As some of you know, I was adopted. And it’s a story that has defined much of my life.
Over the years I’ve spent a lot of time feeling “lost”. Without knowing who or where I came from, how could I know who I was meant to be? I didn’t have the looking glass most people grow up with and take for granted. Add to that – or perhaps because of that – I didn’t feel as though I fitted in with my new family. I just wasn’t like them – no-one “got” me. I felt like a loner, an outsider, and was seen as a bit of a trouble-maker, with a rebellious streak – kicking and pushing against the constraints that were imposed upon me. When all I wanted was to “belong”!
By my late teenage years, I became very shy. I didn’t want to stand out. I barely spoke. And I literally hid at times! I retreated into a kind of “solitary confinement” – an appropriate punishment for being born out of wedlock, to a mother who never wanted me.
On rare occasions, I managed to flip it around, and momentarily glimpse a very different reality where I could be whomever, and whatever I wanted. I could be “free”! I could invent, and reinvent myself entirely, to my heart’s desire! And that was liberating. Briefly. Until old habits would kick in, and bring me back to the “old me” – however hard I tried to escape.
But when I left home, it was a different story. The only way was forwards… and I never looked back (for long).
I went from one thing to another, from flat to house, from job to contract, from strength to strength. It felt like the world was my oyster – and it was!
My family didn’t understand or approve of the way I chose to live my life. But I just carried on, forging my own way.
Until, that is, around the time I became a mum…
Around 6 months through my pregnancy, my mum died. While she was ill in the months and years the preceded her death, we had become close, and so the loss I experienced was a double whammy.
So, there I was, a new mum, grieving for my mum. Sleep-deprivation, anxiety, and depression played havoc with my head. My life had turned upside-down. I was completely unable to function as “before”, and I struggled to come to terms with (accidentally) becoming a full-time mum. That had not been the plan! I wasn’t earning any money, and my confidence was dropping by the day. I lost my “identity”, my kudos, my security. I had become a “dependent”, with a dependent. Which was scary, seeing as I was the most independent person I knew! It was like taking the fast-track back to that “lost” insecure child I’d once been.
I lost my “voice” – again. I found myself comparing myself to everyone else (unfavourably), and feeling lonely and isolated. I resented being in this position, but I felt powerless to do much about it.
Armed with my little one as a shield, and with my “I’m good” mask firmly in place, I ventured out into the world. A shadow of my former self. Into a place full of strangers, where the only stranger was me.
And so I traipsed through the next few years of my life, increasingly feeling cut off from “me” and the world. Numb. Things got so bad, that I withdrew from nearly everyone. Even me and my husband were on our own separate tracks – running kind of parallel, but not in tandem.
…My second child, my daughter came kicking and screaming into the world. Head-strong from the outset, she served as the most-needed and apt reminder of the force-to-be-reckoned-with I had once been. It was like holding up a mirror and saying “look at you now”! I realised that not only was I not happy with my life – I wasn’t happy with ME. And I sure as hell, felt a far cry from the “me” I wanted to be! She was a real wake-up call.
I decided enough was enough. I had to draw a line under it, and start turning things around.
Trouble was, I didn’t know how to do this! I mean, if you’re lost, how can you find your way home?! Isn’t that just the greatest irony?
…I looked for signs, I read self-help books, and began to find groups online of people who I resonated with. And things began to change.
And bit by bit, I began to realise I hadn’t been “lost” after all. It dawned on me – I’d had always been there!
It’s like the coat pile at a party… the first person arrives and throws their coat on the bed in the dimly-lit spareroom, inadvertently landing on top of a handbag. Then the next person arrives and throws their coat on top of that, and so on, and so on, until there’s a mountain of coats piled one on top of the other, completely obscuring the handbag. So when you start looking for the handbag, you naturally assume it’s “lost” because you can’t see it! But then gradually, as all the coats are taken away, one at a time, layer by layer – there, at the bottom is the handbag.
Where it had been…