I find it difficult to know where to start when describing myself. How does one structure a quick description of a life? What comes first? What’s important enough to include? What gets left out? What I write today would not be what I would write last year or will write next year (or last month or next month). So, with the understanding that even this description is in flux, here goes.
I am a writer. This is a relatively recent way to describe myself. I have wanted to be a writer for a long time, I do write, but didn’t think of myself as a writer. Going back to university in my 40s, discovering journaling, and people in my life have helped me to grasp hold of what has always been there: that I write and as such am a writer.
I am a woman. For some this may seem obvious (we usually state these kinds of things in terms of roles: I am a wife, I am a mother). Recent experiences have led me to explore what it means to be a woman, my experience moving through the world as a woman, and how I identify. I am a cisgender woman (she/her). But, as I’m hoping to explore here, I believe my experiences as a woman are not what many women experience.
I am a wife. I have been married to my wonderful partner, Barry, for more than 27 years. Any relationship of that length shapes, informs and changes a person. I am who I am today because every day I interact with, work alongside, explore life with, and choose to love this other human being. We are both glorious creations of the Divine. We are both broken, healing, learning humans.
I am a mother. I have four children. One I have never met in this physical world. Elisabeth has gone on before me to live and rejoice in the presence of God. Haley and Jasper were born only 17 minutes apart, but for 22 years have shown me that, as with all children, they are their own unique people. Haley is an artist, making her mark now at university, finding her voice as a feminist visual artist. She regularly challenges my assumptions about society and culture, what must remain and what can be changed. Jasper is the son I didn’t have until recently. In 1996 when they were born, and for the next 19 years, I was the mother of twin daughters. When Jasper courageously identified his true self, I became the mother of boy/girl twins. He has led me on a journey of self-discovery about what it means to be feminine in our culture and, more importantly, what it means to love. Favian was and is our grace note: the unexpected addition to make things better. They are the first child we’ve ever lived with as the only child at home. They challenge me to stay young, to be patient, to enjoy. These three together have led me to a place where I am willing to take action: to see injustice (as I have always done), and to speak up (which I have not always done), to see a need for encouragement or help (which I have always done), and to act (which I have not always done). They have given me courage.
I am a grandmother. I have three grandchildren. Eli is Haley’s only child. Eli spent the first almost four years of his life living in my home (with his mom). He led me to learn to share my space with another woman, another mom. He is delight, joy, energy, despair (at times), and love personified. He introduced me to grandparenting and oh, the ride he has given me! Samandriel (Sam) followed Eli pretty quickly. My twins gave birth to their own children only three and a half weeks apart. And like their parents, they are their own people. Sam is reserved, almost self-contained. She is quiet to the point where I can hardly hear what she says to me. She is so much like me: she weeps bitter tears when she has to leave my house, her emotions right there, feeling the connection to her people and not wanting to part ways. And Silas, somehow even quieter than his sister. Silas, who, at one year old could give me a side-eye that spoke volumes! His smile is so rare (in my presence at any rate, his Daddy tells me he smiles all the time at home), it brings me instant joy. And all of them are so clever, learning the alphabet and numbers to 20, and right and left, and the names of all the construction equipment, and singing songs, and knowing what big words mean. It is truly a joy to be a grandparent.
I am a Christian. Should I have put this first? Probably. It is the one identity I am bonded to above all others. It is strong enough to come last. I grew up in a pastor’s home, going to church multiple times a week, familiar with and comfortable in the language of religion and God. I have my own Bible college degree. I am married to a preaching minister; other family members are professionally religious (as well as personally being God-followers). And yet, in the last few years I have become uncomfortable with the label “Christian.” What does it mean anymore? For many it is associated with judgment and hate. I don’t identify with that. If not “Christian,” what do I call myself? Perhaps I could hearken back to the beginning and call myself a follower of The Way. I believe in the ever-present, unending, vast ocean of God’s love for all people. I believe that Jesus came to show us how to be in relationship with the Divine; how full and rich life can be when I know I am loved, when I open myself to that love, when I let that love flow through me to others. I believe, like Richard Rohr, that “our family of origin is Divine. . .we were created by a loving God to also be love in the world. Our core is original blessing, not original sin.” (Rohr’s daily meditation, Oct. 28, 2018)
Photo: My First Orchid, My First Blooms – Hadley Holtslander