Creating my happy life on the other side of fear.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

About identity

A few years ago, Mary, an old friend of my husband's gave him a little handmade puppet. She was in her late seventies, a self-proclaimed psychic, and wise and crazy in equal measures. You never knew which part you would get.
"That's you", she said. "It represents your love of birds" (the dove on his shoulder) "and your style." (The cowboy hat, beard and vest - Rich rocked a full bird for about 30 years before he shaved it off in 2007).
Then she turned to me, looked me in the eyes, and told me: "If you know what represents you I will make one for you as well."
That question threw me completely. I was 23 years old, and had no idea who I was. Or who I wanted to be. Or what represented me.
(I never got a hand puppet.)
Richard, on the other hand, knew (and still knows) exactly what he is about: his love for animals, nature, his family, loyalty to his friends, interest in current events, science and sci-fi. He knows he needs naps in the afternoon and takes them without apologizing for it. He will always be there for his family and friends, but he will always be late.
He loves to laugh, to make (bad) jokes, to explore, to talk to people. He's the best man I've ever known and ever will know.
And he's totally, 100% comfortable in his own skin. Knows where he wants to be in life - which is exactly where he is right now.
But me, 10 years ago? I had no clue. I thought about Mary's question for a long time: "What represents you?" I had no answer.
We get this question asked all the time: sign up for twitter, pinterest, instagram, or any of the other social networking sites and one of their standard sign-up questions is to "tell a little bit about yourself" (in 140 characters or less). Even in job interviews the employer will sometimes ask what you like to do in your spare time, how you relax. What your hobbies are.
I could have told Mary a few things I liked: to read, to walk, dogs. But these things didn't make me.
I'm convinced that people who haven't found out who they are can't really be happy.
Ask yourself the age-old question: What would you do with one (or 10) million dollars? Just hypothetically. People always automatically assume being rich is the key to happiness. But what would you really do with the money? Buy a bigger house, new car, new clothes, throw a huge party? Buy a boat?
And then what? You have to know what it is that makes you happy. What really fulfills you, how you would spend your days.
And that question is difficult to answer. It's a quest we should all go on, because finding the answer is essential for a content life.
I know people in their late fifties who are trying to "find themselves". They never got a chance when they were younger - work, kids, life got in the way. And now all of a sudden they realize they don't know who they are. And what to do with the rest of their lives. So do it when you are young! In your teens and twenties.
Before you get married and have kids.
I tried on a few different personas over the years: glittery, short-skirt wearing party girl (not a very wild one, quite mediocre); church organist; outdoorsy, camo-wearing adventure girl. For a while I thought I might become a business woman dressed in smart suits, with hair and make-up done. I went to the gym for a while.
None of these lifestyles really fit. It was exhausting, or unfulfilling, or just plain wrong.
For me, over the last few years, the pieces have fallen into place bit by bit.
Being in my thirties, I don't care so much any more if certain people don't like me. Now I realize that it has less to do with me as a person, and more to do with the fact that we are simply different. And that's okay.
Our farm will never be totally organized and tidy. It's messy and a bit wild. The back door is scratched up by dog paws and dirty from the dogs lying against it. The lawn is full of holes from the ducks digging for grit to aid their digestion. There are kiddy pools (for the ducks) and dog bones scattered around.
But our place is full of life with chickens, ducks, dogs and geese milling around on the back lawn. Peacocks strutting their stuff in between. Ducklings and goslings quacking in their little enclosures, growing every day.  
With horses, llamas, goats and sheep hanging out together in the back field.




We have lots of trees that provide shade in the summer, pretty colours in the fall, and protection in the winter. It also means lots of needles, branches, and leaves on the ground year-round. And we are not always getting around to clean it up right away. Not because we are too busy, but we might choose to go riding instead. Or have a campfire. Or visit friends.
And I'm finally, finally fine with that. It took me 30 years to get to that point of realizing that there are more important things in life than a clean place. (The German influence is powerful!)
I still have the urge to apologize about the mess when people come over, but I'm working on it.
And I finally know who I am. I can give myself labels:
wife, stepmom, farmgirl, doglover, blogger. Hobby-photographer, avid instagrammer, reader, thinker, Haflinger-owner. Friend. Enthusiastic walker. X-ray tech. Most comfortable outside, with no make-up on, in jeans, or a dress, and flat shoes (no heels for me 99% of the time). Lover of roadtrips, coffee, fresh bread, fresh fruit, sour candy, and wine.
If Mary would still be alive, I could tell her now what my hand puppet would look like: Me in jeans. Dog by my side. Cellphone/camera in one hand, snapping away pictures; laptop in the other, representing me writing about it.
I like this hand puppet.
Miriam
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3 comments

  1. Fantastic post.
    It's such a great feeling to realize who you really are, and not have to apologize for it. I think it's pretty hard to know exactly who you are and be comfortable with it before the age of 30.
    Sometimes I see teenagers and think wow, I'd love to be young again with my whole life ahead of me, the things I would do differently. Then I remember how awful it is to care more about what other people think than to just be ok with yourself.. Not to mention the pressure from all around to 'find yourself' etc.. yikes, daunting task when you haven't really experienced life.
    Anyhow, I loved reading this post and picturing your life. Beautiful.
    It also got me thinking about myself in my own life. I have been pretty comfortable with who I am for a while, but just recently I've gone through a massive life change that has turned my life on it's head.
    Thanks to your post today, it has me thinking about who I am and what truly makes me happy.. Time to connect with myself again.
    Thanks Miriam!!

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  2. this is a great post! i also think that you can't be really happy if you don't who you are. and i love that you say that you like your hand puppet :)

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  3. Hi Miriam

    Beautiful post! It really made me think! I love the sound of this lady and have known a few characters like that myself over time. When they are here, we always think they are bonkers, but then when they are gone, we realise that their wisdom was gift-wrapped in an intriguing eccentricity that is always sorely missed! You have a fantastic life on that farm! Being surrounded by animals and nature is a wonderful soothing balm to the soul!

    Many blessings to you and yours!

    Much love

    Vee xx

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