Her friends had explained where to find the photo booth and how to use it. They didn’t really understand her nervousness. It wasn’t a big deal to them but they had no idea how low her confidence had dipped. They had no idea what 37 years of marriage had done to her. Elizabeth felt small and insignificant and right now she was too vulnerable to let them in. She was only just beginning to understand herself how much her world had changed. Perhaps once she had untangled some of it and adjusted more to her new world she might feel easier sharing how awful things had got.
To the outside world Matt as he preferred to be known and Lizzy lived a happy life. Their large house, cars and expensive clothes displayed all the trappings of success. The mortgage had long been paid off and they could afford whatever they wanted. All of these things masked the sad truth that their marriage had long been loveless and Elizabeth had lost any sense of who she once was.
She could see now, what she didn’t see at the time. That the first thing she surrendered was her full name. Once they were married Matt had started to call her Lizzy and her friends and family followed his lead. She had gone along with it because she thought perhaps new rules applied once you were married. Shortly after their first anniversary Matt encouraged her to give up work. He said he earned enough money for them both. It wasn’t long after this that Matt started to become more critical of her house keeping skills.
Now with some distance from the life that had damaged her, Elizabeth was beginning to feel stronger and starting to understand how she had lost her sense of identity. Actually she hadn’t lost her sense of identity at all, it had been stolen from her bit by bit.
To reclaim some of her former self and rebuild a new life Elizabeth had drawn up a tick list of things she needed to do. She believed the list had all the right ingredients to help her become strong, confident, independent, creative and dynamic. Writing the list had in itself been therapeutic. It helped her see who she had become and it was a wish list for who she wanted to be.
Number one on the list was “1. Reclaim my name”. Initially she thought this would be about telling people her name was Elizabeth and not Lizzy. Then, while she was feeling more inspired she had decisively added a sub-clause to the first item on her list; “1b. Apply for a passport”.
Elizabeth had never had a passport and today was the first step in completing 1b. She had spent longer than usual getting herself ready to go out. When she looked in the mirror, wearing less makeup than Matt had made her wear, she felt good. Having never been allowed to wear red she picked out her red scarf to match her new coat. Her reflection was now in full technicolour and she liked her bold new look. Dressing colourfully, which was number 4 on her tick list, had helped her to feel more confident.
She wasn’t sure if it was ironic or simply amusing that getting new photo ID had become part of reclaiming her identity! As she sat in the photo booth, immersed in and smiling at her thoughts, she felt reconnected to her sense of humour. It was another part of her that had been suppressed for a long time.
The photographs popped out of the machine. Elizabeth was happy with her new look. The decision to wear red had most definitely been the right one.
With her spirits now lifted Elizabeth checked her list to see if she could capitalise on the moment. Yes, number 11. Go to the cinema alone. She would celebrate with popcorn, ice cream and a good film. She had never been to the cinema by herself but she was on a roll…