I recently found some old writing for the beginning of an autobiography I started 10 years ago in the midst of my divorce (before my breakdown). I’m happy to say that I am in a much more self-aware place than I was 10 years ago. The pain is gone. The scars have healed. The “plan” still has not been revealed, but the journey has been steadfast and rewarding.
How can one reach the age of 32 and have no idea who they are? Isn’t this supposed to be a complex of the existentialist adolescent, something to ponder for hours on end at a coffee shop while ignoring calculus homework? And yet, here I am, 32 years old, ironically, at a coffee shop, wondering who the hell I am.
I mean, by 32 I kinda figured I could give a perfect 20 second sound byte to answer the open-ended question, “Tell me about yourself.” I look around and see “Don Brown, 60, corporate buyer, happily married family man who just wants to retire to the lake and watch his grandkids grow” or “Lauren Hayes, part-time Jazzercise instructor, MOPS leader, doting wife and mother who’s trying to lose the last five pounds to surprise her hubby by wearing new negligee for their anniversary.”
Now, I’m not naive enough to think that those superficial responses are the be all and end all of Don and Lauren’s personalities, but I also find myself trying not to become a casual cynic by automatically assuming that Don has homicidal tendencies toward his boss that are only suppressed by his nightly scotch binges, or that Lauren’s piqued interest in a more toned ass is for the hot yogi who plowed her after last week’s Bikram class. Even if that is the case, is it healthy for my mind to jump right into the basket of someone else’s dirty laundry? Especially when I have loads of my own to sort?
I am well aware that my sudden identity crisis partly stems from the discomfort I have with my own sound byte. “Destiny, 32, recent divorcee, single mom.” It’s not exactly something that I’d want to just roll off the tongue at a class reunion or networking event. Sure, I could pick other modifiers to throw into the mix—editor, writer, mom of three amazing kids—but then I’m left with a feeling of lying by omission. A ridiculous burden to bear, of course, especially since Lauren’s chirpy introduction has zero hint of guilt for the fact that she still has yoga dick breath, but it’s one that I carry nonetheless.
Whatever the reasons for my recent obsession with solving the “who exactly is Destiny” mystery, I feel compelled to give my inner Encyclopedia Brown the reins for a while. I’m not looking for a new sound byte, or really even to polish what I’ve got. Instead, I seek a simple level of comfort and familiarity with my own beliefs and outlook, which might help me feel less lost and wandering and just might help me to be a more grounded mom and a positive contributor to society.
But really, I just want to feel good again. I want to lose the shame I have from creating a broken home for my children. I want to lose the feeling of failure I have for my life being unexpectedly thrown off course from where I imagined I’d be. I want to go one whole day where my smile is genuine, my laughter is pure, and neither are masks to cover my anger and grief. I want to be at peace with where I am without constantly searching for where I want to be. I want to know, even if it is knowing through faith, that I am on the right path in this journey. And by right path, I mean my path, not one I’ve adopted because it’s the one everyone says I should be following or because I’ve hitched my sled to someone else’s dog team. I want to know me—me at 4, me at 13, me at 23, and me at 32—so that as I move forward and am hit with all of the surprises that I expect life will throw my way, I am not knocked on my ass trying to deal with a lifetime of suppressed feelings and a false sense of identity.
So how do I do this? I unplug for a while. I read. I reflect. I pray. I write. I enjoy the simplicities of life as they come. I do what I have to do to keep going each and every day, knowing that time won’t heal all of my wounds, but that it’s one hell of an analgesic. And with less raw pain, I gain perspective.
It’s hard to look at anything but the torn flesh and the congealing blood when there’s a knife sticking out of your chest and you wonder if you’re going to survive. Even after surgery, it’s difficult not to fiddle with the stitches or wince as the bandages are changed, as you are thankful you’re alive but are certain you will be scarred forever. And as you continue to heal, you curse the world for the itching caused by the scabs, but at the back of your mind, you think, “at least the stitches are gone.” As the scar turns from purple to pink, you push it to recall the pain of the original wound, angry that your body will carry this mark for the rest of your life, forcing you to explain your trauma.
At this stage you have two choices: You can either continue to push the scar, even long after it fades, so that the injustice will never be forgotten. You start to walk hunched over; you get residual pain in your back, your head, your legs—none of which are a result of the original wound but which you claim would not be a problem if only you hadn’t been stabbed to start with. Or you let the scar fade, understanding that your fingers will occasionally find their way to the fleshy ridge, but that even that road will become obsolete with time. And soon it becomes a small aberration in your skin tone, nothing more extraordinary than a freckle, just another place to be kissed by a future lover.
To say that this is the crossroads where I find myself isn’t entirely true. I know which turn I want to make. The road markings are clear. The real life examples of where the “other turn” leads flash in my mind as a warning of the melodrama and bitterness that is guaranteed if I choose that route. Absolutely, I know the right path. But making that turn means releasing the pain and anger for all of the dashed hopes and dreams I had. It means admitting I was wrong. It means asking for forgiveness. It means letting go of my pridefulness and selfishness for the promise of dignity and a greater sense of self—one that is not defined by my trials, but by how I chose to overcome them. It means relinquishing what I thought was my destiny in order to find myself, Destiny.
A friend recently posted on her facebook status, “While you’re figuring it out, God has it figured out.” I believe that, even if I don’t necessarily live it, particularly at a time when my own faith is shaken. Really, it should be so simple to stop figuring it out and let God handle it. And yet I still struggle with wrapping my brain around my situation, my divorce, my future. “Yeah, yeah,” I say to myself, “God’s got it figured out. Now if He could just give me a peek at this master plan of His, that would be grand.” But perhaps I’ve already gotten that nudge by knowing which turn I need to make at the road’s end. Maybe I need to go ahead and make the turn instead of worrying whether I have enough water in my backpack for the journey or protesting that I shouldn’t even be at this intersection if things had gone as planned.
So I take a step forward, trying to figure me out and hoping that as I do I’ll learn to trust that God really does have a greater plan for my life. And if He doesn’t, well, it’s not like He’s sharing anyway. I might not know the plan, but I’ll sure as hell know Destiny.