Julie Shackleton – Listening, waiting (2018)

Listening Waiting.

I didn’t know I had the gift of listening. I didn’t know I had the gift of waiting. These were revealed to me at a later stage of my life. But the listening is such a part of me that when I acknowledge its existence it slinks away and hides again. Because I’ve always done it. And it adds a layer of tension to me that manifests itself in anxiety and all the friends of anxiety.

I hear footsteps outside and realise I’m listening. Who is that are they coming to my house is it the post man. A split second of listening……and waiting.

The quiet rattle of the clothes dryer as my husband tries to take a t-shirt off the radiator in another room. I shout out “they’re not dry yet”, “what aren’t?” he replies. “Those t-shirts on that radiator”. How did I know what he was doing? Because I was listening and I didn’t even know I did it. But it had revealed itself to me and for that brief moment my life made a kind of sense. There was a kind of calm and understanding of myself and my world, that was then swept away and hidden again as it was absorbed back into me.
I hate the listening. I want it to go away. But it never will. It will live with me forever.
It was forged in me as a child who had no control over her world. Just as I had no control over the curly hair I inherited or my need to make art.

The listening and the waiting were outside my control but in the control of parents whose behaviour frightened me and whose behaviour I had no hope of understanding. And it sounds worse than it was. I was not abused sexually or physically, apart from the hands of a builder slapping me on the back of my thigh as I ran upstairs. I had a good life of provision and foreign holidays. We were well off and had standing in our community. But that listening and waiting have forged for me a life of waiting, for the thunderous stomp of the builder up the stairs to wait for that thigh slap. That has led to a life of waiting for circumstances beyond my control to manifest into something more than they are.

The listening and the waiting have created in me a life of anxiety, depression, self-medication by alcohol and a belief in my own invisibility that means I cannot see the greatness of my actions or the greatness of my skills. I am 58 years old.

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