Note: This essay was originally posted about two months after my husband died.

Definition, January 2013
Those of you who know me are aware I am serving my third term in elected office. I start year thirteen next week. My children have heard me say I view myself as Karen and I define my elected office. I put my stamp on elected office, I control it. Over the years, I have met elected officials whose motto appeared to be, “I am an elected official, therefore I am (their name).” Elected office defined them; gave them validity and life purpose. This seemed backward to me and I have always pitied them.

As my daughter and I were talking today, she said she read a Facebook post I wrote where I concluded a status with the words “widow humor” and she said, “Mom, being a widow is a condition. It is not an identity. You are Karen.” I thought of my efforts to define my role as an elected official, rather than letting it define me. I realized I was allowing “widow” to define me, to control me. Yes, it is one of the words in my list of what I am, but it doesn’t deserve to sit in the driver’s seat.

There have been times I have asked myself when I would stop identifying myself primarily as a widow and be Karen first. I have wondered when others will identify me as Karen first rather than a widow. I am starting to see both happening now. As time passes, I don’t look as shell-shocked and feel as emotionally ripped apart as I did. I don’t need to somehow drop news of FHA’s death into a conversation. I am assimilating the condition into my identity, trying to control it rather than it controlling me (though I still have room for improvement). I have had common experiences with others since FHA’s death so his death isn’t the most recent shared experience. We can converse about other things that have happened. Today, I am feeling like I am making progress toward being me. It is a new me-a bit less intense (but still a microwave rather than a slow cooker), more patient (!), viewing life with eyes that see a bigger picture than before. But I choose to define myself that way rather than being at the mercy of some condition.

What defines you? Do you have identities in your life that are really conditions?