I love watching a man run, and yes, that is living poetry, but we are not boiled down to a word or phrase. I might think he’s sexy or even delicious, but he’s probably smart and has complex feelings too. Labels are for jars of canned fruit. Labels are for pantry items and filing cabinets. Labels are not for people.
I read an article (maybe it was a blog post) about a mom talking to her kids after her daughter (in a bit of I-want-it-so-I’m-having-a-tantrum-until-I-get-it-and-hurt-you kinda way) told her mother that she was fat. Her mom informed her daughter that we all have body fat, and we are not defined or identified by something we may have.
That was profound.
We are not identified by a part when we are whole. Honestly, that’s a literary trope and I am not a synecdoche. We are not literary phrases. It was a terrific argument. I wish I had saved that link.
I am not fat but I love my relationship with my marshmallow fluff. I have a family member with diabetes, but he’s not only diabetic. Labels like that are for medical professionals to understand how to treat you. That doesn’t mean you are identified by a term.
My sons are not autistic, though they are on the spectrum.
This is all about relearning language because the words we use to identify us, have a strong influence on our identity.
I know I’ve said this before somewhere, but it’s worth repeating: Labels for disabilities are like labels used in gender studies. It’s a way to classify a person so other people that can’t empathize can understand them. Labels serve to identify other people by differences, excusing us from actively looking for similarities. My sons will live in their world the exact same way if they didn’t have a label. Labels are not for them, but for the people that don’t understand them. We are more than a body or a mind. If I didn’t look for ways to be different from others, I would look for ways that we are the same. This is where prejudice starts.
When children are looking for their first friendships, they look for things in common. When they are older and start looking for alliances in their friendships, they look for differences. This pattern doesn’t stop unless you are intentional with stopping it.
We are not the sum of our debt or how extravagantly we live. You are so much more than words used to define you when usually you’re still working out who you are for yourself. Understanding who I am in this world and in my skin is a life long exploration. There is so much more that makes up who we are and affects how we show up in the world.
The funny thing about defining ourselves in life is that those definitions are meaningless in death. We pour so much into a career or home. We want the fancy cars and the designer clothes. No one will care about what you drove or how many bills were piling up. They won’t care about what you wore or how you wore your hair. They’ll care about the connection they had to you and how that void will be filled, or if it even needs to be. They’ll worry about how their life will go forward without being able to rely on you. They’ll be upset that they took for granted the fact of your existence.
At the most connected point of your interaction, that is the part of you that matters in the world. It’s not when we’re on our phones, swiping or scrolling past a post that is a superficial substitution for a relationship. It’s when we are sharing who we are through stories of what we have been through. It’s about holding a hand or embracing someone in a hug that is meant to hold someone together. It’s in sharing the vision of your future and the vivid dreams of your legacy.
You are not the designer clothes you wear.
You can work hard to keep it high, but you are not your FICO score.
You are not a fancy job or the transportation that gets you there.
You are not the depression that visits and holds you down.
You are not the pain of your illness.
You are not the person you are dating, nor are you defined by the connection you have.
You are an amazing and unique person and self love is essential to happiness, but even then, you are who you decide to see yourself as.
You see it, don’t you? It’s the many ways you are a unique and amazing person with exceptional gifts that only you can offer the world.
My point is there is so much to who we are and the ability to laugh and grow that is within us flourishes the most when we connect with others. Humanity thrives on relational connections. No individual word or the stigma it carries can define who you are.