Chapter 7: Finding Who You Truly Are
In Chapter 7 of A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose, author Eckhart Tolle suggests that people discover who they truly are after a process of discovering who they are not. Knowing who you are not typically happens after a loss, such as the death of a loved one, a loss in your social position, a divorce, or some other loss where there is great suffering. While you may feel that part or all of you has died along with your loss, acceptance of your loss will bring about peace.
Your loss is really a story that author Tolle refers to as a tapestry. When you accept your loss, (as opposed to resisting it by complaining or re-telling it over and over again, causing more suffering), you can begin to see the light behind that tapestry. In that light, there is an emptiness that is left by the loss of form. There is peace to be found in that space. In that space, you will discover who you truly are.
For many years, I believed that my identity was determined by the many roles I was playing in life: as a mother, a wife, an only child, and as a professional career woman. Then the suffering came. My marriage was falling apart so I overly emphasized my roles as a mother and as a successful career woman to compensate. Then my father was dying of cancer, which further intensified my role as an only child and the emotional issues I had with my mother. Soon I was laid off from my job and found myself eventually a thousand miles away from my children because that was where I finally found a job. Shortly thereafter, my father died. I was living in New York City and a witness to the terror attacks on the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001. I spent two years struggling and fighting in a very contentious custody battle in the courts with my ex-husband, with the result being that I took on a new label: that of “non-custodial mom.” The label made me ashamed for awhile as I cared about what others thought about me because of it.
All of this is to say that I suffered a great deal throughout an intensified 2 year period. Looking back, I can now see that I made it worse by telling and re-telling “my story,” for feeling sorry for myself and my children for being a “non-custodial mom,”and for the things I did or didn’t do when I left Iowa for New York. There were many regrets, many tears, many prayers begging for forgiveness, yet no forgiveness for myself.
But somewhere in all of that suffering, I had an “aha” moment. I could see the light on the other side of the tapestry. I started to find peace there. I realized that no amount of being upset, sad, resentful or bitter about my situation was going to change things. I learned to accept my situation, slowly, but surely. As I did so, it got easier. I forgave myself. I forgave my ex-husband. I made amends with my mother just in time before she developed dementia.
Then one day I realized that I could be happy, irregardless of my situation. It has only gotten better and better since.
Eckhart Tolle has suggested that the way to know if we are developing spiritually is to see how we react to situations or deal with the troubling situations and emotions which arise in our lives. This is how I can see the progress I have made. While there is still much growing to do, I am happy in knowing that these roles do not define me. So I, too, know who I am not and I’m having fun discovering who I truly am.