Tuesday, 21 June 2016

What 3 Things?

A friend of mine sent me a TedTalk by a lady called Debra Jarvis a few weeks ago. It's been preying on my mind ever since.

Debra tells you to imagine you're on a bus. You start chatting to the lady next to you, but you're getting off at the next stop, so you only have a short amount of time.

She asks you what three things best define you, get to the essence of who you are. 

What do you say?

Now, if you're British you're probably freaking out at this point. Yikes! A stranger talking to me on public transport. About something other than the weather. Stop the bus. Call the Police. Let me off!

Try to move past that one and think about the question. I've been writing (and re-writing) lists in my head ever since.

Ten years ago I would have probably defined myself by my job and my social life. I would have said something like "I'm in advertising, I'm a party animal and I'm very loyal to my (numerous) friends."

None of those attributes now feature on my top three. This worries me.  Does that mean that I'm now a totally different person?

I figured that 'mother of 3 children' had to be on the list, as it explains my priorities, my life stage, what I do with my time. But is it a good thing to define yourself by other people, however important they are to you?

I also feel like 'cancer survivor' or 'alcohol addict' should be on the list. The last year, quitting the booze and beating the cancer has fundamentally changed my outlook on life.

But this is the theme of Debra's talk. She believes that too many of us define ourselves as 'survivors' of something. Of cancer. Of rape. Of domestic abuse. Or, in our case, of addiction.

Debra (who is a chaplain in a cancer hospital, and a cancer 'survivor' herself) urges us to claim your trauma as an experience, NOT an identity.

She says we often end up trapped in our wounds rather than seeing our trauma as a chance for self exploration, discovery and growth.

So, with that in mind, rather than describing myself as an 'cancer survivor' I should define myself by what I've learned. I could say, for example, I'm a fighter, or I try to make the most of every day.

Based on the same theory, defining yourself as an 'alcoholic' or 'addict' also keeps you 'trapped in your wounds.'

I prefer to describe myself by what led me become an addict, not the addiction itself: I'm an all or nothing person. That makes the upside clear as well as the downside! It's a strength we can harness, not an incurable disease that we're stuck with forever.

Then I wanted to include a word or expression which summarised my passions.

The main ones, family and friends aside, are reading and writing. Words. Imagination. Ever since I was five years old, reading for hours under the duvet with a torch, and assiduously writing a daily diary.

But can I describe myself as 'a writer' when I don't make any money from it and have never been published? Is it too depressing to define yourself by an unfulfilled dream?

Where I've got to, for the moment, is this:

I am a mother of three, an all or nothing person, with a passion for words and stories.

Now I'd love to hear from you.

Imagine we're on a bus. I'm sitting next to you and ask you "What three things define you?"

What do you say?

Love SM x

P.S. HUGE CONGRATS to WalkingOnSunshine on 100 days sober! Awesome work, my friend.


28 comments:

  1. I love this post! Especially the part about how defining yourself as an alcoholic or addict is a way of keeping one trapped in their wounds! This puts into words why I don't resonate with the words myself. They take your power away! I have to give my three things a thought and get back to you! Thanks so much!

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  2. I might say I'm sober, but I would never say I was an alcoholic or an addict.

    Hmm.. I have an awesome husband and 2 kids, I fully embrace a yoga as a lifestyle and I am genuinely happy today.

    I would then want to justify why I deserve to feel happy. But, I'm not going to.....because that's just my chattery brain!

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  3. If you write, then you are a writer! The getting published part, and making money, is the dream that is about to come true for you, SM xx

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  4. I am a purveyor of hope, a student of myself and my effect on my world, a believer in good.

    Gawd, how schmaltzy!

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    1. Ahhh, you made me all weepy :-)

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    2. Not schmaltzy...schmart! And I love student of myself...talk about a lifelong university!

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  5. I am a mother of 2, I'm a glass half full type rather than half empty (though not of wine now !), and I like to have a good laugh !! And also I'm on Day 101 !! Woo hoo !!

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    1. Amazing WildcatsMaisie! You rock!

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  6. Thank you Sober Mummy! I am so pleased to have achieved this. It is indeed life-changing. Perhaps that is why I find myself a bit stumped by this challenge! I suspect how I think about myself has changed, not just in the last 100 days but in the long period of leading up to stopping drinking. I will have to think about it. It will be a good exercise. It's great advice not to define yourself by the tragic events in our past, but it's a lot of work putting these things into their proper place. We are all constantly evolving as we go through life, and how we would answer that question will most likely, change over time. I think I can say that all the women posting on here are strong, powerful, intelligent and compassionate human beings. I admire them all.

