Identity: Peeling Away the Layers

“I am a citizen of the world.” 
― Sylvia Beach

Question for my readers: What are your layers of identity?

There has been much debate in the Democratic party regarding whether identity politics is what caused the party to lose the presidential election. I have my own perspective on the topic which I will not go into here, except to say that each of the identity groups have real issues and concerns that need to be heard. I hope that eventually we find a way to unite as one collective voice to support each other’s causes.

My real topic for this post is musing on what happened when I started thinking about my own identity. I discovered during this thought experiment that on any given day I may identify as something entirely different, and sometimes conflicting with other parts of my identity. Here are a few of the identities I discovered:

  • Daughter of parent with schizophrenia
  • Survivor of abuse
  • Female (feminist)
  • Short person
  • left-handed
  • Nurse
  • White person
  • Middle class
  • College educated
  • Previously lower socioeconomic with no college degree
  • Mental Health Advocate
  • Environmental advocate
  • Human rights advocate
  • Research professional
  • Mother
  • Person who has anxiety/depression
  • Person who recovered from eating disorder
  • Aunt
  • Sister
  • divorced
  • Friend
  • Fiance
  • US citizen
  • Blogger
  • Writer (wannabe)
  • Caretaker
  • Griever of brother who passed away
  • Parent of child with mental health issues
  • Spiritual person
  • Runner

Granted, many of these “Identities” are self-made and not what I was born into. Nonetheless, each one represents a part of myself that relates to a larger group of like-minded individuals.

World Trade Center Memorial wall

What would it take for all of us to peel away all of the layers of identity to see each other’s true essence? We are all here right now, on this earth, at the same time. This convergence of time and space that provides us all with this home on earth gives us all at least one thing in common to build upon.

What condition will we leave this world in when our short lives end?

Is there more to life than the quest for happiness?

I have been pondering this question and am interested in hearing from my readers:  If you had to describe what you want from life without using the word happiness, what words would you use to describe a life well-lived?

“Our culture is steeped in a kind of pop psychology whose obsessive question is: Are you happy?” – Rebecca Solnit, from the book, The Mother of All Questions

I started reading Rebecca Solnit’s book, The Mother of All Questions, and came across the above sentence in quotes. It was as if a switch was turned on in my brain and I experienced one brief moment of clarify.

“Happiness is often described as the result of having many ducks lined up in a row — spouse, offspring, private property…”  – R. Solnit

Aside from being out of work, life has been good for me lately, according to this formula of happiness. Yet I know life can change, and I have this tendency to think about what happens if one of the ingredients for this one-dimensional definition of happiness is lost. Especially for women, who have historically been forced into a very narrow existence where their version of happiness is meant to be derived solely from another’s identity.

“The problem may be a literary one: we are given a single story line about what makes life good.”- R. Solnit

We all know that there are plenty of people out there who have all the outward appearances of the “good life”, and yet they seem to be miserable, or spiraling out of control in a vicious cycle of self sabotage. The unraveling of this formula for happiness happens more frequently and easily than one might expect and is rooted in a dissatisfaction with the one-dimensional definition of what makes life good. Deep within oneself is the awareness that this one short life we are given is much more complex than outward symbols of happiness.

“There are entirely different criteria for a good life that might matter more to a person – loving and being loved or having satisfaction, honor, meaning, depth, engagement, hope.” R. Solnit

Living life according to my own set of principles and values, having compassion and concern for future generations, and caring about more than my own small dot on this planet is what I strive for in my short time on earth.


Winsome Days

via Daily Prompt: Winsome

img_3652The most winsome I ever felt

was on my wedding day

Thirty years later I awakened

Not knowing where I was but

knowing where I wasn’t

I changed my course and

the winsome smile returned

Bucket List of Women I would love to Meet

Sue Monk Kidd

Roz Savage

Rebecca Solnit

Roxanne Gay

Liz Murray

Robyn Davidson

Naomi Klein

Gloria Steinem

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This list is by no means complete, but these are some of the women whose lives, adventures, passion for causes, stir within me a desire to do more with my life than I had previously thought possible.

