What Am I?

Once one has lived a moderate number of years, a large variety of situations can lead to reflection on the nature of self, what it means to be K, or N, or Mrs. M. Retirement planning seminars stress the importance of developing a set of interests outside of one’s profession, to ease the transition to a new concept of self. Being abruptly laid off due to down-sizing prevents this sort of planning. So does the onset of physical illness, or an accident which seriously alters ones capabilities. Even a slowly progressing illness can reach a turning point, where activities previously manageable suddenly become impossible.


A common expression of the challenge faced in such a transition is who am I if I’m not … working as a plumber, teaching classes, acting in plays? At a still more sensitive level, who am I if I can no longer button my shirt, use the bathroom without assistance, or sit outside in the sun when I wish to do so?


In an ongoing conversation with a dear friend of long standing, this transition has been jokingly referred to as the Do Be Do Be Do discussion. My friend recently referred to an unnamed source whose contribution to the topic was the statement “God is a verb”. I took that into contemplation today, during our monthly Quaker Meeting for Worship, and found myself reflecting that both doing and being are verbs, i.e. action words. Shouting, dancing, running, doing are perhaps more noisy than sitting, dreaming, accepting, thinking, being – but all are verbs, all are forms of action.


So standing and waiting is being active, albeit in a passive-feeling way.


My friend’s dilemma arises partially from his career as an actor, radio personality, radio program director – highly satisfying activities which involve exchange with an audience, a cyclical/reciprocal engagement with contributing to the lives of others that has been a primary value throughout his life. Now that he can no longer participate in those roles, and must often measure achievement in successfully moving himself from point A to point B (because Parkinson has control of his body) he questions what he is contributing to the well-being of people around him. Is it sufficient, to accept gracefully the offers of help which others do feel good about extending? That is only half the cycle. What is traveling outward, to be received by the other, processed and returned?


If God is a verb, and Being is a verb, then in simply being, we are godly. If also God is Love – loving is a verb – then in loving we are being godly. Loving travels outward, to be received by others, processed and used – and hopefully also returned. Reciprocation need not be tangible to be complete.


Another participant in today’s Quaker Meeting contemplation shared her morning’s experience of “shedding” – elk on her property shedding antlers, a friend shedding light on a problem, and the value of shedding outdated concepts of oneself. Shedding is a verb. Perhaps the key to a smooth transition from active verbs like doing, to quieter ones like being, is to be ready to shed constricting definitions – of self, of what constitutes contributing, of what it means to love.


The challenge – in a positive, active sense – becomes one of accepting a new and refined sense of manifesting that of God within. Aging with grace, letting one’s love shine out in a smile, holding a state of being such that others walk away from one’s presence feeling enriched and glad to have been there… these are valuable contributions. In the noise and busy-ness of daily life, such sweet giving is too rare. We need more of such Being, more of God manifesting through us, to both strengthen and soften our human interactions. I can’t think of a more important purpose to incorporate into daily life.

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4 Responses to “What Am I?”

  1. Jane Foraker-Thompson Says:

    Thanks Niki. Strangely, our Quaker Meeting in Silve City had similar sharings yesterday. Maybe its because most of us are senior citizens and are dealing with diminished capacities and abilities ourselves, in varying degrees. We are facing our own immortality, as we lose one ability or another. The concensus was that aging does not need to be depressing or sad. Althouth, it does require a certain amoung of grieving—grief for that lost capacity. Some of us can no longer hike like we used to, or put up a curtain rob by ourselves, as examples. Some things we used to do i a few minutes now may take hours instead. It is shocking to our system to have to make those adjustments. It is also humbling, which isn’t all bad. In my case, I look back at how I used to be and I think I probably was fairlyarrogant, or atleast proud of my abilities to do certain things.

    I think being in the last quarter of life does call on us to be more humble, more patient, accepting of help when we need it, and to be grateful rathere than resentful or embarrassed. Rather than being sad or depressed, we can keep our joy, our belief in the good and the beauty of life, and try to pass that on to others who are younger and just beginning to go through some of the challenges of life we already men, and conquered, one way or another. I choose joy over depression and feeling sorry for myself, or mad at the world. I also like to think of God as a verb. We can still “do” things, but in a slower, quieter, more thoughtful way. Rather than so much action, more contemplation and sending out the Light to others who need it. We all need it! Send out the Light to everyone. Peace on earth, good will towards all lliving things.

    • chelawriter Says:

      I’m trying to convince my lifetime friend with Parkinson (he of the do be do) to post his reflections on sharing his body with this unwelcome cohabitant. He writes so well, and it would be another way for him to interact with an audience (after being an actor and a classical music program director). He is certainly learning patience, and working on the humility. And, as you say, choosing joy over depression, as do I.

  2. Cheryl @ Artzzle Says:

    So very glad you are posting again. I need to take more time for consideration with this piece, so will do so and return later.

  3. Sharon Vander Meer Says:

    Beautifully expressed. Thank you.

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