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.