“Do not let it define you.” We hear this a lot. It comes a lot in response to previous relationships, challenges not quite completed, and the assessment that comes from the opinion of others. I don’t necessarily agree, though. Not to be confused with letting another person define us, I think each and every thing we have gone through defines exactly who we are.
Yesterday, I flew from my home, from the airport where I first held my children’s father in my arms, to a place that is hard to revisit. I watched my children leave to be without me for two weeks. I drove the roads that were once ours, under an overpass, to view the cityscape of Nashville that I once smiled upon, music on the radio “the ghosts of the past I thought I’d have”. The GPS could not rescue me from this lost. The tears fell heavy. I drove to the hotel my wedding reception was in almost 11 years ago, past the gas stations, shops and places we had eaten. Even after we have stopped missing someone, a part can still grieve for a life that didn’t get to be.
On the seat next to me, a hat with “Unbreakable” on it. That was not how I felt, but that is how I am. I know this. We must all know this about ourselves.
The first time I went on a plane was 13 years ago. I was 24. I went to New Orleans, long before Katrina, and had my picture taken alone with a “Hurricane,” on a sidewalk somewhere near a stretch of market where I bought a ring of independence, to remind myself of confidence. I sat along the Mississippi and, though raftless, thought about choices and the struggle to determine “right” and “wrong”. I journalled thoughts of new beginnings.
Now, so many towns passed later, I type feverishly in a hotel room, and still hear a solo trumpeter echoing from Bourbon Street.
Yes, we are very much defined by all that we have gone through.
Today, I watched the morning light seep in with the complete and hurting awareness that the pain was still very real. I wanted to go home.
I will visit the grave site of my dear friend who passed away in the spring today, an angel whose words brought so much comfort during confusion. I will thank her for the support. Her incredible family together with me last night, we embraced carrying on. That is what we do. We grieve for the loss of what was to be and take those steps forward to what will be, driven by the experiences that have, without a doubt, indelibly defined us.
Through the tears yesterday “I Want to Live Like That” came on, and I pep talked myself into remembering that this hurting is a part of the opportunity to learn, to teach and to testify to love, hope and faith. I gave myself permission to keep feeling sad. A pretty sleepless night, I powered-up to work remotely from this hotel room and thanked God for the opportunities I have been provided with to keep growing.
So how do these things define me? God knows. Webster and I, however, are still working a little on that one.