Everybody has a story, and while that’s true, not everyone’s story is a fairy tale with a happy ending or even a happy beginning for that matter, and in a place like Pacific Palisades, right in the heart of LaLa Land, people are real good at faking it. Often times as I walk down Sunset Boulevard, the main thoroughfare in our community, I pass women who look to the ground, unsure whether to say hello even though I’ve met them several times, and men swiping the Tinder app on their phones. Many of who are married. With the sun shining down upon this little section of LA, making the finish of the Mercedes and Range Rovers gleam, I wonder, “what the hell is wrong with these people?”
I’ll admit it, I used to judge, and harshly. I still sometimes do, although I’m better at catching myself now because that would make me a hypocrite. I would see a finely put together woman step out of a hundred thousand dollar luxury car carrying a tote bag that costs more than my mortgage. I’d wonder with all that she had, why wasn’t she grateful, why wasn’t she happy? Then I’d look real hard into my own soul and think, maybe I wasn’t always happy either. You see, I too have a story, one that followed me through the Appalachians of Pennsylvania, down the streets of New York, across the Atlantic to Germany and Italy and settled right here with me in this little piece of paradise. So much for geographical relocation.
A few weeks ago I came head to head with one of these women. I was pulling into a two lane driveway accidently the wrong way and she blocked me in her Maserati so I couldn’t pass. There was plenty of room for both of us, and it was an honest mistake on my part since the signage was confusing, but she wanted to teach me a lesson. While most people would steer to the side, I’m not one to avoid confrontation, so I put my car in park and dared her to try and bully me. This created quite a commotion - she held up a line of cars all trying to get out just to irritate me until finally, a woman pulled up next to her and asked her to move and as she did, I gave her the finger. It felt victorious to win this battle. But only for a short time.
This was a woman whose son played sports with mine. After the incident, we purposely avoided each other, gave one another dirty looks, and one time I even blocked her car into her parking space so she couldn’t get out. Yes, I’m ashamed by this confession, but at the time it sure felt damn good.
Several days after our “clash” my son received a severe concussion during a game. The other team played dirty and the hit to my son’s head was illegal. And guess who was the first parent to reach out to make sure he was okay. Yep, the car bully. We exchanged emails back and forth, she gave me the name of a concussion specialist and has made every effort possible to insure justice is served for my son.
This made me want to look beyond the aggressive anger this woman displayed towards me and get to know who she truly was. So I Googled her. Her CV was impressive – she worked at a high powered position in the entertainment industry, so it was possible she suffered from stress. But what really struck me about my findings was that she spent six years suffering from infertility issues – miscarriages, high risk pregnancies, etc, and now she was a nationally known advocate helping other women suffering from the same. On the road, she was a warrior like me, while intrinsically; we were both just moms who loved our kids. And that was when my view towards her changed. Drastically.
There is no such thing as a perfect life – it’s as much a fantasy as Mayberry, and who would want a perfect life anyway? Once things start going steadily and easily, I know the turbulent times are not far away, and as odd as it may sound, I appreciate them. I grow and learn from every pain, every heartache, every disaster that strikes me and when I look back at the course of my life, I recognize where I came from and am pretty amazed at where I am today.
So the next time I see the mother in the designer workout gear I’ve met ten times and she ignores me, I’m going to remember that she has two autistic children and most likely only had a few minutes sleep. And when the woman in my fitness class tries to push me out of my spot, I’ll think about that time my friend accidently liked the woman’s husband on her Tinder app. No matter how pretty the disguise may be, it can never fully hide the disorder that lies beneath, and sometimes, the prettier the package, the more the dysfunction. So the next time someone tries to bully me with her car, instead of being stubborn or giving him or her the finger, I’m going to remember that everybody has a story and politely move out of the way because that one little act of kindness might be the only nice thing that happens in their day.