A Gracious Goodbye to Identity

by Jill Francis on February 19th, 2017

 I have always thought I had a balanced identity; an identity which came from many parts of me, from the many hats I wear.  I am a wife and mother but I have also worked outside the home, so “home-maker” was not my sole identity.  I considered my jobs to be a means of contributing to the family finances, I have never been “career-minded”, and so my job has never been my identity.  I am a sister, who is fortunate to have a good relationship with my brother, and I am a daughter.  The daughter part of me has been a bit complicated the last 15 years for I became the daughter of an Alzheimer’s patient, and that role changed my “daughter identity” a bit, but I was still a daughter.  I am also a friend, Nanny, occasional mentor and founder of a non-profit organization.  Last, but not least, I do my best to be a Christ-follower, but I tend to mess that up a bit every day (no, I did not vote for Donald Trump….or Hillary for that matter).

All in all, I thought I had a fairly balanced identity, with some days being more one thing than another perhaps, but all-in-all, balanced.  I even welcomed the change in identity from “mother” to “friend-of-adult-child” as my boys left the nest.  I am fortunate (and grateful) that I still like my husband, so becoming an “empty-nester” is something I’ve enjoyed and I like that change in identity.

I like balance.  I thought I was living in balance.  That’s why I never saw it coming…the identity crises.  At some point, after turning 51 and after the loss of my sweet mamma, I was suddenly lost.  I can’t blame it on grief, for it was so much bigger than losing my mamma because I lost…me.  My purpose.  My identity.  My dreams.  Me.

I have always believed Life comes in seasons:  child, teen, young adult, professional, spouse, parent, etc.  I always expected Life to change with these seasons and since I anticipated the changing seasons, I thought I would easily grow and change right along with them.  But the wind shifted and a season came for which I have no name other than “The Loss of Identity Season”, and the wind of this season knocked me over.
I recently had coffee with a long-time friend.  She is beautiful, creative, vivacious, compassionate, empathetic, artistic…and struggling with who she is.  She admitted she has spent the last year having an identity crises, wondering what her purpose is and wondering, at her lowest, how she would survive the day; for the sadness was overwhelming at times.  I admired her courage to be transparent, vulnerable and honest with me, and I regretted my deficit.  I wish I had had the courage a year ago to confide my struggle with some of my friends…there is strength and healing in community and yet I hid…and I know better.

So, for all of my  sisters out there, especially if you're over 50, I’m coming clean now and letting you know I’m struggling.  And worse yet, I have no answers as to what my new identity is.  My friend is wise and has been to a counselor, improved her nutrition, taken time for therapeutic massage and looked in the mirror.  I’m starting with the mirror…the one that looks on the inside and leads me to soul-searching and reflection.  I’m also going to work through the book, Start Where You Are by Meera Lee Patel.  It’s a journal for self-exploration, given to me by a dear friend who always knows when I need help.  It’s fun, creative and helps me dream. 

When I told my husband I was having an identity crises, he asked me if I needed a sports car.  After giving it some thought (and telling him “no”) what I’ve decided I need most, while I figure it all out, is:   Jesus, vulnerability (thank you, Brene Brown), laughter with friends and family, a place where I can give of myself, a huge helping of gratitude for all I have…and a new pair of shoes.  After all, identity is about balance, right?

Posted in not categorized    Tagged with Identity crises, Meera Lee Patel, Brene Brown, Loss


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