Saturday, October 20, 2007

on identity

I have entered the stage in my life where I am almost completely defined by my relationship to someone else. When I had a salaried job, I was an early interventionist (a title that describes my skills and interests). For a while I was a student (again, a title describing my interests, at least to some degree). And though you are never really defined by what you do, it gives people a starting point in conversation, at least. Now I'm Asher's mom. Or Brian's wife. Or even J's teacher, which I am two mornings a week. But I am not a teacher with a caseload, I'm just J's teacher. I'm still viewed in reference to another person. Do you see what I mean?

Granny had her 80th birthday party today. There were probably forty people there. I kept looking around and wondering, what is it like, to see ALL of these people, and know they are all your bloodline? That if you had never met your husband, this entire party would not exist? What is that like?

And is it any wonder family spats can be so silly? When you are defined only by your relationships to others, and not by any skills or passions or independent thought, the minutia of those relationships becomes inordinately important. Don't misunderstand me; I don't want to add any new identities to my life right now. It's just odd, is all, to be seen as only a caregiver.

As an aside - I was the only at-home mom in the group today (to my knowledge). A new experience for me, since I - like all of us - have surrounded myself mostly with people just like me. One of the other moms said, "I wouldn't know what to do if I stayed at home. I couldn't just sit around all day." This isn't offensive, but it is incorrect. I do a lot of things in a day, but sitting is rarely one of them.

Anyway, identity is on my mind tonight. How easy it would be to lose mine for the sake of everyone else's.


Madame Rubies said...

Yeah, I have struggled with that a lot. One of the youth told me, a few weeks ago, he couldn't see me as a sub, b/c I was "just Corey's wife." I laughed at hime and threatened (playfully) to beat him up, but it did hurt a little. It's the "just." As though I do not exist outside of Corey or my sons.

Angela said...

Oddly enough, I start to feel a bit confined and uneasy when I realize that most people define me by what I do for a living. I like it much more when I am defined as Nina's mom or John's makes me remember that I belong somewhere...that I fit into my family..and that that matters. When people define me by what I do for a living, which happens more often, I feel like a machine. It seems very cold.

Liz said...

I'm defined by a job that most people don't understand. When I meet new people, especially outside of the church (though sometimes in as well) I spend a good 20 minutes trying to explain what I do, and they still dont really get it - so there isnt really much they can define me by - no attachment, no job (that they understand)...and that is a lonely feeling

M'elle said...

I think we all struggle with it. I, in part, struggle because I don't always know what others definitions mean to them. When I tell people I am an artist, they expect me to fit a certain profile - not one I feel is wholly accurate. When I tell people I am an AOII, they get the sorority girl assumption, which, also isn't true. I just want to be seen as Michelle, but sometimes I am not even sure who she is, and sometimes I am ok with that. I want people to know me and my layers and all of my different sides. I want people to invest their time in me to get past labels, because I feel that is one of the biggest complements in the whole world, to want to know someone more deeply, past their shell and given labels. What's an identity if no one cares to know?

M'elle said...

Oh, and great post by the way. Very thought provoking.

Emily said...

"When you are defined only by your relationships to others, and not by any skills or passions or independent thought, the minutia of those relationships becomes inordinately important."

Wow. That nails it on the head. Thank you -- it clarifies a lot for me.