In life, our identities change all the time. Often it is a welcome shift. Single to partnered, childless to parent, vegetarian to flesh-eater. It's all relative. Those examples happen to be mine, but we all have them. And often, when we shed an identity, a new one is close by in the wings and quickly donned. We do this because, well, floating around without a definitives feels ... loose. We are categorized by how we define ourselves and there is comfort in that. It's safe.
And sometimes, our identities change against our will. Becoming a widow or a parentless child - life things that are inevitable and irreversible. One of the happiest days in my life was becoming a Mama and the saddest, by far, is being in position in which I cannot live near my children. I am a girlfriend again. And I'm still a Mama. But I am not actively a parent. And that has been an unwelcome loss of an identity.
Over a couple of years, in an effort to figure out who I am now, I have written a lot. And I read even more. I stopped reading mommy blogs because it was too painful to see all people whom I befriended online getting on with their lives as mine was falling apart. I was jealous. Jealous of their accounts of growing children. I would trade my left arm for a night of lost sleep if it meant holding my kids so I didn't want to read about their toddler crisis. I was bitter.
As a non-custodial parent, you also lose your parenting standing in society. That was a huge shift for me. As a person who specializes in and has advanced degrees in developmental things having to do with children, my knowledge on matters is less potent now because my children do not live with me and therefore, I don't really know anything. That pill was very hard for me to swallow. And so, for a while, I felt more comfortable in the childless couple category - even though this wasn't my truth.
During this time I also moved from a most liberal state (MA) to a most conservative state (LA). Here, my identity as uber liberal is challenged daily. Many times a day I might add. From hearing the word "nigger" on a regular basis to being surrounded by a much more closeted gay community, I realized very quickly that I either needed to adopt a more laid back stance on things that I'm normally very passionate about or I'd end up on blood pressure meds and with no friends. That's not to say I don't stand up for what I believe in. It just means I don't do it for a living.
It's getting better. I know it's getting better because I've been reading some blogs written by people who have children. I'm discovering who I am without mine close by. If living a Buddhist life is striving for non-attachment, I have accepted the path.
I had an "Ah Ha!" moment yesterday. A writer/blogger friend of mine whom I've known for a few years IRL and online (www.lifewithroozle.com) following she and her wife's whole preganancy/childbirth/child-rearing journey (one of the I'm-way-too-jealous-to-read-that-blog-anymore familes) was encouraging me to continue writing yesterday. I believe she has sensed my lost voice because she read my blog for years - as a wife, then a Mama, and now a seeker. Though distant friends, I've always been critical (not in a mean way and mostly in a playful way) of some things in her process because we have some different theories on kid things. I've been quick to *eyeroll* or debate. And yet, I have profound respect for this family. So yesterday when this woman, this friend, was encouraging me to keep blogging even though I get discouraged because I can't find my place, I suddenly felt like it was ok to not have a place ... yet. No, I no longer write about my kids. Or my divorce in detail. And it's hard for me, as someone who likes to write (and do most things) from a raw place, to pull back a little (lot) and still have the desire to write. It's a matter of precision.
I'm not in a category. I'm not highly defined at the current time. I feel like a stranger in a once familiar land. There was no pre-determined back-up identity waiting for me in the wings this time.
I'm just trying to figure it all out. And apparently, from what she tells me, many other people are, too.
Maybe I write about CrossFit, maybe I write about Paleo foods, maybe I write about Atomic Ranch houses and maybe I give you a peek at my vulnerablilites, like now. That's all I gots. Like they say about the weather in New England : Stick around for a few minutes, it'll change.
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