This blog will touch the right people in the right way. You will know by the end if you is that people. I said what I said.
I have been playing catch-up my whole life. I am not saying that in any other way than a cold stone fact. Not just me….any child that has what they call “Adverse childhood experiences (ACE)” must try that little bit harder to get where they are going. Now…many children will experience ACEs along their journey. It’s not about who had it worst or who suffered more….it’s about having things happen around you as a child…that you have no control over…impacting not only on your childhood but also through your teens and adulthood.
I have big respect for any adult who is able to live a full and happy life when they have experienced any kind of trauma in their life. Big love to them. Because it’s hard to not let these things affect you.
I have been playing catch up my whole life….but now it’s my turn….
I am a people watcher. Most people who have experienced trauma, especially, if that trauma was within the home, are people watchers. Because we are hypersensitive to picking up on what people are doing to try and determine what they may be thinking or may do next. I love to just sit in a café or on a bench and just watch people …from afar. Watching people just doing what they do within their own world.
Many friends throughout my life have made the same two comments to me…. That I notice things that others wouldn’t and that I am very good at reading people. They are right. I mean … you would not think that if you look at the relationships choices I have made in my life! But even then…I saw all the red flags…I just didn’t know how to react to them. But that’s for another time.
My constant “Scanning” of situations drives me mad. It’s like I can’t turn it off. Other people find it fascinating and sometimes funny. Especially when I predict how someone is going to behave at some point and then they do exactly what I say. That’s why I cut people off in the way I do…boom…I do it in the most brutal way. Why? Because I have been watching you. I can see your patterns and the things you do and speak. If I like you…I will try to ignore it or just not be part of it…but the minute you make a move that I could eventually lead to affecting me…boom…see you later. That’s why I don’t have many friends. Because real sees real and all that. I aint ever cut off anyone and later learned I was wrong. Not one time.
But there is a darkness behind that…
I have had to fine-tune these skills to keep safe. I have had to scan …and gauge…and pre-meditate a million situations to keep myself safe or ahead of the game. Working out what she means by that look….what he means when he says “OK”. It comes from a deep place that is a mixture of fear and pain. Nothing good. Just a tool I have to ensure that “it” don’t hurt. Whatever the hurt maybe. Physical or emotional. The other tool I have to deal with it is being emotionally unavailable. Or it used to be. And it’s exhausting. If you live like this, you will know what I mean. Constantly analysing people’s motives…questioning why people are being nice…being rude…being snaky. Constantly planning for the “What if”….living your life like it’s the best life whilst always keeping one eye on the emergency exit.
I have been playing catch up my whole life…
My people-watching means I see what people do. The moves they make. The accomplishments. If you imagine each year of our life as a chapter in a book, that we can pick up and re-look at or even compared to others, then you will see why it has always felt like I was playing catch up.
From education to finances, I have always had some barriers, some drama that means I have to work double hard to progress. My ACEs coming back to haunt me, some new triggers I didn’t know about, old triggers that keep coming to visit like a long-lost family relative. People coming…people going. “Choices” I made in my life that I realise were not choices at all…but reactions….reactions to things so deeply buried that they seemed like choices even though they felt wrong when making them. Raising up children all by myself when that was not the plan. Was not my plan.
SO many plans I have made that just couldn’t happen. Not then. Not when I wanted or needed it to. Just like many of us, if I could go back 10-year and speak to myself…I would be screaming “What are you doing” as I watched myself making yet another bad decision.
Saying that….10 years ago I would not have listened. Because it was not my time.
Anyway …back to the people watching…
I watch people and I watch their moves. I have seen so many people succeed in the areas I wanted to; achieve the things I could only dream of… making decisions that would set them up for life.
But I have always been playing catch up….
Because of Aces, because of others, and because of myself I have had to work hard to get anything or get anywhere. I don’t know about a lot of you that are still reading this….but I often feel like I take 3 steps forward and then 5 back. Then just stand there and shake my head at whatever the new drama is.
Or I did.
You see…. My people-watching skills, although they drive me crazy….are very useful. When I was younger it allowed me to understand the rules of street life quickly. It enabled me to see who did what and why. And although it didn’t keep me safe….it kept me safer than most in many ways.
Watching and learning….but not always being able to make the moves I want.
But then the shift comes. Over the years, people I respect have spoken about a “shift”. A moment in life where you suddenly go “ahhh…Ok…that’s what I need to be doing…that’s what I need to be happy”.
But….when you have been playing catch up your whole life it’s hard to see that.
So many of us have had to go through life like we are carrying a heavy load on our back….things that we carry around, weighing us down, making it harder to get where we need to get too. Days when it felt like it was too much…to heavy. Days when just putting on the backpack was too much, and you would fall back into bed exhausted from even trying to start the day.
