Identity Crisis

“Leaves of three, let them be”

For many of us, this is pretty much the total of our woodsman training in avoiding poison ivy. However, if you have an outdoorsy nature and have traveled to other wooded areas then you know that poison ivy can look very different from one place to another. If you have read my earlier post then you also know that plant can take several morphological aspects in the same geographical locale. If you don’t have experience in that location then you are back to your own little ditty to hopefully protect you from itchy skin and oozing blisters.

It’s quite mind-boggling to try and figure out who is who in the plant world on the hill above me. I have been promised that there is no poison ivy anywhere on this hill. Oh yeah? Well, what about this?

Oh, wild strawberry? Really? Not poisonous then? Oh, okay. (Does it really make strawberries?)

Lalala… whoa, what’s that? Three leaves climbing up a stick- kinda like that one down by the Snake River in Hell’s Canyon. Surely that is some version of poison ivy? Nope, just a plant, and don’t call me Shirley.

Monty and I decide to meander down a creek. We love these fresh walks in the woods. The crisp air, the sunlight streaming through the trees and making little patches of light in the green shadows. And here is more three-leafed wonder

Three leaves, viney… watch out!!! Oh wait, thorns? Blackberry?

Sheesh, I’m beginning to question the validity of that saying now because everywhere I look there are three-leafed plants and some even have the mitten-leaf appearance of the poison ivy I am familiar with.

Oh lordy, look at all that, the mushroom is probably poisonous, too. I used to feel so safe in the woods. I guess those were “my” woods, with animal sounds and plants and topography that I have known for many years. There is PLENTY of poison ivy in Texas, believe you me, but after so many years of exploring I just instinctively knew where it was and how to avoid it and if it did get me a little, well, it was only a little. Maybe a couple days of itchy and a wee bit of blistering. Not a full-body event that is utter misery like I had a couple of months ago. Swear to God I’d rather birth a child than go through that again.

Oh, here is a three-leafer but I do know this one. It’s trillium and is quite lovely.

And look at all the other kinds of three-leaf around it. It begins to get overwhelming, just trying to figure out what is what in a new place.

Pretty lighting but who are you?

Pretty sure this is okay

Monty doesn’t concern himself in the least with plant identification. He does worry about staying close to me and will check on me frequently if I am loitering or moving to slowly. He is so funny that way! I do like hiking with him because he does always check and if he hears me exclaim over something he comes running to make sure I am okay and give me a bop with his nose.

Ummmm, I’m not seeing this in the plant identification booklet

I keep trying to figure out who is who in this three-leafed plant world. My guidebook is not really all that helpful at times. I think it assumes I already kinda know what I’m doing here. I’m beginning to realize I do not know jack. It’s rather humbling because I used to know A LOT and feel totally at home in the woods. Here I don’t know anything. It is both interesting and uncomfortable at the same time. The discomfort makes me think more about what is what. No comfy ruts for me. Every step is examined. Sometimes I can only hang on to the few truths I know still exist, but what are those again? Oh bother, here we go getting existential again…

There are so many encouragers saying, speak your truth. Walk your path and find what serves you. Follow your bliss…

Well, what if you don’t know what your truth is or where your path is or goes? What if you spent your whole life doing what you were supposed to do, what others wanted you to do, what you thought would be “the right thing” to live happily ever after and you played nice in order to make things better for everyone? (but were you included in the everyone count because how did suppressing your own outrageous being make things better?)

How then can you speak your truth and walk your path to the glory of God or whatever if you don’t even know what your own voice sounds like?

A story of a little girl I know has cracked the door open for me. I spent many years playing a role to make life better for everyone else. Like many women, I focused on taking care of others and, in the process, hid who I am and what I want. Maybe it was easier to keep the spotlight off of me rather than risk everyone finding out I am so small and imperfect. Whatever the cause doesn’t matter anymore, it is done. Now I am trying to figure out who I am without the layer of b.s. I caked on to play a role that was not really me.

“I am done obeying for today.”

Rip off the costume you thought you wanted to wear but that does not fit quite right, grab the ice cream cone that you desire and give not a care how it will affect your appetite for dinner. Get in touch with who YOU are, the base instincts and desires, the stories you tell yourself about life, about today. Begin to feel what is real in you. If you are feeling grumpy and bitchy open up and accept the grumpiness, accept the bitchiness fully. You may find that when you open up, and make a place for this so-called ugliness that it no longer needs to grump and harrumph and take up so much of your precious time on this earth.

