Reflections on Identity

Learning How to Live in the Calm After the Storm

When the crises ends and “normal” life resumes

Laura Friedman Williams
Human Parts
Published in
5 min readJan 2
Photo by Mecit Tarık Arıöz on Unsplash

Divorce, moving, and death of a close relative are generally considered to be amongst the greatest stressors in life. I’ve experienced them all in the past few years and am here to verify that they do indeed deserve top billing. I’m grateful not to be able to complete the list: marriage, incarceration, illness, loss of a job (though I feel compelled to note the irony that both divorce and marriage frequent these top-ten lists), but I do have some other stressors I personally think should be added— global pandemics and the discovery of long-lost parents, for example.

To recap the storm that has represented my recent past, so that I can sum it up and then put it to bed:

Almost five years ago, my husband of over two decades and I separated after I learned he was in love with another woman.

Two years later, Covid hit and we hunkered down together with our kids for three miserable months that served as an invaluable reminder of how much better off we are apart.

During that time, I found out I had a father I had never known about — a birth father, who had lived a mere dozen miles away from me my whole fifty years on earth. I also found out that I am half-Iranian and not the purebred Ashkenazi Jew I had always believed myself to be, which didn’t exactly cause me to have an identity crisis but definitely left me with some weighty metaphysical musings that have yet to be resolved.

I sold a book to a publisher about my rather wild dating and sex life post-marriage and three days before it was published, another of my fathers (and the one who had been present for most of my life) died.

For my father’s memorial service in my apartment, I shoved semi-packed moving boxes into closets — all those gloriously large closets I had in my amply-sized apartment; when everyone was gone, I pulled the boxes out and continued to fill them with items I hoped would fit in the new, half-the-size apartment I was running all over the city trying to find.

I took my middle child to college three thousand miles away and then moved in with my mother, my…



Laura Friedman Williams
Human Parts

Author of AVAILABLE: A Very Honest Account of Life After Divorce (Boro/HarperUK June ‘21; Harper360 May ‘21). Mom of three, diehard New Yorker.