Personality and Possibility

When my son was very young, we had a big straw basket where we kept all the “dress-up” clothes. Firemen hats, dinosaur heads, cowboy boots, even ball gowns. And all the accoutrements, of course, including ropes, shovels, scarves, beads, belts. He and his friends would dig through the basket and put on the most outrageous outfits and proceed to step right into their own imaginations.

When I was young myself I was privileged to know a woman, a professional ballerina who fled Nazi Germany to find a new home in America. She was forced to completely remake her life. And, like so many other refugees, immigrants, soul travelers, she did re-create herself to become a successful ballet teacher. But then in the 1950’s she was blacklisted. She lost her livelihood, many friends and sources of support. She had to start over again. Yet again she did — like a phoenix! After untold struggles, she began working with clay. After some years at her clay work she became quite a noted potter. There is a metaphor here I think!

The last time I saw her, not long before she died, she was trying her hand at writing …

I think we humans are not all that different from the other animals on this rare planet, except perhaps in this way: that we have the uncommon ability to recreate ourselves. We wear our personalities like outer garments, but underneath them is the vastness of the soul, which we are continually growing into.

The only problem is that sometimes we confuse what we wear for who we are.

This is stultifying in both directions. On the one hand, if we are what we wear — if we confuse what we wear outside with the self inside —then we can never take it off, because there would be nothing underneath! How empty that would feel, how scary – and how lonely.

And on the other hand, if we never peek beneath our personalities to envision all the possibilities, all the potential, all the ways we can live into and embody an authentic self, then how can we ever fall in love with that vast, mysterious, and ultimately real person who we are?

And after all, isn’t the soul the source of all possibilities?

So here’s to trying on fabulous costumes that un-inhibit our fears and let us experiment with possibility. And here’s to never presuming to think that we know all that we can become!


Go Back to Articles Page

The mind of the day draws no attention to it;
It dwells within the silence with elegance
To create a space for all our words
Drawing us to listen inward and outward

John O'Donohue, from The Inner History of a Day