“Most of us don’t live our lives with one, integrated self that meets the world, we’re a whole bunch of selves.”
~Christopher Moore, A Dirty Job
At the beginning of the year, I said that I believed that this year, my word was “voice.” Then I promptly fell into a funk that stole all of my words.
For a while, I wasn’t sure what happened. I attributed my lack of motivation to the grey days of winter. I blamed the anniversary of my mom’s death for inhibiting my writing. I thought that perhaps dealing with a child coming out as transgender made it hard to find words.
There’s an element of truth to all of those things. There are a lot of events occurring that I have big feelings about, but that I still don’t have enough distance to write about them. There are stories where I am still trying to sort out what parts belong to me and what belong to others.
But a big part of my struggle right now is that I’m having a bit of an identity crisis.
Identity has always been kind of fluid for me. When I started college, I knew that I wanted to major in communications, but after just a few weeks, I realized that I was far more suited for music than journalism. I was excited to be a teacher, to share my passion for music with students.
But teaching in the inner city when you’re a newlywed and pregnant is damn hard, and when I was laid off, I swore that I never wanted to teach again. We moved closer to family and I stepped into the role of mother, one that I would occupy for many of the following years. It wasn’t one that I was always particularly good at, but one that I loved. For 16 years, my primary identity was mom.
Of course, that wasn’t my only identity. I was also “church piano player.” I was “interfaith couple” lady. I was “cross-gender friendship” woman.
Then everything went away. All of the identities that wanted to wrap around me were negative. Cheater. Liar. Abandoner. Hypocrite. And for a while, I allowed myself to hold those identities close. I hadn’t just done a bad thing, I was a bad thing. Identity wasn’t something that I thought about because all of my identities were cloaked in shame.
Shaking that has been difficult. Therapy has helped. Being a part of a generous church family has helped. Cultivating a life married life with my very best friend has helped. But I’m only now starting to examine who I am again.
I continue to discover that grief has seasons. The initial losses have pain that blocks out everything. All you can see is the loss itself, the agony of not having that relationship or person there. But as that initial pain mutes, it can leave you wondering who you are.
As I enter this season of grief, I’m going to start discovering me again. I’m going to try to avoid “orphaning my story,” as Brene Brown suggests, acknowledge, and then let go of the shame that wants to make a permanent part of my identity.
My voice can only be as strong as I allow it to be, and being unsure of who I am, makes for a weak voice. I want my voice to be strong, so I need to know me.