Do you want the same as it ever was or a wild-wild life?

 

 

 

After having rented a Ford Probe for a week, I mentioned to my mom that it was fun to drive.  She responded, “You could never buy a Ford, we’re a Chevy family.”  We’re a what?!  I was in law school at the time, and in my memory we had owned exactly one Chevrolet,  a few Nissans and a couple of Toyotas.  But somehow, my mom felt that we had this Chevy allegiance.  We were a Chevy family because her parents had owned Chevys, her siblings owned Chevys and the one time she bought an American car, it was a Chevy.  It had become party of our identity, like being loyal to your favorite sports team (apparently, owning a Japanese car is like an exhibition game in the Chevy/Ford rivalry and doesn’t count).  Humans are wired for connection and in this modern world of scattered tribes, we create that connection in modern – and sometimes weird – ways.  Even if you don’t belong to a Chevy or a Ford family, if you’ve been married, you’ve created this connection every time you announce proudly whatever “we” are into these days.

When you’re first falling in love, it’s always exciting to find things you both enjoy.  It’s as if the fact that you both own The Smiths on vinyl and take your coffee with raw sugar proves that you’re soul mates (when it really only proves that you both wore a lot of black in college).  And as time goes on in a marriage, you may find yourself saying things like, “WE both love British mini-series” or “WE’re really into Napa Cabs”.  And then you get divorced and you may find yourself (not to get too Talking Heads here) wondering, “How did I get here? Do I truly love a bold red wine?”.  You may find yourself (sorry, I can’t stop) standing in the wine aisle thinking that you might like to try an Australian Sauvignon Blanc.  Or some Mountain Dew.  I mean, you don’t have to please anyone but yourself tonight, girlfriend, what do you REALLY want?

Our identity can get very caught up in who we are as a couple, sometimes to the point that each person can feel limited to the choices they agree on.  During my first marriage, we went to the movies weekly.  It was years after the marriage ended before I even realized that I only go to the movies a few times a year now.  I wasn’t pretending that I like movies during the marriage, it was just an easy “married date” and we considered ourselves film buffs.  It was part of who “we” were.   But when I had the chance to do anything I wanted, I didn’t choose a movie.  Given the choice, I prefer live music or a cosy night at home in my pj’s.  I still love buttered popcorn, but I’d rather have it at home in front of my dvr, with a glass of wine, instead of a gallon bucket of soda and $40 Milk Duds.

Mental health professionals will tell you that questions of identity are going to come up during a crisis – whether it’s divorce, death of a parent, major illness or other life transition.  Having your world fall apart is one way for the stuff that you don’t really care about to fall away.  Hard times have a way of polishing us down to our core.  Here’s the good news, it’s also an opportunity to assess and become who you were always meant to be.  Maybe you still love a good cabernet and maybe you don’t.  The opportunity for change is endless.  Tired of being a blonde?  Go crazy, become a redhead.  Feeling sluggish?  Try hot yoga.  And maybe after exploring your options you’ll decide that what you really want is to go back to sipping a berry-licious cab on your couch in front of BBC America.  At least you’ll know that you’re making a choice, not just going along for the ride.  Creating a life of intention is much more satisfying than just being carried downstream by habit.

I don’t believe you have to get divorced, survive cancer or become an orphan to create a life of positive intention.  If a marriage can survive the outcropping of nose hair, it can certainly survive a switch from raw sugar to stevia.   Anyone can make the choice at any time in their life to assess what they do, what they love, and how their choices express who they want to be in the world.  Stop letting the days go by (you thought the Talking Heads were out of my system, ha!).  Question the “WE” for a while and tell me in the comments below about a time you allowed yourself to change your mind about something that you once claimed as part of your identity.

I’ll start it off for you, I’m a recovering “Pepper” (as in Dr.).  If you don’t know what I’m talking about (or if you had a crush on the dude from an American Werewolf in London) click here.

 *Thank you to Cathleen Larson and her daughter for allowing me to use this inspiring photo of them in this post.

Comments

  1. Loved, loved loved your post, keri.. I remember “finding the me in the us” one of the most challenging, yet fun, parts of becoming single again. Like you, i stopped going out to movie theaters. and i also found that i like eating breakfast (or ice cream) for supper sometimes. a wonderful adventure in self-discovery!

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