When I was just a young girl, in trouble, as usual, I wanted to be Lizzie. Lizzie had the life I didn’t have. She, never in trouble, was an only child, a beloved and cherished daughter, allowed her own sway to a great degree when I felt I held no sway at all. I was the eldest of five, four of them girls and one boy, the closest to me in a birthday sense and the one I had tried to eliminate for years, without success. He was, and still is, a survivor. And, now, I am glad he lives on, as he is a rock in my turbulent ocean.
Lizzie was allowed to eat her beans on toast on a little table in front of the Woodentops, or whatever was showing at tea time, as I was when I visited her. Her parents had only her to concern themselves with, to indulge and to encourage; only one to buy school shoes for, so that she, unlike me, could negotiate the style, where I could not. My school shoes were boats with laces, blooming out before me every time I looked down, making me smart with shame. I could have taken a wall down with one kick of those awful things whereas Lizzie could wheedle a slightly pointed toe and a slant towards style. She had no need to take down a wall because she had none in her life, or so I thought.
Later, at secondary school, I wanted to be Elaine. Elaine was sporty like you wouldn’t believe and I ran out of puff in just a few minutes. She shone on the lacrosse field, the netball field, all fields and I was always put in goal. They said, the team, that my face was enough to terrify any attempt at scoring. Not sure that was a compliment, although I laughed with them at the time. Elaine was a farmer’s daughter, free to swing from a terrifyingly high rope slung from the rafters above a massive pyramid of shucked grain. We flew through the sky and jumped into the grains, sinking but not too far. My dad would have had a blue fit at the danger of it, but I was on fire and returned home with a wild sense of freedom. The proximity of danger always thrilled me, from pointy-toed winter lace-ups to pyramids of grain and no set bedtime. However, arriving home with that wild sense of danger and freedom did me no favours. I was horsed into a bath and all my clothes washed with an accompaniment of loud tutting and, strangely, no more invitations to the house of Elaine.
But, now, in my late sixties, I am very thankful to be who I am. Had I been either Lizzie or Elaine, I would have missed being me. I did for a while. For years in truth but now I am glad to be me. It thinks me. There are many of us who waste a lot of time and energy in wishing we were not ourselves. Others have more, do more, succeed at more. And, yet, in looking so hard at what others have, we forget the individual gifts we have been given, and, believe me, we all have them. They are unique to us, to me, to you and we are the only one (forgive the bad grammar here) who can give back to the world, one that needs exactly what we/I/you have to give. In a world where we can feel like a number, we must turn away from such thinking. Just because we feel like that doesn’t mean we need to buy into it, to accept it. Because we don’t.
To notice is to be aware. To be aware is to be alert. To be alert is to be powerful and to be powerful never means over other people. It asks us to be powerful over ourselves. Now we’re talking.
I am glad I am not Lizzie. I am glad I am not Elaine. Neither choice would have been sustainable and I can never live another’s life. I can only live my own. So what is my own life? Am I a number or am I an aware, alert and powerful woman inside my own shoes? It’s a good question.
You answer it.