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  7. strong and determined, fiesty mum of 3, with a big heart. Day 77 for me 😊

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  8. Hi great thought provoking post as usual....I too am an all or nothing person, which as we all know is a mixed blessing. I am mum of twins, whom I hope one day will realise I did my best, I have a passion for the arts, music, books and travel and adventure, wildlife and nature, food. .Day 88 for me..I am still trying to decide what I will be when I grow up..:). Ps,...what a lovely thing to say Walkingonsunshine...congrats on 100...

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  9. I am changing; I am developing a new relationship with myself and I am now tolerant enough to talk to the person on the bus (actually, I loathe public transport and am much happier in my car listening to almost anyone on Radio 2 except Chris Evans and latterly, the Today programme has begun to annoy me as I have genuinely had enough of the Brexit debate, European football and Donald f**k&&g Trump) - I also loathe the term Brexit!! I did walk pass Buckingham palace today during "changing of the Guard" which made me rather proud to be British though. All of that probably defines me and I know its more than three things. The unfortunate person on the bus or Tube got off two stops ago and is left wondering why do they always get to sit next to the demented loony.

    6 months for me in 11 days.

    Good post SM and sorry about the language, which I usually reserve for Red's or TWTIK blogs.

    Justonemore

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    1. I'm so with you on Brexit Justonemore. I cannot bear it any longer. Can't wait till it's all over - one way or another...

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    2. Likewise, SM - fed up with it all!! And Justonemore, I love that you save your swearing for my blog. Makes me feel like I'm still a little bit rock n roll.. Red xx

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  10. A thought provoking post...
    I am a first grade teacher who wishes she taught art, an outspoken introvert and a person who hates noise. I'm also a divorced mother of 2- (sigh), who is perpetually overwhelmed. Luckily, all of this can change.
    I'm on day 2 after blowing a 42 day personal best. ):
    The wine witch hates Haagan Das chocolate ice cream!

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    1. You and I started at about the same time. If I can get to 100 days so can you! I too am an outspoken introvert who hates noise!! I think we're all overwhelmed a lot of the time and no wonder you are! Keep going!

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    2. Thank you for your kind words of support. My goal, so far, is 100 days. I'm not committing to forever yet. Baby steps.

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    3. Omg I love that 'an outspoken introvert' - it really sums up what I think I probably am and one of the reasons I drank so much!

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  11. Brilliant post, I thought about this on my morning walk. I think for today mine is mother of dragons (my dogs)champion of (possibly lost)causes and slayer of washing machines. So looks as though I get to go shopping for a new laundry appliance with my six months of not drinking money. Oh the glamour!

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  12. I am an evolving, often baffled live-and-let-liver.

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  13. And I love your blog. Thank you for writing.

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  14. I am an all or nothing person, completely and whole-heartedly at the mercy of my two lovely smalls and, and, bah...... stuck for the third.

    Just asked my husband. He says fun, ambitious and stubborn. Hmmmm.

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  15. What an important distinction. I want to share this with someone I know on twitter. I think they'd really aprreciate this. Thank you for sharing your passion!

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  16. I'm a Dad, a pharmaceutical marketer, and a hedonistic ethical egoist. I realize the first two (when the kids move out, and when I retire) are not permanent, but they play a huge role now - and as a yank - we spend so much time at our job. The last is a phrase I came up with in college (with some help from my prof) a combination of ethical hedonism (which simply means that people are acting to try to gain pleasure and avoid pain - definitions may vary and success not guaranteed - and ethical egoism (existentially we see from our own perspective and are self motivated - though again those motives can include others). Too thick? Been accused of that - but the Eeyorish tendencies have diminished over time!

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  17. This is a great post SM! I actually think it changes depending on my mood but mostly I would define myself as a mum, a teacher and an enthusiastic multi tasker. I also crave peace and quiet but try very hard to appreciate the crazy life with 3 children as I know so many people who are not quite so fortunate. I wouldn't mention that I am a control freak and can be quite moody and I would never define myself as an ex drinker. 13 months now!!!

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  18. This is a great post SM! I actually think it changes depending on my mood but mostly I would define myself as a mum, a teacher and an enthusiastic multi tasker. I also crave peace and quiet but try very hard to appreciate the crazy life with 3 children as I know so many people who are not quite so fortunate. I wouldn't mention that I am a control freak and can be quite moody and I would never define myself as an ex drinker. 13 months now!!!

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  19. Read this in the morning. Took me til early afternoon to decide on 'steadfast' and flibbertygibbet - which I meant to take in my pillar-to-post ADD tendencies. But looked it up just now...and frivolous and extremely talkative is not what I was after. So back to the drawing board, I guess. A friend offered 'curious' for my third and I'm inclined to accept that.

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