She was quick to smile. Quick to laugh. Quick with a compliment and loved to listen to other people’s stories. She didn’t mind stepping into the spotlight on occasion and every once in a while, she was the girl who really cut loose. I think it was fair to say the joy she brought with her often left people feeling better than they did before they spent time with her.
That woman is gone. Not the actual person but the identity. And that woman was me.
I never really thought of myself as someone whose identity was tied up in her relationship. But after being with someone for 22 years, maybe some of that is inevitable. And some of that was probably entirely preventable.
If you read my introductory blog, you know my marriage of 20 years ended recently. Among the many shocking aspects of this experience was the unexpected loss of my identity. Prior to this, I really thought I knew who I was. I happily thought of myself as a part of a family unit but also as a strong, independent, career woman who was not afraid of take on challenges. Someone who if the need ever presented itself, could stand on her own. Certainly, like anyone else, there were times in my life where I was more confident and times I was less confident. But underneath whatever the level of confidence I was currently experiencing, I thought I really knew who I was. Nothing like a life event to introduce you to yourself.
So, who was left? Someone who struggles with her aloneness in this world. Someone whose confidence has been shaken to its core. But someone who still believes in herself. Believes like they did Jamie Summers, she can be rebuilt better, stronger, faster. It is going to take some time but even as I write this I am starting to experience days when I feel like my old self. For short times, I feel strength (although not quite bionic strength) and exuberance and even little sparks of joy.
It is rebuilding time. I am choosing to see this as an opportunity to examine who I really want to be for the next 50 years (clearly that includes being an optimist.) And now I have the perspective to examine the good stuff that I want to include but also to be honest about those parts of me that maybe I should leave behind. Like the part of me that was quick to get briefly upset about the small things. Maybe I cut that part loose. Take the only the best of Rene´1.0 into my rebuilding and creating of Rene´2.0.
In dealing with this realization, I feel compelled to share because I wish it was something I had kept tabs on. I am not exactly sure how that would have worked but I think a gut level, honest check in with oneself from time to time may serve us well. Who are we? What do we stand for? What do we believe about ourselves and our identity? Are we truly strong enough to stand on our own if called to do so? I now think of it like laundry or staying in shape—maybe better to keep up on it in some manner than have to start over or do it all at once.
Have you ever felt this way? Experienced anything that caused you to call your identity into question? If so, I would love to hear about your experience.
For now, I will try to grab the good out of this rebuilding process and hopefully part of that good is written and shared here. And as for that girl who likes to cut loose, I hope to see her on the lake this summer.