Who Am I?                                                                                                  Sun, 10th August, 2014

It's the question that echoes across the ages. I had always thought I knew the answer. I am, well, me. The life I was leading, the path I had chosen, was by definition my identity. Thanks to my reading of Palmer Parker's "Let Your Life Speak," I'm beginning to do the challenging and exciting work of going back to my early childhood to reacquaint myself with the original me, before the "real world" told me who I was supposed to be. (And a special thanks to First Church member Paulita who brought this writer to my attention.)

Palmer posits that we are born with native gifts that make us unique. And it's often not until mid life that we realize our lives have been based on the expectations of others - wearing their masks, following their scripts - rather than remembering our unique voice. The word vocation, he points out, means hearing the voice that calls us to the life that is joyful and fulfilling, and most important, that this voice we hear when we take the time to listen is our own voice, not someone else's. Our "calling" in other words is a calling from within ourselves, not a voice from without.

In this sense, your "inner child" is not really a child at all. It's the real you. The same person whose been there all along, who occasionally makes an appearance only to be told by grown-ups to stay quiet and not take us off script or distract us from our real-world duties.

So forgive the self-indulgent task at hand as I catalogue the early loves of my life...better yet, think about the person you naturally were in childhood. I don't know where this will lead, but it's exciting to think about rediscovering myself.

Things I loved as a child...

Singing made-up songs while playing outdoors.

Banging on the piano pretending to read music (but really making it up as I went along).

Making other people sit and listen to my made-up songs.

Making up imaginary friends, e.g. Pickerman Brockman and Dodie.

Playing with kittens. And puppies. And bunnies. Oh, and horses.

Climbing trees and looking at the world from a new perspective.

Losing myself in cornfields.

Making up plays, forcing my brother into service as a fellow actor.

Creating haunted houses in my bedroom and adjoining hallway, complete with colored light bulbs.

Visiting other families to play with other kids: the food, the running around the yard, seeing new places.

Playing "streets and roads" riding bikes on the network of sidewalks around my grandma's farmhouse.

"Staying all night" at grandma's house, making caramel popcorn and butterscotch pudding.

Creating floats for the summer Bible School parade to recruit other kids to attend.

Playing with other kids' action figures and dolls: Star Wars, GI Joe, Wonder Woman, Ken and Barbie (I found Joe and Ken strangely erotic, but was disappointed at the lack of anatomical completeness...).

Building towns and neighborhoods out of Legos, Lincoln Logs, plastic bricks and Matchbox cars.

Leaving said neighborhoods in place for weeks, preventing my mom from vacuuming.

Going with my mom and brother to Larry and Janice's farm to see their horses.

Riding bikes down hill fast, feeling the wind in my face, seeing how far I could go without peddling again.

Wading in Brandywine Creek wearing old tennis shoes.

Walking in the woods with other people, discovering hollow trees and marveling at the diversity of tree bark (was strangely attracted to "muscle trees"...)

Collecting treasures from our travels to exotic locales such as Southern Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee: a cedar box, a rabbit fur and sea shells from coastal South Carolina.

Hanging around with my Aunt Franny: riding in her car, waxing her car under shade trees, riding on her horse, listening to her music, meeting her friends.

Going to movies at the Shelbyville cinema with my dad and brother.

Creating "underground" rooms and tunnels out of hay bales in my grandma's barn.

Kissing certain girls in said secret rooms (you know who you are).

Playing spin the bottle with a boy and a girl in same said secret rooms (though no boy kissing...maybe I wanted to?).

Playing piano in my home town Baptist church and playing the alter call music so sweetly that it would make people come forward and weep at the alter. No, really.

Playing Donna Summer records at full volume on my parents' huge RCA cabinet stereo that was the size of a Datsun. (First clue to my sexuality - did no one pick up on this?)

Riding my Garelli moped around Indiana country roads before I was old enough to drive a car.

Playing trumpet in the marching band, though I was bored to tears by the football and basketball games. The real show was at half time.

Acting and singing in school plays: Arsenic and Old Lace, Godspell, Lil Abner, Snoopy!, Harvey.

Driving my little brother to McDonalds in Shelbyville in my first car, a 1974 Mercury Montego. What's an adventure without someone to share it with?

Going on travel adventures with my best friend Ted in his 1978 Bonneville, actually content to acquiesce to his agenda and be his helper on many crazy projects. (This one seems not to fit, but it was true nonetheless.)

And perhaps the thing I loved best as a teenager was singing in the Triton Central Singers, which was the high school show choir. Yes, I was a Gleek before there was Glee.

I will enjoy reflecting on these in the coming week. But the first thing that comes to mind is that it's no wonder why I hate the confining exactitude of Excel spreadsheets...