What Defines You?

Sleep seems to be avoiding me…I can’t stop thinking about identity, satisfaction, self-worth, Maupassant, Tolstoy, Kafka, the human condition, a state of mind of a close friend… and most of all, about how life imitates fiction. The following paragraph was my introduction to an essay I wrote on self-worth and the middle class, but it applies to so many other things:

The task of addressing our faults and imperfections has never been easy for the civilized human animal. Doing so would be too real; it would push us to probe and poke into our very souls and it might let others see the rotten things we have kept in the dark places that no one can see or touch. It might just hurt too much to show the real ugliness within. We are too civilized to like that kind of pain. Literature has helped us deal with the common demons that usually lurk in the subconscious. This has been possible because “sometimes fiction can convey truths that non-fiction cannot touch” (Fisher).

This idea has been reflected in literary works such as “The Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant, “The Death of Ivan Ilych” by Leo Tolstoy, “The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka, and “Paul’s Case” by Willa Cather. These short stories show how some people would go to any lengths in order to satisfy Freud’s id, and to reach the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. However, things don’t always work out how we expect them to. In fact, they rarely do. The mentioned short stories are real creative examples of how the middle class’ struggle to define self-worth through material possessions has in certain cases resulted in the unintentional sacrifice of the self. (Guerrero, 2010)

I couldn’t sleep because my thesis was unraveling in front of my eyes. And as much as I understood that life has a tendency to imitate fiction, the whole thing was freaking me out. The details are not mine to share, so you’ll have to forgive me, my Wicked Darlings. I will tell you that the situation is happening to someone close to me. She’s lovely in and out; a woman who possesses a raw intelligence that can only be contained by an incredible individual who has a lot of brains and a huge heart.

This post is about identity and about trying to figure out what defines a person. Is it material possessions; a lucrative job; the way someone makes her or him feel; the way he or she makes others feel; is it spiritual path; or maybe, a combination of all the above?

I haven’t thought about what defines me or makes me the person who I am.  Not in any serious way. I doubt I’ll ever really know the answer to the question (and I don’t think it matters all that much). I know the important things: I love myself; my witchy heart makes me happy, positive and stronger. That’s enough for me.

Of course, there are times when life gets difficult. I get pissed off, and scream, “Why me!” I’ve been betrayed by people I loved. I’ve had a couple of terrible accidents. At one point, my life was changed so drastically that I thought I didn’t have much left to live for. Then the things that seemed so IMPORTANT, while the pain was raw, became insignificant after time smoothed them out. The wheel continued turning. I was happy (and happier now) again.

Want to know what I else I’ve noticed? The period I spend suffering and crying over life’s sucky moments (have to love the word ‘sucky’) is very short. Why? Because experience has shown me that the bad things don’t last forever, especially if I decide that life doesn’t have to suck.

I wish with all my heart that I could share some of the life-has-sucked-but-it-will-get-much-better feelings with my friend. But I know no one learns with someone else’s head or heart. My experience will not help her define her identity or self-worth or see within. She likes pretty things. Has a rather expensive taste. And not being able to continue living her former life (somewhat privileged) is breaking her. I wish she could see how much she is worth, pretty things be damned. Maybe one day she’ll see herself through my eyes and be blinded by all that is there. Better yet, I pray she can see herself through her own eyes and love the view. Until that happens, I’ll stand by her and offer random hugs (and kicks on the back of the head) when needed; hoping for the day we can celebrate the miracle of her simply loving who she is.

Don’t get me wrong, my friend is not a whiny delusional materialistic airhead. Her life seriously sucks right now, but I wish she could use that big brain of hers to figure out that the suckiness isn’t eternal. Her life is pretty screwed up, socially and economically, but she still is a wonderful person. Lovable. Amazing. Intelligent. And I already told her that if anyone makes her think otherwise, she should send them packing. If that someone else happens to be her, then she needs to use that big old brain to find a way to pull her head out of her butt.

