My father died when I was 23 years old. I had about four weeks to digest that he was going to be leaving the Blue Marble. That’s hyper-speed. Not as hyper-speed as sudden death, but pretty close. I barely had time to buy a dress for the funeral. I’m being serious. I went the day before. In January. The racks were a sea of Spring. Not exactly winter mourning material.
His death was tragic. He retired early to be with the love of his life, was building his dream home, could finally travel to far-flung destinations just for the fun of it, and had 8 children who adored him and wanted to see him live out his prime years in total joy. Instead, he worked his tail off to raise us and put us through college and then melanoma took him down hard. (Wear your sunscreen, kittens.)
I don’t really recall those four weeks. I have vivid memories of one nap we took together before he was taken to the hospital, one conversation we had at the hospital (I had just bought a new car, a Probe – I still crack up at the name – and he wanted to know I would be responsible with it.), and the moment he died. Everything else is a blur. Until the night, one week after his death, when I went to my parents bed and crawled under the covers. I wanted to nap with him again. I drifted somewhere and woke to a cold breeze blowing through me. Not over me. Not around me. Through me. Through my body. (It was January in New Jersey. The windows were hermetically sealed.) That was the first time I gained a sense of the big-ness of life. The complexity, the levels, the dimensions, the planes, the here and the hereafter.
I sat up in bed, feeling off-kilter. Unsure of what had just happened. For about a second. And then I said, “I love you, Dad. Please don’t feel like you need to stay. I can handle it.”
I became Indestructo-Girl. That was me.
From that point on I toughed everything out. My father’s passing was an awesome (I’m using that word the way it was originally intended.) experience. I witnessed a man leave this world and move into the next. His passing matured me overnight. I became a woman who could handle it all. With the wisdom of age, I now see that I felt I had to be able to handle it all so that when a wrist-shot came from center ice I wouldn’t vaporize on impact. Alternate analysis: I couldn’t be vulnerable. Out of fear that I would implode. That I couldn’t handle it. That I would need someone’s help. And I didn’t want to be a bother.
I motored through life batting away one challenge after another like my world was an arcade game. That became my modus operandi until just a few weeks ago. Oh, hogwash. It’s still my M.O. But it can’t be me anymore, as so many of you have pointed out. (Thank you, love you, owe you.)
So, if that’s not me, then who am I? Not what am I, but who am I?
I’ve been staring at that last sentence for 10
years minutes. The easy answers are the labels society constructs for us: woman, mother, daughter, sister, friend, ex-wife. But what is my essence? (I have to laugh…essence is the word the boys and I use for fart. It just rolls off the tongue better and is hilarious when a 4 and 6 year old say, “Mommy, I just let out my essence!”) Perhaps it’s not a question we should be asking at all.
Mel Schwartz, L.C.S.W. wrote this in an article titled, “Who Am I? in Psychology Today: “A sense of inadequacy often informs the question around “Who am I?” As people engage the deepening complexity of understanding themselves, they would fare much better to devote themselves to the unfolding process of life. Witnessing our thoughts, not reacting out of old habit, and becoming present enable us to better craft our lives. As such, the identity that we seek fires the wave of life, enriched by the flow.”
My life isn’t static anymore. Technically it was never static but it sure felt stuck. Stuck like Princess Buttercup in the Fire Swamp encased in snow sand while battling ROUSes. Life is flowing, I am flowing with it, and therefor I am changing, shifting, morphing every day. So instead of asking Who am I? I’m going to ask, How am I going to meet the day? I won’t meet it alone, I know that much.
See, I have this little friend. I call her my Observer Self. She sits like a bird on my shoulder, carefully watching with her eyes my every move. She notes my emotions, witnesses my reactions, and chuckles at the way I conveniently ignore that which I don’t want to address at all. She’s always there and she wishes I would have a 24/7 relationship with her, but sometimes my mind takes over and pushes her mercilessly off her perch. Mel alludes to an Observer Self in his article when he says, “Witnessing our thoughts, not reacting out of old habit, and becoming present enable us to better craft our lives.”
My Observer Self, who is way better dressed, has zero jiggle, perky boobs and perfect hair (She’s my Observer Self, it’s my right to make her hot.) is my witness. I do best when I see life through her eyes. When I tune in to her she keeps me present. I can’t be listening to her guidance about what is happening right in front of me and stressing about the future or lamenting the past. I am not that kind of multi-tasker. Multi-tasking for me is singing while driving.
I know this much: I’m not Indestructo-Girl, I am a good person, and I’m changing every day. I’m going to tune in more to my hot Observer Self so that I can craft my experiences by being fully present in the moment. Witnessing my emotions, thoughts, feelings and interactions from an objective and present place will give me the power to create my beautiful, loving, happy, centered life by being instead of reacting.
That sounds worth doing.