Labels, Boxes, and Stories ... Oh My!

The Dragon is learning to name everything. All day, “Momma, wha dat?” and he points. People and machines mostly, he is not asking about plants or the clouds. He is learning to name because we that is the way our language functions. He is learning to name because he is separating himself as an autonomous human being and giving shape to his personality through language.

In order to name something you are placing a label upon it - a label that can often morph into a box shored up with accompanying stories. This is a glass. A glass is to drink liquid out of us, usually they are fragile.*

The story about this cylindrical clear object can get even more complex … This glass was given to me by my grandmother and it was very precious to her and therefore is really precious to me because I loved my grandmother. This glass is a symbol of her wealth and importance and by extension, my wealth and importance, because it is gold filigree and came from Murano. On and on and on - it all starts with the need to name an object and then the mind takes that name and turns it into a operatic Norse saga.

This happened to me last week, I had a fairly high fever. One choice would have been simply to be with the body feeling of shivers then sweating and not gone into the labeling desire. To lay in bed and stare at the wall and just be grateful that other people can take care of my children on such a day.

However, I was given a label of cancer that has a fairly substantial opera woven around the box at this point. There are practical things to do because of that label: need to call the oncologist and see what she thinks about this. There are also pieces of that label that can themselves be labeled.

If I tell my new helper the reason I have this fever is potentially because of my diagnosis - then she will look at me differently, I do not want to be seen as the cancer patient, but then again she deserves to know my history so that she can be part of my team to help with the smalls in a context that is real and not denying what is real by labeling the sharing of the story as bad. Because that is just a label designed to make me feel guilty, which isn’t going to help anything.

On and on. The Norse opera has turrets and many flags… so many nuances and shadows and potential wormholes.

A few years ago, I heard a story about a parenting conference where the expert at the top of the room asked parents to raise their hands. After 2/3 of the room raised their hands, he said, “Keep them up if you feel you are an expert.” Everyone lowered their hands. Parents - who are parenting - didn’t feel like experts. I get it, I would have probably lowered my hand as well.

To me, the label of parenting expert is someone who knows what they are doing as a parent. Here is the issue, every moment of every day I am constantly given opportunities by my children that illustrate precisely how little I know about parenting. So therefore, how could I be an expert?

Yet I am an expert because I know that if everyone is rested and well fed the day is going to be much more fun for everyone - regardless of other curveballs. I am an expert because I can pause and regroup the energy of the room when things feel sideways. I am an expert because I know how to ask questions to either escalate or calm down the kerfuffle. I am an expert because I know the sound of the silence when there is something illicit happening.

The label of expert denotes answers and clear lines of what is good and what is bad. When in reality expert connotes nuances and a full story of opinions and shades of goodness and badness - not clearly outlined buckets of good vs bad.

I have a cancer story that travels with me. However, it has reached the stage where we are off maps, we are off charts, we are off statistics. It is full of nuances and opinions. What do I do with the fever in that context? Do I label it as bad and tell myself I am weak? Do I label it as good and rejoice that inflammation is being cleared away? Do I share with someone who might see the label as X when in fact the label means Y? Am I responsible for other’s opinions on the subject?

All of these words, all of these thoughts, all of these labels - the elaborate opera in many acts.

Which brings us back to now. My son is learning to speak because he is 26 months old and his brain is telling him it is time to become his own person. A part of me is saddened by this and a part of me understands that this is what needs to happen on this planet. Up to now, he sees himself as part of me. If I am happy, he is happy, if I cry, he cries, if I am angry, he is confused - because he and I are one.

As he learns how to label the world - he separates himself from me and by extension God.

But Truth is that we are one with the person in front of us and by extension God.

We are all the same. All the rest is just opinions and stories and boxes, oh my!

*See A Course in Miracles Lesson 1