Adventures in Unemployment

I’ve discovered that so much of my identity was wrapped up in my career and being productive. It has been an adjustment to shift to a more neutral state of being. I am still prone to feeling like I need to be working on something at all times.

Yesterday, after taking care of some chores and looking for jobs on-line, I decided to head out to the museum.

I started out viewing the exhibit from Iris van Herpen, who is known for being the first designer to display a 3D printed garment in 2010. She  has worked with architects like Rem Koolhaas, biologists at MIT, and other scientists and technological experts to create her theme-based creations. I wasn’t sure what to think about her collection at first, the designs are so different, but I was intrigued when I read how she translates a certain concept, such as this one from her radiation invasion collection:

Retrieved from

This dress in her Radiation Invasion collection depicts what it might look like if we could see the energy surrounding us from all of the electronic devices we use each day. Her use of fabrics, metals, blown glass, beads, and even motorcycle chains adds to the allure of her designs.

My favorite display at the museum was by William Kentridge, More Sweetly Play the Dance. This one took my breath away, as I stood in the room surrounded by the images moving across the screen, dancing along to the soul sound of the old African-American Spirituals.

I was hoping to spend some time looking at ancient Greek exhibits, but there wasn’t much there to see. We recently booked our honeymoon to Greece (so excited) and I want to learn all I can about the history before we go there this spring.

To top off my day, I finally started on my novel. I decided to set a goal of 30 pages per week, and yesterday I wrote 7, so I am on my way.

I ended my day by going to yoga with one of my best friends, T. Apparently I had her laughing so hard she peed her pants. The yoga instructor didn’t quite understand why I couldn’t bend the way he wanted me to, despite his attempt to add stacks of pillows and various blocks under each of my body parts. T was cracking up, knowing how I am about being touched by strangers. She thought maybe I would end up slugging the guy, when she heard me exclaim, “I’m going to skip that pose and just lie here thank you!” I’m not sure, but I don’t think my back is supposed to be hurting this bad after just one session of yoga.

I’m not sure what today will bring. It is 10:30 and the world is my oyster.

A New Day

I have this overwhelming sense that I should be doing something. I’m so used to rushing around all the time. I have 60 extra hours a week at least now that I am not working. It is glorious and my body and mind haven’t quite adjusted yet. I maintained a high gear during the holiday and today is the first day with nothing ahead of me that has to be done. Wow it feels weird.I don’t miss the cube at all!

Learning to Row

In October, I took a rowing class. It was harder than I thought it would be, but also quite fun and a great way to get exercise while being out side in nature. I am looking forward to getting back out on the water in the spring, and will continue with some indoor rowing this winter. Here is a short clip of one of those rare moments when we were all able to be somewhat in synch with each other.

Looking Forward

The last of our guests left yesterday, and my favorite part of the Christmas season has happened – taking down the Christmas decorations. Call me a kill-joy, but there is something so refreshing about clearing out the clutter of excess that accompanies the season and returning to my old familiar routine. I am learning that I have definite limits when it comes to holiday festivities, and I am making peace with that part of myself.

For many years now, several of my closest family members have been scattered across the country. I am not complaining about it, but it adds to the intensity of the holidays by needing to cram so many different gatherings close together in order to see everyone when they are in town. As I said in my previous post, this is a challenge for someone who needs to have some breathing space in between events. But when everyone finally departs, I am left with a bittersweet longing for more opportunities to spend with them without all the restrictions of time and travel. No sooner than I am standing in my driveway waving good-bye to a car load of my loved ones, or driving away from the airport after dropping off one of my darling daughters, I am hit with a mixture of emotions I can scarcely describe.

This year it has been easier, because I am not working. I have seriously enjoyed not having that additional stress. I have been sleeping longer, getting things done around the house, babysitting my granddaughter, spending more time with family and friends, and I even read an entire book in the past week. These are luxuries that I do not take for granted.

I am not making any New Year’s resolutions. I set some goals for myself when I quit my job, and I am looking forward to blogging about the journey as I sort it all out.  I want to figure out a way to align my passions for human rights, the environment, women’s issues, mental health advocacy, and spiritual awareness with whatever career path I choose next.