Human Beings, Not Human Doings

 

Name Plate
My old teacher name plate from St. Patrick School.

This is a post I wrote about a year ago. SInce then, I’m teaching less, and I’m editing and writing more. I’m also letting go and confirming that doing something doesn’t make you something. Just being is enough.

I used to be a full-time teacher and for a long time, that was my identity. In a small community, I was known as the Grade 3 teacher. The teacher box was the one I fit in. Almost two years ago I gave up this position to train for a new career in writing and editing.

Since completing my editing coursework and graduating from Simon Fraser University, I’ve taken on some writing projects and I’ve also done some substitute teaching. The substitute teaching has been great. I work at the school here in town, so I get to walk to work. I also get to work with older students. I wasn’t sure how that would go! They’re so tall and I’m not. As it turns out, those big kids suit me just fine.

Listen to me read this post:

The trouble with substitute teaching is not substitute teaching. This job lets me feel useful and it helps teachers out. It’s fun to work with the students and refreshing to teach new content. The trouble with substitute teaching is that it reminds me what it’s like to be in that teacher box but denies me actually owning that teacher identity. This is uncomfortable. I don’t quite know who I am or where I fit in anymore. My identity was clear and now it’s blurry.

2008
My school photo taken the one year I taught Grade 3 here in Hughenden.

We are not our work.

This is true, and yet we all identify each other by our occupations. “So, what do you do?” The inquirer is not asking about whether you garden, exercise, or meditate. The inquirer wants to know how you make a living. “What is your key identifier?” That’s usually what we want to know when we ask about what another person does.

Now that I’m transitioning between careers, I feel identity-less. More accurate to say that I don’t have as solid and reliable identity as I once had. “I’m a teacher.” It was certain and no one could dispute it. It was the container I belonged in.

Supporting our identities takes energy.

We spend a lot of time and energy building and maintaining our self-identities. It’s handy to be able to describe ourselves: married, employed, Gemini, middle-aged, menopausal, rock music fan, hockey fan, agnostic, and not a morning person. We wear rings and T-shirts to support our identity. Our posts on social media proclaim our self-image. To own a solid identity is to exist.

But there’s an obvious problem with relying on identity. Identity changes constantly.

Identity is not static, so why do we strive to make it into something more solid and real than it is? Why do we cling to our self-identities as if they were life preservers in the waters of life’s ocean? Self-identity changes as sure as each wave rises and falls and disappears back into the sea. Who we are doesn’t stay the same. Sometimes we change imperceptibly and sometimes we change in the blink of an eye in the biggest way.

2015
One of many of my school photos taken while I taught Grade 3 at Amisk School.

It’s time to let go.

It’s difficult during this life change to let go of my professional image, a ghost that’s long since faded from a colourfully-decorated Grade 3 classroom. If I want to move forward, I need to take this old picture of myself out of its frame and throw it away. It’s not me anymore.

What would happen if I let go of my self-identity and took a break from trying to label myself? Probably nothing would happen because this identity is unreliable. Just like today’s weather, my identity will be different when the sun rises tomorrow. We humans crave constancy, but it’s not to be found in this mortal realm.

Life without an identity is freer.

This identity we work so hard to support and nurture might just be weighing us down. It’s like we’re building boxes of specific dimensions and out of imaginary lumber, and then shaping ourselves so that we’ll fit. We’re limiting who we might become and what we might do, all the while ignoring the fact that we constantly change shape and size. We’ll never quite fit into that box.

Let’s step out of that self-made container, take a nice deep breath of fresh air, and stretch our legs. The view is broader out here and the present moment is bursting with potential. Outside the box, we can discover that we aren’t what we do. We simply are. We are all human beings, not human doings.

If you don’t already, consider following my blog by email or through WordPress. My posts won’t always show up in your social media feed. Thanks for reading and listening. See you next time! ~ Lori

 

 

 

Human Beings, Not Human Doings

 

Name Plate
My old teacher name plate from St. Patrick School.

I used to be a full-time teacher and for a long time, that was my identity. In a small community, I was known as the Grade 3 teacher. The teacher box was the one I fit in. Almost two years ago I gave up this position to train for a new career in writing and editing.

Since completing my editing coursework and graduating from Simon Fraser University, I’ve taken on some writing projects and I’ve also done some substitute teaching. The substitute teaching has been great. I work at the school here in town, so I get to walk to work. I also get to work with older students. I wasn’t sure how that would go! They’re so tall and I’m not. As it turns out, those big kids suit me just fine.

Listen to me read this post:

The trouble with substitute teaching is not substitute teaching. This job lets me feel useful and it helps teachers out. It’s fun to work with the students and refreshing to teach new content. The trouble with substitute teaching is that it reminds me what it’s like to be in that teacher box but denies me actually owning that teacher identity. This is uncomfortable. I don’t quite know who I am or where I fit in anymore. My identity was clear and now it’s blurry.

2008
My school photo taken the one year I taught Grade 3 here in Hughenden.

We are not our work.

This is true, and yet we all identify each other by our occupations. “So, what do you do?” The inquirer is not asking about whether you garden, exercise, or meditate. The inquirer wants to know how you make a living. “What is your key identifier?” That’s usually what we want to know when we ask about what another person does.

