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Skater mom sorts her identities

I bought a really cool T-shirt from an indoor skatepark once while visiting Austin, Texas. I loved it. The words together — Skater+mom — really described my identity as a mom with a young son who loved skateboarding.

I did not hesitate to buy it, and wore it proudly. When I wore it, I felt like a strong supporter of my son’s passion by actively supporting his engagement with the sport by driving him to skateparks, demos, competitions, movies and purchasing gear.

So there was the witnessing, supporting piece. But there was also a part of my own identity developing, one that marked me as a “cool mom” who allowed and encouraged the whole skate scene, which was a bit radical, still peripheral, and “dangerous” among other 10-year-olds and their moms.

As my son got older and more advanced in the sport, even sponsored (yay, so proud), I wore the shirt less and less because then it wasn’t so cool anymore. It was a bit juvenile, and Keita started giving me looks of embarrassment when I wore it. So I stashed it in the bottom of a drawer and wore it only occasionally.

One identity I hope to embody every August is to become a “minimalist” and purge material possessions. The shirt occasionally made the first round of purging, but always ended up back in my drawer.

My son died nine years ago, and I still go through my minimalism purges every August. Each year is more difficult than the last because many of my material possessions hold memories of Keita, and identities of being his mom. Now, the August purge lasts much longer, as I deliberate the purpose and emotional value of every item. I contemplate the identity of “hoarder,” defined as “a persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions because of a perceived need to save them” (Mayo Clinic). Today, I still have the shirt and contemplate my perceived need to save it.

The practice of minimalism has connections to Buddhism and nonattachment, which I aspire to manifest. The duality of “to keep, or not to keep” is a monkey mind exercise I engage in daily.

Questions like, “why does this item make me feel closer to Keita?” surface at every turn. The truth is that I have fears of losing memories of him. Spiritual teachers encourage us to face our fears as a gateway to finding inner peace; that which is constant, unchangeable, unmovable and indestructible.

Ram Dass teaches that finding inner peace involves losing attachments to ego, and transforming identities of “somebody” to “nobody.”

In examining my identities, I see many: child, daughter, mom, wife, teacher, professor, caffeine-addict, swimmer, dog mom, etc. However, upon closer inspection, I can see the illusory nature of all these identities. I am no longer a child, and my mother has died, so I only feel like a daughter in the presence of my dad (a few times a year). I do not feel like a “wife,” and I am not really a professor. I am an associate professor, and do not feel satisfied in my job anymore, so I am shedding that label too.

I am only a caffeine-addict in the mornings, and only a swimmer in the swimming pool/ocean. I am not really a dog mom, because I did not give birth to my pet. These identities I am willing to part with because they are not solid. However, the identity of mom is a bit more stable. Until I can understand the perceived need to save the Skater Mom T-shirt, it stays in the drawer for now.

Someday I hope to be cremated and become a nobody. But for now, I find inner peace in knowing that one of my identities that is unchangeable, unmovable and indestructible is “Badass Skater Mom,” and will be the epitaph on my tombstone.

Megan Farnsworth is a wannabe massage therapist, enlightened soul. She is also a chocolate addict and vegetarian. She resides at Southern Oregon University and loves writing about her journey in negotiating loss and grief, and finding inner peace. Email 600- to 700-word articles on all aspects of inner peace to Sally McKirgan at innerpeaceforyou@outlook.com.