I Used To Be ...
By Elisa Morgan
The plane filled quickly as passengers took their seats. Mine was an aisle seat, on the left side. I stowed my bag overhead, hulking it into place, and then collapsed obediently into my seat, shoving my purse and carry-on beneath the seat in front of me.
You know the drill.
But this flight was different from most. Voices buzzed about me, punctuated by giggles, boisterous laughter and general delight. More soprano than bass on this flight, we were a world of women, of moms, headed to MOMcon, the annual leadership convention for the global leaders of MOPS International.
I'd been "gone" from my CEO of MOPS role for nine years but still returned annually to clap and cheer and lap up the ongoing joy of this deep and wide outreach to moms. I'd grown accustomed to being less recognized, less sought after ... less necessary to the movement.
The woman across the aisle startled me with her question, "You look familiar - do I know you?"
Then I was even more surprised by the sentence that blurted from my mouth, "Well, I used to be Elisa Morgan." She drew back, a little confused.
What? I'd meant to say, "I used to be president of MOPS International, maybe you knew me somehow then?" But no, that's not what I actually said. I said, "I used to be Elisa Morgan."
I caught myself, drew back and laughed out loud. Wasn't I still Elisa Morgan? Me?
We chuckled through an exchange but the conversation lingered with me as I landed, Ubered to the hotel and schlepped my stuff from workshop to general session and back to the hotel. Alone, at night, without leadership responsibilities draped about my being, I thought back yet again to my auto-introduction, "Well, I used to be Elisa Morgan."
Why had the phrase emerged that way?
In a way, I wasn't surprised by the slip. Leading MOPS as president and CEO was an All-MOPS-All-The-Time kind of calling. When my plane-mate had inquired about my identity, I'd slipped back into the all-encompassing label of the leadership mantle I'd once occupied. For twenty years, the title defined me before and behind until I could barely breath without it cinching my very self.
While letting the grip go had released me to a new kind of freedom, there had been many moments of struggle in the newfound, undefined space. Somehow I sensed I'd always be a part of MOPS, leaving a legacy of a generation of influence in my wake but still, I wobbled in identity. Over and over my journal reflected my questioning, "Who am I without MOPS?"
Now, nearly a decade after God uncalled me, gently lifting the weight of leadership off my shoulders, I can still struggle to define the rest of Elisa, as if I was somehow more me as I served MOPS from 1989 to 2009. As I peel various personas away, I realize that each age and stage has left its own brand upon me. As have the other roles I've occupied. Was I more me while actively mothering from 1984-2004? Was I was more me while daughtering from 1955-1991?
Yes, I used to be that Elisa Morgan. But I also used to be a lot of other "Elisa's." Elisa Lee, daughter of Terry and Mary Paige Lee and then of the divorced pair of parents. I used to be Leetza Eeetza Pizza Face to my younger brother. Asile Eel (Elisa spelled backwards) to a few silly classmates. And just "E" to many, many co-workers over the years.
I used to be a child locked in shame over her parents' brokenness, a teen torn in two over the discovery of her neediness, a single woman struggling for wholeness, a young wife working to create a healthy marriage.
I used to be a gift-wrapper, a waitress, an admittance clerk in a hospital and a payroll clerk. I used to be a runner, a jazzercizer, a decoupager and a scrapbooker. I used to be a cat lover and a gardener.
We discover and develop various elements of identity in each season of our lives, not in a neat sequence of labels where we slap one tag on our chest and then peel it off and replace it with another. Rather, each label sticks atop the last, season to season, layer upon layer, until we become the compilation of every "me" we've been over a lifetime.
I used to be Elisa Morgan. And ... I'm still Elisa Morgan. The one who is still a wife, still a sister, ongoingly a mother, and now a grandmother to two. The one who came to love dogs late in life, who sits at a keyboard and crafts musings into readables and who climbs the steps to a platform to share those very thoughts out loud before others.
I'm still Elisa Morgan, all right. The one who began clamoring after Jesus nearly fifty years ago, and who today is still huffing and puffing to find him in the crowd and follow after his leading. Bringing more of me to more of him while allowing him to make more of me in the process.
Elisa Morgan is an author and speaker and the cohost of Discover the Word and contributor to Our Daily Bread. Her latest book is The Prayer Coin. Her other books include The Beauty of Broken, Hello, Beauty Full, and She Did What She Could. Connect with Elisa @elisa_morgan on Twitter, and @elisamorganauthor on Facebook and Instagram.