I awoke this morning with a big smile. Today is the day my new television arrives. I’ve splurged — kind of, but not really. It’s a 55″ OLED flat-screen TV.
For most people, this purchase probably would have been a no-big-deal — a no-brainer. But, not for me. See, for the first time in my life, I’m making a home for myself.
I moved to this thriving metropolis almost seven months ago. At the time, my son was gravely ill and needed me. The transition was just the push to bring my troubled marriage to an end.
So, in one big crescendo, my whole life shifted and changed. It went from being married and living in Mexico to being divorced and back in the US.
For the first several months, I wasn’t sure if I’d be staying. That all changed a few weeks ago. Something clicked deep inside of me, and I decided this was it. This city was my new home.
And with that realization came a flood of other decisions. My used, stained loveseat purchased from Facebook Marketplace would have to go. The TV purchase at a nearby supermarket with its too-dark screen needed replacing. As I looked around my home, there were signs that I’ve been in a transient mindset. Here, but not really.
I’d been single before. Briefly. I became a widow almost five years ago. Although I was on my own for nearly two years, I wasn’t really. The first part was spent in shock since I’d lost nearly everything along with the relationship. I was a raw mess — angry, jealous, and grieving. Everything I did was in protest to what felt like being cast into this unwanted state of being. So, I deliberately worked to find an exit just as swiftly. I married too soon and was divorced just as quickly.
Now, I’m single again.
This time, as I’m sorting through what it means to be on my own, it hit me why embracing autonomy is so difficult — I became an adult and another person’s spouse at the same time. I married the same year I turned 21, official adulthood in those days. Sure, there was one year in between college graduation and the wedding, but I didn’t use it to explore the world. No, I spent it in preparation for the next big step.
So, I’ve never had a single mindset as I do now. For the first time in my life, I make choices from the standpoint of its sole benefit to me. This change in perspective is strange. Previously I did everything for the good of us — either for my marriage or for my family.
Up to now, decisions had been made based on our needs, not on my needs. For example, what kind of car do we need? What TV shows will we watch tonight? What household items fit our budget?
See what I mean?
For the first time, I feel like I can occupy and fill psychological and physical space my way. It reminds me of how it feels when I wake and let myself take a great big morning stretch. I can feel the size and scope of myself, with all of my strength and capabilities.
Listening to other women my age, I don’t think I’m alone in failing to finish the development of a singular adult mindset. It was commonplace to marry right out of college. The Feminist Movement was still in its infancy. My professional options were broader than my mother’s, who was encouraged to choose between being a nurse, teacher, or secretary, but narrower than the options young ladies have today.
Many women my age opted for being a stay-at-home mom. I wonder if they filled out as an adult. If they had a chance to define themselves as autonomous individuals? I know I didn’t. Maybe I missed that day in class or missed that step, whatever the reason it didn’t happen for me.
Although my old way of doing life had the appearance of independence, it lacked true autonomy. In hindsight, I wished I had deferred less to my husband’s preferences to pursue more of my own, fostered more female relationships, and worked to get to know myself better. I regret working so hard to please others that I had forgotten myself along the way. I wished I had cared less of what others thought of me and to have said no more often.
Somehow my identity hadn’t become fully fleshed out and mature. Instead, I lost sight of me in the effort of being a good we.
Is it happening to the next generation of women today? I sure hope not. I hope they’re learning what it means to be both me and we — together and at the same time. To know how to hold that tension so that neither their independent self or their relational life gets sacrificed.
I hope I’ve learned that lesson too. That the next time I’m in a relationship, this self-discovery will have better equipped me to hold both states of being in balance — of being me and we at the same time. But for now, I’m embarrassed and excited to say that it feels great to be me.