I was talking to a friend recently about life events that unsettle our identities, times when ‘who I am’ gets shaken to its core. These events are unique to all of us, but often include times of geographical mobility, divorce, career ruptures, childbirth (and loss), onset of severe illness or long-term illness (or both!), and other times when our place in our world shifts substantially…
We talked about losing our sense of identity, our sense of self… how new limitations, a change in environments, and a feeling of powerlessness can all act together to make us feel increasingly invisible… a sort of faded ‘who I am’ remains, left gasping for air…
It seems to me that in all the challenges I have faced personally, and the many I have seen others face, the sense of limitation is particularly painful… The sense that I can’t do what I have done, what I want to do, what I should be able to do… I can no longer impact the world around me in ways that will make it notice that I’m there, that will make me mean something.
But what if we are not here to ‘do’ but to ‘be’?
This is, I believe, a radical thought in a world that so often measures identity by ‘doing’? What does he do all day? What does she do for her kids? What does he do in his community? It’s often our first question, “So, what do you do?”
If we can (re)construct our identities around ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’ we might stand a better chance of weathering those storms mentioned above… those events that come along and change or challenge everything we have been ‘doing’.
When my joint condition means I can’t walk an hour to get my kid to theatre class, I feel the loss of being able to provide that for my child. My identity as ‘parental provider’ is rocked by my physical limitation. Yet I can still be someone who invests in my child’s creative interaction with the world around her. I am still someone who does my best for my child.
When my high levels of mobility mean that I can’t always make those family weddings or graduations, my identity as a ‘good sister’ and ‘committed family member’ can be rocked. Yet, I can still be someone who values family and mutual celebration.
The phrase ‘yet I can still be’ contrasts strongly with ‘I do’, and it is the foundation on which we can stand and say,
I am still here. I am still me…
And it becomes the starting point for some creative thinking around how we can be our ‘selves’ when our doing is limited…
I can’t get her to theatre group, but I can find other ways to nurture theatrical creativity… because that is who I am.
I can’t be at those family celebrations in person, but I can find other ways to connect across the miles… because that is who I am.
When your life story seem to have taken a turn towards challenge… placing you in situations that are constricting your personal identity… you still ARE. And you still matter to the world around you, simply by virtue of contributing a ‘you’ to it.
Whatever the journey, whenever the ‘doing’ is limited, you can still triumphantly BE!
I can walk alongside you as you explore the identity journeys you have encountered, and support you as you seek to strengthen your sense of self to better meet the more challenging events of life. Drop me an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested. I’d love to hear your story!