Friday, January 1, 2010

How We Imagine Ourselves

Happy New Year, Everyone! May you each have enough to make 2010 a good and satisfying year for you and your loved ones.

For the Lee/Berman family, 2010 promises many changes, mostly big ones. Herb plans to retire from his job at the end of January, after he turns 71 on January 13th, and Cece and Jamie plan to marry on July 4th in Las Vegas (although the legal ceremony will take place prior to then, back home in Massachusetts), just shy of their fourth anniversary together as a couple.

Big changes mean big changes in how we imagine ourselves, in how we define who we are and what we're all about. It's a concept I've been wrapping my mind around for a while now, without any specific success. How we imagine ourselves is not something that one decides and then implements. It doesn't work that way. How we imagine ourselves is more incremental, something that accretes on us, instance by instance, moment by moment, iota by iota.  

I suspect that you, like me, tend to think of yourself as a discrete individual, separate from your partner, independent in thought and in life choices. Sure, you journey together, making decisions together about where you live, how you spend your time and resources, how you interact with family and children, and the like. But, mostly, you think of yourself as an individual, with your own dreams, hopes and fears. That your dreams and hopes intersect lends strength to your relationship, but it is the power of your individual dreams and hopes that propel you forward. 

However, what I'm finding is that as Herb and I move towards this big transition of his from working full-time in a career to retirement, it's difficult to separate my dreams, hopes and fears from his and ours together. They all sort of mush together, and I'm unable to think clearly enough to parse all the streams in order to make clean decisions. When the context of my life is unclear to me, it's hard to feel propelled forward.

Part of this latter segment of our journey will encompass a redefinition of household roles and how responsibilities are shared, or at least, how decision-making around important household matters are shared. During almost thirty years of marriage, we've figured out that I'm more reliable at keeping track of the checkbook and paying the bills, and we have more enjoyable family gatherings and vacations if I plan them, than Herb. Because Herb's work has consumed his attention and time, he has also deferred many matters to me over which, perhaps, he will want to resume control, in his retirement. It will undoubtedly be challenging to renegotiate things we haven't talked about for years and on which we've staked our claims and territory.

I suspect the biggest transition for me will be from living largely on my own, separate from Herb on a daily basis for almost twelve years, to living with him. Thankfully, that transition will be slow, since Herb intends to live in Washington for a while until he figures out where he prefers to live. I'm going to have to consider his presence and desires on daily activities and to consult him on everyday priorities, tasks and schedules. For one as entrenched as I am, it will not be easy. 

I already feel myself chafing at the constraints caused by having to slow down to explain what I'm thinking, planning and doing. The fact that I've always been a solo performer, by preference, whether in a job or in sports, has never been more evident than now. Frustration and resentment are constant emotions that I'm ashamed to name and own. Here is a truism: One is flexible and adaptable only when not facing the necessity to accommodate another.

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