The idea behind the Lenten photo-a-day challenge is to accept the challenge to take a photograph each day based on the photo-a-day list and share how you perceive each word or phrase for the day. I saw this challenge today, and since lent has already begun I dismissed it, also, I’m already doing my lent thing, so I don’t need to do this.
But the silly list crept into my thoughts several times. It was taunting me with a sassy tone and uplifted eyebrows, “You can’t do it.” Seriously? Don’t tell me I can’t do something! Fine… I’ll show you. you list. you. Bring it!
The list is probably right! I can’t do it — because I need words. I looked at the topic for the first day of lent, February 13: “Who am I?” and thought about the picture I would use to convey who I am. I thought and thought and then cheated and looked at what others had put as their day #1 picture, and decided that I couldn’t possibly answer that question with a single photo. I needed words. I guess I’m just not a photographer: I’m not able to capture what I want to convey in a photograph. That takes some pretty special talent.
As I thought more about the project I decided that I liked the idea of seeing more deeply, of paying attention, and of being intentional. I like the idea so much that I’m going to try it. Obviously, I’m way behind! But I still think I want to give it a go. The instructions indicate that “no explanation is needed unless you want to,” so there: permission to use words. Phew.
February 13 — Who am I?
Should I take a picture of my running shoes? Because I am a runner. Yes, I am a runner, but that’s not who I am. It’s something I do which shapes a lot about who I am, but it isn’t who I am. Running helps me clear my head, it helps me stay physically strong, it helps me keep my sanity, but if I couldn’t run (God forbid) I’d still be me (a stressed out and out-of-shape me).
Should I take a picture of a Starbucks Venti Latte? Or a picture of a steaming mug of home brewed coffee? Because I’m addicted to it. I love it. I love the sound of the coffee beans grinding, the smell of the coffee brewing, the gurgling sound the coffee maker makes at the end of the brewing. I love the way the milk blends with the dark liquid to make a beautiful swirl and then a new color. I love holding the hot mug in my hand. I love the first sip off the top of the hot steaming cup. And the first sip off the top of the second cup. And the third cup. Did I mention that I’m addicted? I’ll be right back, I just realized that I want a cup of coffee.
Okay, I’m back. Oh, how I love coffee. It makes me more bearable to be around, it makes me happy, but it’s not who I am.
Which is good. To be a cup of coffee would be kind of weird, right?
Should I take a picture of my family? That’s my instinct. To take a picture of my children and husband and paste that up as who I am. I couldn’t breathe without them. I would be nothing without them, so they are who I am, right? On the soccer field I’m known as “Madeline’s mom,” and on the track as, “Sammy’s mom.” When I introduce myself at Ken’s place of employment, I hear, “Oh! You’re Ken’s wife.” When I meet another parent at the Air Force Academy or The King’s College the first question is usually, “which kid is yours?” In other words, who are you? For over twenty-one years I’ve introduced myself as and signed emails as “somebody’s mom.” I’ve been at the mercy of other people and their schedules and their needs and wants. Most of the time I’m happy with that. I am. I am a mom and wife to the inner depths of my being. I’ve cleaved!
But there are a couple things that keep me from saying it’s who I am. First, I’m afraid that it’s not fair to my children. They need to be free to be themselves and if I’ve tied myself up too tightly with who they are, then there is no possibility that they can see themselves, or that I can see them for who they are. I carry my mother’s wisdom, her love, her memories, even her mistakes with me. I hear her voice sometimes when I speak and often when I think. I am who I am because of who she was, but I am not her.
There is no doubt that being a wife and mother is woven so deeply in my heart and soul that I would not be who I am without those things. But there’s something else that keeps me from saying my family — my husband and children — is who I am.
Something happened yesterday that made me see how afraid I am of losing my voice, of losing who I am.
Ken did something — I know that’s vague, but I don’t want to get into the details until after lent, Matthew 6:18 and all. I got angry. The kind of angry that plays Little Big Town’s “Tornado” on continuous repeat while running for 58 minutes and 16 seconds. Oh yeah. I was mad. What he did may not have seemed like anything at all to him, but it made me feel like I had no voice. To make matters worse he arrived home at the peak of my stewing rage and anger… and what did he say? Yup. He said, “I really think you’re overreacting.” OH NO! I AM TOTALLY NOT OVERREACTING!
I’ve calmed down. I really do want to continue to be mad. I do. I tried to continue to be mad even after I got the text that said, “I love you deeply and would never intentionally hurt your feelings.” I tried to muster the anger again when I went running, but “Tornado” just didn’t have the same effect. Damn apology! Made me face the truth. I’m not so much mad as I am afraid. Even after all these years I can get afraid that I’m losing who I am to wifehood and motherhood. That without those things I am nothing. That when I’m no longer in the throes of mothering that I will be nothing. That sounds horrible, right? I should be fine with having my whole self (voice and all) engulfed in that most noble of things. And I feel a little bit crazy when I want some piece of something that is just mine. Just something.
My husband and my children are individuals, and so I guess I am too. They are an enormous part of who I am and they make who I am worth being, they make breathing worthwhile, but they aren’t who I am.
So maybe I should be all holy (it IS lent!) and put up a picture of a cross. But if I’m trying to convey to you who I am, then I’m afraid that putting up a cross won’t be quite right. Christianity means so many different things to different people; things that have nothing whatsoever to do with Christ. I don’t for one second want you to associate me with the Westboro Baptist Churches of the world. That’s not who I am. I know Christ and whose I am, but I’m afraid that without seeing how I live my life and what’s in my heart you won’t understand that cross and what it means. It’s way too big to convey in a photo. It’s huge.
I’m not sure I can answer the question. Who am I?
I can say what I am.
I am loved so deeply by God that it blows my mind. I can’t understand it. His love for me cost him so much. And I am so unlovable. Really. Blows my mind.
I am loved by my beloved. Even when I overreact. Even when I am unlovable. He loves me. Deeply loves me. Blows me away.
I am loved by my children. They will each carry my love, my wisdom, my memories, and even my mistakes with them for always. Not because they are me, but because they love me. They do. They love me so much. It’s amazing.
Who am I? I am loved.