This question can be taken several ways, but I mean it to say, “Who do YOU think you are?” (Emphasis on the first “you”). If you were given a sheet of paper to write down who you are, what would it look like? Would you write down the “who’s”, or the “what’s”? Are they different? Are they the same?
This was the focus of a discussion I recently had with several women, and it’s had me thinking about who I think I am, versus who I actually am. Some of the things I think I am, are things I am…even the bad ones. However, as I examine my lists (this paragraph is the last thing I wrote in this post), I find that I’m all of these things. Not necessarily on a daily basis, but at one point or another in, say, a year, I am all of these things. I also find that the good overrides most of the bad. I’m finding that I’m way too hard on myself, and I have a tendency to base a judgement of myself on something that I was accused of once, when I was 10, and not on things I did yesterday. A lot of my negatives, when I think about them, are things I was told as a kid, rather than who I am now. They say that you are who you will always be after about age five. That your “person-hood” is formed, and you cannot change it. Maybe that’s true, to a point, but I’m not a five year old. While my core may be the same, my “go-to” emotion, my “default”, if you will, I am not who I was when I was five. I’ve grown. I’ve matured. I have to share my toys now. Well, sometimes.
This is the “who” list I came up with…
Wife, mother, daughter, friend, sister, aunt, cousin, niece, granddaughter.
These are the “what’s”.
Fearful, broken, flawed, sinful, discontent, impatient, lonely, sad, orphaned, discouraged, sarcastic, usually late, unqualified, forgetful, annoying, often and easily annoyed, sometimes crass, occasionally too blunt, failure, lazy, distracted (I can’t believe that one is so far into the list), obsessive, fidget-y, very often frantic, rude, not compassionate enough, not thoughtful enough, irresponsible, messy, disorganized, inappropriate, selfish, stubborn, I talk too much without saying enough, rant-y, picky, mooch, uncomfortable, too loud, not bold enough, never brave enough, careless, not enough, not ever enough.
These are the things that, if I’m truly honest with myself, I really am…the good things.
Funny, honest, trustworthy, a good friend, a good mom (that one was tough to type), adopted daughter of the living God, talented, so immensely blessed, moderately intelligent.
I am also hungry. Hungry for life. Hungry for brownies.
As far as food goes, I don’t feed myself like I used to. I have learned willpower. I have learned to avoid. To tell myself no. To not have the first one…so I don’t want the third or fourth. To only have a little bit of anything. I’m learning to practice moderation. Those are good, positive things, right?
I need to learn to practice this kind of moderation in the negative…to not dwell on that list so often. I need to learn to stop feeding myself negativity. I need to learn willpower in that area, so that when I’m focusing on the bad, I can realize it, stop myself, and move forward. Maybe a little damaged, but forward, nonetheless.
So why, WHY, is the “bad” list so long? Why can’t I see more positive than negative? I finally just stopped myself when I was typing the negative. It took me several minutes to weigh the good and decide that enough people had told me I was “…” and it was OK to put on the list. Why? Why don’t I see that automatically? Why is OK to me to type out a long list of negatives, but then have to talk myself into the positives?
It’s not a pride issue. It’s not me, being overly humble so you’ll praise me. It’s honesty. It’s the bare, naked, truth. It’s scary to write that. To think that, in a few minutes, this will be out there for anyone to see. But that’s what this is. My place. My place to write. To get all the junk out. To get through things. I have never really found it helpful to journal. Having my crud in a book only makes me want to hide the book. For whatever reason, this is cathartic, this is what helps. I don’t care if anyone reads it, likes it, or whatever. I just have to get it out. Once it’s out, I can move on. It’s like sweeping a porch. You don’t scoop up all the dirt and bring it into the house to dump in the trashcan. You sweep it, and leave the dirt outside. You just let the dust fly. Journaling was always like that for me…like keeping the dirt. When I would journal (before I was married), my journal was found and read on a regular basis. No matter where I hid it, it was found, and I was ridiculed, or judged for what was in it. Sometimes I was punished. Punished for my feelings. For my thoughts. I am much better at blogging than I was at journaling. I have always dreamed of the romantic notion of my kids, someday after I’m long gone, finding a journal of mine, and reading it, and learning about who I was. Well, they will have to read this. It’s not as romantic as the book, but, unlike the book, it will be filled with me.
As far as the positives go, I don’t think any of that about myself on a regular basis. But, for example, I’ve heard over and over that my kids are great. I did have something to do with that, right? So does that make me a good mom? I can list a hundred things that I have failed at…all the things I wish they wanted to do, wished they loved as much as I do, the ways I wish they weren’t like me, the ways I wish they were more like me, the hunger that I wish they had for life, for God, and for clean rooms. They are great kids. I am so blessed to have been able to watch them grow to this point. To see what miracles they are, and think of the amazing ways that God has worked around my failures to make them who they are. I’ve had an amazing partner in raising these kids. I know it’s not all me…it’s not all him…it’s us. But mostly, it’s God. I thank Him every day that I didn’t get a snarly, stubborn, rebellious daughter. Or a son who wants nothing to do with his parents. I don’t have to sit up at night worrying about where they are, or if they’re hurt or scared. I’ve never had a negative call from the Principal’s office. The one negative comment I’ve ever gotten from a teacher? That Jessup “reads too much in class”. I’m not bragging. Just saying that, while my kids are amazing, I still only see the ways I’ve failed them. I see them as amazing, and me as a failure.
I am good at a few things. People ask me to do things to help them out, so I must be good at those things, or they wouldn’t ask, right? I’m good at making lists…if only I were better at remembering to look at the list, and then focused enough to do everything on it. ;)
Wait. See? One positive, and two negatives to go with it. WHY? Why couldn’t I just stop after “I’m good at making lists”?
At the end of the lists of good and bad, at the end of this road I travel too often, here’s where I end up every time. Every single time. The things, the two things that make all of the negative fade away. The things I am constantly forcing myself to remember are these:
I am LOVED. Despite of all my failures. I am loved by the One who made me. I am loved by a God who knows how many hairs are on my head, knows where all my freckles are, and knows that I want a brownie more than all the money in the world.
I am FORGIVEN. Someone died so that I can live. He loved me…a failure…so much that He was the One to come, to pay my debt, and to give me a hope for the future. A hope that, someday, I will not be able to dwell on my failures, but I will dwell on His goodness inside me. When I look in the mirror, I will only see a bright, shiny, loved daughter of the Most High King. All sunshine. No rain.
And, for now, until I can get through the negative, and to a place where I see more positive, those two things are what I have to cling to. What I need to hold on to.
LOVED and FORGIVEN are all I really need to focus on. The rest will come with time…or death. Either way.
There is always a sunrise. Always a new day to open my eyes. To try again.