I never really wanted to be defined by my diabetes.
Today, I turn 38, and I just came back from a great weekend trip to New York. My husband Lior and I ate fabulous foods like Asian-Cuban fusion, walked the streets and felt the energy, and of course, went shopping. A big part of the trip, and perhaps not so coincidentally, was our visit to a Kandinsky exhibit at the Guggenheim.
Kandinsky was born in Russia, spent many years of his artistic life living in Germany, and died in Paris when he fled the Nazis.
Kandinsky was always on the cutting edge of art. His belief was that artistic expression comes from a place of spirituality or "inner self", rather than painting from form as his predecessors had. For example, rather than painting a chair as you see the chair, find how your inner self relates to the chair and paint from that place of stillness. Kandinsky's art is labeled for us as abstract, because his images are hard to define, and his improvisations (as they are called) are Universalist. When Kandinsky looked at a mountain view or listened to music, he felt he could portray that feeling, his inner sense of that experience, through the colors he chose, the brushstrokes he painted, and the shapes he portrayed on canvas.
When the Russian Revolution rolled around in 1914, and Communism prevailed, Kandinsky was dismissed by his fellow in-the-box Russian artists. From what I've understood of Communist Russia, people were boxed into roles. If you were a physicist, that's who you were until the day you died - a physicist. A carpenter was a carpenter. A teacher was a teacher. And so on, you get the point.
In Communist Russia, people were not fully seen; they were not seen as their true, whole selves.
So, Kandinsky moved to Germany to teach at the famous Bauhaus school.
And so here I am, on my birthday, in 2009, completely moved by this man who had the courage to change his life to live his true self.
I went through a bit of an identity crisis until recently. Up until that day that my sense of self switched up a bit, I spent most of my adult life traveling, exploring, reading, journaling, and all while unknowingly at the time, trying to desperately figure out who I am and where I belong on this Earth.
Let me tell you, I’ve read a lot of books, and many provide lots of questions to ask yourself. I attempted to answer them all. Questions that all boil down to: Who are you? And, I found myself journaling like mad making list after list of all the descriptive words I could think of.
Woman, writer, traveler, American, Jewish, curly-haired, diabetic...
Not that these labels are good or bad, but they just didn’t quite seem to fit. There was clearly something that I hadn’t figured out about myself. And I felt completely unsatisfied by them; something was missing. So, I gave up. What was the point? It didn’t help me figure out who I am.
Little did I know at the time, but I was boxing myself in. My list of words and boxes may have been longer than they were for people in Communist Russia, but by boxing myself into labels, I wasn’t allowing myself to be my true self.
I had this grand realization while meditating actually. There are no words that can describe me. Actually, there are no words that can describe any of us. Words simply describe a situation, but those situations can change. And then who are we?
If you had spent your life, thinking of yourself as a traveler, and then suddenly find yourself without the ability to travel for whatever reason, well then, what happens to your sense of self? If you think of yourself as a wife, or a mother, or an aunt, and one of your family members passes away or leaves, well then who are you?
Well you either cease to exist if that’s who you are, or you realize that we are all of those words, all of those descriptions, all of those labels boiled into one indescribable being that is way too grand for a couple of little boxes.
I don’t have to define myself as a diabetic. It’s only one brushstroke on the whole canvas.
Thank you, Kandinsky.