A lesson on hippopatami and other fuzzy creatures.

I sat on my parent’s bed, holding my favorite fuzzy, stuffed creature in my hand.  It had long, floppy ears and whiteish-gray fuzz.  It wasn’t totally clear what it was, but I had decided it was a dog.

Disheartened from an argument with my brothers, who thought it was a bunny, I went to my dad to settle this mystery.  Our conversation went something like this: 

“Daddy, they made fun of me because I called this a dog.  They told me it’s a bunny.  But I think it’s a dog.  What is it really Daddy?” 

I was hoping for an answer that would give me some certainty.  I wanted the answer to be “dog”, but if it was actually a bunny, I could deal with it.  At least I would know what it was.  And when I knew what it was, things would be easier [or so my young brain thought]. 

My dad didn’t give me an answer with certainty.  He did more than that. [For that I am thankful.] 

“My dear, this is whatever you want it to be.  It can be a dog.  It can be a bunny.  It can even be a hippopotamus.”

 “Hahaha. Really”?  I asked bewildered and excited. 

“Really.”  He said. 

And that was that.  I bounced off the bed with a smile on my face and an even bigger smile in my heart. 

This can be whatever I want.  It can be a dog.  A bunny.  A hippopotamus.  Or anything else!   

And it was.  Some days that little creature was a dog.  Some days it was a bunny.  And some days it was a hippopotamus.  Other days it was all three or something entirely different.  I loved that little creature to pieces, literally.  I cuddled with it, walked with it, danced with it, cried with it, laughed with it, traveled with it.  It didn’t matter to me that I didn’t know exactly what this little creature was.  It mattered to me that it was with me. 

I no longer call upon my dad to know what kind of stuffed animal I have.  But some days I ache for certainty and I ask my heavenly father — 

Who am I?  What am I?  Where do I belong?

Am I a health coach?  Am I a yoga instructor?  Am I a writer?  Am I all of those?  Or none of those?

Do I belong in the city or the mountains?

Am I feminine and graceful or am I athletic and tough?

Am I made to be a career woman or a mom?

I yearn for clarity in these seemingly contradictory roles.  Because clarity seems easier than mystery.
And because our world likes to make things neat and tidy.  Our world likes labels and titles.  Our world isn’t comfortable with a creature being both a bunny and a dog.  Our world is more comfortable when we know what roles people play.  

But what if it isn’t about the roles we play or the titles we have?  What if it’s really about the hokey pokey?  Just kidding.  What if it is really about whether we are there to cuddle or walk?  There to dance or explore?  There to laugh and cry? There in our imperfections and seemingly incompatible traits, like the ones that are both graceful and tough?  Gentle and strong?  Playful and thoughtful?  And even there with the deepest questions of identity.

What would it look like if we were more interested in

“where do you like to play?” and “how loud do you laugh?”

than with

“what do you do?” and “what is your title?”.

I think it would look a whole lot more interesting and beautiful.  I think we would have a world full of pretty awesome creatures.  Creatures worth loving to pieces. 

So, what do you say?  What do you want to be/play today?  A bunny?  A dog?  Or a hippopotamus?

p.s. In case you are wondering whether my brothers and I worked it out – we did.  To this day, they are two of my most favorite creatures, adventure partners and supporters.



2 Responses to “A lesson on hippopatami and other fuzzy creatures.

  • Well written Rachel. I think our ‘roles’ change as life changes. I enjoy your writings. Keep them coming.

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