For years, I’ve made the joke that I’m a Quarter Rican, since my grandmother’s family on my dad’s side lived in Puerto Rico (they’re originally from Spain). Ninja likes to add that it means he’s got a 25% chance of getting stabbed on any given night. :) So, yesterday, my sister posted a photo of my nephew standing in front of a class project about his Scottish heritage (on my mom’s side). Apparently, the clan motto is**, “Conquer or Die.” It would appear that I come by all of my stubborn survival attitude honestly, then. So, by embracing it, I’m honoring my heritage, right? Right.
(And if you cross me, I will cut you. Just FYI.)
**Edited to add: There were two clan mottos, since there were two clans. My grandfather’s was mentioned above; my grandmother’s was, loosely translated, “I embrace the unfortunate.” Or something along those lines. I’ll opt for the former, thank you.
There’s been a lot going on lately, most of it good, which often means the writing falls by the wayside. I’m trying to get back to it with some regularity. Quiet on here = I have better things to do than over-think and wax poetic/philosophical/etc, usually. Either that or I’m so spun out that I’m trying to make sense of things before I dump it all here. Fortunately, it’s primarily the former in this case, although I do have a few posts in the works (consider yourselves warned).
Anyway. I’ve been thinking a lot about the question of who I was, before ALL THE THINGS happened. You know? Who was I, before the big separation? Before the time on the streets? Before the traumatic relationship experiences? Who was I, all the way deep down, before life happened?
And of course, all of that is kind of a trick thought process, right, because we are the sum of our experiences. We are the things that have happened to us, the people who’ve crossed our paths, the things we’ve seen and done, the thoughts we’ve conjured, the love (and hate) we’ve felt… we’re like patchwork quilts of moments and memories, with spirits of papier-mâché. At some point, I suppose you can make the decision to no longer carry those things, to no longer let them affect you; but more often than not, you’re already changed.
When I think of who I was, all-the-way-deep-down-before-life-happened, I imagine I was trusting and loving, more than anything. My family tell stories of me, as a young kid, going up to strangers in church and sitting with them, holding hands. Of me, asking what the Salvation Army person was doing ringing the bell, and then trying to put all my money in the kettle when I found out. Things like that. Generous heart and spirit, with a heaping side of stubborn independence. I like to think I’m getting back to that. Slowly but surely. I’ve gone through a lot of stuff, and being the way I am, I tend to carry it all with me.
It’s a heavy-ass load sometimes.
On the positive side, you amass insight and experience that enables you to see other people for who they really are, regardless of how masterful they may seem at manipulation or disguise. So, there’s a reason we carry life with us: so we can learn from things and, ideally, stop making the same decisions that don’t work for us. It’s a good defense mechanism, one that serves a good purpose – but, as with anything, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. And that’s where the insecurity, mistrust, walls, knee-jerk reactions, and all that other crap comes from. Secondary reactives, right?
It reminds me of a story I heard about a researcher, going in to classrooms with little kids, like kindergarteners and 1-2 graders, and asking them questions like, “Who in here is an artist?” *they all raise hands* “Who in here can sing?” *all hands go up* “Okay, who in here is a writer? Plays sports? Etc.?” *again, with all the hands* And then, this researcher goes into high school classrooms to ask the same questions. This time, less than half of the hands are raised. And even fewer, in college classrooms. So, something happens as we get older – the world starts telling us who we are (and what we’re worth), and we stop listening to the voice inside that tells us the truth.
You know. The real Roxanne.
I am finally in a place that, for the most part, has afforded me the opportunity to explore the question of who I was before the world inserted itself, and to re-engage from there. With a whole lot of life experience to go with it. To me, there’s nothing more powerful than that.