I’ve been struggling with identity pretty much my entire life, because a big core of life is figuring out who we are, where we fit, what our strengths and weaknesses are. But the past two years have felt like an internal whopper of identity freak-out, all the while hearing an internal voice saying, “You should not be going through this at your age.” We’re talking a place where everything feels “up for grabs” about who I am because I feel such limited attachment to most of it.
My poem, On The Cusp, expresses most of what I’ve been experiencing. Despite 5 decades of life experience, the words that come to me about who I am, when I close my eyes and feel into SELF are, “ungraspable” and “resilient.”
I commented in a group of folks slightly older than me that I find it an odd spot to be to have none of the hallmarks of the majority of people around me at least in my locale (house, marriage, etc.) and they pointed out that my age is exactly when a lot of what people thought was solid in their lives falls apart. Marriages dissolve, people lose homes, women who depended on spouses to support them suddenly find themselves on their own without a means of self-support, etc.
Mostly I try to forget about my concern with identity and just get on with what is before me, because asking “Who am I” over and over could easily lead me to quit my job, leave my family, and join a spiritual center.
It is only when I think of SELF as spirit that anything makes sense for me and all anxiety about how undefined and unattached to any one identity I feel is dropped.
Part of it has to do with the “marriage script” so prevalent in human culture and in my own family. Spending most of my life single but being unprepared for that narrative and constantly expecting life will work itself into the script I grew up with or there is something wrong with me, I finally made peace with being a unicycle rather than the third or fifth or seventh wheel I was all through college and all but 5 years of the rest of my life. I do know I had a lot more friends and group activities I enjoyed in my past than my present (not working every day helps), so I do have a conscious goal of making that part of my “happiness plan” for the future. Monthly soup-lucks soon will return! I make a ginormous pot of soup and others bring anything else they want. Not sure if it can be replicated, but in my 20s this helped me find great camaraderie.
Someone commented to me recently that “The first 25 years of marriage are the most challenging. Just think, you missed all that.” And I thought, “Yes. Twenty-five years of being married to myself has been challenging too.” Though maybe that’s the same misunderstanding to a married person as single parent comments I hear from people who say “I’m single parenting this week” while their spouse is away for a few days. NOT the same as single parenting, I assure you.
Then I encountered this woman’s work I highly recommend for anyone out there who is experiencing any shame about being a unicycle. She puts together all the limited data and does further research into the truth about happiness and marriage, happiness and being single.
What it really comes down to is a huge myth perpetuated and propped by legal and spiritual systems that dictate what stability is, what happiness is, when the reality is the struggle to be stable and happy is nearly the same if you are HUMAN, not whether you are single or married. I love the idea that singlets seem to report a greater sense of themselves as continuously evolving and growing in comparison to the majority of those in marriage, because that reflects my own experience.
But I still can’t help but think it would be wonderful if more of us could learn how two people can feel equally evolving inside a committed relationship of any kind without either being required to “give up” their own sense of evolution.