We hear that expression a lot. I can’t count how many of those feel-good quotes I’ve seen on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, and elsewhere that have to do with ‘being who you are,’ ‘claiming your identity,’ and the blessed state of ‘being a whole person.’ These ideas usually revolve around one’s readiness to enter and maintain healthy relationships, or embracing the concept of going it alone.
I think the concept got a foothold in the sixties and seventies with self-help books like I’m Okay, You’re Okay*, and How to Be Your Own Best Friend**. There were others, of course, but those are two that I distinctly recall as a youngster—my mother even provided us with a copy of the latter during adolescence. I wish I had actually understood and applied what I'd read. Nevertheless, as a culture, we’ve been talking about ‘Being Whole’ for decades.
The reason I’m now contemplating the issue is that when I boiled down the theme of the story I’m working on, the third in my Portraits series, this question—What does it mean to be whole?—keeps coming up.
For anyone who has read Portrait of a Girl Running and Portrait of a Protégé, you know I’ve put my protagonist, Leila, through the mill. Although she has had independence foisted upon her, she is living what appears to be a fulfilling life in a safe and nurturing environment with people who care about her, and with opportunities for personal and artistic growth. Of course, I can’t leave well enough alone. No, I don’t think I’m going to kill anyone off (at least not unless I have to, ha!), but let’s face it—Leila has a lot of unresolved issues about her upbringing, and especially about her mother. She’s been on an emotionally intense roller-coaster ride, but, just because her life seems to have finally leveled out, that does not mean she can side skirt those issues which have left her broken and with pieces missing. Yes, she’s having to confront the question: What the heck does it even mean to be whole?
I Googled the question, and aside from coming up with a lot of religious answers—valid as some may be, I’m not focusing on that route—there are so many opinions, a psychological and spiritual free-for-all! I have my own opinion, but I’m still shaping it. And I am very curious how other thoughtful people define it. Please feel free to leave a comment or send me an e-mail (bridget at jbchicoine dot com) if you’d like to share!