A number of years ago Himself and I went away for a long weekend. We stayed at a historic hotel on the river and took in many of the local attractions. There is a college nearby and we learned that the spring semester’s play would be performed while we were in town and tickets were still available. The play, "Art" by Yasmina Reza, is about three men and what the purchase of a very expensive abstract painting does to their friendship.
Partway through the play, an exasperated Yvan declares:
"If I am who I am because I am who I am and you are who you are because you are who you are then I am who I am and you are who you are, but if I am who I am because you are who you are and you are who you are because I am who I am then I am not who I am and you are not who you are."
He seems to be saying that we can’t be ourselves if we are influenced by another. My answer to that is Hogwash!
We are constantly influenced by others, starting from the moment of our birth. Our parents teach us, try to impart their values upon us, protect us, guide us. Then we head off to school and our teachers and friends now have an impact on our lives. The same happens when we go off to work, get married, etc. The influence of others isnot, in and of itself, a bad thing or a good thing. It’s what we do with it that determines its value.
A priest friend of ours, in a homily, once told the story of two brothers. Not much different in age, they were brought up by a father who was highly involved in crime. Eventually this man ended up in prison and out of the two boys’ lives. One son grew to be an intelligent, articulate young man that went on to medical school. The other son took another path, following in the footsteps of his father. When both sons were asked why they made they choices they did, they responded the same: “What choice was there with a father like mine?”
What got me thinking of all this is Miranda Lambert’s song The House That Built Me. I was listening to it on the way home from work one day and it got me thinking about who I am. What built me?
I know they say you can't go home again
I just had to come back one last time
Ma'am, I know you don't know me from Adam
But these hand prints on the front steps are mine
Up those stairs in that little back bedroom
Is where I did my homework and I learned to play guitar
And I bet you didn't know under that live oak
My favorite dog is buried in the yard
I thought if I could touch this place or feel it
This brokenness inside me might start healing
Out here it's like I'm someone else
I thought that maybe I could find myself
If I could just come in, I swear I'll leave
Won't take nothing but a memory
From the house that built me
Mama cut out pictures of houses for years
From "Better Homes and Garden" magazine
Plans were drawn and concrete poured
And nail by nail and board by board
Daddy gave life to mama's dream
You leave home, you move on
And you do the best you can
I got lost in this whole world
And forgot who I am
What built me? Answering that question is much harder than I had anticipated.
Some things are obvious. I am truly my parents’ daughter, both in good ways and bad. I think I have my mother’s sense of hospitality and also her creativity. I have my father’s technical skills and his appreciation for hard work and doing things right. But, I also hold onto grudges for far too long.
From my husband I have learned to look at the big picture, not to rush to judgment and paint everyone with the same big, bold strokes. I’ve also learned to slow down and enjoy the view.
My sister has been an example of loyalty. When we were growing up, we used to have some wing-doozie fights. Nothing was off limits. But, if someone else messed with the other, watch out! We were right there together. Today, she is my best friend and confidant.
I have a friend, who many years ago, would tell me that I think too much. It wasn’t a criticism, it was more of an observation. I would over-analyze things. Some things just “are”, or as I often say now “It is what it is.” Sometimes that is a hard lesson to learn.
These are just some of the people that “built” me. There’s so much more – events, circumstances, places, Faith. Thankfully, I’m a work in progress. There’s still time to get it right.