I often imagine my life as a book, full of well worn and well loved pages. Some pages are dog eared, with specific passages highlighted and a large star marked for me to remember that lesson. Certain pages are more crumpled than others and show more use. My story is only about a third of the way complete. The cover and the title often change but one thing stays the same; it continues to remain unfinished.
A friend recently said to me that she imagines it’s hard to know who I am without being married. This friend knows me well. She was painfully right. I haven’t been single since my freshman year of college.
That means for the last 12 years, part of my identity has been based on someone else.
I used to joke that I was an expert soul searcher. I’m pretty sure that is still true. As most people in their thirties have experienced, I have been through a variety of phases as I have searched for who I am as an individual.
In college I was the stubborn sorority girl that didn’t actually want to be in a sorority, but soon realized community was exactly what I needed.
I was the education major with the nose ring I took out when I went into elementary school classrooms for my practicum. I was an oxymoron; the rule follower mixed with a streak of wild.
After college, I was all of my experiences mixed in with uncertainty about my place in the world; to say I was confused in my identity was an understatement.
At 22, I found myself as a northern girl surrounded by southerners with no family or friends nearby, living in the Deep South. I began to base my identity on teaching and my relationship.
Once I began settling in to the south, I thought I might be a hippie for a time period when I started practicing yoga and became enthralled with that lifestyle. I embraced being a vegetarian and living a more minimalist life. To top it off, I even got a peace sign tattoo during that phase.
Next came the house and marriage. I focused on being a wife. I became obsessed with HGTV and making our house a home.
I continued to look for outer experiences to soothe my inner turmoil of figuring out who I was, to soothe my insecurities and my fears.
Yoga helped, but it still never healed a gaping hole.
After Owen was born is when the hole slowly began to heal. Partly because of the love he brought, but mostly because of God.
Owen reminded me who God was and is. And because of this reminder, I became immersed in my church.
When the divorce process began 8 months ago I had a new piece to my identity, a piece I never wanted: single mom.
My identity of a wife and mother shifted dramatically. I began to doubt myself all over again.
But I have been reminded of a major lesson through my own doubt; every single one of us has insecurities. We are also all unfinished and will be for a lifetime.
And with that realization my identity has continued to change.
I didn’t realize how much I used my marriage as a shield until I no longer had it to protect me.
I was vulnerable and raw and ashamed.
And now I’m here. In this very moment, continuing on as best I can as my story continues to unfold.
I don’t know how my story will end. But I know the protagonist, me, will continue to evolve.
I’m not the same person I was in all of the different phases my story has allowed me to write.
I’ve learned that we have choices in how we change. We have choices in whether we choose to grow or regress and which path we choose. Robert Frost was right; there are two paths and we have a choice.
Every day I have a choice. I choose to recognize that I am flawed and unfinished. But I am also strong and growing and loving.
Right now it feels like I am free falling off a cliff as I jump into the unknown of my life. I no longer have the security blanket of a relationship to comfort me. But I have so much more. It just took free falling for me to be able to see it all.
As I continue to fall I will grab pieces on the way down to add to my story. And I have every ounce of faith that my fall will turn the opposite direction and the unfinished me will begin to rise. In fact, I think she may have already started the climb.