I pushed one hanger after another aside, mentally discarding one non-descript , borderline frumpy outfit after another. No, no, definitely not. Oh hell no, not the elastic waist, ankle length peasant skirt! I stood in my closet, looking for even a semi-acceptable outfit for my first date in over 25 years and found that my mom/clergy wife attire did not fit the bill at all. How was this 46 year old mom and soon to be ex-wife of an ex-priest supposed to make this transition? Emerging from my closet, I also began to emerge to the new reality that who I thought I was wasn’t who I really was anymore–and possible never was.
This emerging realization was only reinforced over Italian food and wine when First Date Guy innocuously inquired about what I liked to do. I will never forget the feeling immediately after that question; it was a numb, uncomprehending sensation followed by an honest “I don’t know.” I looked at FDG, most likely with a blank look, and said, “Do you believe that? I don’t know.” It was like the second step out of my closet in realizing that I truly didn’t know who I was. Thus began a very challenging, adventurous, disillusioning, and often frustrating process of stripping away the layers that had been built up by myself and others to get to the core of who I was.
Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t a fake person, a lying human, or even a facade. I truly was a committed stay-at-home mom and a devoted clergy wife generally living in a well defined box. I may have continued being that person if the circumstances hadn’t upended my well-defined life and helped me to realize that I wasn’t who I thought I was. When I truly embraced that I could dig deep and discover what I liked, felt, wanted and needed in this next chapter of my life, my soul quaked with equal parts of exhilaration and trepidation. For, in stripping away layers to discover the real me, I knew there would be sores, gaping holes and uncertainty about the healing process. But, what if I ended up being some kick-ass version of Diane that I never even imagined? The possibilities were frighteningly and wonderfully endless.
So, here it is a little over 5 years later and I am still emerging from that closet. I have had more than a few first dates, and not only do I have more appropriate clothing for a young-at-heart, middle-aged single woman, I also can mostly answer the question of what I like and who I am. I cherish independence, but pray to find interdependence with someone someday. I crave deep connection and shun superficial chit-chat. My spirit is calmed by hiking and being outdoors. I teach low-income middle schoolers because that’s what I was made to do at this time in my life. I don’t always like to go to church, but I know I need it to complete me and my relationship with God. I may possibly be an online Scrabble addict. I wake up most nights for at least a few minutes to a few hours to obsessively think about things ranging from how people perceive me when I babble on endlessly to what the future holds for me, my kids and others that I love. I spend too much time on my phone. I budget better than most people I know. I have a deep, yet possibly unrealistic desire to live in a tiny house someday. I don’t cry often, but when I do, it’s soul wrenching and cathartic. My siblings mean more to me than they will ever know. I am very conservative about some things, but surprisingly liberal about others. I love to write because it heals me, but I often avoid it for a variety of reasons. I cuss sparingly but effectively. I am often Super Woman with enough Hot Mess thrown in to keep me real. I am trying to be the person I was created to be at this moment in my life.
This blog post (When I realized that I was not who I thought I was…) was another suggestion from my friend, Mike, and I’ve been sitting on it for at least a month. It is because although I’ve made so much progress in delving into the core of me, I see it about to morph once again and I didn’t know how to write about this topic if it was going to change again. However, I’ve come to believe that is the way it’s supposed to always be, actually. I’ve come off the most challenging year of teaching and the upcoming year may not be much better. I’ll be empty-nesting in about a month which means the first time truly on my own in 51 years. It also looks like there may be some significant church changes on the horizon. So, pretty much the Big 3 for me-family, faith and job-all have some significant anticipated changes. While these may all be very positive, I also know that change means examination and discovery for me. Who will emerge from the closet of change? Not sure, but honestly, I’m kind of excited (and admittedly nervous too) to see how God’s journey of Discovering Diane continues.
(Oh, and in case anyone was wondering: Five years ago, I emerged from my closet, went across the hall and borrowed an outfit from my daughter’s closet without her knowledge. Just another time that family and friends have unknowingly aided me in discovering who I am!)