I want you to put some real thought into this one because you will need to plant your feet deep in this truth on the rough days when you begin to doubt everything.
Who are you?
When you get to the point where you are just so damn tired, and your heart is just so damn broken, and everything that people might have known about you decides it's had just about enough and quits - the pleasing you, the trying so desperately to get it right you, the trying to prove all the doubters wrong you, the trying to balance between ignoring, educating, and loving all the haters you, the "I'll do whatever you want already just stop.... please, just stop" you....
When all that falls away, who are you?
When you are being publicly praised and recognized by colleagues one minute and the target of hostile ranting the next minute, who are you?
When you are throwing your head back in a fit of laughter and pure, unbridled joy and silliness and you look like one of those ridiculous birds and you don't even care, who are you?
When you search, desperate to remember the last time you felt it, and can't, who are you?
When your belly is on fire - full of ideas, and creativity, pursuits, passion, and plans and you feel like a starving woman who just sat down to feast and your eyes are wide and you are open and hungry for all the knowledge you can get your hands on, who are you?
When you are terrified of people and you are terrified with the knowing that you ache for connection, and when you are terrified with the way you helplessly fall in love every day with people all around you, and when your heart breaks with the awareness of the terrible darkness that lives within them, and especially on the days when you are confronted with the awareness that the terrible darkness lives within you too, who are you?
When you are sitting on the couch after everyone else has gone to bed and you are still and silent and you catch a glimpse of yourself in the reflection of the window pane, who are you?
You have to have an answer to this because the life you must live - one that is full and with passion, and purpose, and silent reflection, and ridiculous joy, and creativity, and terrifying big love - that life will be the cause for others to question often -
Who do you think you are?
Who do you think you are shining light on oppression?
Who do you think you are treating these "degenerates" as though they they have the same human rights as me?
Who do you think you are to lead?
Who do you think you are to create?
Who do you think you are to not care about my important title?
Who do you think you are to propose we change the way things have always been done?
Who do you think you are to take time for yourself? To un-do? To do nothing?
Who do you think you are to fall in love - again?
Your answer is everything - because if you don't know, if you sit silent and empty, they will fill in the empty silence with un-truths. They will put labels and limitations on you. And you will begin to doubt your magic and you will be tempted to say, "Yes, you're right. I should stay small. I should stay silent. I should stay busy. I should restrain my silliness. I should be satisfied with what I already know. I should stay in my safe bubble, unconnected, and leave you to your safe bubble too."
My mom told me a story about my grandma. She said, "When she was old enough to go to school, a teacher named her Agnes. But I was thinking that although her sisters are still known by their English names, Grandma is known by everyone as Hiroko. And although Agnes is a truly hideous name and I can't imagine anyone keeping it, as I think about it, wasn't it admirable of her to defy those who labeled her as other than who she really was? She was kind of a revolutionary, wasn't she?"
I wonder what kind of courage it takes to stand up in the midst of a war, when you look like the enemy, and defy what everyone thinks you should be and say, "No. That is not who I am. This is who I am."
She not only kept her name, Hiroko, she sang Japanese songs on the radio. She kept the Japanese traditions of her family. She practiced the sacred rituals and she spoke the language of her ancestors.
She knew who she was.
I'm staring back at the woman in the reflection of the window pane, the echoes of cruelty questioning, taunting, and challenging, "Who do you think you are?"
I am a believer. A big fat always hopeful believer that people are tender and deep down inside they are still their momma's precious baby - a source of joy and full of promise and possibility.
I am a fighter. A stubborn, wild, hot-tempered fighter who stands up to injustice and oppression and stands up for family and indigenous people and wild animals and trees and seeds.
I am a quitter. An exhausted and dry in my bones almost every day quitter who just "doesn't need this shit anymore". Until I remember every night that I still do - need this - because not only am I tenacious and determined, I also really, really, love people.
I am a puzzler and am energized by dialogue and hard questions and finding solutions to that damned complex puzzle knowing that in the end, we will have achieved so much more than arriving at an answer - we will have created community.
I am a mother - an OK one most days and a terrible one some days - but a hopelessly head over heels in silly love with every one of my five humans everyday.
I am an enigma and a big fat contradiction - longing for connection and terrified to connect. I am a peace lover and a shit pot stirrer. I want to know you but I don't care about what you did this weekend. I only want to know who you fell in love with - the children, the elders, the birds, the pages of a book - and what made you laugh so hard you almost peed your pants and what was so beautiful you cried.
Most of all, this is who I think I am.
My name is Janice. It's roots coming from the Roman god, Janus - a god of beginnings. I will always hold on to the hope of tomorrow and the promise of a new beginning. And no matter what, no matter what, I will get back up.
When you sit, still and silent, and you catch a glimpse of yourself in the reflection of the window pane, who are you?
Do you remember her? Her name, her fire, her hunger, her laugh, her love?