The Gift of Being Alive
Why being alive is a gift — and how it is a gift that keeps giving.
[Day 18 of #30dayschallenge]
Last night after work, I was helping out a friend test out an idea/prototype.
It involved me donating some time and having a conversation on the phone with a stranger by answering a number of pre-set questions.
One of the questions that we were asked to discuss was to describe a gift we’ve been given, either physical or emotional.
As I reflect on that question, I keep coming back to how life itself is a gift.
Being alive seems to be the pre-condition to everything else that follows.
It seems obvious isn’t it?
So obvious that many of us miss that fact.
I almost didn’t make it
As a child, one of the stories that I heard was how my mother contracted Rubella (German measles).
The doctor said there’s a high risk that the baby (i.e. me) will have severe birth defects and be intellectually impaired — and she should consider terminating the pregnancy.
(Note: I’ve used nicer words here — I think she’s told that I’ll be deaf, dumb and an idiot).
I’d forgotten totally about it. Until last night.
As I relayed the story, I could now relate to my mother in a way that I couldn’t have when I was little.
My mum was only 21 years old when she had me. She’s moved from her home country (Singapore) to Indonesia when she married my dad.
Foreign country; newly married; first pregnancy.
I imagined that in those days the information to make an informed decision would have been less easily available (i.e. there’s no internet).
I imagined that when doctors tell you something, you take it at face value.
I imagined that it must have been very scary decision to make.
Luckily, she kept me.
Or I wouldn’t get to experience the story of me.
I should have been a boy
As the oldest grandchild of my generation, I didn’t have many cousins to play with when I was little. Instead, I hung around the adults and listened to their conversations.
Another story that I heard was how my dad wanted to have a boy.
And because I didn’t inherit my mum’s good looks, I really should have been the boy. My younger brother, who got the pretty genes, should have been the girl.
I was also terrified as a child about the idea of having to get married and be totally reliant on another person — aka a husband — to provide for me.
In our culture, women have no inherent value and become the “property” of their husband after marriage. A woman’s value is a derivative of how successful their husband and children are.
Even though many of the adult women around me lived comfortably, I also heard conversations about how some had to put up with their husbands’ indiscretions.
These women seemed stuck in gilded prisons — held captive in a marriage that they were unhappy in, but unable to leave because they had no other means of survival.
If that’s the set-up, then I’m royally stuffed — because even if I want a husband (which I don’t), how am I ever going to find a “good catch” with my ugly looks.
Fear drove me to self-determination
For the early half of my life, I would say that I was driven by fear, even terror.
I did’t want to be imprisoned.
The one thing that I had going for me — I was really good at studying.
Even that was fortuitous, because my grandmother didn’t get to go to school (because she was a girl). At least I had that option.
So I took my only ticket out that prison — which was to educate myself.
And I never stopped.
The gift that keeps giving
The older I get, the more things I’ve found to be grateful for.
I’m grateful for all the experiences that I’ve had, which shaped me into the person that I am today.
I’m grateful that I met my husband when I was 17, and we’re still together.
I’m grateful for my two children, and the adventures we’ve had together.
I’m grateful for my childhood and other experiences, which shaped how I parent my own children.
I’m grateful that my active parenting stage is now over, and I’ll get to watch my children find their paths.
I’m grateful that life is always in the process of becoming.
And it’s never-ending.
I’m grateful that I’m alive to experience it all.
Dark Talk Time connects pairs of strangers for hosted phone conversations. Interested people book in for a call time, where they are connected with another random participant.
They are asked to turn off their lights, creating an intimate setting for the conversations. The artists act as hosts, introducing the experience and providing question prompts to help move the conversation past awkwardness and small talk. Each conversation typically lasts for 60–90 minutes. The premiere season is running for a limited time only.
Read more about it on here.
And find out more at darktalktime.com