Meeting people for the first time poses an interesting challenge. How does one define oneself?
For example, at the party of a mutual friend, one might say, “Oh, and how do you know Suzie?” to orient the beginning of a new relationship, an entrée into this new person’s life. Or if I’m at a food conference, “What brings you here?” as if our common interest in food will bridge the gap to the stranger, which it always does. Who doesn’t like food? Food conferences are the easiest places to make new friends. We all eat!
But, last night, at one of our daughter’s choir celebrations, one man asked me politely, “What do you do?” I went mute. What do I do? I worried to myself. I am my daughter’s mother. In that context, that answer made the most sense. Any other answer sounded vain and trite.
“Well, I am a nutritionist,” I blurted out nervously. And, yes, it sounded vain and trite. I am not a nutritionist, I wanted to yell. I am my daughter’s mother. I am a soul in search of itself! But I knew to keep my inner tiger caged. Oftentimes, she roars unexpectedly with what would be perceived by others as unabashed insanity. So, I quieted her in my mind and smiled at the man.
He then shared that he worked at The Hartford insurance company. Longing for the bridge, I started listing names of people I knew who worked at the Hartford. My sweet husband reminded me that the company boasted thousands of employees, as if to pat me with the reality that there would be no bridges made with this stranger tonight via The Hartford.
So, I have decided to change my strategy from now on when asked, “Who are you?” or “What do you do?”
Rather than focus on the superficial, I am going to keep an arsenal of unexpected responses in my purse and dig one out when the time comes. Instead of tossing words out into the air to fill a quiet curiosity, I will pronounce, “I am a spirit locked in a middle-aged woman’s body!”
Because that is the truth. I am really just spirit. Oh, go ahead and put the letters after my name and tell someone that I’ve been educated to instruct people how to eat in a healthy way. In a way, that’s true. Tell them I’m a writer because that is an identity I’d like to manifest because it is something I “do” that reflects my spirit. I am a mother, an expression of the love in my spirit. But my essence is beyond titles and clothes and names.
We are all called many things and do many things. But, let’s face it, when the world tears away our titles, our social standings, our talents, our troubles, all we got left is spirit. And spirit just is. And that is how I will introduce myself from now on. I’ll let you know how that goes! I’m imagining it will leave people feeling more estranged from me than familiar but it’s worth a shot. At least it's an attempt to answer the, "Who are you?" question in a more honest way.