One Sunday lunchtime, as an always ravenous pre-teen, I tucked into my mother’s delicious roast. But my enthusiasm apparently caused a minor slip in my table manners, enraging Mum’s new husband.
“If you’re going to eat like a pig, then you can go and eat in the toilet,” he shouted, waving me away with an impatient sweep of his hand. Raised to respect adults, I did as I was told.
“You’ll never amount to anything with manners like that,” his parting shot followed me as I sat down on the toilet seat of the tiny downstairs cloakroom and closed the door.
Tears of humiliation coursed down my cheeks, splashing onto my lunch plate perched on my knees. But my tears also burned with rage. Something snapped inside me that day, but it took me years to understand what it was.
Forcing down the shame of that moment, I nurtured a quiet motivation to succeed. By the time I was twenty-one, I had left my home in England for a new life in California, where I landed my dream job as a trainee paralegal for a law firm in downtown Los Angeles.
But life had other plans: My dream job, as it turned out, was as mother to my three, now adult children. Fulfilled and happy as family CEO, it wasn’t until years later when I needed to look for paid employment outside the home, that my confidence nose-dived.
I remembered how thrilled I had been in my younger working life when my electric typewriter – with correcting ribbon no less! – was replaced with a state of the art word processor. And to think I had once typed great reams of dictated legal notes from shorthand. But as I read the employment ads asking for knowledge of computer office skills, I realised how out of touch I had become, my one-time skills now prehistoric.
We took the plunge and got our first family computer, but sharing it with three, school-age children with homework needs, and a husband who fast grew obsessed with war games, wasn’t easy.
When I did get a look in, I grew frustrated at my limited, self-taught knowledge. It didn’t help when one of the children offered to ‘help’ by whisking the cursor out of my hand, tapping a few keys and leaving me staring dumbfounded at the screen wondering what on earth they had just done.
And always, those dreaded words ringing in my ears: “See Mom, it’s easy!”
With great trepidation and pushing down fears that I would never again qualify for a good job, I registered at the local community college for a Desktop Publishing and Word 2003 computer course. With huge relief, I soon realised I wasn’t the only desperate mother needing a healthy dose of ‘You can do it’.
But when the tutor announced that the end of course exam would be a Power Point presentation in front of the entire class, I froze. No way, I thought. I didn’t even know what Power Point was, never mind use it…and in front of the class? No way.
But the following spring, I not only presented how to make a Table of Contents in Word using Power Point, I got an ‘A’ for my trouble. Not long after, I found a good job at a dental practice.
After a divorce and moving back to England, I happily remarried; but if I had struggled with a low self-esteem before, it was about to tumble: A couple of years apart, I lost not one, but two jobs, both due to office closure.
I don’t know what sounds worse: being ‘made redundant’ as we say in the UK, or the American expression, ‘laid off’. Either way, it’s hard not to take it personally. Being told you are essentially no longer wanted, no matter the reason, is never a good experience.
The struggle back was hard. By then in my late forties, I went through a dark time of feeling utterly useless. But eventually, it changed my life for the better: Out of that struggle came the hard shove I needed to pursue my life-long writing dream.
But writing isn’t for the faint hearted, I’ve learnt. Moments of crippling self-doubt taunt me still. Am I good enough to be the writer I’ve longed to be? But I do it anyway, because it’s not just what I do, but what I am.
I Am A Writer.
And then I realised what it was that snapped in me that day, forced by somebody to eat my lunch sitting on a toilet: I am good enough, because I am better than him.
© Sherri Matthews 2017
Sherri Matthews Bio
Sherri has been writing full time since 2012. Currently working on her memoir, Stranger in a White Dress, she has been published in magazines, websites and three anthologies. Sherri raised her children in California, and today lives in England with her husband, Aspie youngest and their pet menagerie fondly called ‘Animal Farm’.
You can connect with Sherri here:
Blog: www.sherrimatthewsblog.com (A View From My Summerhouse)
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/aviewfrommysummerhouse
Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/103859680232786469097/posts
Memoir Book Blurb: http://sherrimatthewsblog.com/memoir-book-blurb/ )