I have chased many dreams throughout my life, some have been purposeful and fun and others, well I suppose you could describe them as more nondescript – Some may say based on illusion, I prefer to think of them as learning footsteps, challenges from within, more seeking the real me or my purpose to being here. I was a child who had big dreams, I always wanted more, I always wanted to make a difference, but life always seemed to catch up with me, now when I say life, I mean the everyday occurrences that often sweep you aside, you know what I mean, the happenings that everyone tells you are responsibilities. You suddenly, find your path takes a turn that you maybe weren’t expecting or you become involved and find yourself pregnant and then of course your life changes forever along with a new path that you didn’t anticipate at that point in time. That was my experience and I never realised its significance until recently.

Pregnancy isn’t always thought of as wonderful, even sometimes thought of as a mistake, a negative life-changer; and that is where I found myself all those years ago as I embarked on my journey towards adulthood. Luckily, I wasn’t shunned by my family as others had been, but it was a difficult time. At first, when everyone found out, no-one was celebrating, sympathy from some was abound, marriage was not an option, but the feeling that I had let my family down was deeply impregnated in my mind. I was sad and afraid at what should have been a joyful time, I was feeling despondent and more worried and fearful than I had ever experienced in my short sixteen years of life. I was surrounded by negativity but I had a good family who although I knew I had clearly let them down, supported me in keeping my baby. Strange how I use and feel the word knew, but that was the feeling that was etched into every fibre of my being.

When I think back, the negativity was all-consuming, I was engulfed by it, I was definitely under a black cloud so to speak, and even though I didn’t realise at the time I WAS on my path, but Instead I felt disgusted with myself, I wanted to run away, but I had nowhere to go. I faced everyday through a blanket of fear, I cried tears when I no longer thought there were any left, I felt tormented and stared at, talked about and regarded as a failure and worse, even felt that my character was in question. It’s strange how as time passes and you get more used to something that is inevitably happening, as do those around you, you smile and plan but still fear is running through your veins, shame is your partner and guilt becomes your pathway, these negative emotions breathe through you and become part of your essence without you even realising it, you soak it all up, you lose sight of anything other than what everyone says and feels about you and what you have done. Eventually your life unfolds as a pathway of regret based on what you have been taught and how you have been taught to feel. We consume all of society’s behaviour codes and when we stray from those laws and codes, however big or small, in whatever vein we are flowing, (for me it was pregnancy before marriage) we become like outlaws, bad sheep so to speak, figures and content of gossip. We walk a path of hurt, inner pain, shame and guilt and fear, and we grieve for who we think we should have been or should have become, and from such a dark place we lost sight of who we really are and of the joys that we are actually experiencing. Instead we see what should be the joys of life as blots on our landscape, as undeniable shameful events that seal our fate to an unhappy future that no-one will let us forget, we burden our family with skeletons in our cupboards, things that everyone wants to hide and not speak about, but how can they hide their fears when you are the physical presence that everyone is ashamed of, and that shame and let down continues to gather momentum as you physically grow, in every sense of the word, and then a new life arrives that is too burdened with YOUR shame without even trying, and so the negative cycle continues, it is now your path and a way of life. You have all the visual aids that you need, all the hardened feelings that you must try to rise above and show character, good character, a strong purposeful character that shows to the outside world that you can shoulder that burden, and do right by your child. You garner the thought that you made your bed, so to speak, and now you must lie in it, accepting that you have done wrong and shoulder the burden of your wrong doing, you feel worthless and you are meant to, societal laws that you have adopted and are governed by dictate such feelings, you have to be strong and ride out the storm, a storm of negative feelings that you know from deep within will never pass and you accept them all, because you know you have brought it all on yourself and you must pay the price of bringing such shame to your family.

What I didn’t realise at that point in my life was that yes, I was walking a dark path and all the time I was myself nurturing negativity and a negative lifestyle, but I was also walking alongside another path, a path filled with happiness, a path of joyful living, of smiles and laughter, of fulfilment and creativity, a path filled with love, the path of Motherhood, but I never saw that path, the colourful bright and beautiful path of my mothering, of the love that I was giving and receiving, of all the joys that permeate children and family, no, instead I was still on the path of shame and proving that I was a good person, a person with character who could rise above the storm. Don’t misinterpret my thoughts, I loved my children dearly, they consumed every moment of my being, they were my life, I laughed and smiled with them, I was determined to give them a good life, to help them feel good about themselves. I reveled in their achievements, I felt proud of everything they were and the little people they were becoming, I taught them to be independent thinkers and to find their way and to always feel proud and stand tall and strong. I taught them that they could be anything they wanted to be, that the world was their oyster, but I never told that to myself. I was simply determined that my children would feel different about their world.

I continued making my way in the world, still carrying burdens and shame, and feeling that I had to keep going and prove that I was worthy, that I could amount to something, be SOMEBODY! So I studied hard, really hard; when I think about it I made everything hard for myself, I went to college and to University, all the time being a full-time Mum and trying to run my home and keep everything normal for my kids. I tried to be the best mother and wife and homemaker I could possibly be, holding down jobs during the day, and studying when everyone slept. Yes, I gained my degree and I had ‘good’ jobs, I went after every prize, but nothing filled me with the joy I was looking for. Instead I always came up empty, feeling that I had taken another wrong turn, I never felt fulfilled, and then it hit me… The only time I had experienced fulfillment was as a mother. I had the prize there with me all the time, right in front of me but it was shrouded, shrouded in shame and guilt that I had carried for years, that I had allowed to define me and my life, that I had allowed to prevent me from seeing and feeling worthy. I had allowed myself to view my path as one of flaw and a ruined life. I had been so determined to prove that being an unmarried mother would not ruin my life, I worked hard, really hard to prove that wrong, but instead I manifested that very momentum.

I WAS walking my path, it was always there, what was in the way was my perspective, instead of viewing my life as the gift it was, I saw myself and my life through the eyes of a negative viewpoint, and a masked lens, a lens shrouded by what I thought it should look like rather than what it actually was. I had always wanted to teach, so I embarked on study and moved myself towards teaching, hence my degree and a sleepless life when I already was a teacher, the most important teacher my children could ever have had, and I missed it, I never recognised that part of me, I never saw it already in me. I always wanted to be successful, I feared failure so much, I feared being less than I was, I had to be the best at everything I did, and yes I succeeded and did well, I achieved but it always fell short in my mind and in my heart, I always experienced struggle in more ways than one, I never experienced the joy I was looking for, there always needed to be more, but as a mother I enjoyed every minute, I loved taking care of my children, I loved cooking and making their clothes, I love baking with them, I loved decorating our home, and gardening, and growing fruit and vegetables and salad amongst the flowers, I loved making jam ready for them coming home from school, I loved playing with them and teaching them to read, and in fact when I was home being a full-time Mum and homemaker it was the most fulfilling time of my life. Even now, my family is everything to me, and I cherish time with them all, even though they are grown, I love that contented family feeling, I LOVE MY LIFE, and I love my growing perspective of who I am, the woman and the girl I was and who I am becoming now my eyes are open, and I love more than anything being a mother.

Speak to you soon

Love Elaine

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©Elaine W Shaw 2015