In which I ponder…being me

 

new-day

I am in a counselling room with a new therapist. We’re doing that getting to know you thing – the part before you start telling them about your fucked up life.

‘So…tell me a bit about yourself’, he says.

I tell him all about me. I tell him about my job with the NHS, my children, my involvement with the local parent/teacher association. I tell him I am a wife, a mother, a daughter. I feel a little bit proud. I’m not bad really.

When I’m done, he sits in silence for a moment or two, his hands folded in his lap. Then he looks at me and says:

“Ok. You’ve told me quite a lot about what you do. Now tell me about who you are.”

And I realised I did not know. I had become the things I did, the roles I played in relation to everyone else. I didn’t know where I had gone.

*********************************************************************************************

A couple of days ago, a private message from a friend in the UK popped up on Facebook. She told me she had been thinking about the title of my blog and how it resonated with her.

My friend met her husband when she was 16. Like so many women, particularly of my generation, she was a daughter, segued seamlessly into being a wife then a mother and soon will be a grandmother.

‘It’s got me thinking’, she typed. ‘What would I be like if I ever got to be me?’

Good question.

And one I could well have been asking myself, if I hadn’t found myself compelled to be me in all its questionable glory.

The thing is though, that being on your own doesn’t necessarily mean you get to find out. You don’t just suddenly start being you – you have to learn how. And it turns out it’s hard. Much to my dismay, the real me wasn’t just hiding beneath the person I had become – the person who was too much of a reflection of other people, and not enough of a reflection of me.

The real me was properly lost, and in order to get to her, I first needed to circumnavigate the temporary version of me that developed post separation.

Unfortunately, this person wasn’t much fun.

This person fluctuated between being angry and determined and being helpless and hopeless. She was difficult to be around some of the time, but for all anyone who had to endure her wished I would just snap out of it, they could not have wished it more than me. I felt out of control and I wanted it to be over. Not life. Just the bit where I was sad and angry and hurt and….well – a bit boring.

When you start boring yourself, you know you are in trouble.

These days, I would say I’m closer to being me than I’ve ever been. And I am grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to find out who that is on my own, even if it hasn’t always been a comfortable journey for me – or the people around me.

So who am I?

Well – I’ve realised that who I am is mainly an issue for me. I need to know who I am, at my core, but I don’t need to describe it for others – so I’m not going to do that here. Other people decide for themselves who you are, because they see you and interpret you through the lens of their own experiences. People take you as they find you. What’s important is that I know who I am and am steadfast in that.

Besides I’m in my writing – you can find me there. And some people will judge me and others won’t.

As a wise man once said:

What other people think of you is none of your business…

 

 

 

In which I ponder…validation and embarrassment

embarrassment

My previous blog, which had had over 20,000 visitors by the time I stopped posting, was specifically about the experience of emigrating and full of chatty stuff about family life in a new country.

When I started this one, I didn’t have a clear idea of what it would be, except that I wanted to write. It’s simply evolved over time.

I’ve ended up banging on about my marriage and my divorce and indulging in a level of navel gazing that I thought I’d left behind. And although I enjoy writing it and I don’t find it troubling to do so, there is something I’m finding kind of challenging.

It’s a bit awkward really.

Because what I’m struggling with are the comments, particularly those on my Facebook page where I share it.

I’m absolutely fine with the lovely things people have said about the quality of the writing, and how much they enjoy reading it. It’s fabulous to know that people are connecting with it, and – in some cases – looking forward to each instalment. And it’s also great to know that it’s being quite widely read – so far in 31 countries.

However, I do find all the lovely things people say about me personally a bit mortifying. Now, you will have to bear with me on this – because I do tend to over think things a bit. But I’m a bit worried that people might believe that the purpose of the blog is to seek validation about myself and what happened. And it quite emphatically isn’t.

You may or may not know that I did post grad study in psychotherapy, eventually qualifying to practice. As part of my training, I had to take part in group therapy for two years, and through this process I learnt something interesting about myself. Well, actually I learnt a number of interesting (to me anyway!) things about myself, but I’m only going to bore you with one of them.

In group, members had the opportunity to say difficult things to one another in a controlled and safe environment.* And although I didn’t particularly enjoy hearing that sort of thing, I wasn’t massively disturbed by it either. It almost felt comfortable. Conversely, if someone said something really nice to me, I literally wanted the earth to open up and swallow me whole. I never entirely resolved what that was about, but I get the same sort of feelings when I read some of the comments. And today there were so many of them I had to remove the post from my wall.

I know enough to know that this is related to a lack of self worth.

But I’m also a realist.

And the reality is this. I’m really not inspirational or amazing or an especially good single parent, or an especially forgiving person.

In the last few years, there have been days – many of them – when I have definitely won no prizes for my parenting. I am no better at being a single parent than 99.9% of all the rest of them. I do what parents do whether they are single or not – I do the best I can for my children, and some days the best I can do is not that special.

And over this period of rebuilding my life I have been far from inspirational or amazing a great deal of the time. I have said vile things. I have railed against the world. I have been self pitying. I have bored my friends (and myself) with my tale of woe, my ‘why-me’s?’ and my obsessive picking over certain events. I have lost friends and rejected others.

As far as forgiveness is concerned – well that’s a journey I’m still on. I have forgiving moments and they are becoming more and more frequent. But there is still a way to go I think.

I’ve come out the other side of it a more cautious, more independent and more confident person. I’ve gained a level of self knowledge and ability to self reflect that I didn’t have before. And I try hard to understand human behaviour rather than judge it.

But I still don’t really like it when people are nice to me.

I’m a work in progress. I’ll let you know when I’m done…

*in the first week of group, we were invited to say if we thought we were going to have a problem with anyone. One of the members immediately said they thought they were going to have a problem with me – which is funny because I’d also sensed that I would have a problem with her, although, despite having permission to do so, I would never have said. I’m English you see. And here we are 6 years on and she’s one of my closest friends…