To Be Known for Who You Are
By Robert Ross



 "What becomes more and more important,  is to be known - known for all that you were during this brief  stay. How sad it seems to me, to leave this earth without those you love the most ever really knowing who you were."
                                                               - Bridges of Madison County 

This would be sad, to have had a life that was not, in some way shared. And  to have had a deep-felt experience that was not revealed -  at least to those we cared about the most. 

Meryl Streep in the movie Bridges of Madison County attempts to share with her grown children (through a letter opened after her death) some details of her life that were profoundly important to her. She wants to be known for who she really was. And so the details of her brief interlude with a photographer (Clint Eastwood) are shared. In sharing these details, the lives of her children are affected and changed. The movie ends, Kleenex is tucked away, and we, the viewing public, return to reality. 

But all good stories are only as good as their ability to linger - to circulate through our thoughts, to recur in our dreams or reappear unexpectedly as we go about our daily tasks.  Bridges of Madison County 
lingered . . . 

It was by accident that we recently saw the movie for a second time. The second viewing allowed for a different focus.  For some reason, the letter from Meryl Streep to her children hit home with me. "To be known for all that you were . . .  to share with those that you love the most . . . a brief stay on earth." These are words that call to our reflective spirits. 

To be known for all that you were
 We are here for such a brief period of time. Our adventures are ours to have, and ours to share, if we so choose.  During most of our days, the activities we engage in seem  mundane - a trip to the market, watching television, driving the freeways and conversations that sometimes vacillate between satisfaction and frustration.  But out of all this, a life unfolds - our life. And in spite of our commonplace everyday activities, there are times when we are deeply affected by some experience.  The experience hits home, it becomes a part of our fabric, it's who we are. 

We have a profound experience - a crossroad then appears. Do we share our experience? Often, there is no choice.  The immediacy of the experience demands that we share it.  But other times, the thought of sharing is too uncomfortable.  Perhaps we’ll be ridiculed, not believed or dismissed in some embarrassing way.  Is it  worth it, we ask ourselves? A friend has a religious conversion and attempts to share it with us. We all but reject that person, fearing they will attempt to convert us to their new belief.  They sense our discomfort and pull back - we pull back. The sharing, the revealing, the exposing, backfires. 

Know your soil 
How much do we reveal of ourselves and to whom? This quandary is a common one. We learn from others - their successes, failures, their experiences. And by sharing our experiences, the incident is clarified -   it becomes more real, and is etched in the fabric of our being. By sharing, both individuals are enriched. But the question lingers: how much do we reveal and to whom? 

Answers often come from unlikely sources.  When I was attempting to figure out if there were  rules to sharing,  I asked a gardener for some help.  Anyone with a passion for gardening will be quick to tell you that gardening is not only a great hobby but also a teacher of some of life’s rules.  My question was simple: "How do we know when to share and when not to share?"  The response was immediate: "Know your soil!" 

A simple answer, but filled with more than a little truth.  Know your soil. In the movie, Bridges of Madison County, the grown children were fertile soil. They were mature enough to listen and accept, as truth, their mother’s experience. The soil was fertile, ready for planting. 

The mother shared and her children learned, and as a result, made some meaningful changes in their own lives. 

If only life could be so simple - productive soil, plant seeds and everybody learns. Unfortunately, life is a continuous attempt to learn about soil, i.e., others.  We embarrass ourselves, humiliate ourselves and often tell ourselves that’s it, we’ll never say that again, or we’ll never share that again.  But, we lick our wounds, and soon, hopefully we are back out there in the world attempting to be heard. 

We learn about life and people by sharing our personal experiences. Often we stumble, retreat, regroup but in the end, we move  forward; all in an attempt . . . "To be known for all that  we were during this brief stay." 


Robert Ross can be reached at   

© Copyright 2000 by Robert Ross, all rights reserved

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