I’ve been thinking, recently, about who I am as a person. I imagine a lot of people think about this at some point in their lives, or at least I hope they do. I also imagine that a lot of people think they know who they are and then suddenly one day for one reason or another they realize that they aren’t so sure after all. I imagine some people never know themselves. I imagine some people know other people but don’t know themselves very well. I imagine some people never care to know themselves.
I care to know, but it’s in the quest of knowing that I find some conflict.
There are days when I go out with friends, have some drinks, dance around, feel sexy as hell. I know myself then. There are also days when I go to yoga, drink tea, park it on the couch with some restorative essential oils and a good book and go to bed early. I know myself then too. There are days when I am quick and witty and charming. I know myself then. There are days when words escape me. I know myself then. Some days I am all of these. That’s the person I get scared by.
It’s like when someone you know does something and you say, “that’s not you.”
That’s not you.
Maybe it is though. Maybe the way we are doesn’t always have to be the same.
This occurred to me because I was looking at the hands of a coworker of mine, a person who has been an actor (and a successful one) for years but who has recently gone to school to be a practitioner of Chinese Medicine.
My first thought in the following train of thoughts was,
“Huh. I’m surprised that he’s passionate about both.”
My immediate, and I think more important, second thought was,
“God forbid people are multi-faceted.”
God forbid we fluctuate.
God forbid we try something.
God forbid we don’t make sense.
I think I’ve been working up to this realization for some time now, like years kind of some time. Like maybe my whole life kind of some time. You see, until about an hour ago, I think I thought that self-definition was one thing.
But I cannot pretend to know myself every day of the week.
I’m always such a careful decision-maker, I drive myself crazy over choosing the right everything, and I think that is because part of me thought that whatever decision I made had to reflect who I am. That each candy bar and notebook color and daily outfit and string of jobs had to accurately display to the world who I am. That somehow if I strayed from my self-definition that I would lose myself, and to lose myself is equivalent to death to our somewhat-evolved animal brains.
It’s not death.
Not even close.
Who we are from day to day or month to month or even year to year isn’t who we are overall, really. There are good days and bad days, but they don’t make us good or bad people. There are busy months and slow months, but our lives are neither busy nor slow. There are years that question and years that answer, we live somewhere in between.
So what is self-definition, in the end? I don’t know. I’m sure it’s a healthy combination of who we are from Monday to Tuesday to Sunday from the day we’re born to the day we die.
Maybe we aren’t supposed to ever fully know.
Maybe we float around this world as whatever and whomever we happen to choose at the time.
That suddenly feels pretty okay by me.
Religion is great for some people. I respect that.
I don't want to get into the specifics, because I know that a lot of people are in my boat, and I will only start an internet war with those in other boats. I don't want to go there. I don't want to talk about it.
I would love to talk about Catholic Guilt, which I have in abundance. It started at the ripe age of zero, when the pastor accidentally poured it on me instead of holy water at my baptism. Apparently this is a common mistake.
It's been a force in my heart all my life, rearing its head at really the dumbest moments. I no don't feel guilty imbibing in alcoholic beverages or having consensual sex, but feel an immense amount of guilt buying a lipstick I don't really need or if I lose something (I didn't take care of it! I didn't appreciate my belongings! Smite me down, JC!)
My first memory of Catholic Guilt is from when I was about three. We were praying at the dinner table, and I peeked through my fingers at my lasagna because damn I love that stuff when this conversation began in my head:
"No, Gabby, focus on the prayer. God gave you that lasagna, the least you could do is say hi to him. "
"Thank you for this food and the hands that..."
"Oh man. I can smell that damn lasagna. Why does that shit smell so good?"
I peek again.
This keeps happening during the eternity (probably actually like 30 seconds) of mealtime prayer. When my dad finishes I must confess my sins so as to purge my soul of darkness in case I choke on my dinner and die tonight.
"I peeked five times!" and then burst into tears. God is never going to forgive me this time.
I guess I have no proof that all my guilt comes directly from being raised Catholic. I think I was probably predisposed to feel guilty, and my tiny Catholic school and 13 years of attending church simply exacerbated what was already in my system. Just like how some people are set up to be psycho lunatics and then they get bullied in high school so they grow up to cut people's kneecaps off and use them as coasters but if they hadn't been bullied they might have lived quiet suburban lives drinking white wine with ice cubes in it and listening to John Mayer. Or whatever.
