I remember graduating from college after 10 long years of “putting myself through school” (a defining moment). I remember getting my first teaching job (another defining moment). I remember getting married to the man I loved (several defining moments). I have been fortunate in having many happy defining moments; however, a few years ago I had a major bad one. I was very ill to the point of dying; after a very long recovery I wanted to “live” my life again as I had done before my illness.
This did not happen the way I wanted. I was left to deal with a different life and painful losses. Friends I had for many years left due to my extended illness, I got a divorce and had to sell my home, my physical abilities created problems that forced me to live on Social Security instead of working. I was not going to be able to “live” my old life.
I decided that I was not going to be defined by my illness, handicaps, financial status, or age. I was going to create a new life and “redefine” myself. However, the trappings of my illness (walking with a cane, not being able to extend my right arm for a handshake, flinching at a painful hug of greeting) continue to attract attention to my physical limitations. AND people always ask why I walk with a cane. In the early pain of my recuperation I told them all the sordid details but then, I realized telling it made me relive the whole experience, even though I was doing so much better.
I decided to tell people that I walked with a cane because I had a “bad” right foot. Their next question: How did it happen? They always wanted details. I decided to tell them that a diabetic incident and a long hospital stay caused this. Their next question: How did it happen? I was having a hard time creating another defining moment. People wanted me to relive the old one.
And many of those same people had defining moments themselves of some major illness that had happened to them or a loved one and they still wanted to share them. This caused me to remember my former mother-in-law who broke both hips when she was in her 80’s. I did not meet her until she was in her early 90’s. She was still living this defining moment with relish. When she first told me about it and brought out her hospital papers to show me, I looked at her and asked her if she realized that it had been over 12 years since she broke her hips. She looked at me like I was crazy – in her mind it had happened just a short while ago. She was constantly reliving that defining moment and did not want to leave it.
I am working hard to redefine myself. I want to shout Eureka! one day when I have finally created a new defining moment. Maybe it will be that my new business will become successful or this website goes viral. Or maybe it will be something totally different. All that I know is I am ready for it! Oh, and by the way, age is not going to stop me either.