It took me a long time to get a glimpse of who I might be. Not only to get a glimpse but to understand that I could actually be that person.
My Mum was very traditional. Our views of the world were poles apart – I didn’t fully understand this until I was 47 when I discovered that being unconventional was one of my superpowers. Until then, I actively tried to suppress this side of me because it was deemed to be undesirable, unattractive and counter to everything I was supposed to embody.
I tried very hard to fit the image of who my Mum wanted me to be.
I remember a bus ride home one Saturday afternoon from a shopping trip to buy some shoes. I was in my teens. All my friends had shoes from the trendy shops. My shoes came from Clarks, from the women’s section. I cried in the shop while at the same time assuring my Mum that, yes, of course I liked them. I cried on the bus ride home. Every time I wore them I hoped no-one would notice that I was wearing shoes more suited to a much older woman.
My big love at school was learning French. That was all I wanted to do. I came alive when I spoke French. Later, when I lived in Paris, it was as though an alter ego emerged when I immersed myself into the whole French culture and way of life. My Mum really wanted me to be a doctor. It wasn’t the path I wanted to take but I gamely went along with it. The school careers teacher asked me twice if I was absolutely sure I wanted to be a Gynaecologist and Obstetrician. Oh yes, of course! I fluffed my Biology exam and somehow persuaded my Mum that medicine, as a career, was off the table.
I had various jobs, some involving me speaking French, some taking me down other avenues. I lived in London for most of my twenties and learned to share only the acceptable stuff with my Mum and simply not mention what I knew she would disapprove of. It was hard living a secret life but it was the only way to avoid confrontation or not to incur wrath. Looking back, it makes me sad that there was so much I couldn’t share with my Mum and it impacted our relationship.
It also made me hide.
I censored everything I did and said, not just for my Mum but for others around me. I worked hard and aimed to do well in my jobs so that I would receive approval and validation. But I often didn’t feel like me and there was another part of me trying to get out.
There was a lot of conflict between my Mum and I because she didn’t approve of my choices. Sometimes inconsequential choices, other times the bigger stuff. I got used to not being seen and being somewhat inscrutable.
I played my cards close to my chest and had very few friends because I didn’t want them to know who I was. I also didn’t want them to reveal anything of my secret life to my Mum.
Over the years we had some massive fallouts, usually resulting in me being disinherited. I was an only one. Even thinking about the fallouts now makes me feel like I’ve been kicked in the stomach. I relive the anxiety I felt at displeasing my Mum and being excommunicated.
For someone who values freedom, I never felt free.
What did I learn from all this?
It took me a while to learn anything from it. For a long time I thought my life would never start. After a failed 11 month marriage to someone that my Mum didn’t like, I found it easier to be single. My Mum used to say she didn’t want grandchildren anyway.
I’ve never talked about this before. I’m ashamed. Of some of the ways I remember my Mum. And I know everything she did stemmed from a desire to do the best for me. I’m ashamed that I could never overcome this and become my own person.
But I’ve realised that this story is part of who I am and until I own it, I can never really move forward. It’s like the elephant in the room. I can’t embrace who I am or why I am this way. I have to own it, warts and all. Until I do that, and share my story, I can’t do the work I’m here to do, and not sharing it is part of the reason I’ve faltered with Seed to Source.
I know for sure that all these experiences have made me who I am today. I’m immensely grateful for my pragmatism and also my desire to approach life in my own way, not my Mum’s. It’s made me tough and able to deal with things alone. It made me hugely independent.
You have to own your story
A few things have prompted this post.
One was a conversation with Katya Willems about my Instagram account but evolved into a much deeper dive into who I truly am, and how I can talk about that. A webinar with Nicky Pattinson where she mentioned that the projections from other people are not real, made me think about my Mum and what our relationship might have said about her own life. Watching an IGTV with Glennon Doyle was just what I needed to hear this morning.
They all made me realise how much I am impacted by other people’s stories. How much these stories help me and inspire me. Who knows, maybe my story will have meaning for someone too.