Who am I?
A question that bears asking, and then bears asking again. And again. And again. Especially when so submerged and involved in the care of small beings entirely dependent on yourself.
Well, obviously, it’s not a question easily answered. I have such a hard time answering it that I can’t even write a decent autobiography for my blog’s About Me section.
Kathy had us contemplating “who am I?” at yoga on Monday and I got nowhere profound, as usual. Although I did get so far as to wonder if being a mother is more of a role or more of an integral part of who I am. But when I was cleaning out my blog’s folders this evening, I found at least part of the answer tucked away in an obscure draft.
Last year (I can’t remember if it was last school year or last YEAR year), Devo and I read “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert together. It had been on sale at Costco for months, calling my name, before I finally brought it home.
We really enjoyed it. The story is Elizabeth Gilbert’s travel to Italy (eat), India (pray), and Bali (love) as she sorts out her life post-divorce. I must admit that reading the India section, which is pretty much a spiritual autobiography, goes a little slow when you’re listening to someone read to you late at night. But I perked up when I heard…
Which also happens to be, apparently, Elizabeth Gilbert’s word.
Here is the excerpt from #69, with many thanks to Elizabeth Gilbert for finding it:
By the way, I found my word….
I was reading through an old text about yoga when I found a description of ancient spiritual seekers. A Sanskrit word appeared in the paragraph: ANTEVASIN. It means, “one who lives at the border.” In ancient times this was a literal description. It indicated a person who had left the bustling center of worldly life to go live at the edge of the forest where the spiritual masters dwelled. The antevasin was not one of the villagers anymore–not a householder with a conventional life. But neither was he yet a transcendent–not one of those sages who live deep in the unexplored woods, fully realized. The antevasin was an in-betweener. A border-dweller. And he was a scholar.
When I read this description of the antevasin, I got so excited I gave a little bark of recognition. That’s my word, baby! In the modern age, of course, that image of an unexplored forest would have to be figurative, and the border would have to be figurative, too. But you can still live there. You can still live on that shimmering line between your old thinking and your new understanding, always in a state of learning. In the figurative sense, this is a border that is always moving–as you advance forward in your studies and realizations, the mysterious forest of the unknown always stays a few feet ahead of you, so you have to travel light in order to keep following it. You have to stay mobile, moveable, supple. Slippery, even. Which is funny, because just the day before, my friend the poet/plumber from New Zealand had left the Ashram, and on his way out the door, he’d handed me a friendly little goodbye poem about my journey. I remembered this verse:
Elizabeth, betwixt and between
Italian phrases and Bali dreams,
Elizabeth, between and betwixt,
Sometimes as slippery as a fish…
I’ve spent so much time these last years wondering what I’m supposed to be. A wife? A mother? A lover? A celibate? An Italian? A glutton? A traveler? An artist? A Yogi? But I’m not any of these things, at least not completely. And I’m not Crazy Aunt Liz, either. I’m just a slippery antevasin–betwixt and between–a student on the ever-shifting border near the wonderful, scary forest of the new.