Ashley was taking an inordinately long time to join me downstairs, so I took advantage of a few minutes to tidy several bins. Underneath a purple, feather-fringed cape I found a blow-up beach ball globe. I knew the kids had been looking for this (and they never would have thought to look there!) so I set it beside me to take back upstairs.
Still waiting for Ashley ... doo-dee-doo ...
I glanced over at the globe on the futon beside me and the bold letters "Polynesia" caught my eye. It stretched across a large portion of the Pacific Ocean and dotted here and there among the letters were little islands. According to this globe, those islands didn't have names, they just belonged to "Polynesia" and that struck me as puzzling.
About then Ashley finally dawdled downstairs and snuggled into her bed. I tucked her in and then tucked the beach ball under my arm and headed upstairs for my own quiet time. But that word "P-o-l-y-n-e-s-i-a" stretched across all that water and all those islands and all those people was still kind of pestering me.
Here's what Merriam-Webster has to say about it:
Polynesia |ˌpäləˈnē zh ə|a region of the central Pacific Ocean that lies east of Micronesia and Melanesia and contains the easternmost of the three large groups of Pacific islands, including Hawaii, the Marquesas Islands, Samoa, the Cook Islands, and French Polynesia
That's a lot of territory for just one little word. I would imagine that there are a lot of people on those islands that have a lot more to say about themselves. I imagine that they have individual names, unique cultures, distinct traditions and their own remarkable identities. And they would probably appreciate being recognized for their individuality and their uniqueness. Instead of being glomped all together.
And maybe that's why that globe struck me like it did. Because ... I know that I'm not much different in that respect. I don't much appreciate when I am assigned to a broad, generalized category like: Mom, Christian or Woman. I am a unique individual and I like it that way.
I have carved out my identity as a mom and while I can relate to other moms, I'm not just like all the other moms. We each have our own tricks of the trade and our own challenges and our own perspectives about the "rights and wrongs" of parenting. Each of us faces the challenges of discovering what works for our family: spanking or time out; homeschool or public school or private school; mac-n-cheese or whole grain noodles with red sauce; sleep with mom or sleep with stuffy; The Wiggles or Veggie Tales; and breastfeeding or bottles ... just to name a few! I love to lend encouragement and, when asked, advice. And I appreciate hearing from other moms and gaining insight into how they handle challenges and celebrate milestones. But I get to choose what my Mommy-Identity looks like and it looks different than those around me.
I have also embraced my identity as a Christian ... but I know that my spiritual life looks different than other Christians around me. This is one area of labeling that really bothers me because it's such a personal aspect of life. I will make many choices for myself that are not spelled out word for word in the Bible. And it's important for me to not pass judgement on others because they choose not to do things different than me.
I also don't like to be clumped together with other Christians when they speak their minds ... especially when they shouldn't have. When I hear about a church leader making a brash statement that wouldn't have come out of Jesus' mouth, I cringe. I don't want to be associated with that sort of yuck, and yet so often that un-Jesus-like comment gets attributed to the group as a whole and it makes me want to come up with a different name just for me & Jesus! :) In truth, that is just the way it is (what with us none of us being perfect) and my responsibility is to live my life in such a way that is above reproach and try to be a better reflection of who Jesus really is and what He would really say and do.
I have also accepted my identity as a woman ... and not a size 2 woman, but me. I am so tired of feeling like I need to measure up by being several sizes smaller. Nothing puts me in a sour mood quicker than going clothes shopping and finding myself grumbling about the emaciated mannequins wearing, as Liz Lemon would say, "A Vietnamese, size 2" and then being less than thrilled when I see the same top on a normal-sized person. That would be me. I'd be the normal-sized person. :) Those letters (S, M, L) and numbers (10, 12, 14, 16) are not my identity ... they are sizes arbitrarily assigned to a pair of pants!
Whew ... sorry about that. I got a little worked up there! :) That just really irks me.
ahem ... where was I?
Oh yes ... I am a woman. And I am uniquely made. I have my own interests, my own sense of humor, my own passions, my own anxieties, my own quirks ... just the way God made me. And I don't want to feel like I should apologize for those differences or try to be like anyone else. I am not cookie-cutter made. And I'm not a nameless person in a sea of people. I'm me.
I understand that on a little plastic beach ball globe, you can't list Pukapuka, Funafuti or Manihiki ... or all the other hundreds of islands found there ... but I can try to look past that little label to see the life-sized people living there with their own quirks and personalities!