Thursday, September 24, 2009

Oh,no, Not an Identity Crisis

I am 61, and I am having an identity crisis. Yes, we are thrilled we have finally sold Sweetwater Farm, but I now realize how much that home was my identity. Instead of work or even family, Sweetwater Farm was my identity, becoming that almost the minute we moved there in 1997. Leaving our home of only three years in Shaker Heights was a surprising thing to do, and many friends could not understand the draw. After all, it was far from the city, necessitating a long commute for Bruce, and what was I going to do out there?

Well, that attitude quickly subsided, for building on the peace and spirit already present at Sweetwater Farm, we created shelter and sanctuary; a place where people felt privileged to spend time. Visiting us became an event, a ritual, a retreat. Our life there with the gardens and pond, the century home filled with antiques, the barn housing our personal petting zoo --llamas and sheep and geese and goats, and donkey and chickens, oh my-- was what people say they want. We lived the fantasy for many.

Our work blended into Sweetwater Farm, as well, for this was where Bruce could restore and find balance for his work as a hospice medical director, and Sweetwater Farm was where, by and large, I did my work--meeting with spiritual direction clients, holding retreats and classes, preparing my classes and groups, writing. All we did seemed to benefit from and reflect our life there. In fact, I included a description of Sweetwater Farm on my marketing materials and in my introduction to groups and, of course, the annual Christmas letter always included accounts of the current animals and views from our windows.

Once we moved to Madison the identity lived on, but was not always well-received. Last fall I offered a workshop at an end of life conference here and was criticized on the evaluation form because I had mentioned we were trying to sell our Ohio farm. Was anyone interested? The person felt I was marketing it and that was not appropriate in that setting. I just thought I was sharing who I am--the farm as identity. I felt the sting.

So now what? We have indeed sold the farm, and no one in our new life here has ever been to Sweetwater Farm and knows us as its stewards. Yes, we love our new home, for we are people who create home wherever we are. Home is where we give our time, attention and money, and this home already illustrates that. We tend to choose unique homes and settings and "The Muir Manse," named for our street, (See, we've already conceived an identity!) is no exception, for it is located in an interesting New Urbanism development, created by a student of Frank Lloyd Wright. However, I don't think this house will be our identity in the way Sweetwater Farm was. If not the house, then what?

I think I have a fairly clear notion of who I am, although I keep polishing, honing, clarifying, trying to live to that promise, and attempting to uncover my essence. What is unclear to me, however, is what will define my time and attention and energy here. What will be my call here? I don't want to give the impression I am doing nothing with my time. I love the writing group and the book discussion class I attend, as well as being a volunteer at the arboretum's bookstore. I am even enjoying being part of a program dedicated to creating a healthier lifestyle. I have taught a labyrinth workshop for a cancer support center and look forward to working there more in the future, and I am starting a spirituality group for women of my age. Plus, there are always the half-written books lurking in my office. And the grandchildren only 4 hours away. I fill my time, but I don't have a theme yet.

Perhaps my new identity will look like a patchwork quilt. Bits and pieces all put together in a new pattern. I guess I am just surprised to be in this position. Who knew at age 61 I would be in the midst of another identity crisis. How many have there been in these 6 decades and, I wonder, how many more will there be? Stay tuned.