I have been blessed to find "teaching moments" everywhere I look these days and the lessons are fantastic! I believe life is pitching us this goodness all the time, but in the past, I was just too "busy" to see and hear what was being gifted to me.
In recent years, many of my friends and acquaintances have experienced something they may not have seen coming, nor had the opportunity to face before and that was a shake-up in their sense of self, their identity, and in some cases, their very being.
We humans come into this world "clean slates" (well, for the most part, ultrasound can tell us "male or female" if a couple wants) but overall we appear on this planet relatively label-free.
Not bopping around this place very long and we get a name added to us, then ethnic labels, get into school and we can be labeled as "gifted" or as having "special needs", the list of what we can adhere to one another and what we can adhere to ourselves is mind-boggling. So much so, thinking of the depth and breadth of this bodacious subject makes my head hurt.
But back to why I'm here in the blog today. Some of the labels we stick on are fleeting like a bad Post-It Note, while others adhere to us through veritable hurricanes, even if holding onto those labels does nothing but hold us back or cause us to suffer...we're self-proclaimed "lifers" on some of them.
So often, we can define ourselves deeply by the functions we do in this life. I'm a nurse, a doctor, a teacher, a lawyer, a sanitation worker, a spiritual teacher, a civil rights activist, a mother, a father, a wife, a single parent...all labels with perceived functions.
Having functions to perform while we roll around for a brief time on this planet isn't the problem, the problem comes when we identify ourselves, literally define ourselves with the function, with the label. The more who you think you are is tied to the labels and the functions you associate with the labels, the more you suffer when things change or are taken away, both, by the way, inevitable.
For instance, motherhood, which I've written on many times before as I have been one for quite some time and know many. Motherhood can be a beautiful opportunity, it can also be a huge struggle. But let's say overall you make it through the "Terrible Two's" and "Twisted Teen's" relatively unscathed and it's time for junior to leave the nest.
If you decide or have naturally understood that motherhood is a role that you enjoy on different levels throughout your time here on earth, then junior heading off may be emotional but you see and understand it as a natural rite of passage. Same for you, you understand it's time to shift functions from being such a "hands-on mom" to one of a woman who your adult offspring can come to for advice when they ask for it, comfort when they seek it and incredible connection when they need it, connection only you in your beautifully evolving role can provide.
The flip side? When the function becomes the full identity, this is where you are devastated at the prospect of junior even getting older, much less, leaving the nest. You reiterate this to junior many times as he grows up because you are fearful of what life might look like as junior dons his wings, even though junior cannot do a thing to quell your fears. Once he does depart you feel lost and very sad, you look for meaning, purpose, anything to fill this hole where you believe you once felt whole.
My heart goes out to any and all of my mother peers currently experiencing this and my prayers follow. Prayers to feel easing in the pain and prayers to welcome the wisdom and peace that come with knowing you did what you could in that role for the time you were supposed to and what a beautiful thing it is to see something or in this case, someone, you had a hand in raising, take off and fly. Well done, my dear!
In my case, I decided a few years ago to embrace the new role of 'Mom Emeritus', retired with honors! I've found my grown offspring don't need me to tell them what to do anymore, nor do I want to. They don't need my input on anything either, unless I'm asked. I believe with all my heart that this is their journey to take and my wish is that the good times far outweigh the bad and that they learn and grow from any adversities presented. I have their backs as I believe powers way stronger than this "Mom Emeritus" do as well. Faith in things grander than I is a beautiful thing.
Finally, we can do the same sort of embodiment in our various career paths, causing us discomfort. Say I'm a "top in my field" salesperson, I kick butt in my job and have for years, I have respect, prestige, admiration, even adulation and have made one heck of a living, loving what I do. Then one day, the company, in an effort to cut costs, lets me and my big salary go.
Holy Moses! Not only do I have the logistical things to deal with like, how much have I saved to cover bills while I look for a new job, getting a resume together, saying goodbye to my co-workers etc. now, because I am so strongly identified with this function I've been performing for years, I'm devastated, asking myself questions like "Who am I now without this position, title, status, company affiliation etc.?" "What am I going to do, this is all I've known for ____ years?" I and what I've done to make a living are so intertwined, so tied up together, it's almost impossible to see any light in all that perceived, tangled darkness. Yet there is.
We can get quite hung up on thinking we are the bee's knees if we consider ourselves in a position of status, even within the confines of our specific industry and so unworthy if what we perform, what we do to earn a living in this case, is seen as "less than" in the eyes of society.
It's so sad. Honestly.
Why can't we perform what we feel we need to do and just look at ourselves and one another as the divine beings that we are? Not defined by labels and subsequent judgments since, for instance, what you believe a "mother" should look and behave like, may not be the way I choose to live it out at all.
Why can't we take the gift that are the things we choose to perform and hold it gently in our hands so there's space for it to shift and grow because when we grip tightly too tightly to the gift, we are sure to damage or destroy it altogether?
You are a divine being regardless of any imposed (self or otherwise) label. We all are.
May we allow the functions we perform to ebb and flow and the identity to self, surrender sweetly and go as we elegantly, dare I say effortlessly...move on.