It’s hard to not be consumed by feelings of otherness. We live in a world that celebrates hegemony, normalcy, protocols, traditions. I have always struggled with such systems. And yet, the work of crafting my own system is no less of a struggle. It is however a different type of challenge, one that motivates me to dig deeper into who I am be(come)ing.
The raw truth is that I am very “other” from the world around me. In many aspects of my life, I do not fit neatly into any sort of category. Words, labels, and identities that are commonly used by the masses feel like muzzles to me. I balk at them. I often feel constricted by the fixed meaning of certain words, and therefore do not wish to wear their limitations voluntarily.
Often, when I strip myself of these prescripted monickers, I don’t yet have another one in place. There is an extended period of a suspended identity, a sort of blankness that I have grown more and more accustomed to over the years of re/de/constructing myself again and again. Inside the void, I wonder and wander. Sometimes days, weeks, months, even years, can go by before a resonating word, that I may have to just invent myself, comes to cover me. And fits my spirit comfortably without also having to suffocate my ability (and likelihood) to change.
I knew early in my stumbling career as a movement facilitator, that “choreographer” didn’t fully speak to the way I work. As I understood its meaning, while coming into my 20s in college and then meandering through various dance opportunities, I often felt, “Hmmm…but I do something different. What to call myself?” A similar discomfort with labels such as “American” and “African-American“, and other placeholders for race, sexuality, and religion became more apparent as I ventured into the arduous labor of naming myself Binahkaye Joy. (I will devote more time to sharing the processes I discovered while naming myself and my identities in other future essays.)
As I ponder all the work of be(come)ing someone else’s mother, the irreconcilable places within my own identities seem to loom larger than ever before. What will I say when my child asks me those simple, but profound questions: Mommy, where am I from? What religion am I? Who is my family? What type of artist are you? Why do I have so many names? I imagine that for women who construct themselves within the normalized, traditional patterns of womanhood– heteronormative, patriarchal, puritanical– that answering these questions might be simple and routine. But for me, each of these inquiries opens up galaxies of contemplation, layers of understanding that exist at varying frequencies of realization. And up until now, the slow, gradual, and laborious tasks of peeling, digging, discarding, reforming, and birthing parts of myself has been fine for me. But now I am in deep reflection over how my child might interact/engage/interpret/change! my method of self-discovery. If I could put it simply:
I enjoy the weight and work of my complexities. I don’t know if my child will enjoy that about me.
And today, nearing the space of 30 weeks, that’s where the heaviness that stirs within me is rooted. I know I’m not the first parent who has something like this that she has no choice but to just “wait and see” about. I know it’s not a “bad” or “good” phenomenon, it just is. Oddly, I am comforted by the momentum that is on most days heartbreakingly relentless. The warm inevitability of growth, pulsing through me with every tug and kick I feel from this dynamic, expanding, radiant child, gives me a much needed, gentle pause throughout the day. Even after all my inner-self deliberations, I am left with a bare curiosity for my baby, Who are you?