When I think about my identity, the first things that come to mind are Witch, Marine, sex, Dominican, Caribbean, family, writing, Nature, dancing, helping, running… Material possessions and status don’t really cross my mind all that often. I’ve tried to share that, but it hasn’t worked. Now, I’m accepting that I am me and my friend is her own self… I don’t know how to help her find the woman who I believe she is. I don’t think anyone can… only her.

I wrote this at 2:00 am sometime in May of 2010. Recent events, particularly a conversation involving the friend who inspired “She Who Keeps Silence While a Friend Commits an Act ofIdiocy Is No Friend at All(who, by the way, happens to be the same person at the center of my 2010 thoughts) brought the old words to mind. Three years have passed, and she still sits on the same rock, watching the wheel of life turn and turn and turn… I ran out of ways to help her define herself in a better light. I can only hope she will find a way to see her Self with the eyes of her Heart.

What defines you? What kisses your brain when you think about what makes you who you are?
 
“HeartSight” by Danni Suplicki

33 comments:

  1. Funny...I have not thought about this question for awhile. Interesting that when I read this, the first word that came to me was 'energy'. Raised, gained, lost, shared, connected...frantic, calm, angry, curious, playful,etc. I seem to identify with the types of energy I feel...the energy I sense from those around me and how I notice it impacts my energy. I am Energy....now THAT is food for thought. Thank you!

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    1. If we all took a few minutes (or a lifetime) to look and acknowledge that we are energy, things around the world would be much better. Just imagine... all of us seeing that at the core, we aren't all that different. And that outsides don't matter all that much...

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  2. Well, I define Home as where my books are, my fibers & textiles, my dishes & companion animals are. I find myself in the Other-defined categories of Witch & Grandmother. I find myself to be made up of Curiosity....I need To Know. My vision is full of colors & the patterns underneath it all. Stir it all together with a wooden ladle (neat word) & serve in seasoned cast iron, set among Autumn leaves.

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    1. I can see you... and your smile looks like party of textures, cool soothing breezes and colors that warm the heart... Autumn, indeed ;-)

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  3. When defining myself I see truth, openness, honesty, reliabilty....doesn't leave much room for modesty, but I try :D
    Part of the "honesty" is to be able to accept that I can not always change something no matter how much I want too, and it is not my fault if it fails. XXX

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    1. One of the things I love most about you, my Gina, is that you define yourself with every word, every act, and everything that you are. There is nothing better than to know that my good friend is exactly who she is. It feels good inside ;-D

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  4. When defining me.....I don't. If I did, I'm sure that I would miss something or add too much. So very long ago I learned that I have no sway but for myself. I have no worth save for my love. I have no pain save what I cannot fix. Self analysis only brings me more fussing and I prefer to jump in rather than dip a toe. I am me.
    Now as to trying to help someone else understand who they are.....I live with a 13 year old who tests my theories daily, a 42 year old who I cannot reach because she is a master crafter of walls, a 9 yr old whose special need makes him unaware and yet knows all, and my 65 year old rock who cannot be moved or swayed.
    It's why I come to all of you to fine tune myself and become better for the experience. Oma Linda

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    1. I have met few people are as true to themselves as you, Oma Linda. Actually, I can count them in one hand. And I think that all of those who surround you--from the unique 9 year old to the set on his way 65 year old--help show the world (or me) exactly how you are. And that is such a great gift.

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  5. I really feel that the only one we have to answer to is ourselves. If we can't accept who and what we are then we need to change it or learn to love it.

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    1. And once we know who we are, or at least accept that knowing all about ourselves (or the world) is not such a huge deal, then we start seeing all kinds of possibility. I wonder how many spend so much time trying to find who they are that their Self walks right in front of them and it's missed...

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  6. I believe I am defined by what flows out of me rather than by what I take in; what I give, not what I accumulate.

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    1. I LOVE how you've put this, Eliora! For if we let every single experience (the whole thing) define us, we would be allowing other people shape our Selves. And that, at least in my heart, is a HUGE no-no. But if our heart and brain work as filter, we shape the experiences (and the energies that come with them) into whatever we want... into who we want to be.

