Saturday, January 17, 2009

My Life

As I begin to take my first faltering steps down this path of self-discovery, my first task is to examine the labels I carry with me. Mine are plenty and each of us could easily come up with half a dozen or so that we wearily bear. Labels that not only define us, but limit our own vision of ourselves.

We are born with a label-our gender. Not so much nowadays, but that was once a powerful determiner in what dreams were available. Then our birth order label was handed over. Consider high school, or rank, ACT/SAT score, college… This list of academic achievements or lack thereof piles on the labels. School itself is a means of self-labeling as we attempt to define our very self by what degree we achieve or profession we enter. Marriage state-happy, unfulfilled, single, divorced, co-habitating. Add to this children, stay at home ness or professional life, size of income and the things that can add to the growing list. Our relationships label us. Are we the kind of friend one can call in the middle of the night with any assurance of help? Are we a giver or receiver?

Up until a few years ago, I didn’t think much of labels. Oh I knew I carried some around and had grown comfortable with their weight. There was a measure of safety in them. At any given time I knew what was expected of me because of those very labels. They were my ‘Rules for a Happy Life’. As long as I behaved within the confines of those labels and didn’t stray too far afield, I felt confident in my ability to have, if not the life I’d dreamed of, a life worth being proud of.

The first crack of any consequence came in the form of a change. A good change as it turned out. My family went from being active members of one church to being part of another. Gone almost immediately was my label of Sunday School teacher. As the new year started, I wasn’t asked to serve my new church. Others before me had taught and would be asked to live within that label. I served on no committee and the distance from the church made it difficult to be as involved as I had been with my old church. I went through a mild time of crisis as I sought to find a definition for myself in this new place.

The second crack was the most personally devastating. My marriage ended. It was a slow and painful death. I spent much time in denial and trying to convince myself that there was still something I could do to fix it. When my attempts weren’t enough, I became busy. Busy as a way to push away the pain, to conceal the dismay at one of my labels failing me. I was a wife. I had defined and limited myself to that label. I had done my part and the label was supposed to do its. For a few short weeks, I was adrift trying to identify and define the new label I bore-single again.

The last crack tore my carefully crafted world apart. My son, my only son, was stricken with ALL, an acute form of leukemia. All my striving to be a good mom, couldn’t keep my children healthy! In the days after the diagnosis, my mind awhirl, all my labels were rendered null and void. It no longer mattered what I was, what I’d done, what had been done to me.

My son’s journey toward wellness became my journey as well. All the old concepts were thrown out. I examined everything! Yes, I still had titles, but where once they had defined me, now I was in a place to make my own definitions.

I am still in that place. Defining myself without limiting the possibilities of me. Seeking who I am, not what I am. I am discovering anew, the joy of a childlike faith in myself. I am not limited by labels-I have survived their betrayal and like a phoenix, am arising from the flames. I am…..

As a reread this before posting, I realized this is not the article I had thought I would write, but one that I needed to release. I am still in process. The journey has begun, but I am a long way from completing it.

Sheep M 1/17/09

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