Deep Within My Identity

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 The label of “sister” is no longer applicable since I am ostracized by my siblings. Other labels which were acquired but are no longer applicable are student, classical pianist, seamstress, business owner…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?


20 responses to “Deep Within My Identity

  1. We are the older generation now. Sometimes I find it shocking, but mostly nowadays (being 6 years ahead of you in the getting old racket), I just heave a sigh and move on. My parents and all their sisters and brothers are gone. Most of my older cousins too. My brother. My husband’s family, ditto except he has his brothers and a few more cousins that I do. I kind of know finally how my mother felt as she got older. I never understood. By the way, I’m almost 3-1/2 years post cancer as of yesterday’s visit to the oncologist — and everything looks GOOD. Depending on how you feel about fake breasts.


    • That is great news from the oncologist! I’ll be finding out about how I feel about fake breasts in March and I’m apprehensive about it – actually, apprehensive about the decision whether to “nipple” or not to “nipple” as well.


      • You don’t have to make the nipple decision immediately. You can live with the implants for quite a while — many months — before deciding. I chose not to (about 25% of us say no to nipples) because I couldn’t face another surgery — and because fake nipples don’t have the sensation of the real deal. My husband doesn’t seem to care, which I find odd … but men and breasts are a whole other story!


        • Oh, I know! If I weren’t married, my decision would be oh, so simple, “NO” to nipple construction. I’d rather have 3D tatoos, I just don’t see the point in another in-depth surgery. I didn’t like nipples when I had them, too sensitive and always trying to hide them when they’d be popping up! They came in handy for breast feeding, but, that’s long behind me now.
          I know what I want for my decision, just have to research more who, locally, is good at tattooing them in 3D and convincing my husband that this is MY body and it’s not worth the risk of another surgery.

          I know there’s a guy in NYC who is supposed to be really good at the 3D tatoos, but, I can’t be traveling that far and besides, this whole adventure isn’t about plastic surgery for vanity, it’s about surviving cancer.


          • The hospitals here have a special tattoo department. I have a huge tatoo on my leg but the idea of getting one on my fake breast made me queasy. My best friend suggested smiley faces or maybe flowers. Who needs a nipple when you can get real ART?


  2. After stripping the labels I believe I am a human being who loves others, who intends to inspire, to help those on the breast cancer path to survive and who hopes to leave a legacy of quiet understanding and comfort to all with whom she comes into contact. I didn’t have nipples done until years later. It does make a difference but I felt like you do, I wanted to rest for a bit before having another surgery. ♥


  3. Breast cancer is a club I wish no one else would join. I am a 15-year survivor. It is good for some soul searching though 😉 Glad the worst is behind you!


  4. Nicely said. I never really thought about labels… hmmm. Puts things in perspective 🙂


  5. This is why I love the blogging community! You meet so many different people from so many different walks of life, and I sure as hell am glad that we were able to stumble onto each other’s blogs. It is so hard to escape the label that people define you with and sometimes, as much as you try not to, you fall into that label yourself (if that makes sense…). I think it’s most important for ourselves to know who we are, and as you said, to be our own mirror.


  6. My label is Me. That is who I am. Any more complicated than that, and I get a headache.


  7. This was an incredibly thought provoking post. I feel like it would be a good idea to sit down and think of my labels… already a few come to mind, not all of which are to my liking. Who am I without them, I wonder? Something worth thinking about.


  8. The Reading Girl

    Great post….I am still young and trying to define who I am. But so far my labels would be daughter, friend, sister, granddaughter, niece, cousin, student, and a child of God. And I am just me, you know? Keep fighting that cancer….you forgot one label….A Fighter… 🙂


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