Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Late Identity Crisis

Dear John,
 
I've been thinking again. I've realized that I'm having an identity crisis outside of its proper time. I never had one when I was a teenager - I was a geek and I knew it. I went to college, got a science degree, and met and married another geek. There was no difficulty there.
 
A big part of my identity for twenty years was saying, "I am a cardiac critical care nurse." That isn't a job you do, it's something you are. I'm not working as a nurse now, but I still am one. I still have the training, the license, the ways of thinking and looking at things. I still have the head and personality of a critical care nurse. (Actually, I remember your nurses talking about that when you were at Methodist.)
 
 When fibromyalgia made me stop working, I went through a bit of identity crisis. I felt rather like men seem to when they retire. But being your wife had always been an important part of who I was, so it became my primary identity. Then you died and I misplaced myself.
 
So now I'm wondering who in the world I am. Your widow? I am that, but it's just a legal label and a Facebook status. I'm employed as a bank teller, but that isn't who I am. That sits very badly as an identity. I'm your wife (but widowed), a critical care nurse (but retired), a Southerner (that's lived up north for twenty-five years), a dog person (with three cats) - you see my difficulty.
 
And it goes way beyond this issue of names and labels. I'm really a bit uncertain who I am now that I don't have you to reflect me back to myself. Without you, I'm living in an interpersonal vacuum that makes it hard to see myself. I know the Cymbalta withdrawal isn't helping any of this. And I also know that thinking about who you are isn't the way to learn it. You come to know yourself as you just live.
 
I suppose that means that I have to just keep on living, doesn't it? It's really not surprising that I have to work through this. I'm afraid I'm being normal again. I must still be acting like myself because nobody is asking me why I've gotten weirder than usual lately. It's just that I look for myself and don't find anything that I can grasp.
 
Thanks for listening - as always, any feedback would be welcome. Meanwhile, I'll keep muddling on. Maybe one day I'll look back and see myself.
 
Adore you,
Joan.

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