Friday, March 27, 2009

Practicing Being Me

I was only in Portland for six weeks of my sabbatical.

During that time I saw a great counselor, Tina. Over the past two years I have been gaining a lot of insight and processing a few things about my family that have impacted me (how's that for general :) and wanted to continue that in Portland.

So Tina and I began meeting. On my last visit with Tina, almost a month ago, she left me with a piece of advice... Practice Being You.

As an oldest child from a Lebanese and Japanese family, often the 'momma' of the group, I am constantly thinking/responding to the needs and expectations around me.

Some have called it people-pleasing. I call it adaptability.

Sometimes I am so aware of every dynamic going on around me that I stop living and live responding. In the process, I get lost in the mix.

I remember in the 7th grade, after reading the book The Scarlet Letter my teacher thought a great way to 'experience' the novel would be to break up into table groups.

Each group would have another table group assigned to them. The task was to assign each student, mind you we're talking 13 year olds here, a 'scarlet letter' of their own. The letters had to represent a real quality they recognized. They were cut out of felt and 'presented' to us in front of the class.

For instance, the year before, Gus, received the letter 'G', which stood for gas because he farted a ton. He was the type to wear his letter with pride, but sometime I wonder if it ever affected him. We had to wear these letters for one week. If someone asked us what our letter stood for, we HAD to tell them the truth or else we would have to stand in the courtyard during lunch and announce to the crowd what our letter represented.

I remember receiving my letter, "B". ...for brown-noser.

Now growing up with two parents, for whom English is their second language, there are many idioms, phrases, and sayings I never grew up hearing. Brown-noser was one of them. As I walked up to the front of the classroom to receive my letter 'B' I looked around at my mostly white classmates and seriously thought it was actually a racial thing.

I came away from that experience thinking two things.

1) Is my teacher crazy?!
2) Why would my classmates call me a brown-noser?

I have spent many, many years of my life trying to be what people want me to be (or think I should be) for different reasons at different times. At 31, I am certain that I am now and probably have been an adult for a while. Even though I still get carded, even though people still ask me if finals are coming up, even though my parents may never acknowledge it...

I am me- the me I will probably be for a long time.

A couple weeks ago I went to lunch with a friend after church. Usually a bunch of us have lunch together afterwards, but today only one was free, David. He and I talked about life, work, church, friends, traveling, hobbies over our soup/sandwich combos at Panera Bread.

During that lunch I painted verbal pictures of my time in Asia, asked good questions, and enlightened my new friend about the phenomenon called... the Rat King.

If you don't know what that is, you can google it, but I warn you it's disgusting.

It's what happens when rats in small spaces have their tails tangled and eventually fused together. They become, according to folklore, the Rat King?! (I first heard the term on 30 Rock and discovered it about a year ago)

Yup, part of me 'practicing being me' is sharing weird, disgusting, depressing, or shocking facts that I learn about- even over lunch.

Who does that?


Mary said...

After reading this I wanted to go smack your teacher on the head....

Blah Blah Blayla said...

Seriously! I can't imagine any junior high teacher nowadays getting away with this- oh, how times have changed...

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