Who are you? How do you identify yourself? What’s your elevator pitch? What’s your brief Twitter profile description?
There are so many ways to view yourself. By the roles we play, by our hobbies, by our age, gender, race/ethnicity, profession.
But see, we write our own stories, so we can change our roles, our hobbies, even our gender. You can move between the single and married and divorced roles through life. You can move between stay-at-home-parent to working-outside-the-home-parent. You can pick up tennis or swimming. You can decide to stop biking.
So what happens when you’re faced with an identity crisis of sorts? When you turn the page of your own story and there’s a plot turn that you had not anticipated? What happens when you face an illness or injury or death or other change that thrusts you from minding your own business to being forced to change?
Well, isn’t that where all change occurs–when a crisis forces you to decide to change? Isn’t that where all the joy and pain in life arises from? From the struggles rise the gratitude? Because change is hard and painful. And really, who wants to do hard and painful things?
I tell you, I am so thankful my children are alive and well–still pesky at times, but healthy and alive. I am quite aware, and grateful, I am very fortunate in all ways. So I feel a bit selfish and whiney when I say I’ve been thrust into an identity crisis of sorts. I am also aware I need to process losses before moving on and crafting a new identity. And it got me thinking–how do we identify ourselves? How do we pick and choose what aspects of ourselves we lead with? What is behind the decision points in how we choose to express ourselves to the outside world?
What my friends know of me is consistent with the brief descriptors of me on my blog and Twitter profile. I used to lead with saying I’m a runner. I love red wines, especially from Chile, Argentina, Spain, Australia; rarely from California. I love to cook and bake and eat, all ethnic cuisines. I love the flying trapeze. I love good coffee. All of those things I felt I could not live without.
And yet. One moment in time has taken all of those things from me. Isn’t that how it always goes? It just takes one moment in life to change everything. And so it goes.
I thought I was finally making good progress with the post-traumatic migraines I’d been suffering from since the trapeze fall 20 months ago. Yet I just had a debilitating week of mostly laying in the dark in the fetal position on dirty floors. But see, I hate being told what I can or cannot do. And I hated how limiting, and painful, my life was that week. So I got all sorts of pissed off.
Which brings me to why I’m trying an elimination diet to get rid of migraine triggers. I needed control over my life. And so good-bye, goes the red wine and coffee and chocolate and all soy and whey products and vinegars and yeast-risen products and cheese and smoked/cured/canned proteins and nuts and avocados and citrus and bananas and onions and lentils and and and….
Well then. And have I mentioned I can’t run or do the trapeze right now either? Can I still legitimately call myself a runner if I haven’t run in months and may never be cleared to do so again? Can I rightfully still say I love red wines if I can’t drink them any longer? What does this leave me with? It leaves me curious how we show the world who we are. I am still secure in knowing who I am. I know I am still a mother and sister and daughter and friend and writer and volunteer and all of those things.
I know I will eventually find other hobbies and activities to fill my life. But now I’m a bit awkward in social settings. It’s hard to have coffee with someone when she’s drinking water. It’s not so fun to be at a craft beer festival when you can’t contribute to discussing how each beer tastes. It’s not so fun either tasting and talking about wines when you can’t taste them; there’s just a whole lotta nodding going on. Cooking and baking is limited and requires serious modifications and thought.
And so it’s not so much an identity crisis I’m faced with, but limitations in how I connect with people that require modifications. These things I listed as not being able to live without–they’re all vehicles for social connections. Coffee, wine, beer, food, running. So in fact it’s the social connections I’ve built over shared interests and activities that I fear I will miss, or I fear will be altered.
When I think of it this way, I can breathe and accept these modifications for now, because I know I won’t live without connecting with people. That’s my thing (is that even a thing?). I just have to figure out how else to connect. But when I focus only on being told I can’t have certain things, and that chocolate, red wine and pizza are some of those things, I get all sorts of grumpy. Which is not conducive to connecting with others successfully.
So I’ve learned when one door closes, you go up and open another one. That’s what doors do. They open. So I opened one and saw an opportunity I couldn’t refuse. I just joined a band. Applications for roadies being accepted now. Line forms to the left. Ponder how you identify yourself as you wait in line. And think of a good band name please!
“If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves”–Thomas Edison