Who Are You?
Tell me about yourself, said I to the man in the mirror. He just stood there staring back, of course. We both continued staring for a while and as we did so, I had a few thoughts run through my head.
Who Am I?
Who is that man in the mirror? Who am I? There are a variety of ways to define ourselves.
- Marital status.
- As a Parent.
- Who we know.
- What we know.
- Where we’ve been.
- What we’ve done.
These aren’t inconsequential things, but are they who we are? Do they define us? Probably some of them do to an extent. Marriage and parenthood are good examples.
Sunset over Lake Michigan
I am the father of two grown sons. Oh how I loved raising those boys. I used to try to grab a nap in the afternoon on weekends. I’d lay on the couch and pull the blanket up over my head and doze off. The boys couldn’t resist messing with me. I’d lay perfectly still until they got close, then I would shoot my hand out from under the blanket and grab them. I’d pull them under the blanket with me and they would laugh and fight to get away from the couch monster. That was me, the Couch Monster.
We lived near the beach on Lake Michigan. In fact, my wife’s Grandma lived on waterfront nearby. I would take our big, cabin tent down to the beach and set it up so that the door faced the water. We were shielded from the city streets and noise by a house, trees and a few hundred yards. Lying in the tent or sitting by the beach fire, we may as well have been in the wilderness. In our minds, we were. But the boys are grown. I’m still their father, but the couch monster is gone.
I was the husband of a woman you would have adored. She was simply the most wonderful part of my life. She’s gone now. No, not by divorce but by cancer. It’s been five years and eight months. How can that be? When a spouse passes away, part of us dies too. Marriage actually did define me. Being Sandy’s husband said something about me. I suppose that’s what is meant by two becoming one. But I’m not a husband anymore.
For fourteen years I was either in college preparing for or actively involved in Christian Ministry. I was in a Christian college for four years, a missionary for three years, and a pastor for seven years. I preached, taught, counseled, cried with, married, buried, sang, testified, prayed and evangelized. But I’m not a pastor anymore. In fact, I hold only to the loosest concept of a deity these days. I choose to let him/her/whatever be what they are rather than what I dictate them to be through theological dogma. That’s what I do, not what I think you should do. But I am not in that profession anymore.
Now I am a laboratory technician. I travel around the country from lab to lab filling in when they are shorthanded. I like it. It pays well, and I get to see a lot of the country this way. But it doesn’t define me. It’s what I do, not who I am.
I'm Not Defined By What I Do For a Living
I think that the concepts I’m looking for, ones that define who a person is, are ethereal, not physical or even emotional. They are spiritual. I don’t mean that in a religious way, but in a non-material way. They go with me from place to place, from time to time in my life. They have been with me in some form for my lifetime. These are the things that define me. Here are some of these ethereal qualities that I have identified to greater or lesser degrees in my own life.
- Adventurous. I don’t simply like to go camping or kayaking. I want to explore.
- Integrity/honesty. Now this one has been frequently AWOL in my life, especially when I was drinking. These days I’d rather just be transparent. It is so much more peaceful, both inside and outside.
- Selflessness. That’s a tough one when you are like me. I am single, I live on the road. I spend a great deal of time alone. The consequence is that I find I am very self centered, self absorbed. I have to force myself to talk to others about them rather than about me.
- Generosity. Am I willing to part with my wealth for the good of another human being?
- Edifying/encouraging. Do I enrich the lives I come into contact with or do I drain people emotionally?
- Contemplative. I really do try to see past the superficial, shallow world around us. There is a rhythm, a hum to nature as though it were a machine at the center of all that is, creating beauty, splendor, romance, kinship of man to beast to realm. I spend time with her, listening to her, trying to understand.
from someplace between who I once was and who I am becoming
As I returned from the realm of introspection, I was still standing in front of the mirror. The same man stood staring at me, as if to say, “Did you want something, or can I leave now?” I let the old boy go. As I turned away, I summed up my thoughts.
I am not a reflection in a mirror. I am real. I exist, and I am becoming. These are the concepts, the ideas, though ethereal in nature, that I am interested in these days. Since I don’t have a specific home base, I choose to refer to myself as being from someplace between who I once was and who I am becoming. In that regard, I have to set aside the expectation that I will wake up one morning having BECOME. No, for me, in this lifetime, I will always be becoming, growing, learning. It’s what makes life worth living.