And how many people has the church bullied? A lot.
I think that ultimately we all just need to give ourselves more credit rather than giving religion all this power over us. Sure, god is a helpful dude for some people to talk to and that's great, but it drives me endlessly insane when individuals give god credit for everything that they have. You did some of that too. You deserve to be proud of your work. More than that, though, you know what is right and wrong for you. You might agree with some of the church's teachings but not others, and that's okay. You might not agree with the church at all, that's cool too. Basically we all have to trust ourselves to know how to be a good person without the constant judgment of a 2000 year old book, and empower ourselves to work hard to achieve our goals, rather than waiting for them to drop into our lap. And if you want to buy a lipstick then buy a damn lipstick, guilt be damned.
This is not going to be profound. Nothing that I say is profound, except for sometimes when it is but that's usually when I've had too much wine. We don't have to talk about that right now. What we do have to talk about is that I haven't written anything down in months because I'm afraid it won't be profound. Of course it won't be profound. Nothing is. Except sometimes.
What am I trying to say? I don't know. Yes I do. What?
I'm saying that I have been very very scared (and angry and hurt) for a long time about a lot of things, and each of those things has fed me a reason to not say or do or write anything, all of which boiled down to: you have nothing to say.
That might be true. I might have nothing to say.
But maybe I do.
Who cares though? Even if I don't at least I sat down and tried to dry heave my way through whatever this is.
So read all you want. Laugh with me, laugh at me, laugh for me, laugh through me, but please for the love of god don't expect me to be profound.
To Whom it May Concern (I think I'll call you Harriet),
I'm going to start out with my condolences, an apology that I did not provide my highest level of service to you today. That part is on me. You see, I was about to leave for the night. I had a long day full of tasks and lists and many frustrations, and I was trying to leave early to run an errand before my other job. Seven hours in to a thirteen hour work day. None of this is your fault, so I extend my sincere apologies if I was a bit short with you. I was. I know it.
And you, Harriet, you didn't know what to ask me, how to tell me what you needed. You lacked awareness of how our transaction should go and how my system worked. This is on you, but I will forgive it. How could you know better? If you knew how my job worked you would do it yourself. I don't dwell on this. It's okay.
We both did our best. You fumbled through questions that confused and elongated the situation. I was less patient than I should have been. We did what we could, you and I. I wouldn't have thought twice about you, no malice, no ill will, no second thought at all.
And then, as you were about to turn and leave, you asked me my name.
Now, Harriet, I know you didn't want to know my name so that you could call my manager and sing my praises. It was not that kind of interaction. You wanted to know my name so you could complain. It is likely that in a few days you will call in and whine about the things you didn't like, the things that I did wrong.
There will be no discussion of you and what you could have done better.
There will be talk only of what you thought I lacked.
No talk of the fact that I needed to leave, or that my day was long, or that I miss my mom, or that I cannot afford the things I am helping you buy, or that I have two college degrees and speak more than one language or that my favorite color is yellow or that I like bunnies and naps and Chicago style hot dogs. It didn't matter to you that I work four jobs to pay my bills and only get a day off once a month. It didn't matter to you that I've had heartburn all day or that there has been a blister on my toe for two weeks or that my lunch was sub par or that I had felt, since that lunch, that I really needed a hug.
At the root of it, Harriet, I wasn't human to you.
I was a machine that had failed to meet your expectation.
And you were going to call a technician to have me re-calibrated.
If you had thought me to be human, Harriet, you would have asked me my name before we began.
And now I will open this up to the rest of you.
Please, treat yourselves. Splurge on a concert ticket. Eat a meal out. Buy a sweater you've been wanting for a while.
But while you're doing that, remember that those around you are working hard so you may enjoy. The lives of those who serve are full of the same plights as yours. We all get stuck in traffic. We all like Oreos. We all hate humidity. We all know what it's like to feel lonely or sad or scared.
So I ask you to enjoy.
But while you are enjoying, remember that we have names.
Even before we do something wrong.