Me….wow…if you visualise it….im around 8 stone nothing….all legs …and I have been carrying a load that is way too big for my small frame. I visualise myself….stumbling about….a giant ridiculous backpack on….that towers way over my head. It is black and is stuffed to the brim. Bulging at every angle and the straps are big and thick and I have to hold them, or the weight is so immense it rips into my shoulders…and I just topple around….trying to do everyday things …with this giant backpack on…
Filled with anger….hurt…childhood trauma…poverty…parenthood…abuse…neglect…self-neglect…shame…
I mean the list could go on and on….for many of us.
But what I didn’t realise until this week….the first few days of 2022….is that load has been getting lighter…and I didn’t notice.
I have been doing so much work on myself the past few years but 2021 in particular. I have been putting in the hours for sure…trying to understand what I do and who I am. Talking to people that I watch, and I feel like need to be part of my life.
I don’t need to name any of these people. If you’re reading this …you will know you are one of the people, I am talking about. Who I reach out to…ask big questions….seeking knowledge… Big questions…little questions…?
I keep pushing myself to do the things that scare me.
And now that I have made peace with my inner Blondy ( I mean, we are still working on this…but things are better) I no longer have that inner child screaming in fear when the triggers come.
I mean… I spent the 2nd day of this year in Battersea Park…where some of my biggest demons live….lived…and it was sunny, and it was good, and I felt safe, and it was OK.
Anyway…today I realised, whilst laying in bed listening to the rain….that I didn’t feel anxious. It was a strange feeling. Saturdays are my “day off” where I don’t do anything work-related. But I always wake up… stressed about all the stuff I need to do …then try and relax…remember I need to go shop…well I am now dressed anyway so I may as well do ….blah blah.
And that it…my little brain goes off on a whirlwind …carrying its giant backpack of shit. No rest. No reflection.
But this morning I woke up and I didn’t feel that.
I felt…OK…in control. The house was tidy…things could wait….and I didn’t feel that same feeling I have year after year. SO, I just lay there trying to figure out what was going on.
You know what…
The backpack is lighter. Not gone. Most likely never be gone …But lighter.
I have been unpacking stuff and putting it away without even realising it. Like a crazy old cat lady, pottering around her house….absentmindedly putting things back where they should be.
I have been putting things back where they should be,
And then I cried
Because it has taken me 42 years to finally stop playing catch up. Because…well….there was no one to catch up with. Ever. I am not my peers just as they are not me. I bet the people I most admire like something in me too.
I said just before Christmas “ I need to do more”. If you truly know me, you will know that If I work any harder, I will have to give up sleep. True story. A woman I respect said…no….you can’t do more…but you can do what you are doing better….
Each of us has many chapters in our book of life. I have had some interesting ones to be fair…
“The girl who should have left but thought she could change him”
“ Trying to raise children on shirt buttons”
“ It won’t happen to me”
“Thought I could change him: the sequel”
“ I can run from my past”
And my personal favorite….the chapter from 2021… “And still, I rise”
What are some of your chapters called?
I have paid my dues and earned my stripes as a parent…as a child…as a person. I have lots to learn and lots of growing to do. But now….now I refuse to play catch up anymore.
My bag is lighter. It no longer hurts my shoulders. It still has stuff in it that needs to be sorted, but I am getting to it, instead of just stuffing it deeper.
I have no one to catch up with. Man, I wish I knew that when I was younger. Anyone reading this aged 40 or under….There is no rush….dont rush to do the things you think you need to and don’t beat yourself up for the things you think you “Should have achieved” by now….and don’t kill yourself other than the things you have no control over. I was going to say I wish people had told me this…but they did…I just was not ready to listen.
So, this chapter….chapter 42…. My chapter 42 is titled…
My turn to be happy. My turn to be calm. My turn to worry less (see I didn’t say not at all…gotta keep this shit real)
My turn to take my daughter on trips to see lion king on New Year’s Day in the west end and watch her eyes come alive at each scene.
My turn to cry at said lion king show over and over.
It’s my turn to stand shoulder to shoulder with my peers….because I bring my own goodness. My own fire. Not comparing. Sharing. Together.
It’s my bloody turn.
It’s my turn to just be myself. Be me. The real me. (Who is really boring by the way….I don’t know what you all think I do in my spare time…but it involves comfy PJs….my cats….and currently binge-watching “Better things”
It’s MY turn.
It’s also your turn.
If you have read this the whole way down and you can relate to any of this…then why can’t this chapter for you be titled “My turn” as well? Or “Doing what best for me” or “Chapter 54- The year she joins the local choir”
I don’t know…
It’s up to you, I guess. I can only do me….
Chapter 42: My Turn. And I am unapologetic as fuck about it.
By Kendra Houseman
I think it has a nice ring to it…