YOU PLAY THE HAND YOU'RE DEALT
You play the hand you’re dealt.
Maybe you were born into a life of ease; loving family, plenty of money, opportunities galore, no catastrophes to speak of. Maybe you were born into a life of strife; fucked up family, no money, no opportunities, and a string of catastrophes. Maybe you were born somewhere in between. The point is, you work with what you’ve got.
Me? I was born into a loving family; not as much money as we would have liked, but my parents made sure we never felt how bad it really was. Sure, I remember being without electricity at times. I remember being without heat (and you can forget A/C), all 5 of us huddled around the kerosene heater to stay warm, and I’ll never forget the scent of the orange peels my mom would lay on top to mask the smell of gaseous fumes it emitted. It sounds bad but it’s sort of a fond memory for me. I also remember having Christmas’s that most kids could only dream of, family football games in the park on Thanksgiving, and the best homemade Halloween costumes you could ever want. I remember making home movies of us lip synching; with my brother dressed as Alice Cooper, my dad in a long black wig as his back up, and me trying to channel my inner Whitney Houston or Madonna. They gave us a good life. No matter how much they struggled, they made sure we never felt it. We had fun. We had each other. They worked with what they had. They played the hand they were dealt.
I guess the start of ‘feeling it’ was when I ran away from my loving family as a kid (17); trying to escape my oldest brother and HIS struggles, and the realization that my parents were human and struggling too. I finally felt it then. So I left. It was great at first. I got married young (18), saw the whole country, felt what true freedom was like for the first time, my son was born (20), and it all changed my life forever. But, then it all seemed to fall apart. My then-husband turned on me, cheated on me, and sent us packing (21). Back home into the loving arms of my parents, I went. I had to go on. I played the hand I was dealt.
In time I found a new boyfriend who turned out to be a drunk, a gambling addict, and of course, a cheater. I put up with him for more than 6 years assuming that this was just how guys were. “They just don’t make them like my Dad anymore”, I thought (whoever ‘they’ are). During our ‘relationship’ I was diagnosed with a life altering chronic illness (25); my doctors tell me it was likely triggered by the insane amount of stress that started with the dissolution of my so-called marriage and the absence of help from my son’s father, and compounded by having to take care of a grown-ass man-child while I already had a kid to raise. So, my body turned on me. I spent two years in denial and I let it get worse. I figured I had enough bullshit to deal with and if I ignored it, it would just go away. It didn’t. It took years to adapt to my new life that was ever changing, and it sucked. The struggle was real. I FELT it. My parents, loving and supportive as ever, couldn’t shelter me from any of it. As if being a single young mother wasn’t enough, I now had to battle the demon that is MS. I still am. I have to go on. I play the hand I was dealt.
The oldest brother with his own struggles I mentioned? Long story short, I wrote him off almost10 years ago. As kids we were as close as loving siblings could be. He used to wear a sweatshirt with a giant picture of my face on it. He was my best friend. But he turned on me and I can never forgive him. Sometimes family doesn’t mean a thing. I had to look out for number one. I had to go on. I played the hand I was dealt.
A few years after that, I attempted to rekindle with my now ex-husband in an effort to win my son his ‘family’ back. Apparently, it was a one-sided effort because he turned on me - again. Discarded me - again - like yesterday’s trash. I realized, too late, that I should never have forgiven him. I should have looked out for number one. I had to go on. I played the hand I was dealt.
Shortly after that, the father of my very best friend & sister, who was like my second dad, passed away suddenly. ‘God’ turned on us and I can never forgive ‘Him’. It’s been almost 5 years and still don’t know how to accept it or how to help my friend and her mother and sister. Every time I enter their house it feels wrong. But, I can still hear his voice saying “Hellooooo!” when I walk in, so I walk to his urn and say “Hello” back. I imagine him singing in the kitchen. I can hear him vividly. He loved doo-wop and Motown. I listen to a lot of Smokey Robinson, his favorite, in his memory. It’s how I cope, I guess, no matter how hard I cry deep ‘Tracks of My Tears’. He was an incredible guy who always looked out for us, his number one girls, and he’d want us not to dwell. We have to learn how to go on. We work with what we’ve got. We play the hand we were dealt.
Just a few years ago, a different girl who was like my sister, who I literally hung out with everyday, one of my closest friends of more than 10 years, turned on me. She used her jealousy and basic butt-hurt feelings about me and my NEW-new boyfriend to make a public slander-fest of me and my son, and I can never forgive her. Sometimes ‘chosen family’ doesn’t mean a thing. I had to go on. I had to look out for number one. I played the hand I was dealt.
I could tell you my whole life story. Every struggle. Every bad decision. Every bad relationship.Every shitty friend. Every loss. Every instance of bad luck. Every example of someone I loved turning on me and crushing me. But we’d be here for days, reader, and I’m sure you’ve got things to do. My point is this: Shit happens. You go on. You work with what you’ve got. You play the hand you’re dealt.
I strive to be like my parents. I have my own kid and I’ve obviously had my own struggles, and I damn sure FELT every bit of it. I can only hope I’ve given my son the same love and security I had as a kid, despite all we’ve been through. I hope he has never felt how bad things sometimes were. I hope he remembers awesome Christmas’s and never knows the debt I incurred to give them to him. I hope he remembers every homemade Halloween costume. I hope he remembers singing and dancing together and trying to channel our inner rock stars. I hope he knows I did the best I could for him with what I had and that I played the hand I was dealt.
I’m 35 years old and I don’t expect to be struggle free. My life isn’t perfect, but I feel like I’m finally in a pretty good place. I have my own loving family. We don’t have as much money as we’d like, but we don’t really feel it. We have electricity. We have heat (and even central A/C). I’m in the best relationship I’ve ever been in. I have an awesome 15 year old who is sometimes an asshole, and that’s ok. I have a small group of big hearted friends and chosen family who have loved and cared for me for more than 25 years, and I them. We have fun. We have each other. Shit happens, but life is good. It’s what we make it. We go on.
We work with what we’ve got. We play the hand we were dealt.
Born and raised on Long Island.
I love my family and friends,
and although it's been a while,
I love writing!