Thinking Through January – Defining Yourself

By Sasha Katz

Defining yourself is complicated. Drafting a few sentence bio is torture to me. I know exactly who I am, but it is near impossible for me to get it down in a handful of words. I look at other bios. I see things like mother to 4, wife to a hottie, truth seeker, Jesus follower. Some use quotes, some create mantras, some ask you to buy their books, all in a line or two. Frankly, I don’t know what makes sense.

The idea of you coming across me somewhere on the web or social media sounds like an opportunity for community. The idea of us knowing one another through words and similar cares and concerns is a good thing. I like transparency, friendship and being spoken into – – as much as I like to share what God has tucked into my heart and soul.

But then I think, what do you really want to know about me? I think about my hats, my identities. Do I name them for you to describe me? Mom, wife, writer, lawyer, friend, daughter, sister. I suppose that is literally how I could define me. But, I am finding, as I get grown up, that the hats don’t do much except define. I am way beyond the hats and I am tired of square boxes. Scratch the mom, lawyer, writer, friend chant.

I’m scratching writer because I mostly find pleasure in sharing my thoughts in a way that keeps my insides feeling free. I’m not publishing books or looking for editors. Writer doesn’t seem to fit. I don’t think I can stick with wife either. The term leaves out the whole experience of being a wife. Those four words are just so limited and leave far too many questions in the margins. What kind of wife am I? What kind of marriage do I have? What exactly do I want you to know when I say wife? Other than I am not single? Scratch it.

In as much as I am a lawyer, my crazy days are mainly due to the fact that I am a business owner and mother at the same time. Lawyer sometimes actually feels irrelevant as I navigate these two repelling magnets. On top of that, I’m not the average mold lawyer. I hate disputes (unless there is real injustice involved). I sweat through the battles I fight for my clients. And, while I really do love a lot of the lawyer work I do, I will be forever questioning the time I lose with my children every day. Lawyer is off my list.

Rather than list the things that define me, I think I am or hope to be the following: I like listening, looking into the eyes of a soul, seeing what is on the inside. Offering what I can. Helping the water wash over, leading to pure, peaceful places. The place where there is the serenity of winter, but the atmosphere makes you warm. Like the covering of a soft down comforter. Like a rest that lasts a thousand years. And, when you start to move again, the warmth and the peace and the serenity move with you.

That is no bio. But I leave it with you anyway. I pray that you travel sweet today. That the wind moves with you and that you are warm on the inside.

My Hats Off To You

How do you describe yourself?  Could it be that you associate yourself with a family name or ethnicity.  Find your identity in your friendships or your children?  By your profession?  Are you a caretaker of many?  Perhaps you are a leader or a teacher.  Lawyer, parent, writer, lover.  Rebel, biker, peacemaker?  An intellectual, activist, New Yorker?  Your description of yourself is telling.  Your description of yourself reveals where your identity lies.

If you are a woman, you probably describe yourself with the phrase  – – I wear many hats.  The list of hats is long.  I hesitate to give you a long list of your likely hats because, it would be a long list, and frankly, you know exactly how to describe yourself.  You’ve already mentally tagged your hats in the short minutes you have been reading this.  You’ve probably even reminisced about a hat you used to wear or played with the idea of wearing a hat you haven’t worn yet.  While each of us is different with different hats, we all tend to choose a handful of hats that is synonymous with our identity.

The strange thing about hats is that, for as much as they describe us or identify us, they tell little about who we are.  And, for as much as we know the truth about hats, we define ourselves by them anyway.  My guess is that your burdens are probably growing out of the top of your hat.  Take that literally and imagine for a moment.  I am talking royal British extravaganza growing out of the top of your hat.  I am talking about the life size hat on the head of the sweet, old African American grandma sitting in front of you at church.  I am talking about four large Mariachi sombrero hats leaning in you while you eat dinner.  Hats make a public statement about your identity.  But hats tied to your identity are burdensome.

If you are wearing a large hat with a lot growing out of the top, you are probably living a balance act.  It is probably hard to stand up straight, maybe even hard to walk or think.  Let’s see, if you define yourself by work or career to the point of having no fun, your career hat will topple you over.  If you define yourself only by mother, you will eventually feel that there is no individual thriving on the inside.  If you crown yourself with “having it all” or “having nothing at all,” your crown will suffocate you.  My thought is, on the wearing of hats, is that we have it all wrong, at least as hats pertain to identity.

You may have the alternative habit – – the wearing of too many hats.  You know who you are because you are the one who won’t admit it.  You are overcommitted with the appearance you are doing fine.  Stop choosing hats that tie you to tasks that you really don’t enjoy anyway.  If you are striving under a few of your hats, throw them off.  It is the right time to let a few hats fly off into someone else’s hands.

The heart of what I am getting at is that our hats ought not to be tied to our identity.  Throw off the idea that you are defined or want to be defined by your hats.  Keep a few hats for depth, versatility, strength.  Describe yourself by your qualities, your desires, your abilities.  Describe yourself in a way that I can know you.  In a way that I can see your value.  For with this knowledge, I can take my hat off to you.