I was 17 the year my parents separated. My mother moved to the yard. She wore a sign that said, “Does Not Take Direction Well”. I would watch her from my bedroom window, washing her clothes on a rock, while my father paced inside. I stopped asking question when, in response, my mother stuck a post it note on my forehead with a picture of a ship on it.
Our brother had adopted a new family from among the neighbors, and moved out the week before the fight that prompted our parents strange separation. My sister and I wondered briefly if he had perhaps sensed something brewing in the air, but we were fairly certain this was just his way of distracting himself to avoid dealing with his own issues.
We had run into him recently at a ballet recital for his new 12 year old sister. “Why did Mom give me this?” He asked us as he handed us a familiar looking post it note complete with its simply drawn ship. “I’ve stopped asking.”, was the only answer I could give him then.
I used to think this was a really bizarre situation, but then I realized one day that it really is true… Life is just stranger than fiction, and if you listen closely… cup your life to your ear like an exotic shell… you can hear the Universe laughing at our absurd little dramas.
Around this time, my Mexican boyfriend had lost his apartment. So he moved in temporarily with our lesbian friends, their three dogs, three cats, two parrots and tankful of fish… as well as my brother’s former girlfriend who was pushed into their lifeboat just before this storm. She still has the post it note my mother gave her, with its little ship. She keeps it on the fridge.
A crazy man stopped by our house to visit one day, looking for our brother, and as my sister argued with him at the door… Mom came out of her tent in the yard, stuck a ship on his shirt, and sent him on his way.
“Do you see them yet?” She asked quietly.
“Who?!” I wondered.
At his wits end, my father took his collection of post its with their combined fleet of ships to a Doctor. Doctor LaughingHorse took one look and said, “Ahhh! I see! Did you know that the ancient Mayans had never seen a ship before the Spanish arrived? When the Conquistadors came sailing over the horizon, the people simply couldn’t see the ships because they had no frame of reference. All except, as the story goes, one wise shaman who stayed on shore long after the others, watching these strange shapes upon the waters, eyes and mind puzzling at what he was witnessing.”
“What do the Mayans have to do with my wife, Doctor? I don’t understand what all of this means! ”
Father asked, still lost in his personal sea.
“It’s very simple, sir… You just need to see the boats before it’s too late.” was the Doctor’s advice.
In that instant it all became clear… a picture from my mother really is worth a thousand words.
Jointly written by: Kate Katruska, Christine Stasik, Lynna Massamini, and myself… with much laughter along the way…
One of my daughters, two of our good family friends and I were sitting around the kitchen table discussing how two reasonably sane and perceptive people can look at the same situation and see two entirely different scenarios; utterly blind to what is seen by the other. One friend shared the Mayan tale she had heard recently, and said, “Now, when I don’t understand something I just say… I don’t see the ships.” And the tale grew from there.
Do you ever feel like you can’t see the forest for the trees? Do you have days where you are convinced that you must be speaking a foreign language because no one seems to understand you? Do you get frustrated because it feels like you are the only one who sees the ships and those around you don’t heed your warnings? Or do you feel like you are the only one who can’t see the sailboat? Yeah… I think we all have moments like those. Perception is a tricksy thing!
:o) wishing you laughter