Etre bien dans la peau

The French have a phrase ‘être bien dans la peau‘. The literal translation would be ‘to be happy in one’s skin’.  A more accurate translation to English would be ‘to be happy with who you are’.  To be at ease with yourself. To live your truth. To not live a lie.  Or something along that vein. 

I don’t know whether I ever really had a vision of what and who I wanted to be. I don’t know that I ever stopped to think about it.   In fact I know that I didn’t.  Maybe that was my problem. Because I never had a clear vision of my destination in life it was more difficult to identify when I was headed in the wrong direction. It took a while for me to put my foot on the break pedal and to say ‘stop’ when my life was running counter to what and who I wanted to be.    

I can honestly say that I never saw myself as a single mother. In fact, if I’m honest I never really saw myself as a mother. Now that I am one, however, I would never not want to be one. 

I did see myself always being the master of my own destiny, or at the very least having a say in my own destiny.  In life you cannot craft everything! 

I am fiercely independent and always will be.  Having said that, I do want to be able to rely on someone and for someone to be able to rely on me, but I want it to be a mutual and equal partnership.  Unless a relationship can be a true partnership, I am happier on my own. 

I always saw my work being part of who I am, part of my identity.  I am not entirely sure that I saw myself being defined by my current profession, but that is a story for another day.  Work is less important to me now than it ever has been, but this vision of work shaping my identity still holds true to an extent.   

I am a lot closer to being ‘bien dans ma peau’ at the end of 2015 than I was at the beginning. Since I separated from my fiancé on 15 February 2015 I have been feeling a little freer.  My skin is no longer my straight jacket. 

A number of people have asked me how I did not realise that I was in the wrong relationship.  How did I not realise that I didn’t like my fiancé?  How did I not realise that he was not a particularly nice person?  How did I not realise that we had a totally different outlook on life and totally contrary values? 

These are fair questions for which I have no clear answer.  My best attempt at providing a reason is that we were living parallel lives before we had our son.  We were both immersed in work.  Because we work in the same industry, work helpfully provided the topic of conversation in the evenings too. 

We used to go out to the theatre, to restaurants or out for drinks with friends.  We chatted.  We never really had ‘deep’ conversations.  I am not really one for ‘deep’ conversations.  But we never really talked about how we saw the future.  I don’t know that we’d have been able to have an honest conversation about the future if we tried. I don’t know that we would have understood what the other was trying to say.  We’d have probably swept our differences under the carpet.

Differences can no longer be swept under the carpet when hitherto parallel lives come crashing together with the birth of a baby.  Our different values hit me like a juggernaut again and again and again and again. Wounding and crushing and squeezing and suffocating and controlling and dictating. 

I was far from ‘bien dans ma peau’.  There were days when the many many layers of my skin were my straight jacket and constricted my every move.  There were other days when my skin was being peeled off layer by layer exposing the red rawness underneath, weak, vulnerable, stinging, tearing, weeping. 

Straight jacket

Straight jacket

I had to make my decision.  I knew that I would not be me, that Pen would not be Pen, if I did not.

Things are so much better now.  I am little freer.  I can no longer see my whole life, a life I didn’t want, mapped out ahead of me.

There is a risk in not having a clear vision of what you want in and from life. Some people have a script.  They want a wife or husband, a nice house in leafy suburbs, a nice car, a couple of happy children, dinner parties on a saturday night, wealth.  I sometimes envy these people.  Clear goals are easier to achieve than those which lack focus.

My vision for the future is defined by my values.  Having had them tested has put them into sharper relief.  They are my signposts for my journey ahead.  If I ever turn away from these signposts I am going the wrong way:

  • I am a mother and my son is and always will be my number one.
  • I need to be a master in my own destiny (any future husband will be a partner not a master.)
  • I am staunchly secular – I don’t think I can really compromise here. I know that I will need to find someone to share my secular outlook if a relationship is going to work. 
  • I value honesty and integrity in others.  I want to be with and around people who have a well calibrated moral compass. 
  • I like to be with open minded people who are willing to challenge and to be challenged.
  • I like people who are interesting and interested.
  • I like to laugh.


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  1. December 8, 2015 / 12:22 am

    What a powerful, beautiful post! I have never met you, but I could hear your voice ringing strong and true. I am so happy for you; you sound like you are in a really good place. #fartglitter

    • thesingleswan
      December 10, 2015 / 8:38 pm

      Thank you. I appreciate your support. x #fartglitter

  2. December 8, 2015 / 10:19 am

    It took me years to realize I needed to stop looking for others to make me happy. It’s so much healthier when you do. Really happy you’re figuring stuff out. I hope you have a smoother 2016.

    Thanks for linking up to #fartglitter x
    Mama, My Kid Doesn’t Poop Rainbows recently posted…My Toddler is My MirrorMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      December 10, 2015 / 8:38 pm

      Thank you! x

  3. December 10, 2015 / 9:08 pm

    It’s already been said, but this post is overwhelmingly strong. Fierce. You have grabbed your life right by the balls…love it.

    Thanks for joining us at #coolmumclub, where Mums like you belong. x
    mummuddlingthrough recently posted…#coolmumclub Linky week 10My Profile

    • thesingleswan
      December 14, 2015 / 8:36 pm

      Ahhh Thanks xx

  4. December 10, 2015 / 9:22 pm

    Having the “script” and the 2.4 children all mapped out isn’t for everyone. I always wanted that, but had a sneaking suspicion it would never happen for me. And it hasn’t. Sounds like you are working things out though. Best of luck in 2016. x
    Min recently posted…Pushchairs vs wheelchairs: let the battle commenceMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      December 14, 2015 / 8:36 pm

      Hi Min,

      You are right. I had a sneaking suspicion it wouldn’t happen for me either, and actually I am glad it hasn’t. Out of our greatest challenges come our greatest achievements n’est pas? thanks for your comment. x

    • thesingleswan
      December 14, 2015 / 8:35 pm

      Hi Elaine,

      you are right. I am in a good place. Life doesn’t go to plan. It wouldn’t be life if it did! thanks for your comment. Pen x

  5. December 14, 2015 / 2:44 am

    With the exception of the son coming first (because I don’t have children not because I’m horrible lol) I could have wrote this post! You say so much I am thinking. I know who I am not, but not necessarily who I want to be or where I want to go. And I spent far too long with the wrong man and got asked all those questions when I finally woke up!
    Thanks for linking up to #AnythingGoes
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    • thesingleswan
      December 14, 2015 / 8:34 pm

      Hi Debbie,

      thank you. I hope you are well and looking forward to Xmas. Take care x

  6. December 14, 2015 / 11:12 am

    What a lovely post, it’s good to reflect. I hope you have a great 2016 and thanks for linking up to the #bestandworst
    helen gandy recently posted…Our Week!My Profile

    • thesingleswan
      December 14, 2015 / 8:33 pm

      Hi Helen,

      Thank you for your comment.

      Best regards

      pen x

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