Deep within, I am aware of a growing emotion to express some part of my soul which feels as though it is coming to surface. This feeling has been developing ever since I was diagnosed with breast cancer in June of 2013, it is a deeper feeling than the fear I anticipated after the diagnosis; this swelling sensation is more about awareness of life and its meaning, specifically my life, my memories, my identity. That’s it! “My identity,” who am I? Who am I, devoid of all the labels acquired in my sixty years of living? When I die, “who” will be dying?
Right from the start, I was born with defining labels: female, daughter, sister, niece, cousin, and granddaughter. These labels, along with their characteristics, would contribute to who I became, as my parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents echoed back to me the essence of my existence through their interaction and responses to my presence. Through their socialization, and the socialization of classmates, friends, teachers, physicians, boyfriends and past employers I grew to be a person molded by my responses to everyone. But, who was I? Who am I without my labels? I do not know the answer to this question without first stripping away the labels of my life.
At my age, sixty years, no one will ever refer to me as their daughter anymore, that label withered away when my last surviving parent died, neither am I any living person’s granddaughter, death took away my grandparents years ago. The label of “sister” is no longer applicable since I am ostracized by my siblings. Other labels which were acquired but are no longer applicable are student, classical pianist, seamstress, business owner…
My current labels include niece, cousin, wife, mother, widow, 2nd wife, grandmother, friend, semi-retired Finance Manager, breast cancer survivor and blogger. Wow. This list is an eye opener; I thought I was more than these few labels, is this all that I am? Perhaps not.
With all the labels of my life stripped away, I am the culmination of every sensation of the world around me, processed through my existence – my soul. I am that mirror, which reflects every encounter of my life, no matter how microscopic, etched upon my soul.
What about you? What is left after stripping all of your labels? Do you know who you are?