I can be a bit of a communal chameleon – I find it relatively easy to fit in with what everyone else wants to do, so generally tend to capitulate to their preferences with just about everything. Habitually I frame my needs around meeting the needs of others, blending in yet never quite belonging. I don’t like that I’m a people-pleaser. It took me years to realise that’s what I was and it’s taken me just as many years again still not to have it properly sorted out yet, which I find really frustrating.
One of my ongoing problems with people-pleasing into perpetuity is that I’ve never actually lived anywhere entirely on my own – I’ve lived variously with my parents, with partners, alone with my children before they grew up, in shared accommodation with others, but never just me on my lonesome, doing my own thing as standard with no consideration for anyone else, so have no real idea what ‘just being me’ without any reference to others entails.
Even temporarily, I don’t think I’ve ever been alone somewhere for more than a week at a time? Until now, that is. Yesterday my husband flew out to America to visit his family, and for perfectly legitimate reasons I’m not getting into in this post, circumstances have dictated I need to stay here in London right now. So for the next two-and-a-bit weeks, it’s just going to be me alone in our flat for the duration of his visit, and so far it feels really weird.
During my whole lifetime my precious alone time has been secretively squirrelled away, segmented into plain little hand-sewn pockets of personal solitude nurtured protectively amidst the colourful fabric of family life. I only know how to be myself in these small snatches of silence, not in the vast echoing emptiness of nothing else being said or done by others around me. And it’s not so much these days that others require it of me, either. More that I automatically offer it up so seamlessly it somehow seeps in unnoticed, unrecognised, unremarked on.
So here I am at 54 years old, actively experimenting with being just me for what feels like the first time ever. For the next two weeks I can go to bed when I like, get up when I like, eat what I like when I like, watch what I want on TV whenever I choose, without having to work around anyone else’s wants or needs. And yet I find myself waiting… and waiting… and waiting… but there is no-one to wait for, no-one elses voice to fill the void, only my own. I ask myself what I want for myself, and I don’t always have an answer.
My challenge for the next 18 days is therefore to try to find out my own personal likes and dislikes, to explore my own preferences in life when I only have myself to think about at home. If I can’t even do that when I’m by myself there’s not a hope in hell of me succeeding with anyone else around. So hopefully the next time my husband asks me what I want to do, I might have more of an idea of exactly what to tell him… 🙂