You mean today? Yesterday? Tomorrow? Forever?
Sometimes I’m asked, “Who are you?” and I’m tempted to reply that I’m lots of Ethels, and which one do you mean?
The name Ethel Bradford, only means I belong to a family of Bradfords and was ‘labeled’ Ethel, so people could tell me apart from others. And that Ethel has been daughter, wife, lover, mother, grandmother to three and now I’m twice a great grandmother.
But you know, as I do, that all those ‘names’ are actually only labels, tags you might say, explaining what role I played or play in someone else’s life, and not who I am.
None of them relates to the Ethel who responds, or hangs up, on those who try to beguile or fill me with fear in order to get me to vote for who is paying them to make such calls.
And still different from that Ethel who patiently tries to explain to another phone-voice, that I never buy or give money to anyone who comes begging by phone. And you wouldn’t want to know that Ethel who was once told, (in today’s explicit words) to perform some anatomically impossible act. Yes, I know the words, but I’m still shocked to hear them casually used and, what’s more, aimed right at me. I must admit I was tempted to respond in the same lingo, but that too, is another Ethel.
To some I’m a Teacher, and there I smile, for I always learn more than I teach, because the teacher must ‘dig’ for more information than ever used, while all the students have to do is listen, doze, or not even attend.
I’m a different Ethel when met with anger or resentment, than with outstretched arms of love. Yes, there are Ethels that I don’t especially like, either, but, at times we all play such roles.
I remember back when I was my Dad’s Flicka, his little Svenska girl, and though I didn’t know what he meant, I knew it was an Ethel I liked being.
I’m not sure who I was to my mother, for she could not accept the Ethel who failed to unquestionably follow in her steps. I became far different from the Ethel she took for granted I would be, and sadness came to us both. It caused me to be deeply careful to let my sons know I loved and approved of them, while at the same time, tried to give them a deep sense of character values, and yet also the freedom to use those values as they chose and that my love would not vary.
And sometime who we are is a puzzle, as to me with the one I’ve called Gram. She was my husband’s mother, so I was not her daughter, and yet she said I was her true daughter. It’s an Ethel, I loved and am so glad I was given that role to fill.
And then there’s the Ethel who is a student, for that Ethel keeps me forever stepping through doors that, with just a touch, prove not to be doors at all, but new territory to explore and widen my mind. This has become my favorite Ethel, for she points the way to the Ethel I am becoming as I eagerly step through those false doors with open eyes and mind.
To my surprise, and I wish I could tell every older person, but as I get older, I’m finding an entirely new Ethel. I reach out to her with surprise and ask, where have you been all this time? And I’ve found that I had to wait until years of living, and stepping through those wide-open ‘closed doors’, would be needed to give me the bravery, joy, and wisdom to dare be the Ethel I never before was ready to meet.
And the best part of it all, is to find that I, by the roles I play, I’m also able to choose what I will be tomorrow. And to know that this is not a ‘new’ Ethel, but one who’s always been with me.
I’ve caught glimpses of that Ethel peeking out from behind the thousands of roles I’ve taken, but slowly found that no matter what name or camouflage I assume or am given, it is the real, never changing ‘me’. And, shiver, shiver, shiver, like you, that’s who I am, always was and always will be. Yes, names will vary but the Role will always be played by the Ethel who is One with The Source of all.