The first full night of our cruise, while at Sea, the preferred wardrobe was "elegant." And so, in anticipation, my friends and I collected whatever formal dresses we had or purchased what we didn't and did some mini-fashion shows for one another. Brenda had brought to one of these sessions a couple of options she thought would fit me. One was a more traditional burgundy strapless gown, which fit beautifully and was far more elegant than the dresses I actually owned. And then there was this one. The one in the photo.
It was full length with a plunging back. It was an off-white color with beautiful beading all over it. While it was provocative in its shape, it was still very obviously a former wedding dress. And while most people might shy from wearing a wedding dress to dinner, I thought to myself "Why the fuck not?"
After divorce #2 and shortly before I met my current ex (ugh - I hate saying all that...) I had a keen awareness that marriages and I did not go well together, at least at the moment. So I always found it ironic that my next career foray would be in the world of weddings. I would joke that my experience at getting married a few times was in fact a strong point for me. But inside I was always embarrassed by the fact I did not understand how to be a good partner and that I had some difficulties also finding someone who would be good to me in return. And so, I figured the best thing to do would be to NOT get married right away until I sorted that out.
When I met John, it was a on a casual dating site and neither one of us had intentions of anything serious in mind. But fast forward a year and half later, and there we were living together. And one year after that, having a conversation in a car talking about becoming business partners. We had discussed before about wanting to be married but felt that the financial conditions needed to be right first. And one night, we said to each other, without a license, we were still in this together forever and so we went from boyfriend/girlfriend to business partners in, at one time, four different businesses. A few went away and another came in take its place. I did not want to be business partners without the commitment that personally we were a team because I knew that in the end, it's harder to divorce a business partner than a romantic one.
Unfortunately, at that moment time, I didn't know enough about John or myself in many aspects and so here, once again, I was getting "divorced." For the third time. And you know what they say, right? The third time's the charm!
And so it was that the disintegration of my relationship with John got me looking really hard once and for all myself at ways in which I had never done. Because, clearly the level & form of self-awareness I had demonstrated up to the point was woefully inadequate.
Over the course of this deeply intense self-reflection I found myself committed once and for all to seeing a therapist to help me navigate my way through all of the re-wiring that was going to be necessary. And so, it was in one session she had me do an exercise that left me in tears.
There were seventy cards with "roles" on each one and I had to place them into one of four categories:
1. This is Who I am
2. This is Who I Want to Be
3. I Am Uncertain if This is Who I Am
4. This Is Who I Am Not
This therapeutic assessment was based on work by Robert Landy and it's premise is that we as humans take on roles and perform them under different circumstances. And that our personalities are based on this combination of roles that we move through from time to time, depending on the people we are with and the situations we find ourselves in. After looking at the cards, there is a follow up discussion and an opportunity to move some of the cards around - in particular from the "I Am Uncertain if This is Who I Am" pile to either the "This is Who I Am Not" and to the "This is Who I Want to Be" or throw away completely.
What was interesting about the exercise was the Uncertain pile included roles like "Mother" and "Wife" and the "I am Not" included "Dependent" but through the course of the session, all three found themselves under "Who I want to Be." And the cards the remaining cards in the Uncertain pile, in concept were roles that I was asked to play but were not true reflections of who I am as person and continue to cloud or cover the pile of the roles in the Who I Want to Be Pile. And so, who I am, in my heart, but have been unable to express yet is a:
And so here we are with a wedding dress and choice. And I chose to embrace the woman who is a helpless romantic and is remodeling herself into the person she was meant to be. To this point, I have made great strides in many of the roles on my list, including Mother. But, as noted in another blog post, I am still working on the critical parts of me that will help me to not only find but more importantly, EXPECT a better romantic partner for myself. And that has been the hardest work of all because the role Dependent has, surprisingly, been something of a precarious situation for me. In the past, when I have tried to rely on another person- mainly a romantic partner and feel that security of having someone who you can lean on for support, they have always been ones who resented it because, in the end, they really never wanted any responsibility in caring for another person. And I, in turn, have been attracted, through my own poor wiring, to people who needed to be taken care of. So, I have been in a constant viscous cycle of feeling uneasy asking for help when I need it and just gutting through it on my own, for fear of being burned. Or seeking partners who will never give it to me and being disappointed or attacked.
However, undaunted, I wore a wedding dress to dinner.
And I did it so that I could see myself again as a woman worthy of a life-partner who was going to value & respect me as much I would return that to them. I wanted to feel the beauty in that thought and remind myself of how important it will be to be conscientious and patient with myself as remove the residue of the roles I no longer need to keep playing for others and uncover myself again.
I joked that a woman in a wedding dress will scare most of the men away but I also knew that if it did - they were not the right men for me.