Saturday, 18 October 2008


“I know only that I know not” (Socrates)

I don’t know who I am.

I am a white, Anglo-Saxon, middle-aged female. I have been married for forty years, raised three children, held a professional career for thirty years, and still my identity escapes me.
I realize that I am not alone and that this is a long standing archetypal quest or theme of literature and religion, old and new. The fact that it is careening at me so immediately and incessantly these days, has me somewhat perplexed. Shouldn’t I have figured this out a long time ago? Me, a literature major? Or did I already have a definition of self that has somehow disappeared and needs a new formulation? Somehow I don’t think so.

My son says that I have lived in a box all my life. I am beginning to think that he is right. But every time I try to push away at the sides of this box, something is either pushing back, stronger than my own urges. Or, more likely, I just give up trying altogether, afraid perhaps of what lies beyond.

Inertia is easy, but also deadly. My box runneth over with inertia. I want to spill over the edge, letting it carry me along for the ride. But what then? Will I float or land firmly on level ground. Do I even want to reach a level of complacency again? Exchanging currencies of conformity. I don’t think so. But again, I just don’t know.

My life up to now has been easily defined by a successful husband, beautiful children and a traditional career. Hence, here I am. Wife, mother, teacher. Hmm. But these are all external identities dependent upon others to provide definition to any outline of a self. Yes, mothering, teaching, wifing (why not?) all have their internal energies, intellectual and emotional, as well as instinctive and gratifying. No man is an island, so why the need for a singular self actualization (as people like Maslow would say)?

But I return to the nagging urges. With all my experiences, my education, my loving, successful, supportive family, with all that is within and without me, in spite and because of me, there must be some answer. Pardon the expression, but “God forbid, it should be an epiphany.” One thing for certain, I am not looking for a sign from any almighty power, or for any Damascus moment.

I really just want some feeling of coherency inside myself. This is what I stand for. This is who I am. These are my values. My talents and energies are still not fully realized. What do I want to do with the rest of my life? I am grown up, so silly clichés are not useful here. But, clichéd as it may seem, I do feel that I am on a real problem solving quest.

I am usually good at problem solving (motherhood skills and all). But where to begin? Okay, maybe I begin at the beginning, do a type of archeological dig of the self and soul. What were my dreams at 5, 15, 25, 45? What talents have been rewarded or denied? If I could be anyone else in the world, who would it be? (Scratch that; I love who I am, trying to figure out who I am.)

Meditation is an art form. Unfortunately, I cannot stop my brain long enough to listen to my breath. Okay so, meditation bores me. At least we know I like challenges and stimulation rather that quiet and repose. Is it possible that chaos is my natural comfort climate? We hear of executives who go away on a holiday and drop dead of a heart attack. Or is it boredom and withdrawal from the adrenalin rush of living in the business of chaos management that sends them to oblivion.

Yeats wrote about a system of Gyres, whereby he proposed that everything in the universe, historical, personal, spiritual, is winding up and down simultaneously. End points are also beginnings, and contrary intersections occur incessantly along the paths of existence.

Okay, here is my Eureka moment. Socrates was wrong about the poets. I will go back with Yeats to where the dreams all start, in the rag and bone shop of the heart. And, I will return to his Vision and find out where I stand in the winding and unwinding of my own life. Maybe who I am and who I am becoming is a reiteration of what I have already been. But now, I can select those areas of my life that either gave me the most satisfaction or perhaps were incomplete, and return to them for a fuller realization of the power of the self to reinvent and reignite at will.

1 comment:

Starzz said...

Hi Marylou,
Hope you get to Paris and fulfill your dream..

Read and enjoyed every one one of your posts. I have subscribed and will look forward to more. Love the way you write. I am inspired,..and can relate to what you are saying.
Good on ya!