It’s tax time. Time for the annual review of my status. Time to once again remember that I am not married.
There are a lot of boxes to check in life. At my doctor’s office. On my Facebook page. For my financial advisor. After ruling out the “Married” option and while choosing from among “Divorced,” “Widowed,” and “Single” I always wonder why “All of the above” isn’t a choice.
My ego has driven much of my desire to keep a tight grip on a status that impressed. When as a young lawyer I met someone for the first time, I shamelessly and mindlessly managed to work the fact that I was a lawyer into the conversation. Because, of course, I really needed the awe and admiration of that Goodwill cashier.
When I initiated my encore career as a coach, many people knew so little about the profession that they thought I coached youth soccer. Saying I was a coach was not as impressive as saying I was an adjunct professor at the law school. I struggled with letting go of titles that helped me to overcome my lingering fear that I was somehow an utter disappointment.
Humans are designed for survival, which means the protection of their status. Hundreds of years ago when we lived in tribes, a person with low status due to age or infirmity might be abandoned in the dark of night as their fellow tribesmen packed up and abandoned them to die. Our brains remain wired to avoid a demotion in status (Any wonder why getting feedback at the office is so hard?) and we strive instead to enhance it at every opportunity.
It is undeniable that there is status in being married. It says to the world that someone once saw enough in me that they were willing to tell the world that they were connected to me. It says that I am worthy of a seat at the dinner party table and it implies that somebody loves me.
After divorce, we can experience a sense of a diminished value in our society. We can feel as though our value and our worth are determined by the ring on our finger and the promises once made by our partner in life. When we lose this rank, we can feel less because we have attached so much meaning to that station that meant so much to us.
Today I hold the status of being loved, and I cling to it fiercely. Loved by my children and a half dozen siblings. Loved by co-workers, my clients, my community. And loved big by a few dear friends.
One can argue whether this is status earned or deserved. It is simply a status bestowed. I don’t need to brag about it. I don’t need to fear its loss. It may or may not impress people like I’ve too often tried to do with my achievements. But it is my most precious status of all.