Wednesday Words: Standing Crooked, Seeing Straight

Why do people tilt their heads when they are trying to examine something closely?  Funny, huh?  Seems like you’d want to look at something square on.

There’s a word in Korean “삐딱이”, or bbiddaki (I think I’m slaughtering the Romanization, my apologies, but this is what you get for reading the writing of someone who never had any formal Korean schooling), I’ve heard it translated as rebel, but my mom says it is closer to sarcastic.   I think a very literal translation would be one who stands crookedly.

I recently came across a saying that uses this word: “삐딱이만 삐둘어진 세상을 제데로 볼수있다.”  My very, very rough translation goes something like, Only one who stands crooked can see the true crooked nature of the world.

I’ve been chewing this over for a while, and I think my peeps are onto something.

When we started figuring out that LP had Down syndrome, the world really did tilt for us.  Or, rather, we tilted.  Hard.  From his perspective, all he did was leave my belly, eat, sleep, poop and try to do his thing.  From our perspective?  The entire world as we knew it changed in about three days’ time.  Not that we aren’t always changing, but that one was an earth-shaking kind of big.  I sometimes try to remember who I even was before the diagnosis, and it is near impossible.  I try, but that person is foreign to me now.

I’ve mulled over that period in our lives (as I suspect I will continue to do for the rest of my life), and while I do remember a lot of anguish and crying, I also remember that after that first storm was a beautiful calm.  I had a strange sense of peace that I could not explain.  Each time I tried people kind of looked at me like I was close to a psychotic break, even though nothing was further from the truth.  So I stopped trying to explain it, but it didn’t make it any less real.

I’d stood crooked.

Maybe not a rebel, because I never chose to have Down syndrome enter into our lives, but I did suddenly find myself off the beaten path.  I found myself looking at the world, really carefully, tilting my head.  Crooked.

What did I see?  A world that had created such a narrow passage to human worth, so narrow that most people couldn’t pass.  A world where human beings were trampling over each other to get through that impossible passage.  Creating hierarchies of beauty, intelligence, and ability that serve no one.

It isn’t the first time I’ve tilted my head at the world, and hopefully won’t be the last.  I think at the heart of privilege, no matter what the basis, is that it is near impossible to see the distortions that cause inequity in the world.  It is important though, whether by chance or through intent, to stand crookedly.

Maybe this means throwing privilege away.  Maybe this means reacting to life’s “negative” experiences by leaning in, rather than running away.  Maybe this simply means being open to life’s hurt rather than hardening my heart, because at the end, I might look back and realize that it wasn’t hurt to begin with at all.  Just a chance to tilt my head, stand crooked, but see straight.

Mouse, in Korea, last year.

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23 Comments on “Wednesday Words: Standing Crooked, Seeing Straight”

  1. Christy says:

    This is so beautiful and perfectly explained. “Seeing crooked”. That’s exactly it. My little guy, Henry, also has Down Syndrome and this is the perfect description of how him entering our lives changed our perspective!

  2. maggiesmom1 says:

    What a beautiful, articulate post! We have a 9 year old with Down Syndrome named Henry and “standing crooked” is a perfect description of how our perspective changed when he arrived. Thank you for sharing it!

  3. Holly F. says:

    I needed this today Jisun! Thank you for your timely post….but seriously, beautiful and very well written.

  4. Lisa says:

    Lady, you can write. You blow me away. Often.

  5. “There was a crooked man,”
    BY MOTHER GOOSE
    There was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile,
    He found a crooked sixpence against a crooked stile;
    He bought a crooked cat which caught a crooked mouse,
    And they all lived together in a little crooked house.

    The modern Mother Goose story is yours. Just wonderful.

  6. Jessie Weiler says:

    Sending heartfelt gratitude for the beautiful reminder to as you say “look crooked,” it’s application reaches so far…

  7. Latke says:

    Can I offer a corollary–that standing crooked also enhances one’s view of beauty? A yin to the yang of increased insight into the “crooked” aspects of the world (or is it vice versa?). As I recall, Mouse and I were fortunate to experience quite a bit of that in the sculpture garden the day we took that picture.

  8. Jenny says:

    I always tell you this but I’ll say it again! You my friend write beautifully! Loved this one!

  9. Pua says:

    Touched to my very soul. Thank you for sharing.

  10. Tara says:

    Loved the metaphor..what she saw when ‘standing crooked’…. ‘ the world has created such a narrow path to self worth that most people couldn’t pass. Where we trample over each other to get through the passage..creating heirarchies of beauty, intelligence and ability..’. I would add acquisition of wealth to that..I would go so far to say this path also creates crime and deviance, depression, and hate. If we only were less critical of each other and appreciated the myriad of amazing qualities which we all hold, we would be really happy. people need to stop looking down on any person or a group of people for behaving or being different as they are making the passage longer and darker. Its not just disabled groups im talking about.

    • Tara says:

      Unfortunately we all stand as judges and form barriers making the passage longer when we are critical of others instead of understanding.

      • jisun says:

        Yes, I completely agree, Tara! I know for sure that I’ve stood as a barrier and I’ve stood trying to get past a barrier. I also wholeheartedly agree that acquisition of wealth is one of those problems. Maybe the biggest problem… :(

  11. Leigh Ann Arnold says:

    Love this. The part about at the heart of privilege it is nearly impossible to see the distortions that cause inequity in this world. After having trey I have struggled with many people who have had a “cooshy” existence and don’t know how to see crooked much less even stand at a slight tilt and I tend to find myself looking down on them because they seem so foolish. Do you ever feel this way and how do you deal with it? Write on! Oh and I love the part about leaning in and not running away!

    • jisun says:

      Oh, man. Yes! I do feel this. I’ve been mulling this over for quite some time, actually. I don’t think I was a stranger to the feeling of “standing crooked” before Down syndrome came into our lives, but now more than ever I have such a hard time relating to someone who comes from a place of unquestioned privilege. I keep trying to write about it and end up wandering all over the place in my thoughts. I have many, many unfinished posts to prove it!


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