“Who do you think I am?” she asked.
Having this conversation on the first day of a new year, her buddy replied, “You are a friend, a sister, a mother; you have had a career that spanned many years. You have experienced marriage and other partnerships. You have played many roles during your life; being various people depending upon the relationship with that other person. That’s who you are,” she finished by saying.
“Yes, but who are we really? Who am I really? You are telling me who I am in relationship to others — someone’s mother, sister or partner. But take away all these relationships and ‘who is left?’ Who is standing alone on her/his own stage? Tah Dah!” And she threw up her arms, taking a mock bow.
And she raises a great question, which philosophers have wrestled with throughout the ages. Many folks seem to have an idea of who each one of us is or “should” be. Advertisers try to convince us that we can be a certain way — rich, successful, healthy, safe or handy — if only we will buy a certain product that promises to cure, enhance or secure that image. We are bombarded by many concepts of who, how and what we should be.
But resting alone in the quiet of night … again … we can ask ourselves, who are we? And what comes to mind are all the attributes that our obvious roles seem to miss. When asking this of my friend she was capable of a long answer. She replied, “I am a reasonably happy person, who likes the warmth of a wood fire in the early morning, the glow of a salt lamp in the evening. I cry easily, either from joy or sorrow.
I sometimes feel like a fish as I glide through the lake in the summer, or like a lizard as I lay my body on a boulder in the sun to dry. When in nature I look up, and seeing an osprey, I am him, looking for a meal to take back to the nest. I can lose myself in clouds, appearing and disappearing from sight. I become the wind as it winds its way around and through me.
I am loving and compassionate. And I am frustrated at many things — the condition of our planet, the politics that seem to divide our country. I am fearful of the state of our economy and the possibility of hidden manipulations that could bring catastrophe. I am lazy at times, wanting to retreat into binge watching of Victoria, The Crown or Gilmore Girls.
At the same time, I am creative, mucking around with paint, paper, wood and other objects that appeal to my eye. I am quiet, resting near the creek, immersing myself in the sound of water, the song of robins, the smell of the earth.
I am often longing — longing for the tidy house I don’t seem to accomplish, longing for family to live closer, longing to ditch the labels we hold for others that keep us from seeing one another more deeply. I long for the spring when winter closes in, and want winter when summer tests us with heat and fires and smoke. I want watermelon in January and pomegranates in July, knowing that my wanting needs to be tempered with patience. I am a shadow on the door as I walk down the hall with the light behind me.
We are so many things — feelings, thoughts, creations of our own minds. And we can also rest in that place that is beyond all of this … the place that has been called spirit, soul, essence or ocean of loving awareness. We are capable of experiencing, being, and knowing it all.
But mostly, I am working toward self-acceptance of all these contradictions that exist within me, and make me who I am. I need to be at peace with both the dark side and the light, the confused, the sad, the frustrated, as well as the joyful and contented. Because, this is what makes the human experience. And that, my friend, is who we all are.”