I am. These are two of the most powerful words in our language. Whatever words we place after these two words shapes our reality for the entire day, and sometimes for the rest of our lives.
“Hi,” I wave meekly to my Doctor friend into the webcam. “I am trying to deal with things myself. But not very good. And then too proud to contact you just because I can’t deal with it.”
I take a deep breath and decide to tell him all that has been going on in the past few weeks: “I am dealing with Winston. Found out about severe bullying. He won’t go on the hockey field without me. School is horrible. And he mentioned suicide. So I have been talking with everyone. School, hockey and therapist. Trying to get over my failures. Not winning new clients. BNP has increased me though. Losing weight. 3kg off now. Au-pair has arrived. She’s wonderful but feels very lonely. That’s it. Thanks for reaching out. I get stuck in my self-retreat at times. How are things your end?”
“Hi. Glad to hear from you,” the Doctor smiles at me comfortingly. “Try and see if Winston will open up about Dad as well as school. Wish I could help.”
“How?” I ask bewildered. “He’s very closed.”
“As for me I am stuck too,” the Doctor admits. “Got my kitchen but still can’t start. Waiting for machines to arrive. Trying to get a few hundred euro’s transferred and struggling with that too.”
“And defensive about David,” I add on. “Paypal still not working?”
“I am sure he is. There is a very good psych doc in Keerbergen,” the Doctor advises me. “It should. Paypal works on main land Russia.”
“I have a good one already,” I dismiss his suggestion.
“Winston needs to talk to someone not connected to anyone he knows,” the Doctor tells me.
“Yes the therapist,” I emphasise again. I am defensive on the subject of my son, and after all we have been through the last weeks, I am not taking it from anyone anymore.
“He needs to know he can say anything without you or David or school finding out,” the Doctor insists.
“Yes again,” I say rather annoyed. “The therapist is good. She’s specialised in children.”
“Not your therapist I hope but a stranger,” the Doctor won’t let it go so easily.
“So you need money?” I change the subject.
“Yes I do,” the Doctor plays along for now.
“No not my therapist,” I correct him. “How much?” I want to know. “He went to her before,” I precise my absolute trust in the therapist I have sent my first born to see.
“2000 euro,” the Doctor admits without even blinking.
“That’s a lot,” I pull big eyes. “Where should it come from?”
“Yes its over kill,” the Doctor concedes. “I have 700 which Noah is supposed to send me and I need another 1000. I have that on my credit card but will try not to touch it.”
“Do you need me to help too?” I ask carefully.
“I need it for stock, sales, and promotions. Machines I have bought. Need only shelved and small things for the kitchen,” the Doctor explains what the funds are for. “Can you help?”
“I’m still struggling financially but not as much as before,” I explain my situation so the Doctor knows to which extent I can afford to get involved. “I can help with a couple of hundred euros. Can you invoice?”
“Yes,” the Doctor nods.
“Ok then,” I smile to confirm my participation.
“You are very kind to offer,” the Doctor replies grateful. “Let’s see how things go. If I get in trouble I will ask you.”
“Yes do that,” I answer as I realise the deal of reciprocity I have just sealed. I should reach out to the Doctor sooner.
“How is Wim?” the Doctor changes the subject.
“Doing good,” I am proud to announce. “9th round of chemo today.”
“Marriage plans?” the Doctor enquires further.
“Getting there,” I update him on this line of business. “Sorting things with the solicitor. When he finishes chemo we will set a date.”
“What did you do about your house?” the Doctor is taking stock of everything going on in my life.
“Still looking,” I say nonchalantly. “Not urgent. Have had other things going on.”
“Good,” the Doctor agrees, happy that I am not taking on too many challenges at once. “Cheaper to just fence the pool.”
“Haha yes,” I laugh. “But Winston can’t go to school by bike.”
“Why not?” the Doctor retorts.
“30 minutes bike ride,” I emphasise. “Dangerous.”
“Noah went from Keerbergen to Leuven by bike everyday,” the Doctor retorts.
“I will wet my knickers every day,” I confess. “Noah was big.”
“There are back roads that the kids use,” the Doctor puts me straight. “Police at cross roads to stop traffic too. All you need to find out is what other kids bike from your area and have Winston join them. Irma’s son biked from Tremelo to school in Keerbergen. Her daughter too.”
“Idea,” I smile softly taking in the new suggestion. Doesn’t sound that bad after all.
“He can do it,” the Doctor encourages me. “Good for his brain and development to be independent a little.”
“What do you think is the problem with Winston and David?” I ask him getting back to the subject which preoccupies me the most. “Will think about it.”
“Too much bull from David that Winston thinks is real,” the Doctor explains.
“Yes,” I nod my head vigorously as I know exactly what he means. I was married for 11 years to that idiot.
