Identity, In Process
I was wearing a long red striped maxi dress and my strapless bra kept sliding down, so I walked into the back room, unclasped the bra, and slid it out of the side of the dress. Then I went outside, sat on a panel for two hours and answered questions about navigating identity.
Every single day of the last few months, they've built a foundation that for the first time has been poured to my benefit and my benefit alone. The only anchor to my identity is myself and it is revolutionary. My roots are still there, I spoke of them fondly while on the panel. The way my family, my relationships, and my friendships have all molded me still stand true, but to be baptized in myself, it's a first.
A little over ten years ago, I wrote a letter. I found it a few months back, while I was rummaging through old papers, and the sealed envelope with swiggly lines on the front side spoke to my 15-year-old self’s personality in ways I'd forgotten to remember her. She was quiet, but with big, grounded dreams. The contents of the letter were a mystery to me then, but the feelings it brought me back to — they speak to why I am who I am now.
I was a teenager, kneeling on the floor and leaning on a chair for support to write the letter. I was a teenager, with very specific prayers for God. Out loud, more often than not, they included a Jonas brother, but in the quiet, those prayers asked for bigger boobs, a person who stayed, a break from feeling so other.
I smile now because 10 years out from that girl’s mandated letter writing session one of my favorite parts of my body are my smaller breasts. I can wear tops without a bra just ‘cause. Nipple covers are enough for any top or dress that moves or shows side boob. The size of my breasts made it possible for me to feel the lump before it got worse. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that my smallness in this area has saved my life.
My relationship with my body has never been as riddled with insecurities as the one with my mind has been. The first time I stood naked before a man I was more excited than I was nervous, here I was in all my smallness and grandness and wholeness. The first time I cried before a man I was more nervous than I was present because there I was in all my smallness and grandness and wholeness.
I wasn’t afraid to have sex, but I was afraid to bare my soul.
So much of who I am is found within the confines of my mind and, if we’re honest, within the first capitalized word and last period I write on any given day. To let someone in to that part of me is the biggest gift I can give anyone, I'm learning.
Because who we are in the darkest corners of our mind, it’s who we are. It’s who we navigate through the tunnels to become familiar and accepting of. I am anxious, meticulous, ever-present. I need. I need just like anyone else who is human needs. I need physical contact, and emotional support, a good night of heat or laughs or conversation over a dinner that feeds more than my hunger.
Who we are in the brightest corners of our mind, it’s who we are. I am vivacious, anchored, forever worried of how fleeting the good and happy can be. I want. A good kiss, an even better hand to hold, a smile from across the room with someone who knows that I slipped the bra off before the panel started because he read the text.
To own the woman I am right now, as I write this, I had to let go of everything. I Whole 30’d my entire life and then slowly reintroduced what made sense to me. I stripped myself bare and stood before mirrors to see what and who broke me out in hives, and what or who helped me look more hydrated. I stare at myself lately and I see a woman who I’ve never met before, but who I’m getting to know.
She’s joyful. It didn’t come easy.
She’s anchored in herself. It was a struggle.
She’s inviting of love, but now afraid of vulnerability. She has trouble admitting this.
When you are on the receiving end of promises being broken the strings that form the web of your identity get rattled a bit. You stand there wondering what you did to cause the shakes, if you did anything at all. I am not immune to insecurities, so when the shakes came, I stood and let the ripples tell me stories of who I am in the middle of pain. Then I let those same shakes propel me to my biggest truth — I am easy to love as I am.
I've never subscribed to the notion of perfection because it's fleeting and tends to serve one party more than it does the other. To be anchored and to be human, it's a recipe for someone who knows how to show up and is capable of standing in their own truths, fighting for things that carry their weight in gold. It's the formula for being anchored in myself and knowing that nothing would be perfect if I had to do double the work and get none of the reward.
Herculean effort, as my friend noted, is not something we should need to exert in order to prove our own worthiness, especially within the relationships that matter most to us. 'To be' needs to be the foundation. 'To be willing to grow and evolve for mutual benefit' needs to be what gets built on the foundation.
Lately, I look in the mirror and I feel more selfish than I maybe ever have because I feel more ownership of myself than I maybe ever have. The brown eyes I look into, one day they’ll belong to a little baby who will smell like baby powder right between the neck. If those eyes are worthy of being on a child one day then by definition who I see reflected back at me when I look in the mirror is a woman I am so incredibly worthy of inhabiting. A woman whose humanity and existence as is will always be enough.