Where Have I Been???



“Sometimes the person who’s been there for everyone else needs to be there for herself.” S. Kim Henson

I’m funniest in the shower, like this morning. I asked myself a slightly revised question from the movie Sabrina, and in the same tone William Holden asked it of Audrey Hepburn, “Where have I been all my life?”

I laughed, and then, giving it a second thought, genuinely asked it out loud, “Where have I been all my life?”

By the time I wrapped myself in a towel, I sounded annoyed, “Where have I been all my life?”

An hour later, I scrolled through Christmas photos on my phone and found the one I shared above of my three-year-old granddaughter. Her self-studying picture reminded me I hadn’t answered my question, and to answer it gently.

A friend’s suggestion to evaluate my life in seven-year scenes, or thereabouts, seemed a good idea for coming up with an account of where I’ve been. Aside from specifics, maybe you’ll relate.

I spent the first eight years or so of my life – Scene One – growing up on military bases in New York. Mom disliked being away from her family in South Carolina, which meant Dad tried appeasing her until he could get her back to the South. Homesick wasn’t all that was wrong, so I set out at a very young age to figure out and fix us.

I confused a playful childhood with child labor – trying to be silly enough, cute enough, and obedient enough to give Mom and Dad reasons to lighten up, laugh, and be happy in place of her crying and him covering his pain with anger.

Dad was stationed in Vietnam the first year of Scene Two, around the time I turned nine. He moved Mom, my brother, and me to Mom’s childhood home in South Carolina, which also meant being moved in with my great aunt who raised my mom. I cherished Aunt Viola, but I think Dad felt differently. When he returned to the states, he bought a motel in a nearby resort town and lived there seven, then eight, and finally nine months out of every year.

By then, I was hiding out because we weren’t normal anymore. We no longer had a dad, a mom, and siblings living together while Dad worked 9 to 5. Being “not normal anymore” also meant my mentally ill uncle moved in and out of my great aunt’s house, so he lived with us on and off. His disturbing behavior left behind even more to hide.

During Scene Three, I graduated from high school, chose a local college since I was too anxious to move away, and attached myself to my future husband to help me escape the house I wouldn’t leave. We eloped at age 20. Mom gifted us baby presents because she was certain I’d run off to get married because I’d gotten pregnant. Our first child was born five years later.

I ran, although uncertain where I was headed. In retrospect, I was making a run for the metaphorical white picket fence, a place where I convinced myself I’d feel loved enough, taken care of enough, and safe enough.

For the next 28 years, the next four scenes of my life, I moved back to my hometown to live close by my parents who I eventually distanced myself from. I made up a fairytale marriage. I birthed and raised two children (who, by the way, are my two accomplishments that are “enough”). I worked determinedly and went back to school for degrees to teach, counsel, supervise, and write so as to increase my income and my self-worth, and to prove myself to people who weren’t paying much attention. I chose some wrong friends who made me feel important for the same “wrong” reason I picked them – their prominence, not their praiseworthiness. Most of my actions were okay, but my motives, well, not so much. I did a lot of what I did in hopes that I’d earn enough, buy enough, elevate myself enough, help enough, be seen enough, be needed enough, accomplish enough to ultimately persuade myself I was enough.

I immersed myself in other people’s scenes so I wouldn’t have to engage in my own conflicted ones. I lost myself in their lives because I wasn’t sure how to get my own.

It wasn’t until my most recent scene, preceded by Dad’s death and when I was coming up on 50, that I began showing up the way I believe we’re supposed to – for me, for my life’s purpose, and for my God. I stepped back from being confused, hiding, running, and immersing myself in others. I’m excited you’re still reading because this is the scene with the hashtags, the ones that help us focus on ourselves. #selfcaringin2017 #gettingyourownlife #whilelovingthepeopleinit

But first, before I worked my way up to wondering Where have I been all my life?, I wondered where all these people, places, and things in my life came from. At half-a-century-old (that’ll get your attention), I was no longer able to disregard uncomfortable questions that kept surfacing.


