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Chameleon Colors

As of today, I have been single for 271 days. The longest period of time in my entire adult life. Even though I recognized my chameleon-like behavior in my previous relationships, it hasn’t been until fairly recently that I have really cleared from that fog and started cueing in on myself. My interests. My peace. My desires and goals. My habits and processes. My interactions with others in my life. The things that make me, only me, as an individual, tick. In this discovery process, I’ve made a cognitive effort to create a new state of homeostasis, which I had neglected to acknowledge was seriously out of whack for so long.

It is a whole new bright feeling when I can go about my own schedule without accommodating anyone else’s preferences or ask permission or update someone constantly. My son and I choose our next adventure and go, which is an insanely freeing and ultimately grounding feeling. From concerts to kayaking, spur-of-the-moment trips to the beach, monster truck shows or Sunday afternoon baseball games – Our lives and schedules are full. But most importantly, my life is now fulfilling, remarkably calm and still amazingly adventurous!

I love researching little tidbits of history, fun facts, and obscure pieces of knowledge. Whose celebrity birthday is it today or what is the origin of this phrase? When a question comes up, I’m the first to head on over to Google to find the answer. After realizing how often I referred to myself as a “chameleon” in random relationship conversations, I needed to make sure I was accurately describing my historical pattern of shifting interests in order to accommodate my relationship partners. So, obedient to my curious nature, I decided to research the characteristics of the chameleon, how and why they change colors, and if my thought process behind my changing colors over time and relationships was congruent with the nature of the chameleon.

I assumed, as a lot of people do, that chameleons change color to camouflage themselves against predators or harm, a technicolor self-preservation technique. While camouflage is a benefit to the incredible color changing that chameleons pull off, it’s not the primary objective of this artistry. The most fundamental reason for a chameleon’s tint transformation is simply body heat regulation. Being ectothermic, a darker flesh absorbs light (cold chameleon!) and raises their temperature, while a lighter flesh reflects light, thus lowering body temperature (hot chameleon!).

Outside of anatomical regulation, communication is a major factor in the rainbow changes of chameleons. By shifting nanocrystals between layers of skin, different wavelengths of light are reflected, with vibrant colors and patterns indicating aggression or dominance and duller colors indicating yielding or submission. Mating intentions are also displayed in different color palettes by both males and females as they shift skin layers, reacting at a cellular level. When they are calm, safe, and comfortable, they will typically revert to an organically natural, yet inspiring, hue. Less extravagant, but pure and raw.

In my exploration of the chameleon, I did some reflection as to my thought process as a self-proclaimed relationship chameleon. The reason I have identified myself as such in recent conversations is the fact that I adopted the interests of those with whom I partnered. The color-changing characteristic with which I identified most from my lizardy research was the dulling colors due to submission. I now recognize my former behavior as de-selfing in order to maintain relationships.

My first husband wanted dogs, so I complied despite not wanting to add animals to our rickety relationship. Next long term boyfriend loved rock climbing, so I learned and we climbed all over the country, from Smith Rock in Oregon to Red Rock in Vegas. Second husband lived for sports, so I knew trivia about players and hosted staggering Super Bowl parties, complete with paper footballs hanging from the ceiling and extra TVs arranged strategically around the house. Most recent boyfriend liked scary movies and sci-fi, so I saw It in theaters, covering my eyes with fright, and sat through many seasons of Stranger Things and the like.

All of these compromises (among many others) were things I agreed to and enjoyed in the moment. However, I threw myself into these and other interests of my partners while neglecting the cultivation and exploration of my own individual passions. I dulled myself to maintain generally mediocre relationships for longer than made sense. I know this without question. Because of dogs, rock climbing, Super Bowl parties, and Stranger Things, I cling to ZERO of these former interests. They were not mine. Sure, every once in a while, I will pet a dog, though I’m not really keen on any animals. I still have my climbing gear stashed in a box, ya know, just in case. I watch the Super Bowl for the half time shows, but haven’t seen a full football game in years. And when I was asked if I was going to watch the latest season of Stranger Things, I said, “Nope, it’s not my thing.”

While in each relationship, because of the relationship, I enjoyed these things with the person I was with because I was invested in the connection. Ultimately though, I deprived myself of my own unique self. I compromised my potentially radical, rainbow colors or calm, peaceful hues, dulling my reflection to the world in submission of a lackluster, lop-sided pairing. On more than a few occasions, I would also flash wildly with lightening colors and patterns of aggression. Remove the relationship, allow my cells to shift and my inner chameleon to calm down, and those activities that distracted me from myself, that I clung to in order to preserve the status quo, inevitably faded into the background and the calm color has begun to reappear.

This time of solitary harmony has given rise to a much more authentic me. I do what I want because I want to do it. That makes everything and every day so much more enjoyable. I cook, clean, kayak, read books, go to concerts, travel, work out, take walks with my son, go to karate, volunteer for church activities, watch reality shows and rom-coms, and enjoy this wonderful life without the looming sense of guilt I carried through my past relationships. I spent too much time overcompensating for underwhelming relationships. This new journey I’m on with myself is by far the most refreshing, rewarding adventure I’ve ever pioneered, full of tranquility and gratefulness. This calm, peaceful chameleon color is looking good on me.

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