I never knew getting old, being a mom, would feel this way. Some mornings after I’ve swept the toast crumbs away, mopped up the splatters of cereal milk, crammed the lunches in backpacks, texted the school that one child is sick; motored or scootered or bused the kids to school, exercised, walked the two stubborn dogs— some days before I sit down to write, I ask myself.
Who the hell am I?
In the novel I’m writing, I cover the way it might feel to be born. I try to imagine existing in the womb, ejecting from it, then becoming assessed, labeled and housed in the context of hospital, home, parents, time. We’re born— and then we sort of die. Oh Amy, you think. That’s depressing.
But wait, I’ll get more positive. I promise…
We’re conceived unique. And, I believe, only God knows us. Then we’re born. We're shot into the land of over-educated brains, computer monitors, video phones and flourescent lighting. We, the beautiful proof of creation, arrive on earth different from any other humans who came before us.
And then, THEN a bit of this beauty sort of dies. We become citizens of otherness— compared, contrasted, measured and quantified. We enter a society bent on assigning judgment and identity. We’re packed in a race, religion, a financial status, and a genetic makeup. We’re clipped and plastered with expectations, general descriptors of girls, women, moms, Christians, Muslims, atheists or whatever we’ve been assigned. We’re sewn into history.
Blonde, black, fat, thin, winner, loser, beautiful, homely, intelligent, average, outgoing, shy, athletic, clumsy, creative, mathematical, genius, failure, gay, heterosexual, asexual, socialist, democrat, meat eater. You get the idea.
Who are you, and who told you so? I wonder.
We didn't get to ask this question of ourselves because the answer was branded into our thin skin by our (often well-meaning) parents, TV, magazines, school teachers, friends, chain clothing stores, by colleges, politicians, pastors, newspapers, political parties, by Facebook, by gynocologists, by the town hall for heaven’s sake.
I was told I’m big-boned, I’m fat, that I don’t like to read (yes a relative actually said this to me,) that I’d never leave Michigan. I was told that I’m a bad person, a bad writer, that I should never run beyond age 34. I was told that I can’t draw, that I’m fake, that I’m not a real Christian because I don’t believe in judging others. I was told that I’m a mom who cares too much, that I’m the reason for all my kids’ problems, and even that I’m the best mom in the world. I was told that I’d never get married (particularly, obviously, because I wasn’t very submissive as a single woman.) I was told that my womb was empty, that I couldn’t get pregnant.
I might have believed all of this. I might not have written essays, never run countless road races, not fallen in love, gotten married, illustrated paintings for Gumps, had three children, moved to Switzerland or even started the novel that I must now finish— I’d never done any of this if I hadn’t at some point plugged my ears, prayed, and listened inside for the answer to the enormous question— WHO AM I REALLY? What really can this soul, housed in a white lady— do?
And now because I’m middle-aged, my friends and relatives get sick, because people die, I’m aware that in a blink— NOW will be gone. I must ask what I'm here for every day. Every day I have the choice to be born again. Every day I can grow over the weeds of rumors, premonitions, judgments and promises of all I cannot be, cannot achieve. I can become nourished, again by a space from within… I can refuse to seek identity in the context of job title, Facebook, Instagram, political party, church classification, home size, clique size, country, labels I've been jammed within.
You and I aren’t simply our children (or lack of them.) We don’t need to be defined by our husbands, wives, our age, friends, financial mental status, social, marital, work status, our good deeds. We aren’t only fun or misery or illness. We are babies, girls, boys, women, moms and men, actually, Children of God actually, who don’t fit in a blurb, a flat photo, a social tag. We are gorgeously unexpected—unique pumping, cellular holy humanity. We are enormous concepts unmeasurable, uncharted.
So I ask myself, and then I ask you too….
Who are you, really?
What makes you excited or angry or so passionate that you must do something?
Now go do it.
What must you forgive about yourself or others to chart a new path upward? Now go forgive.
What do you have to give this world? Now go give it.
What help do you need? Now go ask for it.
What must you learn still in order to grow? Now go learn it.
What are your hidden gifts? Now go seek them, nurture them.
Like cells, we’re born again daily, I suppose. Today you and I could flower into anything: writer, fighter, teacher, lover, painter, politician, gardener, advocate, meditator, cleaner, organizer, help seeker, help giver, yogi, or corporate bad ass woman.
We could bloom into ourselves at last, growing God inside. We could be lifting, holding, feeding, finding those who need, who accept a new season, a real you and me to arrive.
Yes, we can be born again and again.