I have been reflecting this week on certain behaviour patterns that I have identified in myself, which I believe were formed in early childhood that became more defined in adulthood. Understanding them better allows me to be gracious about whom I am becoming and that makes me happy.
Control – and why I had to have it;
Perfection – why my place had to look the part;
Addiction – how it started and how this all relates to the inner child.
Control for me in my marriage was ensuring the mortgage and bills were paid. Knowing that I had to rely on myself, I always planned these expenses and had money put aside. I never relied on credit or the off chance that he would have any spare money to contribute extra. Living/knowing someone for 15 years, you understand their priorities, their spending habits and their ability to earn/save. The last of those was not an option because when you have an addiction such as gambling, you are always looking for spare dollars to feed it. I learnt early on that a responsibility like a mortgage and bills would be mine. This was later confirmed when I was sick and in hospital for 2 weeks; Upon returning home, all the bills were left on the table because he didn’t know what to do with them and was not even aware of the cost of such things as utilities and fuel for the car. Maybe this was my fault because I did it all, but in every relationship, one partner takes on certain responsibilities, and it works. I guess when it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind, although I would always have the conversation around let’s pay a bit extra, let’s get in front, I don’t want to be paying off this house for the next 30 years, but I could see that even when given the opportunity to pay extra, only the minimum was ever contributed. I can now see how forming this behaviour relates to my inner child because she was carefree and then from a young age (14) learnt the value of time in exchange for money. My first job as a cashier paid $5.27 p/h and I was allowed to work 1 afternoon during the school week and a half day on Saturday. That was probably a total of 7hrs per week. Can you imagine how long it took me to save up for that first pair of Nike shoes back in the ’90s or that Stussy t-shirt? And when I bought them, I was so proud of myself. This was a lesson at this young age that set a foundation for me and created a baseline for adulthood. Moving into adulthood, I took much the same approach, always planning what could be achieved with what I had. So always making sure there was enough in savings to cover expenses. Also, when I moved out of the home to live abroad at 18, I did not once put my hand out to my parents for support. I would show them that I had the capacity to support myself. I was a pretty determined young woman, I must say.
Perfection – This was something that formed quite naturally for me as I gravitated towards order. I had witnessed it in my home growing up, not that I considered it as order it just was, and naturally I always liked my space to be clean, crisp, fresh and organised. I remember my teen bedroom and how I took a lot of pride in decorating with what I had, from the curtains that were hung (which I made myself) to the pieces on my bedside table. In adulthood, I carried the same traits, my house was in order, things were put away, and everything had its place. I don’t think I have an obsession with order or cleanliness I just like it to be tidy. The idea of my unmade bed horrifies me, although not more than dirty dishes from last night. I know we all have certain ways in which we like things to be done and as I think over my adulthood and the ways in which I carried this through I think about when my inlaws would visit and the place was always clean. My mother-in-law would always mention it. This I think formed a base for me as I always made sure before her visit that the house was tidy which was not a big deal but the fact I could see her to a quick scan when she walked in and check all the rooms she was judging my standard. She would compare me to her daughter, and this was never an uplifting conversation. Reading more on this topic I have learnt that perfectionism is a fear-based pattern and only leads to short-term rewards, it is also very time-consuming and exhausting. This all makes sense now; however, for some, it’s a pattern that needs to be unlearned or identified. Recently I have learnt to let things slide a little, but I can’t let those dishes sit there overnight.
I exist as I am, that is enough – Walt Whitman
Finally, on addiction, I wrote about this in last week’s blog but thinking back, it could be how control was also formed. The nicotine got me addicted, but I was always the one in control. I was limited in time, and access to smoking as a late teen was a thrill as it was forbidden. I was sneaking it behind my parent’s backs as a possible form of escapism because I was doing something I wasn’t allowed to, even managing to do it by challenging myself to sneak out at night just to get that hit. I don’t remember doing this with alcohol because my experience with it was not as enjoyable and addictive and I didn’t have access to it. In my 20’s, I continued to smoke and finally gave it up at 29. I knew the only way I could do it was to go cold turkey whilst pregnant. I had tried on my own but couldn’t. As soon as I found out that I was pregnant, that was it; I stopped. My body was now a vessel growing another human, and there was no way I would jeopardise that. I grew up watching my grandfather smoke. His workshop floor was littered with buts, and I vividly remember as if it was today walking into his workshop to see him working on something with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, so he was probably the significant adult in my life who smoked. I witnessed the way he mastered it. If not at work, hanging out, having a drink with his brother, or just walking around his garden, smoking. I don’t recall the smell ever bothering me, but my grandmother has told me she couldn’t bare it, and now that I have not smoked for many years, that is one thing that annoys me. It’s the smell.
I have never truly unpacked these patterns before, and writing about them has given me clarity. I am enough.