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  7. For many people, life does not stop sucking just because they "decide it does not have to". It is not realistic to dismiss all the people out there who are struggling with things that aren't temporary, who feel they are dying every day they are alive. If a 35 year old tells you her whole life has been pain, how can anyone tell her to buck up and "decided not to let it"?

    What defines me is above all my life long depression. My intelligence, being very emotional, honest, an atheist and not taking any shit. Being a tall dark haired opinionated woman in mousy blonde shy Sweden. Having my own business, an isolated country life with pets, being creative and having a love of dark and beautiful things.

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    1. One of the main reasons--if not the main one--why I blog in the first person is because I know that what is true for me is not true for anyone else. I would never "dismiss" anyone's pain, not even in fiction. It would be heartless and very un-witchy.

      Accepting the self, loving it (or choosing not to) is what gives people freedom. I'm an advocate of that which makes everyone who they are...

      I hope this post didn't give the impression that I think my friend has to be like me. For if it does, then I need to revise my writing. It was meant for to be the opposite: regardless of how hard I try to help my friend see the world my way she never will (and she never should). She has eyes, and all I can do is love her for what she is. Even if I don't understand her ways.

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    2. I hope that made sense...

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    3. It made perfect sense and no, what you wrote does not sound like you want/ need/ think that your friend is like you. And I'm sure your post was coming from the heart, even intending (and maybe succeeding) to bring some hope to your friend (and maybe others).

      But there are just some phrases/points of view that people habitually use, that just grate me the wrong way. Among them are "Happiness is an attitude" and "Choose life". I think often the only person getting helped by such platitudes is the person saying them. Anyone who can actually choose happiness does not know depression.

      That being said, I love how honest and personal you are in you posts, and I would never want you to stop writing your mind. What makes it real is that, as a reader, one feels one can be open and honest back with you. It's a rare quality.

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    4. This post was about me being wrong because I expected a friend to find happiness in the same way I do...

      I see why someone saying that "Happiness is an attitude" might rub anyone (even me) the wrong way. No one, in their right mind, would choose to be miserable. What I said was that "experience has shown me that the bad things don’t last forever, especially if I decide that life doesn’t have to suck." Meaning that I don't think we can either sit and do nothing or try and do something about our issues (even if life continues to suck).

      I've always thought of you, and my friend Bones, as great example when it comes to trying to stand against depression. Even those of us looking from the outside can see that the battle is fierce and devastating. You and Bones both suffer of pretty serious depression, but I've "seeing" you pull yourself out of the dump and try, try, try even when at the same time you tell us that you don't really feel like trying anymore. You know what I mean? You are always looking for ways to make things better, different therapies, self-education, your garden, your cats, your Cinnamon Man....

      The case of my friend is a bit different, she has a bit of a shopping problem. Okay, a really huge shopping problem, but she believes she doesn't have one. And you know how that works... No one can help a person before he or she realizes/accepts that spending $15,000 in clothes is a bit excessive just because she or he had an argument. It might not be much for a wealthy person, but when money is scarce that becomes a serious issue.

      I (and other friends and family) have been trying hard to persuade her to make an appointment and see someone. But it's not working... The last intervention was pretty rough, and when I was asked for new ideas I just felt I was running on empty.

      I really, really, really wish she would see someone... Any suggestions?

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    5. This reply melts my heart, thank you. It is nice to hear that me trying is visible, even if it often feels like it isn't working. And it makes me wish I had a cool nick name like "Bones"...

      It is my firm belief that any addiction is a way to try to handle other serious underlying issues, but I can only guess at the rest regarding your friend. The fact that she needs to pamper or sooth herself with thousands of dollars worth of clothes after an argument, tells me she probably feels alone, unheard and insecure. From what you've written about her, I'm guessing she grew up with money and things instead of real emotions, quality time and support? She is a little immature with some self-deception and avoidance issues (almost all addicts are) - and she probably feels sorry for herself. Interventions probably feel like people are trying to take away her only comfy blanket, and pushing her to see someone probably makes her feel like she is being treated like a child.

