“Who are you?”
Myself and 19 other women were challenged to answer that question out loud one evening a few weeks ago during an all-woman seminar hosted by a life coach from Toronto.
The rules? We had to drop all the titles first—wife, mother, caregiver, what we did for a living, etc.—and couldn’t use those identities as part of our response.
In fact, we had to answer three questions in all, but the other two weren’t nearly as self-forensic.
Sure, I came up with something to say that night, but it didn’t satisfy me one bit. “Who are you” was the hardest question I’ve ever had to answer and I haven’t stopped thinking about why that is.
(And I used to think math questions were the toughest).
So ever since that evening discussion (which, by the way, was four hours long, yet four hours too short), I hired myself to go where no me had gone before.
I took on a “CSI” mission: Customized Self Investigation. The pay stinks, but then as a woman of 1,000 trades (i.e., housekeeper, cook, gardener, etc.), none of which pay at all, I should be used to that.
(Oops. There go those titles again).
In taking on this “CSI” job, I learned a history lesson right off the bat. “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
And I learned that dismantling the building blocks of meandering experiences which make up who I am will require me to hire a structural engineer.
Granted that one of my 1,000 vocations is structural engineer training, but only where it applies to diets and body-shaping girdles.
I’ve believed for a long time that the expert who knows you best is you. Funny how easy it is to forget that when you’re trying to figure yourself out.
Sometimes when I think too hard, I even run into road blocks on the inside that say “Authorized Personnel Only.” You know, those dark places where we know we should go and do a baggage check, but aren’t really sure we want to.
Places that are “black as the inside of a cow.”
(By the way, I’ve always wondered what the somebody who made up that quote had to do to find out what colour it was in there).
And the one time I closed my eyes and trespassed in my own mind, a little monster from under my bed when I was seven jumped out of the suitcase and sent me packing.
Next time I’ll take “Dot” with me.
As part of my “CSI” mission, I also took a long look at myself buck naked in the mirror. Well, make that a short look. I’ll admit there’s still some progress to be made in that “Who are you” department.
But I did stare up close, long and hard, into the eyes of the person looking back at me.
Once I got past the drift to check out my crow’s feet and stray eyebrow hairs and focused instead on the hazel-greens, I became acutely aware of one very important thing—I need reading glasses to see something that close up.
However, I held out long enough to get caught up in the real reason why I was staring myself down, and I can’t explain how moving it was other than to admit it made me cry.
No, the tears weren’t because I felt guilty that I’d let my salamander out of his cage when I was a kid and he’d dried up and succumbed under the freezer. That’s another story (and besides, it was my brother’s fault).
In looking so hard into my own eyes, I’d realized that for all my “Mrs. Know-It-All” ways, I still have a lot to learn about who I am.
And I matter enough to me to find out.
“Who are you?”