the driveway as they pulled away. No greetings, no forced pleasantries, no acknowledgments of any sort were exchanged between the adults. In that moment, my heart broke for a little girl I didn’t even know – and for my own little girl as well. The two people she loved most in the world couldn’t be civil enough to one another to say ‘good morning.’ All I could think about was how devastating it must be to feel pulled apart, divided, by the two people who are supposed to make you feel whole. I walked back to my house and told my ex that I didn’t care what we had to do, we would make sure Ryan would never feel the way that little girl must have felt. I had no idea just how hard keeping that commitment would be, but I’ve never regretted it. That moment gave me strength.

Those are my defining moments to date. I figure I'm probably due for another, so I'm hoping my next defining moment will give me thinner thighs… or money to pay all my bills… or a date I want to go out with more than once... or a housekeeper… or…

36 comments:

San Diego Momma said...

That was really really beautiful. It's made me think of my own defining moments -- something I've wanted to write a post on for awhile now.

What a great topic and you wrote it so well.

I loved reading it, and can't wait to hear what your future defining moments turn out to be.

Michelle said...

Hi Diane,

I really truly love this post!!

And i love you!!

Thank you very much for sharing!!!

Amy McMean a.k.a McSunshine said...

I don't feel like I've had a defining moment yet. If i'ld had one i would know right?

I hope you get thinner thighs, money, and a date all in one. Now there would be a great moment. :)

Amy McMean a.k.a McSunshine said...

Oh as for Barney. I completely agree. Toby's (the dog) stuffed barney toy talks, which is really creepy. He usually grabs it around the neck and swings it around the room when it talks. Last night Barney was saying "I love you" as his body was being slammed on the floor.

Shanna said...

So well written - no surprise coming from you :)
I was surprised that you didn't mention the day Ryan was born. I liked that you chose, instead, the day you found out you were pregnant ;)

Jeez, now you have me thinking...hmmm...

Braja said...

Oh, thinner thighs as a defining moment is SO in...

creative kerfuffle said...

i know i haven't been reading long and don't know you well enough yet, but if i could fawn all over someone for a post it would be this one because it is so well written and so poignant. wow. it's incredibly deep and thoughtful and beautiful.

Petra a.k.a The Wise (*Young*) Mommy said...

what a gorgeous post Diane. So poignant, honest and real. And WELL WRITTEN.

Just beautiful...like you

blognut said...

Your words here are beautiful - you know that, right? I admire your bravery in sharing them out loud with the rest of us. I can't do that yet... someday...

Jenners said...

Very beautiful and thought-provoking. Makes me wonder what my defining moments were. I'm going to have to ponder on that. Thanks for sharing.

hebba said...

What a beautiful post! I've never really thought about about defining moments of my life. And now I'm thinking... Thank you so much for sharing.

Mel said...

What you wrote was beautiful. And, you forgot the moments that gave you beauty and laughter, the moment...*wiping away a tear*...the moment you met me.

Heather said...

Wow. Profound, Diane. I don't know that I could make a list of anything at all that would be nearly as beautiful. It makes me stop and wonder, though. What moments have had the greatest influence on my life, so far?
It's something to consider.
Wonderful post, as always. :)

Summer said...

This was amazing! Thanks so much or sharing!

Terri said...

Wow, that is beautifully written Diane. Some very powerful moments there and a wise woman to notice them and grow and/or change behavior.

Now as for the thighs and money and dates... would you settle for well defined thighs?

Live More Now (LMN) said...

Wow, Diane. I can truly relate to your post ... actually everything except for having a child. Loss, sorrow, joy, separation, divorce, commitment, strength, weakness, all of it. It looks like in yours you mostly show strength. Keep up being the beacon that you are. I love your writing.

gwenlyn said...

What grace; knowing your defining moments! I'm tellin you; you've got to read Anne Lamont!

Protege said...

I think many can identify with this eloquent and incredibly beautiful post.
The way you have with words is a rare talent.

I think that life consist of a series of "defining moments" and they are, as you point out, sometimes only seconds long. Yet, they can change the direction of our life forever.

Loved this post my friend, as I understand it with my heart and soul.

Lee said...

Beautiful writing, from the heart, very moving. Thank you for sharing these moments and I truly hope the next moment is an exceptionally good one.

HLiza said...

You really are a great writer, Diane. You made me cry reading all those moments. I'm touched.

Ladybird World Mother said...

I am so with you on this one... those defining moments are just so quick, but they change us for good. Yours made me have a little cry. You write so well, and you have such wisdom.
Also loved previous post!! Another defining moment in a way... when we connect with someone over laughter. Brilliant.
Must go now and read more of your posts.

A Woman Of No Importance said...

Diane, that was a stunningly beautiful and profound piece of writing. I do feel both of my parents who have passed occasionally, very occasionally; and it is enough, is it not. You are very brave to write so selflessly, thank you!

Julie said...

Dammit, you just ruined a perfectly good mascara day for me. :)

Beautiful post.

The Odd Duck said...

Is this payback for the times my posts have made you cry? Here I am sitting in the student union with my hood up so that no one walking by notices how watery my eyes are.

Prodigious post ma'am, why I may do sometime in the near future.

Sometimes Sophia said...

This was a very brave post and beautifully written. Your willingness to connect with your readers in such a personal way really sets your blog apart. Very thought-provoking. I'm going to mull this post over for a while...
Thanks for your generosity.

Anonymous said...

A beautiful post. I too, had witnessed bitterness in divorced parents and was determined that my child would not be put through that.

Heather's M

Jane! said...

Beautiful post!
As usual.
Put me down for the thinner thighs moment, too.

jill said...

i call him "hubby1" in blogworld because i call the kids "boy1, girl1, and boy2." he wanted a nickname too. =D

Stu Pidasso said...

FLOORED.

As much as you found my post about my daughter reading my blog alarming when applied to your life, this hit home hard in my perception of my life with my kids. For eight years I have had nothing nice to say to the woman who took my children and left. That may need to change.

But through all of your defining moments, I saw much bravery there. I couldn't speak at my own father's funeral, and I still can't seem to get past the race relations mess (not that I have a problem or any hatred just awkwardness).

You have truly got your stuff together as a pretty good example to your daughter and your readers.

Miss Caught Up said...

Very good topic! I'm awestruck by your defining moments... :)

Ronda's Rants said...

Beautiful and so wonderful that you were present enough to "get" those moments...many people aren't as they are too busy feeling sorry for themselves or just filled with anger! I don't judge them because I have been them! Good for you Diane!

Emma said...

Thanks for sharing, that was lovely,

Emma

Heinous said...

Fantastic stuff, once again. I'm rooting for your next defining moment to be a wonderful one.

Pauline said...

All your defining moments have added up to the you you are now - amazing, strong, empathetic, loving, and brave (and i don't even know you personally!). You set a good example!

sherri said...

Inspirational! To say the least.

namaste said...

Thank you. I couldn't sleep tonight, and I was sitting here just thinking. Suddenly I remembered that I had wanted to read your post about your Dad (after we discussed my post regarding my Dad in law and his passing). I had been waiting, I don't know why. Now I do. It was the perfect time. What amazing defining moments. You've opened your heart and allowed yourself to be vulnerable and I truly appreciate that. There is sooo much too say but for now, I'll just say Thank YOU. All of those moments have made you quite the wonderful human being.