Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Growing into my own skin
I've been away this past month, traveling in Ireland and France. Sounds wonderful, was wonderful, but I was way out of my comfort zone. I'd have it no other way. I travel to learn, not only about the culture and terrain of another country, but about myself.
I went to Ireland by myself, knowing no one, for a bicycle tour on its west coast. I added a pre-trip extension to the cycling portion, to explore Ireland a little first, and get over jet lag. Six other people had decided to do this as well, in the form of three married couples. Two of the couples had come together. I felt my single status acutely; once I was part of a happy couple like them. How was I going to fit in?
Until this trip, I have played my 'widow' card in new circumstances with couples. I have found my identity as widow comforting. It presents a status that is neither single nor married, but in a way both. The shadow of the missing husband always exists. Since I'm really trying to move on now, I didn't explain myself as a widow to these couples. As a result I felt intensely disoriented. Remember your first days of college, when you didn't know anybody and they didn't know you? Did you wonder if you'd fit in? I felt like that with these couples. I was me as simply me. Would they like 'simply me'? Who is 'simply me'?
I met her, well, me, in their feedback. I met a lively yet self contained woman, sometimes animated, sometimes quiet, with a gutsy and peaceful spirit. Much to my surprise and delight, I as 'simply me' was welcomed and appreciated. I was scared I wouldn't be enough. I needn't have worried.
A few days later a man with similar qualities joined the cycling portion of the tour. A lovely self assurance emanated from him. He was quiet yet warm. I've feared that quiet is read as aloof. Not so. I will think of him when I'm judging myself as too quiet among people, and remember that even quiet people like me and him can have a powerful and positive effect on others.
Thank you, God, for giving me this opportunity to learn. Now I will unpack my clothes and souvenirs. Unpacking my experiences and memories will be even more fun.