At 19 I was a bride! I felt so grown up and made my own long gown, with a bustle, on my faithful old Singer machine. My mother had told me that no decent man would ever want me, so I was marrying the first one that asked.
At 20 I became a mother, and I felt so grown up and wanted to be a good mother more than anything else in the world. By this time I had realised that maybe rushing into marriage to get away from home was not such a great idea. I had actually gone from the frying pan into the fire, but how joyful I was at the idea of becoming a mum.
By the time I was 27 I was the mother of three and a naïve young girl of 19, who thought that she knew everything, was feeling that she didn’t know who she was after all. She was reminded every day about the things she wasn’t – she wasn’t pretty; wasn’t feminine; was not a good housewife; not a wonderful mother; not clever! So she set about wanting to learn how she could become this person that others seemed to want her to be.
As time went on, the layers of the onion began peeling off. I learnt how to look after my skin; I took deportment lessons; I worked hard at becoming a good housewife, and I studied. I loved my kids passionately so whilst I know I was not the perfect mother, I was a hell of a lot better than my mother had been and my children always felt loved. Still, I read books on mothering and went to workshops. Oh, I also needed to work full-time as a school teacher which was a constant learning opportunity.
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As the years went by I found the more I learned, the less I felt I knew, and I continued to lose my sense of identity. I wasn’t about to give up, but for 20 years I tried hard to please a bully. On my 40th birthday, I peeled off another layer of the onion and declared that I was going to find out who my true self was. I undertook studying in a big way, even though I felt I wasn’t very bright. As luck would have it, I found a group of amazing women who were studying for the same degree that I was. They were so generous in their support and reassured me that I had a brain after all. I will always be so grateful to those women, they taught me so much, and I felt several layers of the onion peeling away. Of course, this did not sit well with a husband who had enjoyed keeping me down for so long.
At 41 I had a major accident which in reality should have ended my life – but it was not my time. My husband’s reaction summed up 20 years of marriage when he yelled at me that I was a stupid bitch – that car was not insured. At last, I had the courage to leave, with no resources of my own. My daughter had already left home, and my two sons were pre-teens. Luckily I did have a job so I knew eventually I would be able to rent a little unit.
I have recounted a lot of subsequent events in my book but needless to say, there were many layers of the onion that needed to be peeled away as I ploughed through several unsuitable marriages to be eventually rewarded with a loving, supportive man with whom I spent eight wonderful years until his passing eighteen months ago.
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By this time so many layers had been peeled away, and I cried out to the universe that I was sick of learning lessons and longed for some peace. So here I am today. I have just put my incredible working partner Ande on the plane. We have successfully bluffed managed (people don’t like being bluffed) our way through our first three gigs together, and I have found there were more layers of the onion that needed to be shed. The past five days have taught me so much. I am going to have to write a completely new blog to cover it all, and I would like to share it. I have always been someone who dislikes competition. I preach it in my corporate jobs and to my children – in fact, I can’t even watch shows that have a hint of competition because there has to be a winner and a loser. Now at the age of 72, I have discovered that I have actually always been competitive and it has taken these gigs with Ande and a powerful young mediator to enlighten us both. Wow! What a revelation and how it will change the way we operate from here on.
Okay onion, surely there are not many layers left? Mmm – I may resist but I am wise enough to know there will always be more layers and I am so grateful that I am around to keep learning.
By the time I am 90 I may be able to declare myself a wise old lady!
Another story about peeling off the onion layers…
In the early 1970s, I was with a group of families camping at Lake Bolac and sailing in the annual Easter Regatta.
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There was a couple staying in a caravan at the edge of the lake about 100 metres away. After we had set up our caravans and camp, we were visited by Captain America on his motorcycle (with the stars and stripes over his motorcycle helmet and his leather jacket). He advised us he was the local marijuana supplier! We explained that we had no need for any marijuana, so he just entertained us in his mildly stoned condition. This included, for example, standing in the fire with his boots on because his feet felt cold – of course, his boots got so hot he had cause to leap out of the fire, and the boots were much too hot for anyone to grab and pull off!
On the second day, he returned to our campfire and brought along his girlfriend – introduced her to us as “Onion”. It was her name because he liked to remove her layers of clothing whenever and wherever he chose, and she was okay with all of that.
What life events helped you to peel off your layers? What has shaped you and made you the person you are today? Tell us in the comments below…
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