Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Defining Ourselves

I like to iron while listening to dharma talks. They are talks that just make one think about how to not freak out all the time.
How not to be a jerk.
How to let things out of your control go on their way.
(That is my quick summary)

I recently heard a quote that stayed with me:

If you allow yourself to be yourself completely, 
then you don't have to define yourself. 
Because when you define yourself, you become limited. 
And when you let others define you, you become limited.

I think I have always defined myself as a person. 
I was the only girl. 
The youngest. 
The fattest. 
The funniest. 

As I grew older, the list became more complex and changed again. I was never remaining one thing. I was never remaining several things. 
Was I who I dated?
Was I who I was attracted to?
Was I who I loved? 
Was I who I birthed? 

I liked a few of these labels for myself. Some I couldn't stand.  I sometimes liked better what others had chosen for me, and at other times felt confined. It is only as I get older and more settled into myself that I wonder about the necessity of any of it. The only defining term that fits me is my name. It is the only label I prefer.
By being myself, I am simply only myself.
And I am fluid.
I am daily and hourly.
I am always until I am not.

Settling into this concept in my 40s is comfortable. However, trying to teach this concept to a 10 year old was difficult.

For half of her life Evie spent most of her afternoons in a gym being a gymnast. Over the past year, fears developed over new skills that ended up encroaching on mastered skills. It was time for her to switch out of the strict and specific pre-olympic team and move back onto the Xcel team where she could work hard, compete, learn new skills, and have to time to do other things.

Other things.

"What other things!?" she wailed one night.

You love horses and animals.
You have mentioned softball a few times.
You are often running.
You could learn something besides the same old blues riff on the guitar.
You could just hang out.
You can take pottery.
We can join a pool.

You are not just gymnastics.
You are Evie who happens to take gymnastics.
There is more to you than this one part of your life.

It is easy for us all to slip into what we perceive to be our roles. What, over time, is expected of us to do or be. It happens within our families and friendship circles. In the classrooms and in the lunchrooms. It wasn't surprising that this turn of events- which still had her on a gymnastics team- shook her. She felt lost in having been removed from the team she had known for years. She lost her tribe. She lost who she was in that tribe. That girl was often her partner. They were her coaches. This was her time slot.

Four months later I am now the parent of a chipper girl who is flourishing under the ease of the Summer. She has regained lost skills because she no longer has to have those skills. The pressure is off and she is singing at home. She is running around the house, laughing, driving us mad with her extra energy. And when I think about the turning point in her in this struggle, I always cry:

My husband and I were invited to the basement to watch the kids put on a talent show. When it was Evie's turn she put on "Fight Song" and began singing and dancing to it. She incorporated gymnastics and violent punches to her moves. I dissolved watching her beat the shit out of what expectations she had had of herself under her label, nestled in her compartment for so long.

She emerged victorious.

Like a small boat
On the ocean
Sending big waves
Into motion
Like how a single word
Can make a heart open
I might only have one match
But I can make an explosion

This is my fight song 
Take back my life song
Prove I'm alright song 
My power's turned on
Starting right now I'll be strong
I'll play my fight song
And I don't really care if nobody else believes
'Cause I've still got a lot of fight left in me

I would say to her, if it wouldn't make me choke and snot upon her golden head, that my dear little boat upon that vast ocean has many matches with which to make explosions. They don't run out. They just are. Just like she is who she is.