Wednesday, April 29, 2015

tell me who i am



1. Tell me who I am
When I was young, I thought I was adopted. I realize this is not unusual. Others have their stories of assumed outsider status. There must be something deep in our psyche (or spirit) that tries to convince us we don't belong. But there are signs we do, or at least there were for me. I was tall like my dad, with the facial bone structure of my mom. Then, I looked almost identical to my sister 18 month older than me, and now when I hear her on the phone, I hear my own voice talking back to me. Our smiles, our cheeks, they are all the same. And though I don't remember birth, my mother does. She knows I came out of her.

Adoption is not the most horrible story to make up about yourself. Though the implication is, "I am the one who is not like the others," the story could also be about being sought out, acceptance and love. Not left alone without a family, not ultimately separated from all others, you are now part of a family that is trying to convince you that you are one of their own. Why not just believe them?

During those years when I wanted to belong just as much as I wanted to break apart, I just needed my family to keep telling me who I was.

2. Nature of a hunch
At a writing conference I attended a few weeks ago, I noticed a theme of the "hunch." One writer used it when telling the story of her Polish family, and how she felt in her gut that their story of immigration had deeper, more traumatic roots. This leading depended not on words but clues she subconsciously gathered and stored somewhere inside. Eventually, her hunch led her to keep pressing until she confirmed what she had already come to assume: her family was Jewish, and her grandmother had left the country to escape the genocide during World War II.

Another writer spoke about how he didn't talk until he was relatively old, 4 or 5 even. There are things he learned with his body that he couldn't (or didn't need to) put words to. Much of what he feels is pre-verbal, or extra-verbal. It is knowing outside of words that define.

A hunch is like a kick from inside the womb of a pregnant woman. It helps you know you carry something living, though you don't know yet who or what it will be.

3. Brave is something else
A track olympian has told us that, "for all intents and purposes," he is a woman. He is following what his gut is telling him about his true self. Following that hunch, if you will. And people are proclaiming this as brave. I can't help but think that brave is something else. I admit that I have little personal experience with transgender issues. I have never wanted to be any gender but female. But I have felt myself trying to be someone I know now that I'm not. I think we all feel, to some extent, that we are stuck in bodies that don't express all of who we are. I am tall but I often feel average, and wish my height reflected how I'd like to be seen.

I wonder if being brave means knowing which hunches are really whatever it is that tells us we don't belong, and choosing instead to listen to the voices that tell us who we really are. The living things, inside us and around us.

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