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Monday, March 27, 2006

Who Am I?

Spring break is over, and so also is winter in Alaska. Despite the remaining piles of snow, and puddles of ice all over town, the air has tempered, and the accumulated dirt and grime of the past five months is being freed.

The past two weeks has felt timeless – as if it were a much longer span than 14 days. This last weekend barely gave me a chance to reacclimatize to being at home and fully in charge again.

Today, I arose early (relatively), did all the requisite school-day preparations, and found we were still running 20 minutes ahead of schedule. It must be the longer days. During our absence, Anchorage gained 1 ½ hours of additional daylight. Now, and for the next six months, the kids will arise and go to bed with the sun in the sky.

On the dusty, snow-free drive to the library to return a book, which I worked very hard at not losing on our Seattle trip, every possible mountain greeted me. McKinley and Forakker hovered ghostly to the north. Susitna’s folds are showing delineations of snow free earth. The Chugach, Kenai, and Alaska ranges, still cloaked in winter white, all towered at their respective distances, a symbol that ever-present God watches over all.

The esoteric question of the moment is: Who am I, and what, exactly, do I think I’m doing?

Vacation was a clarifying experience in some respects. But a bizarre kind of clarification. Just when I think I know what I’m about, it becomes very clear that I don’t know nothin’ at all.

I thought I was Who-I-Am-Becoming in this isolated sub-arctic cosmopolis. I thought I was wife to Bruce, trying to reconcile childhood issues in order to restore and refresh our marriage. I thought I was mother to Jack, Sabrina, Ellie, and Evan, trying to teach being true to oneself while cultivating an others-oriented spirituality. I thought I was friend to my Alaskan companions with whom I attempt emotional transparency in the belief that, while I can never be perfect, I can be better.

But during vacation, the armour that is these things did not fit and had to be shed, piece by piece, until I was entirely defenseless. And I so I cloaked myself in garments I thought I had left behind, and as I adapted to old but familiar surroundings, I wondered if anything had or will ever fundamentally change in me at all.

Am I still the daughter of Pat, trying to be dutiful and kind, even from across a continent? Am I still sister to Doug, trying to be witty, self-deprecating, and maybe a little wise? Am I still friend to Seattle-buddies Jill, Gillian, and Margie, around whom I check my language, drinking, and heretical theology?

Like a chameleon, I fade or I darken or I mottle in order to fit into whatever-shaped box I walk into. Sometimes I shape-shift so well I disappear altogether.

But I am not deceiving anyone deliberately - I am all these things, playing all these roles and more. And the issue then becomes larger than myself. Rather, who are all these other people? And I wrestle in frustration over not being able to bring each and every person into each and every multi-shaped compartment that is me. I ask myself: Why can’t So-And-So fit into my heart-shaped place? And why does Him-Or-Her refuse to rest inside my square?

I can be “all things to all people.” I can fit in almost anywhere, with any crowd. But the harder challenge is letting people be all things to me: letting those who are angry be angry, letting those who are shallow be shallow, letting those who are hurting be hurt, letting those who are content be content, letting those who are seekers ask their multitude of questions.

Accepting other people as they are, where they are, is my monumental challenge. And it comes down to understanding of what love really is. And therein lies the rub: how can I fully comprehend love, when my practicing love does not even extend to myself?

Perhaps when I can finally can accept myself - love myself - I will finally be able to accept and love others in the way I so deeply desire to be loved.
I will never be perfect – not in this life – but, in time and with effort, I may begin to be better.


At 12:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ahhhh... If only you saw yourself and loved yourself as others see and love you. That could be said of many of us, (people who live in glass houses...) however I don't think I know anyone that applies to more than you (unless it's me but if it is, it most certainly has to be a tie.) I love you just the way you are and think you're much like Mary Poppins- practically perfect in every way. Sure, you'll grow and change as we all do, but you're pretty great already and I'm sure you'll always be pretty great no matter what. Wish I was there to look at the mountains with you, slurp coffee and make piles of PBnJ's as we send the kids off to school. :-)


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