(Did I disappear somehow?)
After a breakup, divorce, or death people often say,
“You need time to find yourself.”
At first that makes no sense. Zero.
It implies that just because I was part of a marriage I wasn’t myself. I wasn’t a person? Seriously?
Now, I firmly believe that marriage is a partnership — with give and take, ups and downs, betters and worsers. (Yes, I know those aren’t words, but you get the point.)
At the three-month mark of my husband’s death, I started wondering the same thing.
Who am I without Mercier?
How do I find out who I am?
Did the last 23 years of my life not matter?
Would anyone who met me now know I’d had a life?
There was no evidence of him — no tangible evidence, anyway. No business, house, or children. All that is left are photos on Facebook.
Because I’ve been fairly open about my own grieving process, I’ve had many conversations both online and off about transitioning in life.
It seems to me that a woman’s identity is the most fluid, often changing based upon where her kids are in life or her relationship status or even her career.
It is really weird to think of all the things I used to be and am now not.
I used to be a Sunday School teacher. I’m not.
I used to be a school teacher. I’m not.
I used to be a wife. I’m not.
I used to be a worship leader. I’m not.
I used to be a grandma. I’m not.
There are so many “nots” what’s even left?
Especially as women are arguably the foundation of any community, our friendships are based upon those stages. We’re friends with other moms on the soccer team, friends with coworkers, etc.
When that status changes (retirement, empty nest, etc), it triggers a crisis state. Empty Nest Syndrome, being one of the most widely labeled crisis.
It’s difficult to process and accept.
Our resume may have changed. Who we are has not.
My tax status may have changed. Who I am has not.
Our core being (core identity) isn’t changed by our role.
There is a freedom in the acceptance of this natural change or what I call the fluidity of identity.
“You will become
of all the women
you once were
before you rise
in your own skin.
You will swallow
before you taste
held within your own.”
Once I heard a speaker say that you should have lots of friends and acquaintances, but only a few in your bucket. It’s good advice.
I have what I affectionately refer to as “Team Bridget” who has my back emotionally, physically, and spiritually, and it is good to have confidants.
The point of the bucket is to be discerning with whom you trust your soul.
Being in the Now
People often say “be in the now” or “enjoy this moment.”
There is a truth in that we should focus on enjoying these moments.
So often, the moments are intense — enjoyable — fostering deep connection, even. And, lately, I’ve been experiencing a lot of these amazing conversations.
Although I cherish those moments, they are fleeting, nonetheless.
I know when I’m deep into a conversation, it is exactly where I am supposed to be. But when an hour or a week passes, they feel reduced in my memory to trinket souvenirs.
I have questioned whether it is worth sharing my soul — even for 5 minutes — to a complete stranger especially when I’ll never see them again. There will never be a chance to build on the relationship.
While I was writing this, one such person emailed me a heart-felt letter of gratitude. Sure, I spent ten minutes of an hour and a half with this person, chatting, revealing my fears, being open — being me.
You know what?
It’s always worth it.
So. Who am I?
I’ll always be Mercier’s wife. He will always be part of me.
He was the best thing that ever happened to me and I am who I am today because of his love, mentoring, prayer, and friendship.
A friend this weekend whom I haven’t seen in maybe a year just held me for what seemed five minutes. We started talking like we’d seen each other yesterday.
Connection is a choice. It’s not a factor of time or space. It’s a factor of now.
She said, “be your truth, Bridget. Be your truth.”
Where’s the crisis?
Thinking about being my truth is hard. I felt like I was circling backward.
Now, I get all kinds of advice from everything you could think of and I swear I could write a standup act based on the things people tell me.
I should stop tweeting my feelings. I should stop feeling my feelings. I shouldn’t be grieving past six months. I should get married tomorrow. I should move right away. I shouldn’t move.
I should stop talking about my process on Facebook because I might lose my job. Or men wouldn’t want to date me because I’m not emotionally stable. Or I’m talking about myself too much. Or. Or. Or.
I’m so impressionable, I was pinging around.
Something in my mind clicked.
It’s not about who I am. It’s about who I confide in. It’s about the bucket.
It’s fine to be open. I am comfortable sharing my life with people. That’s when I feel the most “me.” I don’t want to hide my processing. I don’t need to mask my feelings.
What’s not fine is to accept advice from people who don’t share a connection with me.
So, then. The crisis is shared connection, shared experience, shared empathy — not vulnerability, not overexposing myself. It’s not about output. It’s about input.
I have to decide who has a right to comment upon my life and whether or not I should internalize it.
And so should you. But don’t listen to me, confide in your bucket.