Blending in yet never quite belonging

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┬áplain 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… ­čÖé


Slight Exaggeration

Sometimes I can be prone to slight exaggeration. OK, perhaps even a lot of exaggeration. I don’t necessarily mean the obvious blatant kind of linguistic exaggeration we all do about a million times a day (see what I did there?) but more a subtle, unintentional over-emphasis on (perceived) negative intent towards me.

For example if someone speaks harshly or abruptly to me for any reason, it feels like I’m being shouted at, and so I react as if I’m being yelled at even when the person is not actually raising their voice that much, if at all. So when repeating the conversation to someone else at a later date I’ll sometimes recall that so-and-so shouted at me, often only to be corrected, and I generally find on reflection I have to concede.

The thing is, I’m not deliberately attention-seeking or playing manipulative mind-games when I do this. It’s more that as an inveterate people-pleaser, emotionally I feel crushed inside to be so confrontationally critiqued by anyone. It’s as if the smaller and more insignificant I feel the larger and louder my ‘aggressor’ seems: A raging torrent to my tear-drop drip. I metaphorically shrink in size as they grow in stature, and so my language reacts to my memory accordingly.

I don’t like that I still do this at my age, still tend to speak so passionately from the heart in the heat of the moment instead of consulting the cool head of reason for clarity. It upsets me always to feel so vulnerable, and I wonder if it’s something I’ll ever grow out of, or if I’m always going to react in this over-exaggerated way?

Daily Prompt: Slight

Emotional Eloquence

I wish I could just say how I feel. Open my mouth and find a straightforward seam of sensation flowing finely into sound with satisfying linguistic logic. Unfortunately, such emotional eloquence eludes me. Instead I struggle with making sense of the melting-pot of malevolent mood simmering silently beneath the surface of my mind.

Here I am half way through my fifty-fifth year of life, still unable to give voice to the agonies of anger I feel fermenting in my veins, coursing and cursing and creating havoc in my heart. It hurts to hold it all in, all that painful passion turning to pure poison. It pierces my soul and sends enemy armies of septic spores seeping strategically under my skin.

Sometimes I just want to scream it all out in an unstoppable exorcism of ecstacy, rip right through the reasoned reserve and fracture the feminine facade that frustrates my feelings so. But instead of throwing the kind of tantrum more commonly associated with toddlers and teenagers I carefully and considerately keep my own counsel, quell and quieten my rage, swallow down the unpalatable unpleasantness and although it leaves me feeling sick to my stomach, sigh heavily and stay shackled to my shameful silence…

Daily Prompt: Tantrum