Joining-up the Dots

I was not great at art as a kid, however, I was very good at Dot-to-Dot – do you remember those kids books that contain drawings which, at first glance, are just a pile of dots? The child needs to join the dots to make a picture.

I was good at joining up the dots.

Not sure whether those books for kids are still available, it would be good to have them in schools to help kids to learn later in life how to join up the dots.

This recurring theme in my thoughts is a result of reading about people wanting to change. I understand this desire, it is natural to want to progress in your life. I wandered through life for too long because I forgot to join up the dots.

I grew up in an extremely unhealthy environment, we were not nurtured, we dragged ourselves up by the scruff of our tails, and it was survival of the fittest. We got on with it; there was no choice, we had to survive. When you grow in an environment where there is no time, no energy, no money and love was scarce, then you learn very quickly to join up the dots.

We were hungry and felt cold, I shared a bedroom with two of my brothers and I would be drifting off to sleep, only to feel a cold hand slipping under the covers, slowly, searching for the hot water bottle. I was the privileged one; due to having my own bed, I was given the only warmth available – a hot water bottle.

I still feel cold often and it became quite an obsession to buy bedding and coats; we own far too many quilts, I have several coats, one for each day of the week. When we moved house ten years ago, we cleared the attic and found six or seven duvets that had not passed the test in keeping me warm. It was shocking to find how many I had stored.

Joining up the dots.

I liked, no – stronger than that – I needed to keep everything compartmentalized. There was no order in our house, you had to scramble for what you needed, affection was the most elusive so you would turn to your possessions and try as best you could to surround yourself with ‘things’.

My ‘things’ were books; I had a shelf above my bed with books, glorious books. Everything had its place in my allocated area, everything was kept tidy, it was important that my tiny bit of space was organised and controlled.

Today, I love boxes, nice boxes, coloured boxes, baskets, tins, cardboard boxes. Anything that can keep ‘things’ contained. I can be heard saying to my husband whilst shopping, “oh what a lovely box”– over the years he recognised a pattern in me for buying boxes and now whenever we shop together he will say “step away from the boxes Joan”.

Joining up the dots.

Today things are better; I can afford to buy mostly what I need. I do not need much, I am very lucky. Today it takes less to make me happy. I am lucky. My husband gives me a good deal of affection, I feel safe as a result. It took me a long time to find this safe haven. I take responsibility for it taking too long, I forgot about joining up the dots.

Because I am in a much better place and feel safe, there is no longer any need to buy more quilts, coats, boxes or hot water bottles. I keep some near, just in case.

Joining up the dots.

It feels good to be understood. I am nearer to being understood.

I would cry as a kid, I cried a lot. Being unhappy was not allowed, there was no time, no space, no one there to help you. You needed to learn to join up the dots.

In amongst the madness that was my childhood, I knew that it was important for me to learn. I was not sure what I had to learn, but I knew whatever it was that I had to learn, I had to learn it quickly. If not, something diabolical was going to happen. I was not sure what that ‘something’ was, but I knew instinctively that I had to learn it quick.

Back to joining up the dots.

I wanted to teach, I remember a deep yearning inside for wanting to help others. An obvious choice, I would teach. I worked very hard in my studies. I was an only girl,with four brothers, and the message was “you are a girl, you will not need a career, you will marry”, but I heard something else and I wanted to teach.

I never told anyone I wanted to teach, “Do not be silly what is the point?” I continued without understanding what I was doing or where I was going – you see I had no mentor; they were all too busy trying to survive themselves. Besides I did not find anyone else who enjoyed joining up the dots as much as I did.

My education suffered when we moved house at a crucial time for me. I left great school teachers behind and was unable to find replacements; it was downhill from there. I lost sight of becoming a teacher and learned instead how to type, file and organise things into boxes, I was good at that.

Joining up the dots.

Next came the phase of making money. I could manage that, even though at times it was only just enough. I had found my first intimate relationship but not much else. Now along with my son in tow I continued to try to make money, just enough to pay the bills. Teaching became a distant dream.

For the next twenty-five years, life became about someone else, a very important someone else whose education and wellbeing was far more important than my own. I did the best job I could at being a single parent. He got all of the ‘things’ I did not get, education, warmth, stability and huge amounts of love.

The young girl I had been was forgotten, too busy trying to pay the bills. Education still beckoned. Maybe, just maybe there was time for me. I decided to look at night school, as it was impossible to give up work and study full time – someone had to take responsibility for paying the bills.

Joining up the dots.

The planets began to align; it felt right for me to be back in a learning environment. There was no time to lose. I had wasted far too much time already. I became a sponge and soaked it all in. Knowledge could provide the answers to my questions about … ‘why?’

This phase of my life was incredibly rewarding, I learned how to be selfish, which was truly liberating. I learned I could be selfish and yet still be kind to those around me. I could still help and keep myself O.K. Maybe, just maybe, I could learn enough to teach and ultimately help others. Maybe.

Joining up the dots.

Sometimes, it takes far too long to learn what it is that drives you on; where in your past you learned the skills you have today. Many of our skills do not come from books. You have natural skills; you learned them because as a youngster you had to, not always because you wanted to; not to impress, but because you needed those skills in order to survive.

When you begin to realize your skills – your adaptations – you become aware of the self, deep within, the spiritual self. In my case, it took far too long to find; I was too busy trying to survive, however I remembered to join up the dots. Until I was ready to listen to the messages that were there all the time, I could not hear. Until I was ready, the messages would keep knocking on my door, but I was far too busy trying to survive.

Now, I am at a place where I understand how important everything is in a child’s life. I realize how important these events are to a person, later. I understand for myself how important past experience was. But most importantly, I have learned to listen more intently to the messages that my own spirit is giving me, and I trust that inner voice.

Joining up the dots.

The voice has been there all along, through the turmoil and the pain. On many occasions I heard, however I chose to ignore. I needed to keep everything ship-shape and under control. I had to keep us warm and safe, so I was far too busy with other stuff, and I forgot to listen.

Joining up the dots.

Life really can be simpler than we make it. I made my life extremely difficult by putting obstacles in my own way. If I had listened to my inner voice, I would have found the guidance that was there all along and life might have been far less painful for me.

However, looking back, I can see that my life has been a dot-to-dot journey that eventually provided me with the big picture … and yes, I finally did get to teach.

Joining up the dots

Buried deep within your subconscious mind are old messages from childhood. These messages do not work for you as an adult – a child wrote them from her perspective.

Now, looking through an adult’s eyes, do you feel the dots in your life can be joined up?

Article by Joan Harrison

Joan Harrison is an integrative counsellor/hypnotherapist. Her personal development blog is a place where you will be challenged to Think a Great Life! TGL

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