Shakespeare said it: “All the world’s a stage”. And while he does depict the seven stages of a man’s life in his play “As You Like It”, I wonder if that makes him a spiritual person… a person who believes in the soul’s journey, that we are really, each one of us, a soul journeying through life playing different roles. Parent, child, husband, wife, teacher, musician, carpenter, business executive, hockey player, and the list goes on and on.
So with all of these roles to play, how do we maintain a sense of our true selves? That part of us that is authentic: not just some name, job title, or role we have been assigned in life. It’s certainly not easy and I know I’m still learning.
First, I guess we have to understand that these roles are just that – roles. Things we “do”. That this isn’t, in fact, who we truly are.
Over 10 years ago, before I moved out west and consciously began my spiritual growth work, I wrote something called “Role Playing”:
“Role playing. Someone once asked me what role I was playing. The band was loud. I thought I’d misheard what he’d said. I’d never thought of it as role-playing, but I did play a role that night. I play a role every day. I’m still me – the same person every day, but can change my persona to fit a scene or a particular situation. Not unlike a chameleon or the leaves in fall.
I often wonder if people see the real me, even though I’m not sure who that is. I do play many roles – which, in essence, may make me who I am. A renaissance woman? Simply well-rounded? Versatile? Volatile? Confused?
It’s difficult to explain. Just another phase I’m going through perhaps. Does this make me shallow or deep? False or true?”
It’s interesting this should come up again now, at a time of transition in my life. In fact, in trying to decide what to write about next, this idea presented itself to me in more ways than one.
First, as I was unpacking some of my books, I came across “A New Earth”. I opened it to a random page, as I often do with books, and there I was smack dab in the middle of a chapter entitled “Role-Playing: The Many Faces of the Ego” and reading the following excerpt:
“If you can be absolutely comfortable with not knowing who you are, then what’s left is who you are.”
The next morning, I randomly chose a card from my tarot deck, something I do when I’m looking for a little soul guidance. The card I selected was offering a “message of love” and in its description was:
“Who you truly are has nothing to do with your personality, or your achievements, successes or failures. The “you” you think you are is an actor, playing a role that your soul has chosen.”
And then, feeling a little under the weather after a dinner party with some dear friends I hadn’t seen in over ten years, laughing about how we used to be and the crazy things we used to do – like how I once played the role of waitress at a late nite restaurant in Brooklyn, taking my girlfriends’ orders because the service was so slow – I spent the morning recovering on my couch watching an episode of the CBC drama “Being Erica” on Netflix. The topic of said episode? You guessed it: being yourself and role-playing.
Clearly my soul is guiding me to explore this topic again.
So where do I begin?
My primary focus for as long as I can remember has been self-discovery. To some, this has made me seem insensitive, selfish, or thoughtless. This was never my intention. Self-absorbed? Yes. But for what I feel has been good reason; an attempt to better understand myself, to make changes where necessary, and be the best version of me that I can be. In turn, I can then put this energy out into the world and help, in my own small way, to make it a better place.
It’s been quite the journey so far, with many twists and turns, but that’s life isn’t it? I’ve remained on my own and have traveled and moved around a lot, but that doesn’t make my journey any more or less important than that of someone who has been married, stayed in the same place, worked at the same job, raised children. Each journey is unique and I like to believe it takes us to places our soul needs us to go.
It must be challenging to be a parent in the sense that one identifies with their role so much that when the child is no longer a ‘child’ the parent has to then disidentify themselves from the role of parent; re-define what that role will be now that the child is an adult and no longer needs the parent as they once did.
The child, now an adult, must also begin to see their parent as something other than a parent; as another human being who has had many soul-searching and sometimes painful experiences of their own. And what then of the fact that children are also human beings, little people who, while in need of some guidance, deserve to be given the respect and the space they also need so they can have experiences that help them to grow.
I’m still unclear as to what my soul’s connection with Spain is, but I needed to go there for some purpose, to learn something about myself and about the world around me. It was there that I defined myself as a writer. Anyone that asked me what I did was given that response, “I’m a writer.” And I am a writer. I have been since I was a child. I typed my very first short story, about the adventures of a mouse who finds a penny and wants to buy some cheese, on an old blue typewriter when I was 10.
In fact, I remember distinctly the moment when I realized I was an artist. It was at the Banff Centre three years ago, when I got my artist card. Before attending the Spoken Word program there, I’d been running around, doing all sorts of different things, interviewing all sorts of different artists, never really taking into account that I, too, was an artist.
This role of an artist, of a writer, a storyteller, is currently the one I most identify with. And, while I know now that it’s not truly who I am, I’m quite certain it will be a role that I identify with for many more years to come.