A few weeks ago, the U.S. Census Bureau sent me a a household survey, part of their work to prepare for next year's national census. Like any useful survey, the collection of demographic information was a part of the project.
Demographics are always difficult for me. I know my age and gender, my ethnicity and level of eduction. These are the easy questions. But then comes the question of my marital status. And now all my baggage is unpacked.
It's not just the unwelcome reminder of how much my life has changed. I'm always better off if I live in the moment rather than reflecting on how I liked my old life; how much I enjoyed the security of being part of a partnership. That life is gone now and dwelling on the past doesn't change things. In the meantime, I've got some survey questions begging my attention. I'm not divorced, because of course, I was never married. But I have an ex, and dealing with that feels a lot like what I imagine feeling divorced feels like. I am a single, though in my mind that raises images of a life I certainly don't live. There is no category for someone like me. So I chose an inadequate answer and move on.
But the effects linger. I struggle with finding what I've come to think of as an elusive but magical place: the sweet spot where I can be satisfied with the person I have become; with the life I now lead. A place where I can appreciate and understand the past for what it was and look to the future for its prospects. Mostly, I just try to live in the here and now. I avoid painful reflections about who I once was. I don't think about the future. I know that my life is more than the sum total of my successes and failures. But when questions arise, confusion about my past, the uncertainty of my present and the empty palette of my future combine to make the present an uncomfortable place.