Lately, I have been struggling with "what is me." Am I who I am in any given moment: cranky, groggy, brain foggy, tired, irritable and forgetful? Or, am I that person I think I am on a good day: thoughtful, considerate, smart, and sometimes even funny? If me on a bad day is still me, how do I learn to accept that? If every day is what I would consider "a bad day," how do I learn to accept that?
Right now I'm on 3 different medications - and I consider myself a person who doesn't go to the doctor or take medications! At the age of 45, with 2 different (possibly related, but maybe not) medical conditions, and the 3 medications, I never know what's the disease, what's the med's and what's my hormones - oh and what's just life with 3 kids, a chronically ill unemployed husband, and no money in the bank.
When I look in the mirror I don't see the body I am living in as me. The illness and med's have caused weight gain, particularly in areas where I don't usually gain it, but part of that also has to do with my age. I'm getting older, I've given birth three times, some things are just going to sag.
It's odd to feel so awkward in my own body, as if I need to explain to people who haven't known me for the past 25 years, which is everyone in my life except for the family members I grew up with, that I don't usually weigh this much, that this isn't really me, that the real me is somewhere, lost inside, but I'm not really sure how to connect with her.
But then I realized, this is how life is. From conception to decomposition, our bodies are ever changing. We are not static beings. We recognize this, commenting on how quickly a newborn becomes a walking toddler, how fast the years go as our small child blossoms into a teenager. But we also deny it, particularly from the time we turn 21 until some time in our 30's. For a decade and a half, we cling to the delusion that we are immortal, that we will always be young, strong and healthy. Unless some unfortunate event or illness wipes away those lies, and then we say, "But they are/were so young...it isn't right." Psychology texts may tell you that teens deny their mortality, and that causes them to take risks and push boundaries. This may be true, but the desire for immortality doesn't end there.
Living with three girls, presently ages 12, 13, and 16, I have been reminded of how awkward growing up can be. Not that my girls are awkward, but that they have each had to adjust to their every evolving body. At times they have chosen to wear more clothes, to stay a bit more covered up, until they were more comfortable in their own skin, ready to move about in the world freely and with confidence once again. I have seen how societal norms and pressures have affected them. As smart, strong, aware young women, they know that pictures in magazines lie, that the narrow definition of beauty in movies, on TV, and along red carpets is as fictitious as the plot-lines. And yet they can't help but to compare themselves to that standard, to want to be "pretty," to wish that they were taller, smaller, or different in some way.
As I try to have compassion for this amazing person that I think I could be, trapped in body that doesn't quite feel like home, I am reminded of how much compassion we should have for our fellow human beings. The babies growing in teeth when they aren't capable of expression how much it hurts, the toddler who wants to run and play with the big kids but is thwarted by unsteady legs, the tween who isn't quite ready to grow up but whose body is on a path of rapid growth and development, the teen who is not at all sure they are ready to take their place in the adult world, but feels the pressures and expectations as they head toward their 18th birthday, as well as the teen who wants greater responsibility and freedom but is denied that because of parents, laws, and their date of birth. On and on, until we reach what are called our "golden years." Wow, who came up with that? Perhaps, more accurately, they could be called our rusting years. The stage in our journey to the grave where we once again have greater adjustments to who we are, as our bodies deteriorate, our memories fade, and we face just how mortal we have been all along.
So, what is me? This, this is me. Whomever I am in this moment, at this stage, in this place. I am only the sum of the best and the worst, my reactions, my desires, my disappointments, and how they come together and are manifested in my behavior, in the present moment.
And who is my child? They are the same as I am. And as I strive to love myself, just the way I am, I remember the importance of loving my children unconditionally, as they are right now, in whatever moment we find ourselves, with whatever behavior the sum of who they are is manifesting in that moment.
Some parenting experts will tell you that you should never tell a child that they are bad, but make it clear that their behavior is bad. I disagree. Our behaviors are the essence of who we are in any moment. That can be painful, as our behaviors may not live up to our ideal of who we are. But by tuning in to our own behaviors, reactions, and expressions of emotion, we can learn more about who we are in that moment, and what we need to do to take care of ourselves so that we can, perhaps, move closer to the ideal vision we hold of our-self. And in the same way, by tuning into the behaviors, reactions and expressions of emotion expressed by our children, we can learn more about what their needs are, how they are feeling, what it is that we can do to support them as they learn about themselves, who they are, and how to survive living in a body that is never going to stop changing, at least not in their lifetime.
(My Halloween costume last fall:
a celebrity trying to avoid the paparazzi.
And yes, there is all kinds of unintentional symbolism
And yes, there is all kinds of unintentional symbolism
in my choice of costume.)