So take me as I am…
I’m a little bit of everything
All rolled into one.
Meredith Brooks, “Bitch”
“I’m not feeling well.”
Month after month, week after week, day after day, this would be the phrase that ran through my head and sprung from my lips.
“I’m so incredibly tired.”
It’s the excuse I would give when asked to go out to dinner with friends or shopping with my mom right before I rested my head back down against the pillow and closed my eyes, the fatigue overcoming me like night defeats the day.
It’s the emotion I’ve carried with me for the greater part of my life — inexplicably clinging to me like a second skin, unsure of its origins and refusing to go away, no matter how much I try to understand it or how I attempt to face it.
For so long I carried these words around with me, holding onto them because, for so long, this is what I’ve known. Frustration at feeling ill and not having answers, never mind solutions; tired of being so tired and drained and struggling to make it through a day; wanting to replace that fear with courage and not knowing entirely how to do so.
Wanting desperately to return to who I am and get to where I long to be.
For so long, I let these phrases and words cast a shadow over everything I did or said or felt.
I say this now, with a strong will and a promise to myself: these words will not define me.
No words ever can.
And yet, it’s so easy to get caught up in that, to believe we are only one thing or the other.
We use words to label ourselves as if this will explain who we are and why we are: “I’m a Libra, I’m a dreamer, I’m the youngest child, I’m a woman.” We define ourselves by our jobs — “I’m a banker, I’m a writer” — and by whom we’re loved — “I’m a daughter, I’m a sister, I’m a friend.”
We sum up our lives in phases — “this is when I was happy, this is when I was sad. Then I was a child; now, I’m an adult.”
We hold onto how we view ourselves,how others view us, not certain that we can be anything else, perhaps afraid to see what more is possible.
And yet, there are so many other emotions and experiences tumbling around in this description of us, so much more that makes us who we are.
Do these words tell you how deeply I love? Do they tell you what I dreamed of as a little girl; do they tell you what I dream of now? Do these words tell you that when I’m walking down the city street, I look up to absorb and reflect on the beauty of these 19th century buildings? Do they tell you that in the summers, I sit out on the back porch and wait for the fireflies to emerge because they remind me of a thousand stars that I can actually reach out and touch?
Do these words tell you how I cared for my grandmother when she was sick, making sandwiches for her, watching her to make sure she ate and didn’t forget…caring for her, as she once cared for me? Do they tell you how it felt the first time I ever saw my parents cry? Do they tell you that the pride I felt at my college graduation was for them?
Do these words describe the empowering experience of complete self-reliance and independence such as when I went to France — discovering that great wide world on the first trip, discovering myself the last?
They can’t. They don’t. These are merely words, labels that create the image of who we are, though it isn’t all of us. Because who we are is so much deeper than anything that could ever be realized. These words may be the foundation, but there is layer after layer of memory and experience and feeling acting as the brick and mortar that make up who we are, that takes a lifetime to build and become complete.
I made a mistake. I caught myself in that trap of letting how I was feeling pave the way for everything in my life and, as such, I’ve limited myself. Because of this, I did the one thing I promised myself I wouldn’t do — I withdrew, once again, into reflection and solitude. I labeled myself, let my situation become everything, and tried to hide until it was all better rather than finding the courage to face it.
I’m ready to face it now.
Because I’m learning that it’s the experiences that define you, and that definition is always changing.