Who are you?
Or more precisely, who am I?
Have you ever asked yourself this question?
I would venture to say the answer is yes.
There seem to be a least two universal and eternal questions human beings ask consistently:
Am I Florence?
The obvious answer would be yes. However, the response to this query is neither obvious nor simple. I was christened at birth with three names (not including my last name), names which I have never used except on government forms. So, I am my legal birth name or just plain Florence?
My name legally changed upon my marriage. Did I (my authentic self) change because my name changed?
My kids know me as "mama," my grandkids as "grandma." Florence means nothing to my three-year-old granddaughter. Do I lose who am I because to her I am not Florence?
You catch my point. Right?
Am I my Roles?
To my parents, I was their daughter; to my husband, his wife; to my kids, their mother; to Alisha, Laurie, and others, a friend; to my aunt, her niece; to some, an in-law....
Do I change because my roles change?
Every person in my life sees me differently depending on my role. My children do not see me as my husband does. Nevertheless, I am still the same soul.
Some will describe me with superlatives and gushing praise while others will describe me in less than glowing terms.
Who is right?
Who Am I?
Some love me, some hate me, and some couldn't care less, do I change depending on the feelings and emotions others experience when they think of me?
I, on the other hand, can only experience myself from the inside. I do not see myself unless I look in the mirror and, even then, I cannot experience myself as others do—as outside observers.
A good analogy is this: If I stood at the curb and looked at your house. I could describe it. I could mention its size, color, and texture. However, the inside would remain a mystery. Would I, therefore, genuinely know your home?
No, I could not describe your home as you can.
Even seen from the inside, your home would not be experienced by me the same way as if I lived there. So much would escape me from a quick run through each room.
No doubt, you catch my point.
The crux of the problem is this; we think we are made of matter when we are mostly energy.
I've got news; my body is not me. If I lose a body part, I do become less me than I was before.
I live inside my body, but it is not me. My body today is not even the same body I had a few years ago. Our cells die and replicate all the time. We have a brand new body every few years.
On a side note, this question begs to be asked, if our body is brand new every few years, why doesn't it look brand new?
But I digress.
When we believe our physical form is us we get into a lot of trouble. It becomes quite distressing when we don't measure up to the models on the magazine covers, or when our body shape isn't what we think it should be, or when we see the first wrinkle or the first gray hair.
When we focus our energy on the physical, we have no time to experience who we genuinely are and, sadly, we are willing to go to great length to look "right." There is a reason why plastic surgery is so attractive (and why it satisfies so little).
All matter decays, that's a fact.
The device you read this post on will eventually stop working and be discarded. Your home, your appliances, and your car need upkeep and replacement because they decay as do our human bodies. Our pets also live and die as do stars. Decay is the reality of a world made of matter.
We live in a material world, I understand. And many of us will enter and depart this world never becoming acquainted with the real "I."
A tragedy to be sure.
Who You are Not
To recap, you are not your name, the place you were born, where you live now, your job, your roles, your body, etc.
You are not nor will you ever be the labels placed on you by your family members, loved ones, those who dislike you, those who love you, and even yourself.
All of it is a lie.
Therefore, the question remains, if we are not our body, our mind or our emotions, if we are not the labels or roles given to us...then who are we?
We cannot see the wind but we know its existence.
Can you describe it to someone who has never experienced it? Can you describe the smell of apple pie or ripe strawberries to those who don't know what these are?
I don't think so.
You are multidimensional, indescribable...you are Essence.
You know it. Deep down, you feel it.
Life and Death
If you have been blessed to attend a birth as well as someone's passing, while profoundly emotional and vastly different, these events are also similar in many ways.
A newborn's first breath, the lungs expanding, air rushing in with the ensuing cry (lusty or not), new eyes which hold so much wisdom and seem to behold secrets unknown to us, seeing daylight for the first time searching the faces of those around him.
Majesty, awe, miracle, these are the words that may come to the lips but may remain unspoken.
Awe often makes us quiet like that.
Wonder demands silence.
On the other hand, as the breath leaves the body, shallow and spaced further and further apart until the last breath makes the chest collapse as it rushes out in a soft wind, and life departs, and only a human shell remains. The eyes dim and finally are devoid of light. There is awe even then in such a moment. Maybe I should say reverence even in the midst of pain.
Pain also demands silence.
I do not believe it is a coincidence that in Hebrew the word for breath, wind, and spirit means the same thing, ruach. I know there are other languages for which this is the case.
First breath, last breath....spirit before and spirit after.
Energy cannot be destroyed; it can only be transformed.
You are indeed essence, spirit.
Under the bruises, emotions, hurts, joys, wrinkles, peachy skin, blond hair or dark or gray, labels, roles, clothes, make-up,...beneath it all, there is YOU.
You may no longer be acquainted with this person, the real you. You may have forgotten who she is. Her essence may be unfamiliar, but the fact it is no longer familiar does not make it any less you.
You used to be "her" before the world happened.
You used to know who you were.
There is a reason, Jesus states we must become like little children to enter the Kingdom. Other spiritual teachers give us this same message.
Maybe in the silence, you can listen until you feel her rise in you. Until your answer to "who am I" comes. Until you hear the still small voice that is you in its purest form.
No, I have not lost it; no, this is not woo-woo.
In truth, even if I have lost it and it is woo-woo, I'll take it. Life is meant to be lived as you...not a copy, not what someone or life has made you.
The world needs you in your purest form. For heaven's sake, you need you in your purest form.
You know this speaks to your soul because it is true.
What you are seeking is seeking you. ~ Rumi
Definitions of Essence:
c. the properties or attributes by means of which something can be placed in its proper class or identified as being what it is
2. the most significant element, quality, or aspect of a thing or person
3. one that possesses or exhibits a quality in abundance as if in concentrated form
4. a. a constituent or derivative possessing the special qualities (as of a plant or drug) in concentrated form; also: a preparation of such an essence or a synthetic substitute
b. a volatile substance or constituent (as of perfume)