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April 30, 2008

Thank you, Maria Shriver!

Cimg0005Last night I went to a private book signing for Maria Shriver's new book "Just Who Will You Be?." And, boy, was she dazzling. Yes, dazzling. There's just something about her. Maybe it's that magical Kennedy charm that all the members, including extended members, of that clan seem to have. Whatever that "it" energy is, she's got it. (My husband has "it", too. I wish I did. Never have, never will, I'm afraid.)

Ms. Shriver spoke easily and honestly about her personal life. She spoke about the difficulties of transitioning to motherhood after being a career woman, of holding onto her own identity and interests after her husband, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governor of California, became elected, and trying to find some quiet time for herself as a mother of 4 children. She is a woman who has "been there and done that" when it comes to meeting the challenges of a 21st Century mother, wife, and  career woman.

She also spoke about her own identity crisis that happened in her 50's (she is 52). She described how she lost her identity once her husband became governor and she became First Lady. She could no longer work as a journalist because of a conflict of interest and, as a result, she had a difficult time defining herself as a person. Boy! Can I relate to this! (ummm...not the part about being a First Lady and having a governor as a hubby....)

When I gave birth to my twins 3 years ago, I went through an identity crisis of my own that lasted ohhhh...3.5 years! After I gave birth the bottom fell out of my plans to become a marriage and family therapist, some friendships fell by the wayside, I had a falling out with some family members, etc.. I felt like a failure. My life not only wasn't working out the way I planned, it seemed to be falling apart right before my eyes. But, after reading  Ms. Shriver's book I realize now that everything had a purpose.

I had never experienced an identity crisis before so I didn't understand that that's what was happening to me. All I knew was that even though I had finally achieved my dream of becoming a mother after ten long years, the rest of my life had been turned upside down. I experienced postpartum depression, I felt like I didn't know who I was anymore, and I had no idea what I was going to do "for the rest of my life." I didn't realize it at the time, but I was in the middle of a personal transformation that would change who I was and what I wanted from my life. 

I have always felt like I knew who I was and what I wanted to do with my life. I changed my mind every couple of years, but isn't that the American way? I grew up in the 70's and 80's...I was trying to find myself--yeah, that's it. The reality is that I had no idea what I wanted or who I was. I was just trying to follow along with the script that I had learned growing up--leave high school, get a career, be successful, get married, have children. And I almost achieved it! Until my life went kaplooey! And, on top of everything, I was going through perimenopause_____!!!

I don't have a problem with going through an identity change, per se. My only problem is going through it at the age of 50! I mean, Jeez! It's embarrassing! Aren't you supposed to have everything figured out at this age? You know, have all your ducks lined up in a row! Your t's crossed and your i's dotted! 

But things don't always work out the way we plan. And that can be a rude awakening. Especially if you're in your 50's! But as Maria says in her book, we are much more than a resume. We are more than we think we are. Sometimes we just need a little nudge in the form of an identity crisis (at least for those of us with thick skulls!) to help us spread our wings and become "bigger" than what we thought we were.

After reading Maria's book, I feel good about myself again. I don't know if I will return to school to complete my training to be a marriage and family therapist (I'd have to start all over again in a master's program...ouch!), but I have found a new passion that I enjoy and that is more "me." Where once I felt lost I have regained my footing, though the path is new. And I remember that I have been to this place before. I have experienced personal transformations in my life and and come out of it a changed person (although my past personal transformations didn't involve a complete disruption of my life!). Having received my masters degree in Transpersonal Psychology, I understand that big changes sometimes come in the form of an earthquake to wake you up to what needs to change in your life. I just didn't expect it to happen in this late stage of the game. I expected to be done with this aspect of my life. But again, like Maria says, you never stop changing.

So, thank you, Maria. Thank you for validating my feelings and my experience, for being courageous enough to be vulnerable and share your own experience, and for reminding me once again of the power of Spirit to help us change our lives and become who we are meant to be.

Original post on 50-something Moms Blog. Cheryl Wenzel also writes at: New Mom Central, Silicon Valley Moms Blog, Betty Confidential, Type-A Mom, and Mad About Multiples


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