January 29, 2017
Dear Cherished Heart,
It is easy, if NOT accurate, to figure out who you are when you are immersed in an activity-defining role.
I was a child.
I became a teenager, a student, a girlfriend, a high school graduate.
In my twenties, I changed into a respiratory therapist, a clinical instructor, a supervisor, a policy maker, an advocate. I lived with independence. I protected my heart. I hurt others.
At thirty-one I got married. I became a wife without even feeling a shift; I had been heading there the whole time.
Through twenty-one years in relationship I believed I had maintained my independence despite shelving many elements of my self. But the moment we separated—unhitching my person from my husband’s felt like an emotional amputation. My heart split, my lungs compressed, and my mind—a silent soliloquy of blame, sadness, and confusion—burst with thoughts. The what-ifs and the Oh-my-Gods swept through me like stolen breath.
In a single moment, I no longer knew who I was or what my purpose in life could possibly be. So resolutely had I attached myself to my role as wife that nothing seemed possible without the anchor of marriage. Nothing.
I felt as though I had single-handedly broken up the dream we ALL had of family. Sitting in the melodrama of failure and shame is not an ideal place from which to recognize truth, opportunity, or strength.
Months later, THIS month, I arrived in California for my annual seasonal break. Through reading, writing, and walking I hoped to refresh myself, and maybe reboot my system in order to get in touch with who I AM now. It’s strange to be so uncertain at this age and stage of my life. I have focused on the needs of my family for a long time. My role as parent is intact, but changed. While my husband’s life goes on, mine seems to have paused…not pleasantly, but uncomfortably—in the midst of Triangle Pose or Warrior 3.
I brought the book, “the untethered soul” with me to California. The initial sections dealt with the exact question I had: Who am I? It reads like a philosophical conundrum—“Who hears when you hear? Who sees when you see? Who watches the dreams? Who looks at the image in the mirror? Who is it that is having all of these experiences?1”
The answer of course is ME. Moreover, we cannot define ourselves as wife, mother, worker, or friend because to do so would be to say that we can not exist before or after marriage, children, and so forth.
That’s a little esoteric for me. I yearn to know myself in order to live more authentically—I want to be true to myself, so that I can show up. In. My. Life.
The role of wife was something I long imagined fitting into. When I chose to step away from it, I inadvertently lost my compass point. I don’t know where true north is. I still feel the magnetic pull to connect with my husband when we are apart. Text. Call. Check in. Problem-solve. Talk. Align.
I am a runner with no finish line, a boat without a moor, a person without her person.
The magnet has merely moved. The ocean. The beach. The hills. Nature.
1 Michael A. Singer, the untethered soul