My name doesn’t say much about me – you can call me Lisa if you’d like. Or not. Shakespeare had it right with ‘what’s in a name?’. You could ask me questions, a lot of them, and find out many details of my experience in life, my thoughts on those experiences, the values that drove the choices on which those experiences were built…but what do you know about the being within the fragile vessel by doing so? Some details. Cobbled together with some assumptions based on your own experience, your own values, and the choices you make about your understanding of the world, you will build a picture of ‘who I am’ that you are content to accept as ‘me’. Maybe you like that person, maybe you don’t – is it ‘who I am’ for anyone but you?

Do I define the journey, or does the journey define me?

Do I define the journey, or does the journey define me?

Am I any less constrained by those same limitations – even when I consider the question ‘who am I’, myself? Who is this woman in the mirror? Do I define myself by my experiences? Which ones? Are the traumas inflicted on me more important than the events I chose for myself? Is it my response or reaction to events that matters more? Is it my thoughts, or my creativity that define who I am? Does my injury define me? Is it my choices, my values, or how I treat others? How I wear my hair is not who I am, nor is what I choose to wear. The books I read are not who I am, neither is how I vote. My anger is not who I am, and my careless frankness isn’t either. Somehow all of it is – but even all of it seems some very small piece of who I am – like ‘dark matter’, it seems the ‘who I am’ puzzle is by far the vast, most important bit ‘about me’, making up most of ‘everything’…and also not easily described or defined. So…yeah. Who I am? Who are you? These are very good questions.

I woke this morning feeling content, comfortable in my skin, and subtly in conflict with myself, as if I had wandered off from an important discussion in progress by waking. I lingered in front of the mirror naked, looking over this fragile vessel and considering the being within. Mirrors made me uncomfortable for a long time; I could not bear to see the hurt, sadness, and astonished betrayal in my eyes, and I was uncomfortable with my aging flesh. This morning I stood calmly, enjoying the curves and lines of a body that has served me well over the years. I smiled at a scar I’d forgotten about, and recalled the event that put it there. I paused to appreciate that so much of the damage done by the violence of my youth seems to be sorting itself out; I can stand in front of a mirror and enjoy who I am.

There is a small shaving mirror mounted in my shower. I don’t use it for shaving, and it is not placed there for the convenience of lovers or guests. I put that small mirror there because I noticed that living alone cut me off from eye contact with my traveling partner and I really missed it, and felt the lack. My reading on the subject of emotional intimacy and connection suggested the lack could be more fundamental, and perhaps be addressed as a need that I could fill for myself and somehow ‘get by’ on that. I put the mirror in the shower so every day, every time I am in the shower, I have an opportunity to make eye contact with someone whose affection for me is singularly reliable, someone I want to know much better, be much closer to, and shower (lol) with Love. I felt a little silly even trying it out – it seemed like a ‘trick’ I was playing on myself. Turns out not to be a trick at all. I have lovely eyes. I enjoy my smile – even the small quiet smile that often gets missed or misunderstood. Eye contact with myself seems to have the good emotional benefits of eye contact in general. As practices go, pretty simple, and I feel more in touch with myself. It helps that I am unafraid of the woman in the mirror, and on good terms with the woman within.

The morning is pleasant, my coffee is tasty, and the music playing the background has me grooving in my chair while I write. This is an excellent moment. I pause the writing to enjoy it, and dance to a favorite track. The practicing of practices, and incremental progress over time have taught me that it is not necessary to be so fit that I can dance for 30 continuous minutes or more to benefit from movement. At my heaviest, I had stopped dancing. Heartache stalled my joy machine, my weight and arthritis were significant limitations, and I couldn’t move easily. Over time I just stopped dancing. When I started trying to turn things around in earnest, I rather awkwardly and uncomfortably also tried to begin dancing again. First it was just seconds. I was stiff. Self-conscious. Fearful. Reluctant. Awkward. Uncomfortable. Uncertain. But seconds eventually became a song. Song, singular, became songs plural. Songs became a playlist, and a playlist became my morning and I awakened to the powerful joy in movement – not just yoga. Not just walking. I love to dance. I probably ‘suck at it’ by all external standards – and that doesn’t matter a bit. It’s about the feeling of it, the sensuality, the freedom, the sensation of the beat and the pure primitive delight of movement to music. That’s all mine, and I am not living this life for anyone else. I’m not 20 any more, true. I’m not Ciara, never was. Damn, though, it feels good to hear the music I love and be moved by it in a literal way, and be able to dance. Meeting that need doesn’t require impressing anyone. 🙂

This morning I am contemplating ‘self’ and ‘other’ and considering what it means to be individual, and to connect with others. Asking myself what I expect of me, what I tolerate, what I enjoy – and asking myself if I am applying my values fairly to both myself, and my expectations of myself, and others dear to me, too. Am I too hard on myself? I know that I can be. Am I too hard on others? Do I attempt to hold them to a standard I can’t achieve, myself? Am I too willing to excuse behavior that isn’t okay with me, because I am hesitant to apply a standard I hold for myself? I know that I have that potential, for sure. What matters most? We are each mortal, each prone to mistakes and poor choices, each entirely predictably likely to behave consistent with our own values – not the ones we share willingly in words, or the values the society we live within recommends; we live our true values in our continued behavior over time. I suspect it is one thing we are powerless to do differently; we live the values we actually hold, changing our behavior may require us to change our values – or result in our values changing because we have changed our behavior. Being attentive to someone’s behavior is the only way to know their values with any certainty. Then what?

Like a mushroom, there is often more to a question than the obvious words.

Like a mushroom, there is often more to a question than the obvious words.

Questions on a Thursday morning. More questions than answers. Plenty of time to love the woman in the mirror, and dance. 🙂