(Images by Melissa Kane)
“In July of 2000, when my husband and I got married, I was the ripe old age of nineteen and he was a seasoned twenty-four. Six months later I found out there was a baby in my belly, not on purpose. Then shortly after, another baby got in my belly not on purpose; then even less shortly after another baby got in my belly not on purpose.
Now, I know what you’re probably thinking: somebody needs to check the date on her birth control! But I promise you that nothing short of a medieval chastity belt with a rusted-shut lock could keep this Fertile Myrtle from getting pregnant. I don’t even trust the vasectomy my . . . never mind, I digress.
When our last boy was born in the left leg of my husband’s pajama pants (I should probably mention I was wearing them) while we rode the elevator up to the labor and delivery floor of Yale-New Haven Hospital, I had just birthed my third baby in three years. I’ll go ahead and do the math for you. I was twenty- three years young with a three-year-old wrapped around my thighs, a sixteen-month-old in one arm, a newborn in the other, and a godforsaken look of “Help!” writ across my face.
It was about this time that, as mentioned in the previous chapter, our marriage dove headlong into mess, we lost our income for too long to hang onto our home, and we experienced religious restlessness and a whole heap of other life challenges. Those early years redefined my own terms for what it meant to be drowning in the lifeblood leaking from every pore on my body. My internal equipment just wasn’t mature and qualified enough for my external reality, a reality that was demanding more of me than I could bear.
What happened to me is what some psychologists call an identity crisis, a term coined in the early 1950s by Erik Erikson to refer to a state of confusion and unhappiness over one’s sense of self. If anyone had thought to ask me “Who are you?” in my good and lucid moments—which were few and far between—I could’ve answered with just about nothing.
I don’t know if you’ve ever felt the pain of not knowing who you are or if you feel that pain right now, but what can easily happen in that place of ache is that you start looking at other people, extracting the qualities you like about them, and injecting those qualities into your person as a substitute for what you don’t understand about yourself.
This is no bueno and that was what I did. In my naivete, I saw the people around me as more inherently gifted than I was, so I decided that self-fulfillment meant adopting their God-given gifts as my own. I looked at this person’s way of socializing and that person’s version of hospitality and another person’s artistic expression and began mimicking their nuances. Before I knew any better, I had squeezed my shape into several different ill-fitting molds at once, while cramming my own personhood into a tiny, overlooked corner in the nether regions of my body.
What I didn’t realize at the time was how devastated my spirit would become under the influence of everyone else’s borrowed qualities. Other people’s gifts and character traits are designed to enhance, enrich, and complement our own, but never act as substitute for them.
A healthy sense of identity seemed to be a luxury I didn’t have the currency for, until. . .”
(Excerpt from my book, Bandersnatch: An Invitation to Explore Your Unconventional Soul.)
I spent many months writing a book about identity, wrapped final edits back in March, then promptly found myself squatting in a dump load of doubts around the merits of my work.
How important is identity anyway?
Does a person really need to have an impression of their true self in order to build and live a fruitful life?
Variations of these questions haunted me for weeks and my ego worried that I’d made the biggest mistake of my 34 years and everyone was going to laugh at me for it.
I’m told it’s normal to labor over and complete a creative project, only to have it come around to bite you in the arse for a little bit. My emotions rained and we prayed and I began seeing evidence again for why a sense of self (without being self-obsessed) is important: I only had to look no further than the skin of our sons, and listen no longer than their vocalized wrestling, to sense once more the hardwired curiosity we all have for soul definition.
I’ve watched this yearning spring forth from some unseen, indigenous well within their essence and I’ve watched this yearning evolve organically as they grow, dip their toes and test the waters of the world.
They want to learn (or remember) who they are in reference to the great, gorgeous “out there”.
They want to learn (or remember) who they were on the day of their birth when they came to us stripped and slippery and squeezing absolutely nothing but their God-given glow.
They want to learn (or remember) what it is they bleed, believe their blood is enough and that it has an objective.
As a parent, not supporting and celebrating this identity development during the formative years could result in their resignation or lethargy. They could lose the thrill of the hunt; the beauty, ecstasy and agony of knocking and seeking and finding their personhood alongside the Maker to who made them.
Who they are in light of who God is–this unique union between dust and Divine–is the love affair of all love affairs. The la creme de la creme. The full and final foundation of the human experience.
Will they believe it? (Do you believe it?)
Beside their beds at night I whisper the truth as I know it: We, people and animals and earth, are collectively the body that God is.
We are the body that God is!
All this scattered ash and Spirit breath is also somehow the stuff by which the Divine is revealed and delivered. Unbelievable. Who wants to miss out on that?
Who wouldn’t want to tune their ears and look for clues, find the elements and features and threads that transport them right to the spot they were designed to fill? God doesn’t need us all crowding up his kidney. He needs guts and gears and grins and all the parts and pieces between.
You could be the grin of God, but you’ve been masquerading as an iris instead. You could be stuffing yourself with qualities that aren’t yours as a substitute for the hard inner work that still needs to be done.
I’m not going to lie to you and say that Bandersnatch is a light read. It’s not. If you engage honestly and wholeheartedly, the questions and stories could begin to unravel and reveal you.
Are you interested in being permissioned and invited to reimagine the approach to exploring and realizing personal identity, about embracing a deep-seated belief in your own rarity, about knowing your part in the great interlocking circle of contribution?
Without being formulaic and without offering one-size-fits-all “how-to” steps, Bandersnatch: An Invitation to Explore Your Unconventional Soul is support material for your soul odyssey; a kind and fervent field guide designed to come alongside the moment of your unfurling.
Come with me? And I will go with you and who will care and who will lecture if you wander around a little bit every day to look for your own and only glow?
Bandersnatch is available TODAY wherever books and ebooks are sold.
Or, if you’d like to read the first three chapters and just see if this work of non-fiction and narrative is something for such a time as the hour you’re in, click on this long highlighted area right here.
All my love,
In celebration of release day, I’m giving away 3 copies of my book. Leaving a comment–any comment–will enter you to win!