What if someone asked you today to define yourself, all that is you, who you are and what makes up the core of you. Could you do it?
One of my favorite bloggers, Rebecca “Sweet Mother” Donohue, did just that the other day in her three hundred and fortieth post (I am half way there and in awe of this number), What Made You (#340)? Her post got me thinking, even as I read and sometimes giggled I was thinking about what made me what I am. Rebecca asked a question, “What made you?”
My answer to her question was simplistic, it was also the only way I knew to answer on someone else’s blog, it was this.
My history forced me to make the best of me. My future forces me to see what is possible for the rest.
I look at that answer I think, what does that really mean? Big picture, little picture all of us are cobbled together from so many different experiences, so many different sensory inputs and so many choices we make through the course of a lifetime. What really sticks?
So, I thought to myself, I want to take that answer and expand it. I want to try to pick apart what is important and trace the roots back to what made me.
My Parents Made Me: all of them, each in their own way contributed to how I view relationships both inside and outside of family. Most people only have one set of parents, I have three and half sets each individual added to who I am over my lifetime. Of course, my biological parents contributed my DNA but more than this, when I met them in my twenties they gave me a sense identity. My adoptive parents showed me the world and expanded my opportunities, they also taught me survival instincts and unfortunately hate. My adoptive father and my heart mother taught me the most important lesson of all, don’t settle for anything short of real love. My heart mother made me more compassionate, she taught me to see others with empathy and to forgive shortcomings, she taught me to heal.
Travel Made Me: exposure to the world made me, it broadened my horizons from a very early age. Travel made me more willing to accept what wasn’t exactly like what I had at home and even welcome what was different. World travel made me look for adventure, excited by new stamps on my passport and miles in my airline bank. Travel wiped out the jingoistic attitude we Americans so often have that cause our “Ugly American” reputation worldwide. Travel seeped into my blood and spirit at a very early age, I have had a passport since I was six and never let it expire. Travel taught me there is wide-world out there that think and do differently than me.
Dance Made Me: as a very young child, I was Pigeon Toed, drastically so. I wore really ugly corrective shoes (when anyone could get me into them). Finally a doctor suggested Ballet might help to correct both my posture and my Pigeon Toedness (is that a word?). Off we went, beginning Ballet at barely five (5), even before I saw my first Nutcracker Suite. I was lost forever after, even when the teacher hit my toes to point them out. I was lost, even when she cracked my knees to bend them properly. I loved dance I specifically loved ballet. I loved the discipline of it. I loved the movement, I would move furniture in the living room and dance when no one was home. I would practice form in my bedroom using the window as my barre. Dance taught me self-discipline and beauty.
The Men in My Life Made Me: not telling who or how many, not important. The men in my life both those I married and those I didn’t made me who I am. This is true whether we ended well or on the other end of the spectrum and ended nightmarishly. The men I have chosen to partner with over my lifetime have taught me enormous lessons about myself, life, forgiveness and obviously love. Whether those lessons were how to walk away and rebuild or how to love someone who failed me, all of these lessons made me. There was a time when my heart was set behind a steel door, the key was in a bottomless sea and I had no space in my life for love, no patience for fools in love. Over time, the men in my life including brothers, fathers, lovers and husbands have taught me better and thus made me who I am today.
The Women in My Life Made Me: I have been mostly fortunate in my friends, blessed in the longevity of my friendships. The women in my life have enriched me in more ways than I can ever say. Though cautious in who I let in I have been uncommonly privileged; when I am unlucky even then, I have learned lessons I apparently needed at the time. All the women in my life have made me, from mothers, sisters to heart sisters, friends and mentors.
The Convicts in My Life Made Me: sounds strange doesn’t it, for nine years I have walked a road I never thought to walk, speaking about what happened to me twenty-one years ago to offenders. Speaking in a program intended to teach Empathy to Offenders based on the experiences of real victims, like me. When I started down this path, I was so angry still my fury was white hot I could not imagine how I was going to stand in front of a room of Convicts and not lash out. I made it through that night and many more since then. I have expanded speaking to Juvenile Offenders in the Sex Offender program, because it is important. How do they make me? Because they have stories, because their humanity exists right alongside mine and I have learned compassion and empathy as I stand up and tell my story and listen to theirs.
There is more that went into the making of me, I know there is more, some of it terrible.
- Violence made me. I have let it go, I will not allow what was done to own my future.
- Rape made me. I have let it go, my past does not own today or my future.
- Pain makes me even today, it does not own me though.
- Divorce and abandonment made me, it does not own me it does not convince me of my worth.
Writing makes me today, I am learning a craft I thought I had no talent for but I am finding my voice and my heart in it.