Living My labels

Perspective means so much in today’s society. I have worked hard to allow my perception of the world to be OK while also challenging myself to grow by seeing others. It is a challenge indeed sometimes and yet one that I feel is worth it in the end. The bottom line is, I want to continue to grow because I have come to learn that I am worth it.

A recent conversation mentioned my use of the words Pagan, woman and spiritual person as a means of seperating myself from others; almost like I was not a part of the whole. I found that interesting because I have made a point to embrace my own labels, it is a means of identifying much of my experience in the world today. I do not look at being Pagan, a woman, spiritual, Black or even lower middle class as a dividing factor; I actually think it supports understanding.

This is a two part kind of thing for me:

Good communication is on the part of the communicator. Communication models stress this point. In tailoring our message to the listener it can be helpful to know the audience that you are speaking to. Perspective can give context, it colors an otherwise black and white screen with words on it. When we give color to anything we give it life; think about coloring pages as an example of this thought. 

As the communicator I make a choice, do I want to be understood or am I just trying to force a point?  While sometimes that is a hard decision, other times it is clear. When I want to be understood I often think context can be the bridge.

When I am speaking to my students at work I pay close attention to the person I am speaking to and take their story into consideration when I am saying something that I really want them to hear. Is this because I have to? NO. Is it because it is good practice? Sure.

We learn as counselors to take cultural factors into account when working with a population and cultural competency is everything. So if I am talking to a little girl who’s family is impoverished, has on dirty clothes and has sexual trauma in her past, I would want to tailor the message about hygiene differently than if I were talking to a 16 year old middle class girl who lives in a big family and can afford the latest styles. There is so much to consider.

When I say I am a Black woman, a Pagan, a counselor, a mother or even middle class, there is valuable information there for those who are interested in having true conversation. I do not think it seperates me from others; it is valuing my individual differences and honoring the value they can have in the collective whole.

Which leads me to the next part of my two part thing.  If I cannot embrace who I am then how do I expect anyone else to? Finding pride in the experiences of my life, history, ancestors and path helps me to give pride to myself and to others. If your path is as important to you as mine is to me then we automatically have something in common. Please do not be threatened by my own process of identifying the uniqueness of the person I call me. It has been a long journey to embracing those parts and making them work together.

I began the journey of really understanding the value in all of those individual pieces during my studies as a Pagan priestess. It was in those lessons that my High Priestess asked me the hard questions, some of the same questions I ask drug addicts in recovery treatment circles. Who are you? Who do you want to be?

I know today that I want to be a proud woman who loves her body, the curve of her hips, the extra love handles on the side and the pouch that was left behind by the miracle of my son passing through my body. I want to be proud of my Blackness; the caramel skin, big brown eyes, wide nose and freckled face. I want to be proud of my struggle; the fight to live a life I deserve should not be measured  by one I can buy with a middle class income or by dismissing the history of oppression my family endured to pave a way for me. I want to be proud that I have a connection with my Gods that helps to define the way I look at the very threads of my soul, it helps me to respect all beings and myself equally. I want to be proud of my hard earned education and professional experience; my new degree and my 15 years of experience in the social services field did not come easy. I made lemons out of lemonade and pushed myself to create a path.

That is who I want to be and who I am. I define my labels and I embrace them as positive descriptors of who I am, who I work to be and who I want to be.

The world has a knack for picking out how we are different as if it is a bad thing. I love my uniqueness, it is everything that makes me exactly who I am.

In communicating with one another I hope to show others who I am and the color of my rose colored glasses. I also hope that in communicating I can understand theirs.  How can I ever be authentic in my engagement if I am only talking to a black and white image of a person that has no depth or color. I want to see your color and so I offer you a glimpse of mine. It is not to separate, it is to unite.

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