Questions like …

Why am I living in this big house? In this town? Why do I do for others what they can and should do for themselves? Why do I spend time with people I discern aren’t friends or even kind, for that matter? Why’d I spend money on that? Why do I tolerate disrespect? Lying? Others calling me crazy when they’re the ones driving me there? Why don’t I feel emotionally safe? Why don’t I fit in at church? Any church? Ever? Why do I rise to others’ expectations, but not my own? Why am I avoiding the gym? Why do I sidestep genuine friendships? Why am I procrastinating when productivity makes me feel good? Why don’t I pick up the phone when I need someone? Why don’t I like to cook? Why do I make writing difficult? Why am I eating a third Reese Cup?

Nine years of “cleaning house,” sometimes literally like the time we downsized from 4,000 to 1,000 square feet, and I’m finally asking the foundational question that undergirds the rest, “Where have I been all my life?”

 … and how appropriate for it to pop into my head at the start of 2017, the year I’ve committed to self-care … and how appropriate during a shower because water is a big part of my self-care.


 So, where have I been all my life? Answer the question, already.

I’m where most of us are right now, no matter our ages – I’m right here (like on the map in a shopping center: “You are here”) and doing all I can to make my story better. Aren’t we all? Isn’t “being better” what most of us attempt daily in our lives? We try to look younger, eat healthier, get wealthier, promote louder, work harder, act calmer, help further, workout longer, treat others kinder, connect deeper, pray profounder, feel stronger, and all so we’ll be better.

We just want to “arrive,” and though arriving is impossible this side of heaven, I believe one inroad to being better is self-care. I hope you’re with me since it’s easier to get better together. #selfcaringin2017

In This Together,

I’m inviting you back next week to read about acceptance and tolerance. #selfcaring2017 #whilelovingthepeopleinit


13 responses »

  1. Kim, I always enjoy your writing. Real life stories are windows we can look through to see life in meaningful ways, ourselves and others too. I think writing about our history is a great. Grandparent books, even the fill in the blank kind, about our growing years are good to pass on too. My Aunt Flora, as part of one of her senior center programs wrote a one page story about her childhood. Her 82 year old friend drew a picture of Aunt Floras story, the home place, the house with front porch, the big barn and the huge boulder on the farm, the stream and wooden bridge to bus stop and mail box, where the bus came where she got her first kiss after school at 8 years old and ran home, the pet cemetery, where Aunt Clara, Uncle Floyd and her would have pet funerals, and sing songs, the chicken coop, the hog pen, a glimpse into our heritage. The home is gone now, I have never been there but I have a picture, story and memory that is treasured. By the way, Aunt Flora lived longer than her siblings.She was the only one to exercise every morning before work, and was astatewide champion at billiards in the NC Senior Center annual games. She said she had very little competition in her age group.

    • Oh my, Joel, Aunt Flora sounds like someone I would have LOVED ❤ getting to know. She must have been delightful and very funny … "very little competition in her age group." 😉

      The way I learn from others is not by them giving me advice or preaching at me or telling me "you should …", but by listening to their experience, strength, and hope and learning from their stories. And I'm with you, I love having these stories in writing for my children and grandchildren. I hate that we have hardly any info about my family of origin.

      Thanks for your comment, and I enjoyed reading about Aunt Flora and others in your family. You painted a vivid picture.

  2. Kim,as usual you always hit that nail right on the head! I finally realized I could only make ME happy and I’ve dropped out of everything,including church. I don’t like the minister or the theology anymore, so I’ve begun to seriously work on my own religion. Might not be a better person to other folks, but I like me a whole lot better!

    • Awe, thanks, Billie Ann. ❤ I sure do miss you! I loved spending time with you in Sunday School and getting to know you better. I'm sorry to hear church isn't what it used to be, but things change and I'm pretty good now at knowing when it's time to move on.

      I believe liking yourself almost always makes you a better person for others to be around. Of course, I liked you a lot before. 🙂

      Take good care and I hope you'll drop by again! ❤

  3. Kim, this may be the most powerful post you have written. I read it late last night and couldn’t reply because I was crying too hard. I was crying for you, and I was crying for me and for all the women who have lost themselves somewhere along the way. Once more, although our stories are different, there are many similarities. I am just so glad that you wrote about this and that you have put self-care at the top of your list. Why do we wait until our 60s to find our voices? I found my voice early in life, in my late teens and early 20s, then lost it again for a variety of reasons. Now I’m finally finding it again and so far I think I have both shocked and angered some friends and family members because I’m telling my truth. I have not heard from any family since my Frangulation blog post. No, it’s not pretty but I will not shut up again. I will still be kind and loving but I will not sit quietly by. As the movie line goes, “nobody puts Baby (Mary) in the corner.

