The Happy Surprises

I woke up this morning, surprised that I had a good sleep last night. Insomnia gone, headache nonexistent. Sometimes happiness descends from nowhere. I almost felt that I don’t deserve it.

Have you ever experienced the moment when your friend did or said something that happily surprised you? I have this friend who’s so gentle and polite, a model of serenity, completely opposite to my own nervous existence and awkward impertinence. Her view is often common sense applied in an appropriate moment in an appropriate amount. I know I have her sympathy even if she doesn’t agree with me. For years I think I know her. She is just her well mannered self, no more and no less. Then suddenly one day she said something so insightful and penetrating that she startled me–about men, family, love, relationship. At that moment I felt like reading Margaret Atwood’s book–after enduring her endless train of thoughts seemingly going nowhere, you are hit with something sharp to make you feel disoriented. And my friend here is an embodiment of such sensations. Years of being an immigrant, a wife, a worker, a cook, even the gentlest among us can bite.

Have you ever realized that your dysfunctional family is your source of inspiration? For years, I complained about my parents who never listened to me and never paid any attention to me. They want me to do well like all parents do, but they don’t have the interest in me or my process. I remember once in primary school I participated in a school dance program and one thing I couldn’t do is moving my head left and right without moving my neck, a common thing in Indian and Middle Eastern dances. I came back home and complained about it. My mother instantly showed her moves, and my father did that too. They both knew how to do it and they said they both danced when they were young, which was something they had never told me. I immediately begged them to teach me, but they both excused themselves. Whenever I brought this up again later, they just changed the topic. I wouldn’t say they were unqualified parents. They were providers and they wouldn’t abandon me and they were consistent. Unfortunately they were also consistent in their not-interest-in-you attitude. After complaining about them for years, one day it suddenly occurred to me that my desire to communicate and my interest in writing actually comes from my physically present but mentally absent parents. If they had been wonderfully communicative, I probably would never have poured my thoughts into words and watch them populating a page; I probably would never have felt so strongly about the sharp double edges of tradition and custom, which is a beautiful thing to have, but which can also bite you if you sacrifice yourself too much for it.

Have you ever encountered a situation, for which you thought hopeless at the time by all considerations, that eventually turned out to be OK or even much better than OK. This is true for many of the life obstacles we have faced, especially for a pessimist. This is especially true for your friend’s marriage. S is one of us and H was the guy we often talked about. We also laughed at his certain expressions and movements. We particularly laughed at his accent when he spoke English. We all learned English as our second language and we all have accent. However his accent just sounded too accented–even accents have a hierarchy, which often makes me wonder whether human being naturally prefers equality or hierarchy. Then one day it became known to everybody that they were dating. Worse, they had been dating for six months in secrecy. We were all surprised. How could this be? She disliked him and he showed no sign of liking her. It is impossible. Love is incomprehensible in that sometimes two people can get together completely incompatible with each other and things turn out to be OK; on the other hand, sometimes two people can be completely suitable for each other, but they just can’t…

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