By Anita Doberman: Columnist
My cousin M. was recently divorced. During a family gathering, she shared with my sister and me how difficult it was to start a new life as a single woman after having been married for many years. M. joked that her couch cushions permanently show her body imprint because, since getting divorced, she spent so much time on it reading or watching television.
After her separation, she made a lot of financial and emotional adjustments. Dealing with her former husband, with whom she is on good terms, took a lot of work. Helping her adolescent children during these changes was difficult, and their wants and needs weren’t simple.
But, she has also said that she has learned things about herself and about her identity. As always, I saw my cousin as a beautiful, bold and funny woman. And while I could sense her pain during our conversation, I was hopeful for her future.
I thought about what M. said, not only because I have always admired her, but also because she touched upon something every woman, whether young or old, divorced or married, with or without children, deals with.
What makes us who we are? How do we find our identities?
I think there are as many different answers to this question as there are women. Each one of us finds her own response, which changes and evolves over time, but it’s important to look within when we are pulled in different directions by responsibilities, life events, even interests and aspirations.
I have personally focused on various aspects of my identity during different times in my life. The first few days after I got married, I was so excited about being a “wife” that I wanted everyone to notice my wedding band, and was rather offended if total strangers didn’t notice – lest I couldn’t plunge into my wedding story.
After several years of cooking, cleaning, being a military wife and moving around, surviving deployments and TDYs, I wanted to focus on some more personal time, and wished my own family, and sometimes even the military, recognized my own personal needs.
As time passed, these different layers of identity made me the person I am today and with each one I have learned something. There have been pressures to be more of a mom, a wife, sometimes a writer, and I have tried to find my ever-evolving identity.
As women, no matter where we are in our lives, we try to balance roles and responsibilities and sometimes forget our own voices can point us in the right direction and ultimately help us harmonize different aspects of our identities.
Getting in touch with who we are is a life-long journey and rather than focusing on the point of arriving at some conclusive remark, we can look at it as an ongoing process.
Plus, if figuring out who we are were an easy task, too many counselors, self-help coaches and authors would be out of a job. Not to fear— it’s not going to happen any time soon.