Identity (another chapter in the tale of our move from Ontario to Seattle)

February 3, 2016 § Leave a comment

 

Moving to a new country, even one as similar in culture as Canada is to America, ripens the picking so to speak for checking in on the age old question of “Who am I? and Where do I belong?”

When our family agreed to embark upon a family adventure to the West Coast for a few years, it seemed exciting and new and I looked forward to the blank page upon which we would write the next chapter of our lives. For me in particular, it meant no expectations about who I was or how I would serve. I could choose my new opportunities to get involved freely, without my previous experiences or relationships swaying the selection.

I worried a little about the kids experience walking into a brand new school six times larger than their previous one.  I worried a little about my husband’s new job and how close of a fit it was for him. But I was not worried about me. Me? I’ll be fine.

I had greatly underestimated the presence and impact of isolation.

isolation

Photo credit: http://heartandsoulezine.com/impartations-wisdom-separation-vs-isolation/

Nobody knew me. When I encountered people, there was a polite smile, and done. My identity ceased to exist for a time. As time went on, people would begin to realize they had seen me before, or they would put together that I was the mom of one their kid’s classmates, but still, no one knew ME. They didn’t know my name, or that I love chai tea lattes, or that the lack of sunshine here in the winter was heavy on my heart. Who was I? Where do I belong?

Now that we are have been here a year and a half I am happy to report that the isolation has passed, but it sure did provide me with an amazing opportunity to assess who I was, and where I belonged.

I read an article recently that got me thinking about this very thing, entitled “The Cook and the Chef: Musk’s Secret Sauce” by Tim Urban. He talks about the difference between our hardware (physical body and attributes) and our software (the belief systems that we have installed) and how if we are not the type of person to regularly self-reflect and evolve, we could still do our thinking with software installed by our grandparents:

“The person has lived a long life and has made it all the way to 2015, but their software was coded during the Great Depression, and if they’re not the type to regularly self-reflect and evolve, they still do their thinking with software from 1930. And if they installed that same software in their children’s heads and their children then passed it on to their own children, a member of Generation Y today might feel too scared to pursue an entrepreneurial or artistic endeavor and be totally unaware that they’re actually being haunted by the ghost of the Great Depression.”

 Ever heard someone say “That’s just the way I am” when they are describing themselves? Yeah, outdated software. Upgrade notification sent.

Urban goes on to talk about Dogma and Tribes and encourages us to realize the difference between conscious tribalism and blind tribalism:

With conscious tribalism, the tribe member and his identity comes first. The tribe member’s identity is the alpha dog, and who he is determines the tribes he’s in. With blind tribalism, the tribe comes first. The tribe is the alpha dog and it’s the tribe that determines who he is.

Fantastic fodder for exploring Who am I and Where do I belong, isn’t it?

When we make decisions, both for us and our children, how often do we examine where the criteria we are using came from? “No, you can’t go sell Girl Scout Cookies to the neighbors by yourself” <cause what if you get stolen or hurt, and the neighbors might judge me for letting you go alone>, quashing my daughters entrepreneurial spirit with my own brand of fear, and installing software in her that she will very likely pass on to her children.

And how often to do you stay in the same organization because that is what you have always done, and you feel pressure to stay because you don’t want to let down others or be judged for leaving? I had this gift of clarity offered to me since we moved as well. I had joined a women’s bible study group a few months into our arrival which felt great for the first year and filled a space in me I greatly needed during that isolated time. But then they decided to study Revelations for the next year, which makes me want to run screaming (try reading it, you’ll see what I mean), and suddenly I am torn. Nothing about me wants to study the Book of Revelations. But will I let down the ladies in the group? Haven’t I slapped a label on myself that says this is a group belong in? I stewed about it for a time, before finally gaining the clarity that the tribe does not determine who I am and where I belong, I do. I sent a very gracious email to the group thanking for them for the beautiful year I spent with them, and moved on to a very fulfilling volunteer role elsewhere that suits me very well.

With every new experience and exposure each of us are provided with an identity choice, as if the Universe is launching lob balls to us, saying “go on, figure it out”.

With my beautiful 20/20 hindsight I see, and am grateful for, the opportunity to examine this for myself, and for my husband and children to examine it for themselves too.

May the adventure continue!

 

The Cook and the Chef: Musk’s Secret Sauce

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From Contrast to Love: One Year Later in Seattle

November 9, 2015 § Leave a comment

So I spent some time on FB this morning catching up and realized I had missed a bunch of notifications. After adding a new FB friend, I enjoy going to my main page to look at it through the eyes of someone else. In no time at all I was deep into beautiful memories, missing home, loved ones and feeling the love.

My ego quickly stepped up and said “oh you poor thing, missing home, where there is security, and familiarity and people who love you, wallow here awhile, feel sad. It’s raining outside for the 14th straight day, just stay in your pjs, don’t bother with the shower, just sink”.

The remarkable part was, when I heard those words in my head, they felt SO strange. And the response, instead of pondering it, was “why the heck would I do that! All of this is love. Love at home, love in Seattle, love on FB. Every one of these pictures is evidence of love in my life. How could that ever make me sad?!”

Well THAT is refreshing!

I think back to almost exactly a year ago, when the rains in Seattle started and we had two weeks straight of no sunshine. Our first experience going so long without sun. Even in Ontario’s dead of winter, the sun reflects off the snow so brightly you have to wear shades to even see properly. I remember thinking to myself, “what have we done? We can’t make it until spring with no sun!” I watched how all my new friends and acquaintances in Seattle had already figured it out, booking their sunny holidays in the south months in advance of the mid-winter and spring breaks. I felt my mood sink into sullen, not going unnoticed by my husband who bought me a faux-sun “Happy Lamp” for Christmas in an attempt to help. I began romanticizing our home in Ontario, seeing it as an oasis, making plans for when we return.  Uncertainty set in, and I felt like I had a foot in each home, never really feeling grounded in either.

But then the sun broke through, and our prayers were answered.  We were gifted with what everyone described as an “unusually warm winter”. Unseasonably warm temperatures, sunny skies, and outstandingly beautiful blooms on the trees starting in January and continuing like a fireworks show all the way into spring. Each tree took a turn, in yellow, pink and white, shouting from their branches that ALL IS WELL!

cherryblossoms

Each person I discussed the weather with warned me “don’t get used to it! This is not normal”! As my spirit started to rebound I found myself responding “who cares? It is EXACTLY what we needed in our inaugural winter here. In this moment, it is perfect.”

So now I am faced with the exact same scenario one year later. It’s been raining so long my neighbour asked me this morning where the faucet was to turn it off. But something is different. Instead of uncertainty, I feel grounded. I feel like we are on this adventure, experiencing new things, and while I miss my loved ones at home very much, I am also excited by the new relationships we are cultivating here. And I am grateful at how different they are from the relationships we have at home. There is no replacement for celebrating the holidays with family, but it will be a cool new experience to celebrate the holidays with friends, cherishing the fellowship and warmth it surrounds us with.

I make a promise to myself to continue on this Rampage of Appreciation, and honour each new beautiful experience for the growth it offers. I AM grateful.

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