We spend our lives asking questions, like: Who am I? Why do I exist? What am I doing? How do I define myself?
And many times the answers change throughout our lifetimes, depending on where we are, what we are doing, who we are sharing our lives with and so on. Also, too often, we are defined by things that happen to us, things that maybe we didn’t choose. For example, one day I get robbed on a city street somewhere and the experience is so traumatic that not only was I a victim that day on that street, but I continue to live in the memory of it, the fear, the pain, the anger…. And the following days of my life are somehow colored by this experience. Maybe I lose trust in my fellow human beings or because I was robbed by a man, or by a race that is not my own, I become leery of men or that race of people. This happened to an old neighbor of mine years ago, she had been attacked in Marseille by a group of young Arab boys and after that she could talk of nothing else. And to make things worse for her, she began blaming the entire Arabic race if human beings for her tragic experience. My response to her was though empathetic – immediate. I told her, “You cannot blame all Arab people for this unfortunate incident…” Needless to say, she became angry with me and I never heard from her again.
Trauma is a terribly thing and I am not saying otherwise. I too have had terrible life experiences thrown at me or maybe I chose some of them, but I ask today, do those things define me? I remember when I was 13, I was physically abused by an alcoholic Dad who had little restraint under the influence of the bottle. An over 2 mile bike ride (without lights) in the black of night on a mountain road, my jumping out of a 2 story window to escape after the attack, the running to the security agent who called my step Mother who drove up to the mountains where I was to take me home, and the body bruises that I incurred were all great aspects of my story while recovering from it. My Mother, though divorced was still co-dependent on her ex-husband and would not call the police. I was angry but had no recourse. On his rare visits, I would not speak to my Father for 2 years after that, only “F^$k you,” as I walked away from him. And no, he was not apologizing… Yet after those two years, I went to him and suggested we try and be like a real Father and son. And of course, things got better for some time – my all too brutal letter written 2 years earlier had been kept, according to my Dad and in his desk drawer. When he began the long road to recovery with Alcoholics Anonymous, he told me that my letter gave him strength in order NOT to start drinking again.
That story did define me for some time. I needed to talk about it a lot but the family was complicit in what had happened and no one wanted to ask or talk about it. Fortunately, (at least for the following reason) my Mother had moved us to a new apartment complex, and there were many friends to be made there and a few of them were good listeners. Beverly who was a young professional woman with a good heart listened to my story and it did good to have that. I was able to move on.
So for a time, that painful life experience did define me and in many ways. In the beginning a victim, hurt, angry, frustrated, no family support – but to be fair, they were all complicit in something they did not understand. Being part of a dysfunctional system or family unit does not just fix itself! It hardly understands its broken. So the denial or lack of knowledge continues and things are build upon it year after year, day in and day out. One of the surprising good things that came of this experience was that I was longer afraid of anybody at school or elsewhere. I mean after someone that is 6 feet five inches and over 200 pounds beats the crap out of you – and that you were amazing in your physical and mental defense, well, I can only say that no one at school messed with me after that. (Older brothers aside, of course.)
So, what I am trying to convey is that you can be or become someone different that what people tell you that you are. Everyone is unique, and yes we are the total sum of everything we have ever experienced, but you do not have to define yourself through just one experience or even a few experiences. You are (and we are) so many different things, our emotions, our biology, our desires, our intentions, the way we spent our time – there is so much to take into account for self defining.
And remember that someone else’s value system may not be your own. You can choose your own value system, what you think is important, don’t let other people decide for you. You can also be in the process of defining those things – don’t be in a hurry to have all the answers…It’s a process.
And today, I’m going to be patient with myself and kind! I tend to define myself how I spend my time – today its blogger and dog sitter.
Have a nice day, reader. ;-))