I am now 45. Scary, huh! Not really. What’s truly scary is that I am still at times gripped by patterns of behaviour established when I was very young. They still have the power to grip me in vice-like paralysis, or force me to mentally run around in circles in blind panic. The dialogue in my head can go along the lines of “OMGosh… it’s that issue again… and you still haven’t got it right! Maybe this time?” But of course those kind of situations rarely allow you to feel you have broken free or made better choices.
We train our dogs to behave a certain way, to make life at home with them easier and safer. I am of the opinion that we do it to each other too, to a certain extent… and perhaps that ‘training’ never truly leaves us.
Part of feeling as I have been is that I have realised in terms of my spirit I have been down at rock bottom again and the only way from there is to clamber up. Don’t get me wrong, I have tried to battle such things many times before over the years, sick and tired of still being prisoner to them. I don’t know if we ever truly get past how we are conditioned at an early age, and in my defence at times of exhaustion any potential resistance is small. I am hoping that by openly stating something that to date only a very few have known about me: it will let others learn from my mistakes perhaps; find strength from my struggles, but I also hope it will let me officially put some of their burden down from my shoulders and leave guilt for a while.
Some of you know I am mixed race. My father was from South India and my mother from London. Although my heritage can be guessed from looking at me, I was brought up to be a typical Lincolnshire Lass, a country girl at home more in nature than in the city. I knew very little of Dad’s heritage. He came at parenting from a much more traditional direction than the fathers that my friends had. I can see that now, but back then I found him often impossible to gauge.
My parents believed I should grow up to be a strong woman, able to stand on my own feet. To have my own opinions and not be afraid to state them. That’s an excellent aim for your child, except… I was not allowed to be that way at home. It was one rule for outside, and another for being in their four walls. This was a problem for me. I tie myself up in knots trying to meet the expectations of others, even when it means suppressing myself. I would fail miserably back then, which would result in physical beatings. They were not as bad as the verbal lashings though. I spent many of my years being referred to as ‘besom’ at best.
I am a parent. For those who don’t know I have a fifteen year old son. It sure makes for an interesting life at times. *chuckles* He does everything the right way round and people outside our house think he’s lovely. He saves his tests of power and independence, ie bouts of anger, for home. We do not go easy on him. Life isn’t going to do that to him either. He has boundaries though. I think the positive side of the hard times of my early years, was that it has ensured I will not be so harsh a parent.
The worst thing for me was the silence.
At times we might have been out to dinner with family friends, or to a social engagement as a family. Those who know me will not be surprised to hear that I liked to talk to people. I still do. Before we would set out as a family, there would be a reminder that we had to remember that we are ambassadors for the family at all time. We had to uphold the good name of the family and not cast shame. It’s sadly amusing to write this as we were just an ordinary non-important family. I would think the time had passed well and then we would get in the car to come home and the silence would start. There would be the angry stares in the rear view mirror as I got smaller and smaller in the back. The silence would weigh heavy. If I was lucky the anger would wait until we got home, but often it would explode. There was no way I dared talk back or even try and argue my position. The strong girl they wanted had nothing she could do.
When home, I would be sent to my room in silence to consider what I had done. If I could think what it was, and could apologise for it, I would be allowed to leave my room. Frantic thinking would commence once in the safety of my room behind a closed door. What had I done?
Most of the time it was that I had spoken to adults. There were times when I had had a different opinion, but back then, I thought that there was nothing wrong with it.
I would sit and stew and think. The panic inside me would grow and grow and then I would hear one of my parents coming upstairs. If it was my father, they were slow steps. If it was my mother, she would run up them fast in a fit of fury.
Once the door was thrown open to my room, my time was up. I hadn’t found them to apologise. I would throw out apologies for all the things I thought I had done as they crossed the room to me. My efforts would be punctuated by slaps. I actually still remember the moment as a 16 year old, that I caught my mother’s wrist as she went to slap me across my face and the slow motion as she tried with the other hand and I caught that too. I promised myself it wouldn’t happen again, but the problem is that the damage was done and the scars run deep. My father wouldn’t hit as often, but his were harder. My mother would resort to using her words and telling me what an embarrassment and disappointment I was… and am, as it’s something she throws at me still.
In other years, in relationships I have been in, they have done the same thing. Silence has been used as a time for me to try and find in my head what I have done and apologise for it BEFORE they react, before they come at me with their anger. From the age of 17 to being 21 I was with someone who was diagnosed as being bi-polar during that time. He was a brilliant artist and sculptor and saw things in an amazing way, but during darker times there would be silence, oppressive silence, followed by emotional explosions which led to rooms being trashed and me having to fit locks to my bedroom door as a student.
Writing this now it strikes me that I am actually pathetic for still letting such things have such a hold on me. They trigger almost automatic responses in me at times which let me make all sorts of mistakes and hurt people I never would have meant to.
At times when my spirits are high, I react to things in a much better, more even tempered way. I battle, and fight this. I hate that problems from decades ago still affect me now. The effect is much more far-reaching than any slap across the face, however much it might have stung. The scars of the words used and the conditioning of the behaviours I still have to fight to lessen their effect even now.
I fail! I fall!
Silence triggers something in me unless I am strong enough to take a calm step away and breathe. Silence to me is the eye of the storm. It is enforced isolation while I frantically try and find the right apologies to make, whilst realising that yet again I have done the wrong thing. Fighting on while my spirits plummet, but all whilst knowing… or thinking I know it will be followed by anger, or my Father’s ultimate reaction which was to tell me he washed his hands of me. In calm times I can see that my perception of a situation was off, but sadly not before I have made a complete and lasting mess of it all.
We all have things in our past and from our past which we still carry, but as most of you are younger than me, don’t let these things hold you. Live! Soar! Take comfort from the fact you are stronger than them!
I am lucky! They didn’t manage to get rid of all of my strength… my stubborn side saw to that. Now I have to use that to try and fight these demons back. Life would be boring if I didn’t have a battle to fight though, right?
Much love to you all!