In scenes of family life, I see myself surrounded by strong people. My parents and siblings seem, most of the time, to have cherished many opinions, and I would be the first to say that I have learned to listen. I am a good listener.
Recently in the post-office, I found myself studying the cards and notelets on sale, glancing up at the outsize posters on the walls and wondering which ones I actually liked. Which in fact, were to my taste? And I struggled to answer. Because in my birth family I have so often been cast as ‘the youngest’ and one most in need of help and advice, my opinions have been muted so that even now, I struggle to know which of the many things I do, I do because they are my choice. Which of the many things I possess, do I hold because I choose to?
I struggle to know what I enjoy and what my tastes are. And when I know, I still find it hard to honour them: Wonderful walk on a sunny day, lovely meal, beautiful painting? Maybe later…
So often my choices have been coloured by wondering, “Would s/he like that? Would s/he approve? What would s/he do?” I discover, in late middle age, that learning to choose and decide for oneself, is something that most adolescents get through. As my own daughter nears the end of her teenage years, I marvel that she is already making the kinds of choices I still struggle with, navigating the world as I might have hoped to, had I been less cowed, less in awe of others’ certainty.
Yet, my age and experience confer at least a superficial dignity and the assumption that I know what I am doing. As I refine the processes of casting off from old family influences, I find I must go slowly and work in a new way to reach decisions, knowing that others besides me will have to live with their consequences.
The past, they say, is a foreign country, they do things differently there. And, life, as they say, is a work in progress.
I hope I am making progress.
Thanks for reading.