Who are you?
Ask me that question until recently and I would have begun with role titles.
I am a teacher. A mum. A woman.
I remember a spiritual director telling me once, “That isn’t who you are, that’s what you do?”
I have spent much of the last thirty years seeking to “find” and define myself. The irony of this is only recently becoming apparent. I have quested long and hard, yet I was right here all along, like the alchemist’s treasure in Paulo Coelho’s book.
My labels past and present include: daughter, sister, student, wife, mother, teacher, Christian, minister, Dyslexia specialist, reflexologist, Reiki practitioner, witch, friend, writer, lightworker, crystal healer, queer, tarot reader, Druid, gardener, shop assistant, vegetarian, campaigner, blogger, carer, home-brewer, herbalist, domestic, tutor, priestess.
I have, at various times, pulled them out of the cupboard to try them on, alone or in combination, but they are none of them me.
My friend Liz says that she feels that defining herself is for other people’s comfort. She chooses not to.
The time spent gazing at my own navel trying to work out “who I am” would be much better used to experience the vast, fleeting, crazy, miracle that is our universe. It would be better spent in play or conversation, in writing, in sitting watching flowers grow.
Yet the urge is strong. If someone asks me, who are you? I want to be able to present it to them. Tidy. Attractive. Acceptable. It feels as though this longing is heightened by my virtual life. When I am online I want to connect, and labels are a way in which I seek out like-minded others… #findyourtribe
Definitions of self are closely linked to ideas of individualism, a theme which did not appear to dominate human minds until the Enlightenment era three to four hundred years ago. Maslow contributes here also, the idea of self-actualization, to be all I can be, to fulfil my potential, is powerful in Western culture. It encourages materialism as we quest to gather the tools and props we need to demonstrate our “selves” to those around us.
I am beginning to feel, though, that this idea, which I have held as a core part of being human, is just another theory, a way to capture a sense of purpose and security in the vast and chaotic experience of life.
Who am I?
It’s difficult to say. Who I am is something in motion. A moving target. Who I am today, is not who I was yesterday, or who I will be tomorrow. The constant flow of life, of others, around me is a dynamic interplay of interactions, each one impacting on me, creating subtle alterations, just as I in turn create an effect on all around me.
Jonathan Livingstone Seagull has it right, “I am an unlimited idea of freedom.”
Perhaps in the end the only label I need is a name. In this context that name means me.
Hello, my name is Fiona. Pleased to meet you.