September 2013 – Self Definition
If there’s anything I’d want to pass on to my kids right now, it would be the conviction that we can be whatever kind of person we choose to be, at least on the inside. We can chart our own course in life – even if it’s just a matter of choosing our own response to a situation we may not be able to change at the moment. There is no reason to accept anyone else’s view of who we are and what we are capable of.
Remember the father in the fantastic film “Life is Beautiful”? There he is, arriving with his little son to become prisoners at a Nazi concentration camp. Through enormous courage and self-definition, the father manages to frame the camp for his son as a big game and themselves as contestants with a big prize waiting for them at the end. He completely negates their plight as “victims”, living the way he sees fit even in horrific circumstances.
Speaking of great dads and self-definition, my husband Cliff has really earned my admiration as the father of our three kids – I’m not letting him proofread this letter for me, or I would never get this part of it to you! Cliff’s own father left the family when Cliff and his little brother were still children. With a strong, loving mother, Cliff managed to raise himself into a self-confident man who never defined himself as someone deprived of a father. Instead, Cliff looked for qualities he admired in the men he knew growing up: Boy Scout leaders, schoolteachers and family friends.
When it came to our having children, Cliff has always been there for our two sons and a daughter, in their times of fun, of tears, of trial and of victory – OK maybe not for the dirty diapers if I was close at hand! Where someone else might have identified himself has the hapless victim of an absent parent and passed that forward, Cliff clearly pictured himself as a father fully participating in his children’s lives, guiding them to stand on their own two feet and to envision themselves as the loving, caring human beings they have become.
A former Eagle Scout and avid rock climber, Cliff took me climbing on one of our early dates, making clear his conviction that I, too, could scramble up a hundred feet or more of vertical rock on my first try. He also convinced me that I was a perfectly capable belaying partner, trusting me with the other end of the rope as he climbed up the steep face. He expected me (as he later did with our kids) to see myself as a successful climber, I did so, and I amazed myself with what I accomplished! I guess people who self-define in a positive way can help other people do the same.
The most-crippling form of self-definition is assuming the victim role: I can’t do it because… the wrong genes, the wrong parents, the wrong partner, wrong job, wrong government – you name it.
How important it is define ourselves by our potential! The next section is about my newest heroine: Malala Yousafzai, who hasn’t even let an attempt on her life limit her vision of who she is and what she can accomplish.
Resting in Stillness and Moving in Joy with you,