It’s the part they don’t tell you.
Your ego will go out and come back in again a dozen times during your life. And each time you’re flat and ironed out, you will somehow magically become robust and vibrant. But there’s no predicting when that will happen. You can’t control it or create it. A new ego just bursts upon you.
Not if you’re lucky or deserving. Just because you keep going.
I know this, of course, because that is what has happened to me. The benefit of having lived a long time is the accumulation of data. I can chart things, not over years like younger people, but over decades. The graphs I can draw of the wilting and blooming of my ego look like the tracings of an economist through the past sixty-eight years, this boom, that depression, bull markets, bear markets.
I can make a list of the times I lost myself, when I looked for days and months for my grey car in a parking lot full of grey cars, all of them locked, all with ashtrays filled to the brim with butts and foil gum wrappers.
- Listening to my husband give a speech on the radio while I pushed my crying newborn’s bassinet back and forth across a braided rug.
- Realizing that I’d given up a marriage for fool’s gold.
- Being left for other women by one lover and then another lover.
- Failing with my children, first one and then another, and then all at the same time.
- Leaving a job I loved and waited years to get because of painful racial politics.
- Sitting in a group where I was once a powerful person and not speaking because I couldn’t hear the discussion.
It is this last grey time that threatened to crush me altogether. It took me years to realize but my hearing loss was catastrophic to my ego. It erased me. A bit at a time but certainly and irretrievably. For a long time, I tried to pretend I was the same but I only fooled myself. Everyone else knew I was leaving, they were lined up at the station waving goodbye to me. “Have you seen Jan?” they’d say. “No, she left on the train long ago.”
And then, as if by magic, I am reborn. My ego is back in a new iteration. Now I am a person with a cochlear implant. Without it, I am almost completely deaf. With it, I am on fire with hearing. I talk. I argue. I joke. I understand. I laugh at the same time everyone else does. I am powerful again. Strong. Able. I didn’t do anything to deserve this. I just kept going and a new ego burst upon me.
We are, in a lifetime, many selves. The woman in the photo was at her nadir. Or so she thought. She would have many more nadirs, many more grey cars and then, without warning, the Northern Lights would flash and everything would change.She would find herself and shine. You can depend on that if you keep going. I didn’t know that then. But I know it now.
The Daily Post: Voyage