Now playing: Verb!

This week I was standing in a convenience store watching people come and go for a couple of minutes and listening to myself describe them in my mind.

And I realized something wrong about how I was doing it. I was using adjectives.

We're taught to do this early. "Blonde woman. Black teenager. Fat man. Poor family." We're taught that adjectives are how we describe people.

But adjectives are not the best way to describe each other. Why? Because the adjective is like paint on a wall -- you can't tell one surface from the other. The adjective becomes part of the identity.

That's why, when I learned to think of myself as "fat woman," it was easy to link those words to shame and embarrassment -- not just about my fat, but about my very being, my existence on the planet.

But there's a better way. I stood in that Quik-Trip and wondered: what if I could teach myself to see "woman shopping" instead of "blonde woman"? "Teenager reading a magazine" instead of "[insert race here] teenager"? What if I could teach myself to see the verb rather than the adjective, the action rather than the identity?

How many ways might this free me? For starters, an action is something that frees me to join the person in activity, to assist, to share, to carry forward. And an action is something positive, something ever changing, not a fixed point. It does not lend itself to pigeonholing. It lends itself to participation.

So if you see me on the street, try it -- don't think of me as "fat woman." Think of me as "woman running." Think of me as "woman smiling."

Let's see what happens.

(Cross-posted from A Sunny Hello.)