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I’ve spent my whole life feeling trapped.

My parents confined to behaving within their own very limited limits. Not by being strict but by not being able to function outside their own carefully crafted world. I had to fit in; I had to behave. The consequences of not doing so were horrendous and I learned to carefully consider the price I had to pay. I spent six months fighting for a radio-cassette player which saved my sanity (especially with the headphones) and longer fighting for a bicycle which gave me some elements of freedom. Those were the only real battles I fought by myself (and that sounds pathetic).

My mother eventually joined in the fight to get me moved to another school with a fresh start but neither parent gave me the strength to combat children being horrible and since I wasn’t allowed to talk back or fight back I was trapped into being bullied without anyone to stand up for me or to help me stand up for myself.

And so it goes on. I was trapped in a marriage to an alcoholic and then trapped by a baby, however much I loved him. I walked straight out of one trap into another with three more children along the way. I love them all, don’t get me wrong. But being a single parent is a trap. I used to joke about asking my babysitter permission to go out for the evening but it wasn’t funny. I couldn’t go out if she didn’t let me.

Now I have freedom. I don’t have to worry about envelopes dropping through the letterbox. My home is my own. I have no pension and no great savings or assets to speak of, but I have no debts and no financial worries. I might not own my home but no bank can take it away from me.

I am, for the first time in my life, independent, without anyone else in my life to bugger it up (children excepted). I have friends, good friends whom I love and lesser ones of whom I’m very fond. But I don’t rely on any one of them; I’m not dependant.

I am still reliant on benefits as I don’t earn a full living. I don’t like that but accept that is how it is. I don’t have the capacity to do more but I still have to justify that to myself. I feel guilty about having to rely on tax credits and benefits and society does its best through the media and politicians to make me carry on feeling guilty. Guilt is powerful.

I still feel guilty about not having 2son at home for the summer and saying I couldn’t cope. I haven’t let go of the last month and the battle to get him that funding.

The other two are quite happy. If I left them to play on the computer for the six weeks of the holiday they wouldn’t really complain. They don’t need me except that they do, but at least they’re happy to see me go out on my own.

I still feel trapped. I feel trapped by my past, by the voices telling me what I should, could, must, mayn’t do, say or feel. Trapped by not daring to speak in case someone should point out that I’m wrong, or laugh, or simply point at me. I have spent so long trying to fade into the background and not cause problems that I struggle to have a voice, at any level. I’ve practised not existing.

I do have choices though. I can choose to break free. It’s not an immediate process with one dramatic gesture but it’s an ongoing battle I have to fight, to stick two fingers up at all those little voices, real and imaginary, and to Always Keep Fighting.

Right now I’m feeling stuck, much as 2son is. I’ve had a week of summer holidays and much as I appreciate not having to get up to the alarm I’ve not been able to settle to enjoy it, or to catch up on sleep or to make any decisions about the rest of the holiday. I’m waiting for time to heal and trying to not feel trapped by my helplessness.

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