Move your mind, Move your body, Move your soul.
I thought I wrote a post last year about how I don't get to define you and you can't define me. i was reflecting on how sometimes people can have different experiences of the same person. This was especially challenging for me in 2018 when I was going through the yoga studio "break up." And now, this week, the theme of definitions/defining each other and ourselves has been coming up. Actually, came up a few weeks ago when I met my new co-workers (yes, I left that terrible job!) and noticed how people defined themselves for the group - as a way of "getting to know you."
Toni Morrison said “Definitions belong to the definers, not the defined." Which says so many things to me: 1. any definition you come up with is about YOU not about the person you are defining; 2. we spend our lives categorizing ourselves and each others; 3. often these definitions really serve the person who is creating the label.
My son is learning about gender in Middle School. They are talking about pronouns and how people have pronoun preferences. He didn't get why they needed to learn about it in school. "I will call someone what they want to be called" he said, "but I don't know why I have to learn about it in class." It opened up a whole conversation about definitions and brought me back to the quote. He also asked if his (self-identified as) queer sister was queer before she met her queer friends or if her friends being queer led her to define herself that way. "It's a good question" I started. Although part of me was shriveling inside and I wondered what right wing media outlet is preying on him through TikTok.
All of these definitions can help us when we are trying to feel like we belong (oh my god the belonging story again). We define ourselves so we can put us into these groupings. We find groups of people who like the same things we do and immediately we feel like we fit in. But even the idea of "fitting in" means that theres a not fitting in. When there's an in group, there's an out group. And I hate that.
So son asked about what my husband thought about pronoun preferences and about my daughter identifying as queer. And I said - You could ask him. And the last time we talked about it, he thinks everyone should just do what they need to do and we should all leave each other alone about it. And that love is love. And if we really believe that about our kids - wouldn't we also then believe it about other peoples' kids?? I mean, if we are able to accept the sometimes your partner/parent/kid is shitty, annoying, ungrateful, crabby and also loving and kind and amazing and incredible -- couldn't we then also extend that multi-faceted humanness to people that we don't know. Or people at the grocery store or ... gasp! online?!?!
We are so quick to call someone out, disregard them completely because they identify differently than we do.
And then I listened to Africa Brooke and her perspective on cancel culture etcetra. She talked about it in terms of collective self-sabotage. And about the need to identify your personal values in order to not be swayed by the masses telling you what you should think, what you should be angry about, and how you should (therefore) define yourself.
It's an echo of another message I heard this week that our beliefs change over time. And that's ok. We're allowed to change. We are even allowed to change our values. But as Africa asked - do you even know what they are? Do you know what you hold so dear that it is important to you that lines are not crossed? Do you act in accordance with these values?
What are the values you live by?
You gotta feel it to heal it.