Reinventing Ourselves

As I look around me at family members and at friends and acquaintances, even at people I don’t know but read about, I am struck with how hard people are trying to reinvent themselves. Some of these people are doing it in little ways, such as: a change in size–through diet and exercise; a quick change of appearance through a different haircut, a new hair color; or facts or fictions people are saying about themselves on Facebook. Others are more daring: having lived decades as straight, people are choosing gay partners. Still others have left any known universe we have once shared and have leapt into the unknown; these people one can only now find in snippets–both words and pics on the Internet.

Why are people doing this? Is it because of self-hate? Is it a calculated strategy to succeed in this changing world? Is it fear of failure? Is it in the hope of finally finding fulfillment? Is it finally trying to be who they really are?

About fifteen years ago, I moved from the East, where I had spent my whole life, except when I was living in London, sight-unseen to the Midwest. Now that was a rather large change. Was I trying to reinvent myself? You bet I was. In work–especially writing–and in love, I sought to create worlds that reflected the now urgent vibrant sense of self that was screaming for expression. Even if no one else acknowledged these needs for change, I did, and I acted on them.

So, did re-inventing myself work? Does reinventing oneself work?

I think it did; I think it can, if the changes one is seeking are authentic; And, if one is able to find a system or world to support the reinvention. For, reinvention is creation and creation is risk-taking, barrier breaking. Sometimes the barriers are family and friends. Sometimes the barriers are new conditions that one encounters. Sometimes the barriers are parts of oneself that are hanging on for dear life until one gives them the boot.

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The Golden Summer: Giving Myself Permission to Just Be

This summer, we arrived at the lake in sorry shape. Paul had been in a biking accident where he broke his sternum. Scrapes and bruises covered his body. In fact, his entire butt was black and blue. His psyche took a hit. My eldest sister had been found in a diabetic coma and there was the family scramble of how to get her proper care. My bruises were internal: the worry over two people I love.

We headed to the lake, two Sunday drivers–what with our 4Runner, top-heavy with 2 kayaks, towing our old Corolla and changing over as drivers every hour.

Once at the cabin we were met with the workings of a critter, a critter that chewed through my couch cushions and sprayed them in a circular pattern with something smelly and black. The critter also gnawed the edge off a windowsill, scattering wood chips onto the floor. The plumbing did not work at the kitchen sink. Inside the cabin the air was cold and damp. Outside it was cold and it often rained. We did a lot of huddling under heaps of blankets, coming out to light the Franklin stove and then sit in our chairs under blankets…and sort of stare at the fire.

This state of being–like the weather–lasted about two weeks. Finally the plumber came and soldered pipes. The cabin’s pipes are the age of the cabin–forty-six–and often leak. With water in the cabin flowing, we began to move. One day Paul gingerly sat on his bike seat and rode a few miles. Material and thread came in the mail and I began to measure and sew. For a week, our kitchen table was covered with fabric, measuring tape, needles, iron. The sewing machine whirred in our little study. The light and warmth of the spring sun came to Wisconsin in mid-June. Step outside and there is the iris that usually makes its appearance at the end of May. Same for the lilies of the valley that run along the cabin’s side. And trillium, both white and pink, spreads sporadically through the ferns on the downward slope of the hill to the lake.

I transported two carefully wrapped little flower-shaped silver vases from my Norwegian grandmother–Mormor–to Wisconsin this year in order to snip a few of these lilies of the valley for the vessels and thereby bring my worlds together through a small offering of sight and smell.

Couch cushions washed, repaired, or thrown out; new curtains for the living room and bedroom up and working, it felt like I was ready for outdoor fun. What should I do today? A walk? A bike ride? A kayak ride? A swim? Friends coming soon. Let’s get going.

I notice Paul is smiling a lot–even beginning to glow. He’s now biking for 25 miles. I can sense the lightness in my own expression, an expression that comes from my insides to the outside. As I walk, I am not afraid of bears; I breathe in long whiffs of sweet light early summer air. As I kayak, I watch: the yellow water lilies opening up, the turtles sliding into the water after sunning on a log, the loon’s webbed feet disappearing from the surface water’s light-filled transparency. On my bike, I am free. I am young. Swimming, I am a girl.

Sets of friends come and play. Then, go.

Paul is now up to fifty miles a day. In a week he will join some high school guys pals to bike 400 miles across Iowa.

And I am back to me. It’s a golden place to be.