Now that I’m transitioning between careers, I feel identity-less. More accurate to say that I don’t have as solid and reliable identity as I once had. “I’m a teacher.” It was certain and no one could dispute it. It was the container I belonged in.

Supporting our identities takes energy.

We spend a lot of time and energy building and maintaining our self-identities. It’s handy to be able to describe ourselves: married, employed, Gemini, middle-aged, menopausal, rock music fan, hockey fan, agnostic, and not a morning person. We wear rings and T-shirts to support our identity. Our posts on social media proclaim our self-image. To own a solid identity is to exist.

But there’s an obvious problem with relying on identity. Identity changes constantly.

Identity is not static, so why do we strive to make it into something more solid and real than it is? Why do we cling to our self-identities as if they were life preservers in the waters of life’s ocean? Self-identity changes as sure as each wave rises and falls and disappears back into the sea. Who we are doesn’t stay the same. Sometimes we change imperceptibly and sometimes we change in the blink of an eye in the biggest way.

2015
One of many of my school photos taken while I taught Grade 3 at Amisk School.

It’s time to let go.

It’s difficult during this life change to let go of my professional image, a ghost that’s long since faded from a colourfully-decorated Grade 3 classroom. If I want to move forward, I need to take this old picture of myself out of its frame and throw it away. It’s not me anymore.

What would happen if I let go of my self-identity and took a break from trying to label myself? Probably nothing would happen because this identity is unreliable. Just like today’s weather, my identity will be different when the sun rises tomorrow. We humans crave constancy, but it’s not to be found in this mortal realm.

Life without an identity is freer.

This identity we work so hard to support and nurture might just be weighing us down. It’s like we’re building boxes of specific dimensions and out of imaginary lumber, and then shaping ourselves so that we’ll fit. We’re limiting who we might become and what we might do, all the while ignoring the fact that we constantly change shape and size. We’ll never quite fit into that box.

Let’s step out of that self-made container, take a nice deep breath of fresh air, and stretch our legs. The view is broader out here and the present moment is bursting with potential. Outside the box, we can discover that we aren’t what we do. We simply are. We are all human beings, not human doings.

If you don’t already, consider following my blog by email or through WordPress. My posts won’t always show up in your social media feed. Thanks for reading and listening. See you next time! ~ Lori

 

 

 

Paint Me New

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During the summer, my time opens up. Suddenly, I’ve got more time to write, to visit, to just sit and do nothing, an activity of which I’m very fond. There’s time to wander around with my camera and wait for the birds to hold still. There’s time to organize and clean, and there’s finally time to paint.

Of all my summertime chores, I really like painting. Not painting prep. I’m not a fan of taping, spackling or laying down drop cloths. I don’t particularly like seeking out flaws and sanding them down, and I don’t love washing walls with TSP. For these reasons, the summertime painting I like best is the painting done outside. No sanding, no taping, no drop cloths. Just brush off the dirt and the spider webs and get painting.

Listen to me read this post:

Other summers, I’ve painted baseboards and cupboards and walls and door casings. I’ve painted my old coffee table from the thrift store in Grande Prairie a fresh apple green and my Grandma’s old end table a vibrant cherry red. I’ve painted the siding on the garage and I’ve painted the siding on the house. On warm October days, after the summer was gone and my time was tighter, I’ve touched up exterior window trim and touched up peeling fascia boards. I don’t paint in the winter. Winter’s not a painting time.

DIGITAL CAMERA
Grandma’s old end table painted a bright cherry red.

Yesterday, after deliberating between spray painting and brush painting, I cracked open a very tiny can of bright white Tremclad rust paint. The day before, my painter’s eye spotted the old metal-framed wire gate that leads from the backyard onto the garage pad and out into the world. As if seeing this gate for the first time, I considered its decoratively entwined wires that were brown with rust, like very old lovers, tired of it but still stuck with each other. I noticed the gate’s metal frame, dull and brooding, not even returning the sun’s smile.

The first coat of paint is on now. To my horror, about three hours after I’d finished painting, clouds moved in and over the backyard and burst open. Those few hours of warmth and sunlight must’ve granted the paint just enough time to cure because when I checked the gate this morning, it looked perfectly fine. So relieved!

From my kitchen window this morning, that gate already looks bright and new, and I still intend to give it a couple more coats. What I love about painting is change. I love how quickly and easily colour transforms things, cheers them up and animates them. Once wallflowers, newly-painted objects become the life of the party, dancing on the table and the last ones to leave as the sun’s coming up.

IMG_5708
About every second year, I paint the frame that the sweet peas grow on.

Some days, I’d like to give my own life a fresh coat of paint, a shade of younger with undertones of something-more-to-look-forward-to. I’m not afraid of colour, of mixing it up, of trying on a more startling shade. It would be nice, though, if I could experiment with some new colours or even a couple different shades of me without having to commit immediately to a new colour for myself.

Unfortunately, life changes aren’t made as easily as paint colour choices, and their implications can last much longer. Still, as I clean my brushes and gently hammer on that little metal lid, I realize this painter is ready for a change.

 

 

IMG_5703
Last September, when the whole world went back to school, I painted the garage’s window frames.

Did you like what you read here? Consider following my blog either right here on WordPress or through email. See the right sidebar to follow me. It’s easy and it’s free. This way, you won’t miss any of my posts. Thanks for reading! ~ Lori