And this acceptance of the wholeness of who you are just might be the way to start hearing the sound of your voice and recognizing it as you.

My goodness, if you are still reading then you are probably related to me. Thank you, Mom!

So all this came about as I was partaking in an activity that I adore and the circumstance were less than adorable. I had been feeling a bit untethered for a few days and decided to head out for a few days of solo backpacking. Would the place of respite that I had always enjoyed continue to bring solace when things get difficult for me? Who am I now anyway without the jobs, the friends, the home that defined me for so long? That was a question to which the answer still eludes me. I was hiking along a trail and was getting so aggravated, I will blame it on the incessant biting bugs that were thicker than a wool blanket so that I could not stop to take in the views . Even taking a photo was a challenge for in the half second it took to get my camera  from my pocket, 3 to 5 mosquitoes would land on my hand, swarming my face so that I had to hold my breath and keep my ears covered and eyes squinted to take a photo. All the tricks I knew of going to a ridgetop for wind, staying away from water, even bug repellent did not deter this irritation. And I was getting grumpier by the step, being driven on by these bugs. Finally I let myself just be grumpy. “Fine, here is some direct attention, bitch all you want about anything, not just the bugs, anything whether it seems to have merit or relevance or not.”

Shockingly, once I had permission to be fussy, there was not really anything to be fussy about. Yes, the bugs were still bad, no miracle came and erased them for me, but my horrid mood was diminished and my emotional load was certainly lightened. I wish I could say this lasted forever, or even the rest of the day but alas, I am not that enlightened. It did last a few moments though, enough to give me a break and some space to see how I was letting circumstance outside determine what was going on inside.

And so I asked, why am I here?

Not the philosophical question but for real. Why, if this is sucky, am I still here? Go somewhere else. And I had no good answer except “well, this is what I planned on doing.”

Well, if you aren’t having fun then go do something else. What would you like to do instead?

…(crickets chirping)….

Searching…

Well,… I don’t know. This is what i have always done for fun, to get centered, to get my head together, to find peace and respite and answers to questions. It is who I am. What would I do, who would I be without it?

Who would I be?

Monty doesn’t worry on such matters. He is a good teacher that way. Just chill out and be here now.

OMG, girl. Quit thinking so much and just enjoy the ride!

Okay, okay. I know Monty is right. All this wondering is not much different from worrying. “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength.” Corrie Ten Boom

I probably ought to go get on my yoga mat but first, Monty says to take a nap. And Monty knows best.

Me and my boy chillaxin


5 Replies to “Identity Crisis”

  1. That was a lovely piece, Susan, with many words of wisdom. I love especially the Corrie ten Boom quote.

    Don’t feel you’re alone in wondering who you’d be without the expectations of others, the self-imposed duties and the obligations and the ought-tos. They’re part of being human and very few of us escape them, especially if you’re a female someone. We are raised to please and nurture, and escaping this mindset is an enormous challenge for all of us.

    Glad you are healthy and have your wonderful Monty with you. Thank you for the gifts of your words!

    1. Thank you, Megan, for your insightful comments! I miss getting to talk with you and sharing your views very much! I’m also glad to know it isn’t just me! Lol!

    2. Hi Megan,
      Thank you for your insightfulness! It is always good to know I am not the only one! 🙂
      I miss our visits and getting to see the world through your eyes and experiences.
      Big hug!!!!

  2. In the brief periods to date that I’ve been able to cast off the expectations I’ve foolishly burdened myself with, my spirit and soul have truly soared. I saw beauty I never fully appreciated before and noticed whisperings of the earth that previously went unheard. I’m so jealous of your adventures with Monty but am content for now to know that I’ll be following your path in my future.

    Hope the Gnome is still keeping you company. If you’ll send your mailing address I’ll send you the most wonderful hat netting. Allowed me to sit for the night and photograph the sun as it rose over the ruins of a 6th century graveyard in Wicklow, Ireland. Miss you lots. Take care and keep up the beautiful writing!!

    1. Hi Andrea! Yes, indeed, the Gnome is with me. He stays in my car so he is on pretty much every adventure. I’ll be in Houston in December, why don’t we see about getting a coffee then?

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