In answering the who, perhaps you’ll uncover the why
“I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?”
It may not be what reclusive poet Emily Dickenson meant when she wrote those lines, but I’ve always seen a child hiding behind her hands, hoping no one would see her. Dickenson meant to live her life beyond fame’s reach.
I’ve spent much of my life hiding. Perhaps I was merely reticent; maybe I too wanted to escape the consequences of revealing my faults. But I no longer feel it necessary to live that way. I’d rather stand with the Apostle Matthew and put my candle on a stand for all to see.
That’s how I came to pick up Mari McCarthy’s “Who am I?” course. I meant to check in with myself, to ensure I was not only answering my “who” but also being true to my “why.”
There’s no problem with knowing who I am: an American woman several decades removed from my birth, a twice-married wife, mother, thinker, writer. But I don’t always know the why. I hoped by learning that I could be true to myself.
Journaling to figure it all out
Through journaling, you can figure out the who and why of your existence. You can learn more about yourself while leaving a record for posterity. I journal to do just that. But being rewarded with epiphanies is my favorite reason of all. In working this course, not only did I find clarification on who I am, I was blessed with several “aha” moments.
Focus on the inner world
“Who I Am” is a short course with five groups of exercises. The first focuses on your inner world, on learning how you function and why you act the way you do. I thought I had my inner world figured out. I’m pretty well self-directed: I maintain a daily work schedule, exercise five days each week, eat two daily meals, and sleep eight hours nightly. And yet I still waste away long moments. Mari advises us to use spare time to check in with ourselves rather than reaching for a tablet or cell phone. A difficult challenge for me, but one I’m working on.
I answered a short series of questions leading to greater self-awareness. Am I an introvert or an extrovert? What gives me the zest for living? What do I prize most in myself? What do I wish I didn’t do?
We all make mistakes, and in the exercise “Perfectly Imperfect” I scrutinized recent missteps. I misled a friend by neglecting to tell her that something she said disturbed me. The friendship appears to have vanished, leaving a sting behind. With the feeling so bitter, I doubt I’ll let a misplaced comment pass without voicing my thoughts.
Who I am to the outside world
Mari roots her second group of exercises in our outer world. I listed my life roles and the most important people in each. I went to them for candid answers on how they perceive me. Some of her suggested questions were straightforward; others were not so easy. Most answers were positive, others predictable, but one memorable answer made me twitch like a child getting scolded by a favorite parent.
If it’s a revelation about yourself you’re looking for, you can find plenty of opportunities in the exercise. I emailed the questions to four people close to me.
My daughter-in-law wrote one strength is writing. Then she gave me credit I’d never given myself: “You’re an awesome friend. You’re there when people need you.” I never saw myself that way, but coming from someone I deeply admire, I’m determined to live up to her vision of me.
Another friend affirmed a weakness I’d long felt – the inability to focus. I’ve attempted to overcome my urge to wander, but the world is so wide and possibilities so endless that it makes choice difficult. Yes, wandering about can be fulfilling. But there’s a time to roam and a time to focus. One cannot replace the other. So I’ll try to focus when necessary and roam when I can.
How we perceive our creative world
I loved it when Mari asked what we considered to be our most creative period in life. Aha. I discovered that to be now. If true, I’m fulfilling my life purpose. I’m finding opportunities to speak my truth.
It was from a creativity question that I learned more about my feelings toward my son. He’s a free spirit who loves cars, has a philosophical bent, and the twin talents of writing and drawing. I’d never before identified him as a free spirit, perhaps because I couldn’t see over my self-identification as such. So now I can approach him on a new “we” stance rather than the sometimes adversarial “you.”
Looking at ourselves in the work mode
I thought the section on work would hold few clues. I’ve retired from working for others but I still punch that timecard every morning by sitting down and writing.
I discovered a problem with my work identity, though. I’d been identifying myself as a graphic designer in addition to a writer. That’s not completely true even if I did build my website. True, I enjoyed designing it. But the results are mundane. Now I know it’s simply detracting me from my mission.
My favorite word of all: potential
Mari asked what it means to be true to ourselves. Aha! I learned I’ve begun to live authentically. Living authentically coincides with breaking free from severe bipolar depression. Now I don’t need to hide. Concealing my true self would mean denying what I stand for.
Now when asked who I am, I say unequivocally I’m a writer. It is through this one talent that I fulfill my life’s purpose.
Journaling forever and a day
By now I’ve worked through several of Mari’s books and courses. So what have I gleaned from “Who am I?” I know without a doubt I don’t want to be Nobody. I want to be Somebody – Somebody who makes a difference.
From all those books and courses on journaling, I’m settling into a writing rhythm. And now, with journaling bringing a deeper understanding of who I am, I can be both true to myself and the world.
Cassie Journigan hid in the scrub oaks of north Florida until recently. She now presents her face to the world as a writer, thinker, wife, and mom. Visit her website at https://BecauseOfWords.com.