“If you can explain to Winston that people who are struggling need to blame others for their failures and he must listen but not believe,” the Doctor gives a hint of the answer.
“Like what?” I ask him annoyed as advice needs to be specific.
“David thinks he got a bum deal out of life,” the Doctor explains further. “It’s all your fault and everyone else too.”
“Yes that’s right!” I exclaim. This simple assessment actually sums up all the discussions we have had since we divorced.
“As for you,” the Doctor points a finger at me through the webcam. “Stop analysing yourself. Just do. Plan your achievement for the day in the morning. Eat breakfast. Do a five minute yoga work out and be on your way.”
“Sounds good,” I ponder. “My achievement… be a good mom, do analyses, win new clients, lose weight, be fit. And you?”
“No one thing per day,” the Doctor corrects me. “Being a good mom is a habit.”
“Ok then for the moment it is losing weight and being fit,” I answer haughtily.
“Loosing weight is an awareness thing,” the Doctor corrects me again. “Win new clients. Learn something, do your work better than yesterday. That sort of stuff. Self criticism or setting standards are negative.”
“I keep missing the new clients,” I complain. “I am in the run and then they choose another candidate. Lost Erasmus Hogeschool. And lost Maisons du Monde. Will be promoting a dating e-book.”
“Well in your sales pitch emphasise what they get,” the Doctor stresses which value proposition I should push forward.
“25% of sales,” I tell him about the e-book. “Yes.”
“That’s good,” the Doctor acquiesces. “Do a match for Russian girls looking for a husband and new life. I can help with that.”
“Haha really?” I laugh throwing my head back. “Isn’t that human trafficking? Is that legal? How much could you ask for that?”
“Sure there are lots of them looking for a partner in Europe,” the Doctor laughs back. “Big business here.”
“Ah,” I test my gut feeling on this idea.
“No its a yenta service,” the Doctor teases me.
“Yenta?” I ask him.
“Look it up,” the Doctor urges me. “A match maker service. Fiddler on the roof. Movie. Got to run have a good day.”
“Wish you could help with Winston,” I don’t want him to leave just yet. I am not feeling reassured that all will be okay again.
“Yes if I was there I could,” the Doctor answers in a tone that is too fatalistic even for him.
“But you’re not so you can’t,” I conclude. “Poopie.”
“I know. I am sorry,” the Doctor soothes me. “We could try Skype.”
“We could,” I perk up. “When?”
“What is Winston’s schedule like?” the Doctor asks me. Then he sends me a link over Skype.
“I knew a guy who did this as a child whisperer for years just not in video form,” the Doctor tells me what the link is all about. “Got amazing results. Worth researching it. Might be something for you.”
“This weekend Winston is with me. We are going to Wim’s Saturday eve and coming back home Sunday late morning. Wednesday and Friday eve he has his last hockey trainings for this season. Next Friday he goes to David,” I tell the Doctor about this week’s schedule. “That’s funny. You think I should make whisper videos? About what?”
“What ever the client wants to sell,” the Doctor nudges me on. “Go back to Google and suggest it.”
“What?” I ask incredulously.
“Research this and come back with real questions,” the Doctor replies half irritated.
“Ok,” I agree.
“I think this is a great opportunity,” the Doctor concludes.
“Hmmm will have a look at it,” I promise. “It looks fun in any case. Finally an idea of yours that doesn’t get stuck.”
The first time you experience your “I am” is when you learn your name.
For a long time, I introduced myself as “I am Fiona,” instead of saying “My name is Fiona.” I believed I was my name, which meant “light” just like my mother’s name. It was the extension of the story of my family. What I knew about my family history revealed that we were collaborators and fighters, not much to look up to, really.
When I say, “I am <insert name here>,” I rouse the spells of my ancestors. Some of these spells are about my health and how I will live and how I will die. When I go to my doctor, she asks what my grandparents died from. Cancer, heart disease, dementia. She tells me in fact that my destiny has been cast, that it is written in my family genetics. When I go to the therapist, she shows me that the stories that run in my family leap from one generation to the next, until I become just like the mother I vowed I would never become.
If I live long enough, I will get to ask the question “Who am I?”
It is a terrible question, because it launches me on a journey into places and experiences that are unknown. I realize that I am not my name, that I am not my family, that I am not my job, or any of the roles in my life. That I hate eating liver and love the ballet is not, I repeat not, who I am. Until I begin to transform the dream of security, I do not have the foggiest idea of who I really am.
But I ask the question; this is a step in the right direction.
After I spent a long time discovering that I can’t be defined by my name or by my nationality or by my gender, I begin to understand that what I thought was my life and my identity was only a daydream.
I have let go of the need to place something after “I am ____,” because I now recognize it is a complete statement.