Becoming Ourselves
Becoming Ourselves

 “Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real...It doesn't happen all at once. You become. It takes a long time.”
― Margery Williams Bianco, The Velveteen Rabbit

When I was pregnant with my second child, one of the things I was most curious (and anxious!) about was telling my first child the news of her expected sibling. She was three at the time, and I wasn't sure how much she would be able to grasp about the major change her life was about to undergo.

I was ready to answer any question she might have, honestly and age-appropriately. I started off by being as literal as possible. "Guess what?" I said. “You're going to have a sibling! There’s a baby growing in my tummy!" That seemed like a good start, though I was ready to switch over to the anatomically correct uterus if needed.

But my older child isn't a scientist, it turns out. She’s a philosopher, and so she asked the one question I hadn't prepared for.

"Oh!" she said. "Who is it going to be?"

"I don't know!" I said. "We're going to have to wait and see."

Isn't that always the way? We’re still waiting to see who that second child is going to be, although she's been with us for seven years now and is very much her own person. But she’s also changing and growing, becoming someone new all the time — as her older sister is, and as I am, and as you are.

Sometimes our becomings are dramatic: we realize that the gender we thought we were, or others thought we were, isn't correct after all; or we discover that the career we had planned or the marriage we had begun isn't really who we are, or is no longer right for who we have become.

Sometimes, though, our becoming is gradual, a kind of unfolding and changing and shifting over time. Always, it is lifelong. Which isn't to say we aren't already who we are—we are that, too. We are already ourselves, the minute we are born, and every minute thereafter. However long our lives end up being, even when they are cut painfully and tragically short, we are our full selves for every second, every month, every year of those lives. And we are also becoming ourselves, growing and stretching.

In the “growing” time of my life, my soul experienced something like the growing pains I remembered in my legs as a child. I became a minister; a mother; a middle-aged person. It’s usually been uncomfortable, and almost always inconvenient. The old me seemed fine, the one I was just yesterday; why bother with all this shifting? And yet when I come out the other side, I invariably think, Ah yes: this is the me I was supposed to become. This is who I am. Until next time. Who is it going to be?

Who are you going to be, today? And tomorrow? Who are we all becoming, together?

Spirit of life and love, come to me in this moment. Wrap around the fullness of me, the now-ness of me, the me-ness of me. Let me breathe in who I am, right now. Wrap around the fullness of me, and leave room. Leave room for the rest of me, the me I haven't yet discovered, the me I am becoming. Let me breathe in who I am going to be. Spirit of life and love, stay with me as I become.

About the Author

  • Rev. Amanda Poppei is a Unitarian Universalist minister serving as clergy at the Washington Ethical Society, a humanist congregation with roots in the Ethical Culture movement (which is also affiliated with the UUA). She lives in Maryland with her husband, Peter, and their two...

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