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Wednesday, October 17, 2007


The closer Halloween gets, the more the kids change their minds about what they want to be.

Zoe has flip-flopped more than a politician making waffles: I want to be a witch! I want to be a princess! I want to be a mermaid! I want to be Dora! I want to be a kitty cat! I want to be a goddess! But she doesn't want any help in deciding, thankyouverymuch. Should make for interesting costume-shopping this weekend.

Dmitri, on the other hand, asks his father a hundred times a day. "Would you rather be Batman or Superman?" Michael: Batman. "Okay, but would you rather be a Transformer or Deigo?" Dmitri's slowly narrowing it down based on Michael's opinion of superheroes and cartoon characters. By this weekend, we should have a winner--I hope.

Michael and I don't usually dress up unless we have a reason. When he worked at Gilda's Club, we had fun with costumes for their annual Halloween shindig. But for the most part, it's been a kid-focused holiday. (Heck, all of the holidays are mostly kid focused, come to think of it... even our own birthdays!) This year, though, we've been invited to a party, and I'm not only wondering what the kids are going to be for Halloween... I now have to consider what I want to be.

I have costumes already made. One year we went as Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf in Grandma's Nightgown. I have another costume I made the year I went as "Wonder Bread." (A white sheet with red, blue and yellow foam circles on it with "Wonder" down the side.) And then there's the nun outfit. The year I wore that one, people kept coming up to me and saying, "Oh my god, you scared me to death, you look just like Sister So-And-So." Good to know I could impersonate a nun--at least, on the outside.

So I lately find myself wondering a lot, "What should I be?" when I'm standing in line at the supermarket, or pumping gas, or cooking dinner...

This morning, it occurred to me... I haven't asked myself that particular question in any context for a very long time. All those pressing inquiries seem to fall away when we become adults. We don't ask ourselves who we want to be anymore--we already are.

Except... we aren't.

When I was in graduate school, one of my good friends there was a woman in her late sixties. She had been a well-known and respected equestrian all her life, but she fell and broke her hip and was forced to stop riding. Then, she reinvented herself. She asked herself the question: "What do I want to be?" And she went back to school to get her degree in counseling psychology.

How often to we pigeonhole ourselves into what or who we think we are? Do we think outside of the box - or are we content to close the lid and peek out the eyeholes we've made? It's interesting to consider the masks we wear. No, I'm not Dora the Explorer, or Ariel the little mermaid... but I am a witch, and a goddess. I'm also a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter. And a psychologist, a doula, a writer.

But is that all? Hardly. We are so much more than the labels we place on ourselves. And we can be so much more than that. The truth in the statement we parents often repeat to our kids: "You can be anything you want when you grow up" is the ultimate truth.

We can be anyone. Do anything. We are infinite in possibility. The masks we wear don't define us, but they can help us shape who we want to be. We can, in fact, take the shape of whatever mask we decide to wear.

The question is: Who do you want to be?

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