Who are we?

The grey, drippy skies of a West Coast December invite reflection. It’s a time for philosophical discussions over warm beverages and taking personal inventory. At the moment, I’m also mulling bits and pieces of a new novel that have been infiltrating my consciousness. I’m not at the point yet where I can look straight at the ideas without chasing them away into the dark, but the sense of them is there, the hint of what’s forming beneath the surface. And that makes me slow down and listen to whatever my subconscious reveals.

One of the themes that’s been nagging at me lately, connected somehow to that new story I can’t yet put my finger on, is the question of what defines us.

I think when this subject arises, people are often quick to trot out labels or name the various “hats” they wear. In my case, I am, among other things, a writer, a mother, a conference coordinator, a wife, a friend…. We can all count these off on our fingers, and possibly our toes, too, depending on how much we try to pack into this life. But do they define us?

Certainly they are easy, these labels, and their obligations fill our days. But alone when no one else is around, with time to really think and simply be, are they the things that make us who we are? I think not. I think maybe we come to those things because of who we are and not the other way around.

So what, then, truly defines us? Does it take everything – those labels, the things we enjoy doing, our backgrounds, the way we think about the world, the side we take on contentious issues, what we eat for breakfast, whether we cheat on our taxes or at board games, and any/every other measuring stick we can think of – to truly express who we are?

Or is it as simple as knowing whom and how and what and why we love?

I don’t know. But I like this stage of a new book, where I don’t have any idea what it is or where it’s going or even if it’ll become anything at all, but my mind turns over impossible questions, looking for the ones that resonate with the story hidden behind the curtain.

How do you define yourself?


  1. Shari Green
    Dec 7, 2012

    I love that stage of a new book, too–the excitement and intrigue of the bits of story we glimpse. It’s kind of dreamy, isn’t it? Like when a hint of some enticing fragrance wafts past us, and we put our nose up in the air and close our eyes and try to take it in. That discovery phase is really delightful. :)

    (Fascinating question you’re pondering, btw! Happy mulling.)

  2. Ev Bishop
    Jan 3, 2013

    Intriguing, thought-inducing post, Kathy–perfect for where my head is at these days, especially with the new year and changes in my life. I have no idea how I define myself. It seems to change a bit depending on who I’m with and what I’m doing . . . not that I’m two-faced or hypocritical (or, at least I try not to be the latter–I don’t mind having lots of faces!), but more like, I’m one consistent substance, but made up from a variety of quite divergent elements. How I’m perceived by others and by myself changes form depending on an assortment of variables. Hmm, is that the weirdest answer, ever? I’m sorry. Apparently today my inner weirdo is ruling the roost!

    On a more normal note. I love that stage of a new book, too. And yay for new books!