Identity

At the beginning of the year, I chose a word. Millions of people do this. I am not unique.

I’ve posed these questions before in a previous blog:

Who am I? What are my beliefs? How am I different than you? How am I the same as you? The image I portray in public…is that reality? Is that what defines me? Or is it who I am at home with my husband? Or is it who I am when I’m with my children? Is it who am I when I’m with those in need of comfort? Am I the same person in all of these instances? Or does my identity change depending on the circumstance?
Is my identity a(n):
woman?
wife?
daughter?
Caucasian?
mother?
sister?
teacher?
student?
Christian?
recovering addict?
brunette?
writer?
reader?
leader?
follower?
seeker?
believer?
introvert?
American?
…Or is my identity wrapped in the things that I battle and wrestle against:
depression.
anxiety.
addiction (food, money, social media, shopping, crafts……DISTRACTIONS).
weight.
aging.
defiance.
What defines me? What am I ALLOWING to define me? What defines me to ME and what defines me to YOU? Who am I?
What is my identity?

My last day of teaching in a classroom will be May 26th. Of the people I’ve told, most say things like, “Oh, I bet you’re so excited!” and “I can’t believe you gave your work two MONTHS notice. You’re CRAZY! I woulda been, like, ‘See ya! I’m out!’” But, the truth is: Until a few days ago, I’ve been torn. I’ve been torn between feeling like a huge chunk of my identity will be displaced, and feeling elated that I have the opportunity to do full-time what I’ve been called to do for this period in my life. I have the opportunity to nourish relationships with my kids, my husband, my friends, my family, my neighbors, my church, my God, and myself. In place of working outside of the home for 45 hours every week with an hour commute each way, I’ll have the opportunity to work inside our home; taking over the household chores that my husband has been carrying the weight of, in addition to his full-time work outside of the home for the past several months. In case there was any doubt, let me clear it by shouting from the mountaintops: He has been a rockstar at laundry and dishes and grocery shopping and sight words and doctoring and diapering and juggling dinner with a baby on his hip while our daughter is reading her homework books aloud and sitting on the kitchen floor to be heard over the baby’s coos and the stove’s exhaust…in an attempt to have everything checked off the list by the time I walk through the door…so that, by then, everything would be finished and we’d have the chance to just be a family for a few hours before bedtime. All of those things that he’s been doing for our family…all of those things that sound so overwhelming right now…I have the opportunity to do them. And the zoo. And parks. And walks. And gardening. And libraries. And picnics. And vacations. And reading and writing and singing and dancing and cleaning and rearranging and washing and folding and decluttering and donating…I have the opportunity to do all of those things. My husband would say, “Now of all those things you just listed off…if you accomplish just two of them, that’s okay, too.” That’s because he’s amazing, and he totally gets me.

The other day, my daughter asked: “Did your kids make you laugh today?” The question took me aback. I knew what she meant…I knew who she was talking about…and when she said, “your kids” and wasn’t referring to herself and her brother, I felt every muscle in my throat work with all of their might to keep that lump down. I’ve always called the kids in my classroom “my kids”…in fact, there’s a two year old in my room right now who repeats, “We’re Ms. Dani’s kids.” But when I heard her use those words…I immediately felt a pang of a guilt. I immediately thought about this word that I’d chosen to guide my heart for the year: identity. What is my identity? Until a few days ago, I’d been torn…Will my identity be diluted if I’m not in a classroom? Nonsense. That fact that I will not be receiving a check for my efforts does not make me any less of a teacher. I have spent an enormous amount of time and energy loving on the souls of children and adults outside of my home…I have the opportunity to focus on what and -more importantly- who is inside of my home.

I know there are others who struggle with the ability to maintain a healthy balance between work and home…I truly cannot wrap my mind around how so many moms make this appear so effortless. When I’m at work, I give 110%…and when I come home I have very little left to offer. I’m tired. I’m cranky. …And just because “I love my job” and just because “But I have this debt from getting my degree”…doesn’t change the fact that I’m still a mom…and I’m still a wife…and, if I can take advantage of a while to be a stay at home mom, I should…despite the accompanying doubts. I’m not too proud to admit that I feel like I’m taking a gigantic leap backward professionally…and I feel unsure of myself and my abilities…and I feel awkward about navigating through uncharted territory…and I feel nauseated just thinking about reentry into the workforce and it’s not even a spec on the timeline yet. I’m nervous. And anxious. And, above all, blessed…and grateful.

I want to invite you on this journey with me. I want to invite you to pray and meditate and question and listen with the GOD OF YOUR UNDERSTANDING to choose a word to focus on over the course of this year. I want to invite you to explore what that word means to YOU…and YOUR life…and YOUR purpose…and YOUR happiness…and YOUR fulfillment…and YOUR discovery.
Oh…goodness…
I love that word:
Discovery.
I love when I’m writing and the words I need to see and feel just appear on the screen.
“…a process of discovery…”
That’s what this is. I want to invite you.
Join me.
What have you got to lose?
If you’re willing, post the word in the comments either on the Facebook post or on this post directly. You don’t need to put why you’ve chosen the word you have…The word itself will speak subtle volumes, I’m sure. But, if you’d like to clarify the INTENT, feel free. I would love to pray for you…or, if you’re uncomfortable with the word “pray”, send “positive vibes.”
Whatever terminology makes you more comfortable…I wanna do that for you. And I’d love for you to do that for me, too.
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