      It's sounds like a very tricky situation. Unfortunately it might be the case that she needs to really hit rock bottom, lose everything, before she can start making changes. I do think it's unfair for people to ask you for new ideas. Even if you want the best for your friend, you aren't responsible for (and unfortunately probably not able to) fixing her emotional problems. But cudos to you for caring and trying.

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    6. You last paragraph describes my reasons behind this post. It hurts, but I think my friend needs to lose everything (or a lot) before she can see how much she has always have (and what she really needs). It is hard to see someone we care about hurt, but sometimes it's all we can do to really help them. And of course, we should be ready to offer help if they ask.

      I think many of us noticed your efforts. Depression is a terrible thing, all issues of the sort are difficult... sometimes, even embarrassing. To see someone with the strength to fight her inner battles in front of everyone else is very impressive to me, for I know how difficult it is.

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  8. LOL, I think the very first thing I thought as I pondered this question, is this all subject to change at any time! How I defined myself at 11, is very different than how I would have defined myself at 21, 31 and now 41. There are some common threads though - all of those ladies are daydreamers, the right song at the right time sends delicious shudders up their spines, they all are romantics (though perhaps each one would have limits to how willing they were to express that fact!), they all have a silly streak and each one loves getting lost in words.

    Now there's more to the 41 year old me than that, but I suppose that's a decent introduction. The rest I guess can be seen the things I do and say

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    1. Wise and pretty... If we go around thinking that we are who we are and nothing will ever change, we'll be disappointing every other day. When I think about the things I believed true about me 15 years ago, I just roar (and feel a bit ridiculous sometimes lol).

      What makes life and living wonderful, is the fact that we are allowed to change our minds. The sooner we recognize that, the sooner we'll see happiness.

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    2. The idea of a conversation between the 11 year old me and the 41 year old me makes me giggle a lot. I imagine the 11 year old would be delighted at some things, horrified at others (despite my assurances that really I, we, make a lousy Catholic!)

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    3. My goodness, when I was young I wanted to be a nun--yes, you read it, "a nun." I was so convinced that still today, my dad calls me "Sor María Magalita." Can you imagine me as a nun?

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  9. *snort* We could have been convent mates then. At one point that was an aspiration of mine as well!

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    1. Ha! I can only imagine... I wonder who would have been kicked out first!

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  10. I don't try to define myself. Too complicated. ^^ Being myself, on the other hand, is a piece of cake. With peanutbutter and sprinkles on top.

    And: A nun? Really? I bet the world would have stopped spinning.

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    1. We can write a few books about Defining Diandra, a Novel of Complications ;-D

      When I wanted to be a nun, I only knew one nun. And she was NOT your everyday nun. She read horror and fantasy and was convinced Jesus would approve. Then I was sent to Catholic school and was cured of my nun-wanna-be desires. Forever.

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  11. My comment turned in to a blog post. I was feeling wordy today. ;)

    http://thewhimsicalcottage.blogspot.com/2013/08/conundrums-definition-of-self.html

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    1. I shall visit shortly. I already saw a very interesting pair of socks ;-D

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  12. That's a good question. I don't think I would dare try and define myself, now. I think it's too limiting. It pigeon hole's a person into a set category, or series of them. I don't think I want to be that boxed in. Whatever I would choose today, would definitely not be the same set of defining characteristics as 20 years ago, that's for sure. Which is why it's probably futile to even travel the road of self definition. People who interact with you will see you through their own eyes anyway. If I said that I thought jovial would define me, someone else might see me as pretty dark and dismal.

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    1. I like looking inside... and discussing/trying to make sense of what I see... while still allowing myself to be wrong about my findings and leaving lots of room for new...

      I also REALLY love ellipses ;-D

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  13. I have asked myself that questions many times. So i just gave up and said heck with it. Just being me. I am happy with me. Fat and all. ;) LOL!!

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    1. As long as you are happy with you, everyone else can just go and smoke a huge Mind-Your-Own-Business cigar ;-)

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