    • Mary, I always gain insight from your comments. This time around it’s about compassion. I think it’s cleansing for us to cry for each other. I hope you think so too, and that you needed a good cry. Not sure where the saying came from, but I like the sound of “good cry.” ❤ I believe it's time that we step up to our feelings, into our feelings, and feel them. So much of what I've done up until now is RUN. That's what made Frangulation so relatable. It wasn't a pretty post, but, think about it, it was all about feeling, and by writing about it, you allowed us (your readers) to feel for you and with you. I sure appreciate your writing and you!

  4. Kim, thank you for sharing and for your inspiring insights. I can relate to so much of this. It took me a long time to realize that I needed to nurture myself as much I did others. My parents had a very difficult relationship and I always felt I needed to “fix” everything and everybody…so I became a people pleaser and in the process forgot that for me to be happy and healthy I also had to be pleased with & take care of myself. Thankfully, I found a wonderful husband who helped me to realize this and has played a huge role in helping me become the person I am today. I always enjoy your writings. You are so gifted!

    • Vicki, I relate, I relate, I relate. You’re so nurturing to others, and I love that about you. I feel welcome and well taken care of when I visit your home. I think that’s a wonderful quality to have as long as we also figure out how to do the same for ourselves. I’m grateful you’ve had help from your husband. It’s easier when you have someone to remind you to attend to YOU. ❤ You certainly deserve it.

      Thank you for your kind comments! xoxoxo

  5. Have I mentioned lately that I love your writing, Kim? (Also love that picture of your granddaughter — priceless!) As you turn yourself inside out in this piece, you reflect many of us mid-lifers (I’m only calling myself a senior if there’s a discount in it.)

    I’ve been thinking lately of how I judge (in my head) younger people because they just don’t get it and how much time they’re wasting because they don’t, and it occurs to me that we get it because of the experiences it took to get us to this point in time. I’ve had some epiphanies this past year that are changing how I view and live in NatineWorld, but it took some major crap to generate them.

    Someone commented today – in a different context – that God placed us in our families for a reason. An aha moment for me. Now if I can just figure out what His purpose for me is… 😉

    • Hahaha, “only a senior if there’s a discount in it.” I get it! I thought I’d resent people asking, but, I’m with you, If I get a deal, sign me up for being old. 😉

      I love your observation about young people and how our experiences are what got us here. Yep, that’s what I was trying to convey, but then I catch myself judging me because I didn’t get here quicker. I need to stop that because I’ve needed every single day and every single experience – yep, crap and all – to get me wherever it is I’m going. That’s my point if I can finally convince myself of it!!! Hey, you write a blog post about it and maybe I’ll listen to YOU. I’m not joking. I’d love to hear your take on it.

      His purpose for you … I don’t know all of it, but I know you’re a BIG encourager. Thank you for showing up and being a friend! ❤

  6. From Facebook (Kim Henson) ~

    Sally J. Taylor, Pamela Wilk and 23 others

    1 share (Laurie Bruun)

    Joel Carter Great story, picture and illustrations. Left a comment
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · January 20 at 2:54pm

    Kim Henson Thanks, Joel Carter. I’m headed over there tonight or tomorrow to read it. I always appreciate your comments.
    Like · Reply · January 21 at 12:18am

    Elizabeth McNew Bravo, Kim, for showing up in your own life story! Your honesty is appreciated, and so many people can relate to where you are.
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · January 21 at 1:34am

    Kim Henson I appreciate your comment, Elizabeth McNew. Thank you! ❤ Last year was tough, so I'm excited to begin a new year with self-care as my focus. I know the more I care for me, the easier it will be to lovingly show up for others. ❤ I knew this last year too, but I really struggled to take care of myself.
    Like · Reply · 1 · January 21 at 11:00pm

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