Whenever I see this phrase, it challenges me. Why? I’m not sure. It could be because I feel I am not living up to my full potential. Or, because this last year, especially, has been a very rough year. Or, because I am stubborn and continually expect a lot from myself. Or, it could be because I am older.
I am turning 51 on Saturday. And, I continually ponder why I exist? What am I doing? Am I on the right path? Why must this be so difficult? Why am I so serious now, compared to when I was younger? Why don’t I give myself a break once in a while? Even if there’s an answer to any of these questions, the answers will change, morph, shoot out, crush, transform, grind, squeal, love, be.
I have always been the salmon swimming upstream. The passionate, outspoken, Leo, Latina with the wild curly hair and whimsical, philosophical attitude – I really don’t take myself too seriously. It all comes down to that it simply ain’t about me. At this stage in my life, I have realized, and more, accepted, that I am different. I used to want to impress people. Now, I strive to not impress a single soul. This is me. Like me? Great. Don’t? Oh well.
If someone asked me to describe myself from the time of childhood to now, I am sure that I could bore you with all the impressive things about me, but, instead, I like to tell people that as a child, I used to play in the toilet. Yep. I was THAT kid. I gave myself whirlies in the toilet and let me tell you – I can still feel that cool water swirling around my head, splashing on my cheeks, and the rush of hanging upside down for as long as I could. I recall standing up and water running down my face, over my pursed lips, and on to my chest, getting my shirt all wet. Of course the water was “clean.” And, of course, I would lock the door. One must experience their whirlies in private. Did I mentioned I was fascinated by the water as I hung upside down watching it turn and swirl down the toilet drain, as if my hair would go with it some day? Yeah, I was THAT kid.
Thing is, life is just like a whirlie. It’s twisted, wet, cool, crazy, soothing, gross, unpredictable, and messy. I admit, sometimes I long for a whirlie. I long for that feeling when it didn’t matter what I did, who I was, or was trying to be, or thought I was, or wanted to be. Whirlies were where it was at. Whirlies let me be that quirky kid that came out of the womb pissed off at the world and who cooled off by sticking my head in the water. Whirlies just let me, be me. Whirlies were an act of rebellion. I knew I wasn’t supposed to play in the toilet. I mean, who really wants to play in the toilet? But. I did. And I enjoyed every minute of it.
On being. I will continue to ponder this phrase. Life will continue to offer us beauty and horrible happenstance, and what matters are our reactions – to actions that are out of our control. In in the end, all of the other stuff, it’s all simply the whirlies of life. I am learning to just let it all go – to let it all swirl down the existential toilet, let it all cool off, and eventually, dry out.
I. Am. Being.
Karen Leslie Hernandez is a theologian and interfaith activist. With a focus in Christian-Muslim understanding, as well as religious fundamentalism and extremism, Karen is the only theologian who is a Latina and a United Methodist doing this type of theological work in the US. She has published with several media outlets including the Women’s United Nations Report Network, The Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue/Studies, the Interfaith Observer, and she is the only Christian to publish an ongoing Op-Ed Column with OnIslam out of Cairo, Egypt. As an instructor, Karen designed and taught an Interfaith Dialogue workshop with Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago, and she teaches workshops throughout the Bay Area. Karen currently lives in San Francisco, is consulting with the United Religions Initiative, is an Ambassador with Parliament of the World’s Religions, is pursuing her Doctor of Ministry at Claremont School of Theology, and she is also a domestic violence advocate.