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Tiah Beautement

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Who are you?


I began asking people “Who are you?” rather than “What do you do?”
– Yulinda Noortman,
Reclaiming the L-Word.

‘Who are you?’ It is a question that pushes beyond all the antidotes that make up a typical obituary. Where we were born and who raised us may contribute into who we’ve become, but if life was that simple then identical twins would be exactly the same. Yet they are not. This is an important question for writers to examine. If we can’t discover the defining pieces of ourselves, how can we compose another?

Thus, I asked the people taking part in my writing classes – both the young and those legally allowed to drink – to write on ‘What makes you YOU?’ Which means, of course, I have to write one for me.

Tick, tick, tick goes the clock, deadline drawing near. My mind keeps focusing on what I’m not, starting with my lack of talent in parenting. I can see it now, my son and daughter trying to muster words at my wake. Eventually one will sigh, ‘Well, she tried.’ And Husband? If he were in an honest mood, he could declare, ‘It was an experience.’ Because marriage tends to be that, at the very least.

I would love to be able to claim to be kind, wise or charismatic. But I can draw up a long list of people I’ve hurt, offended and upset over the years both due to a temporary absence of charitable affection and obstinate opinions. And if God had asked me, rather than Moses, to say to the people, ‘Follow me,’ the story would have ended well short of the Promised Land.  During my childhood, my mother was fond of telling people I was graceful. Which is true, so long as we’re only talking about dance. In life, however, I’ve mostly barrelled through, often flaying my way around like a toddler high on fizzy drink.

Over my thirty-seven years I’ve watched my address change more than my accent. I’ve witnessed my weight fluctuate more than my hair colour. I’ve seen my physical healthy morph into this amazing dichotomy of brilliance and utter crap. Even if we were to change the question to ‘What do you do?’ my career can only be described as eclectic.

‘Who are you?’ I boiled myself down, examined what was left in the pot. I didn’t find a woman that has managed to become financially independent, strong or elegant. I saw a person who has gone through a number of ups and downs, combined with some amazing experiences and others that were hell. Yet, through it all, she kept getting out of bed. She vents, yells, becomes recluse and altogether can be rather trying to live with. I know. I’m with her every day. But she is determined. It isn’t always pretty. Sometimes it is down right scary. Yet, when the dust has settled and she’s looked over her options, she gives it another go.

As my children will say, ‘Well, she tried.’

 

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