Sometimes you wake up and you know exactly what to expect...from the day, from life, and from the universe. Other times, you are faced with a strange sense of change on the horizon, even if you can't put your finger on it. I find that I go through this metamorphosis on a somewhat regular interval. I can't exactly predict it, but it feels cyclical. Every so often I wake and just don't feel like myself anymore.
Staring at myself in the mirror is familiar but strangely disconnected. The reflection is my own, but she seems older. Not in age, but in time. A strange shift seems to happen in the wee hours of the morning, when my body is resting and repairing, it is almost like it stitches together an entirely new being. This reflection is the me from yesterday, and I don't know her anymore.
And so, I reinvent. The metamorphosis begins when the face that stares back at me is no longer my own. It's more than a change to my hair, it goes beyond a new outfit or overall style. Those are reinventions which transpire often, sometimes day to day. When the eyes I see in the mirror seem hollow and distant, I have to gather the remnants of myself, scattered in the dust on the floor, sweep up the slivers and discover a new way to piece them together. I form and mold the experiences, heartbreak, and the memories into a new being.
I can't tell what she will become, she is still a stranger. As new to me as this reflection has become unfamiliar.
There are times where I find myself catapulted into this change. By no effort or will of my own I am grasped by the circumstances around me, and hurdled into a swirling black hole of change. Like Cinderella, attacked by Anastasia and Drizella, pieces of myself are pulled away, ripped from my grasp. My greatest identity shift came in like a heartbreaking, soul-crushing lion.
Getting married at the young age of eighteen, altered my sense of self. I began to compromise my own truth for the sake of peace in what ended up being a toxic marriage. I watched with clouded vision as I chipped away at my own identity, chiseling the façade into who he thought he wanted. When it came crashing down, he walked away and I was left with the fragments of myself in the dust around me. I had allowed myself to become buried by the impossible expectations of another person, and had completely lost my sense of identity in the process. I just didn’t realize it at the time.
At twenty-four, I found myself a single mother. Abandoned, I was left to figure out how to move forward on my own with two children under the age of five. I had stared at my reflection and found that I had no idea who or what I had become. I had allowed myself to become buried by the impossible expectations of another person, and had completely lost my sense of identity in the process. It all happened during a crucial time in my young-adult life; a time when we should be discovering and developing our adult selves. And yet I was merely floating aimlessly through the miasma.
Trauma changes you. Grief alters the way we view and navigate the world. We can become jaded and cynical, not only in our views on the world or others, but in the way we consider ourselves. It’s easy to become overly critical, inspecting every interaction for our own shortcomings, molding ourselves into the things that others need or want. In the end, we don’t just lose sight of who we are. Our hold on the very fibers of our being, the elements which make us unique, slips away from us until there is nothing left.