Dear Sor Juana,
Every time I go cross a border I wonder if I am brave enough to put down my occupation as poet or pilgrim or even writer. My wondering stops when I enter something more benign and less exotic like social worker or administrator. I’ve been tempted to put policy wonk, facilitator, adventurer, mother, daughter, wife or sister as well. And I also wonder why it seems to stump me each time. Being named by others is one thing, naming yourself is another.
The everyday borders we cross down our street where we are a neighbour, resident, postcode denoting more variables about who we might be, let in potential myths or half-truths as well. Getting on and off at various train stations can even bring definition to our status and have qualities bestowed upon us. There are many markers.
I prefer a more chameleon like existence, not always so clearly defined and a bit fudgy around the edges, being able to melt into places, spaces and conversations and I especially like the element of surprise I might bring. Like poetry, a little twist in the tale, can open up a new possibility and provide an insight, liberate an idea that might have been germinating in the darkness. Your response Sor Juana to your critics was to become silent and that would have been a huge surprise as you were feigned for what your vocalised in your poems, plays, letters and teachings. Joining the convent to avoid marriage and to continue your studies, and then applying your learning to address the authorities of the church were also skilful manoeuvres to stay true to your own naming of yourself as a writer and thinker.
Passing through the real and metaphorical borders with grace and grit, whatever name we are given or give ourselves, calls us to an inner stillness to our truest self and that may well cause us to hold the moment with silence.