Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Phoenix

How we define ourselves is rather important. Yet plenty of us don't know who we ourselves are, oddly enough, or place emphasis in the least important of areas. 

If I would have to identify myself, the top of the list is not "interest in sci-fi." It's more like the low, low bottom. But someone reading my blog may think I sleep beneath the glow of crossed lightsabers or a Klingon bat'leth. Er, no. 
Then there is how we choose to identify ourselves. There is a lady I know, very pleasant, very intelligent, but her only—and I mean only—conversation is her recent, mild medical inconvenience. Nothing serious, mind you, but she is really incapable of talking about anything else. Only about her visits to the dermatologist to treat an annoying rash. When I see her, I find myself casually turning around and scurrying away in the opposite direction.

What about something more serious? Like cancer?

Debra Jarvis, a hospital chaplain who survived cancer, proclaims "Don't Call Me a Cancer Survivor." When she was sick, she was baffled how people assumed her illness would become her identity, predicting she'd promote "pink" awareness. But she had her own personal reaction to her situation, that had little connection to the disease itself.

Yet why should trauma, over which one has no control, become identity? My grandparents didn't identify as "survivors." They had been shoved into a horrific situation and made it through. But that agonizing year did not define them; that's not how they introduced themselves to strangers. "Hello, nice to meet you, I'm a survivor." 

Identity is inside out, not outside in. It's how I choose to react, what I choose to enjoy, what my natural talents and interests are. 

Jarvis tells over how a fellow cancer survivor couldn't get out of the loop of telling everyone her story, even when finally in the clear. She liked the attention that her sickness brought her, but didn't realize that by harping on the past, she was pushing others away (like my clueless lady friend). Jarvis bluntly told her she had to "Get off her cross."
You may think I was a little harsh with her, so I’ll add that I was speaking out of my own experience. Years before, I was fired from a job I loved. Afterward, I wouldn’t stop talking to everyone I met about my innocence, the injustice, and the betrayal until, just like with this woman, people were walking away from me.
I realized I wasn’t processing my feelings—I was feeding them.
But with any resurrection story, we know that you must die before you can be reborn. Jesus was dead for a whole day in the tomb before he rose. For us, being in the tomb means doing our own work around our wounds and letting ourselves be healed. We have to let our old story go so that a newer, truer story can be told about who we are.
What if we lived in a world without survivors? What if people decided to claim their trauma as an experience instead of taking it on as an identity? It could mean the end of being trapped by our wounds and the start of defining ourselves by who we are becoming.  


nachliele said...

So true! I was just having a similar discussion with my brother, regarding an amazing person who died by drowning. Suddenly, his identity has become all about his horrible death (You know, him? The one who drowned in the undertow?) as opposed to any of the wonderful things he had done in his lifetime. Somehow people are drawn to the drama & (dubious) excitement of illness, disappointment & death, reveling in the attention it brings them. Life, happiness & health seem to be overrated & overlooked miracles... I'd rather stick to those myself, if you don't mind! :)

Princess Lea said...

"Life, happiness & health seem to be overrated & overlooked miracles... I'd rather stick to those myself, if you don't mind!"

Amen, sister!