Posts tagged “self

It’s more than a hyphen

Several weeks ago, I stumbled across a blog posting that discussed the author’s discomfort with all of the hyphenated identities that are present and becoming more common in our modern, globalized, and shrinking world.  The article caused me to think, again, about the salient characteristics of the self and our awareness of that self within us and how we deal with naming it…how we identify it…ourselves.  Why does it matter what or how we call ourselves?  Why does it matter how people “know” us?  What is in “our” name that is sacred or worthy of remaining so?  Our identity…we are and identify ourselves as a combination of things, a coming together of diverse origins, and a hybrid of things gone and now.  We’re Irish-American, African-American, Mexican-American, Bosnian-American, Iranian-American, Rwandan-American, German-American…and many other mixings of American…and we’re proud of those other parts while still being proud of our American self.  No matter how much we celebrate our American heritage, we do so from a core that speaks with a different accent, one that has a different birth-place and history.  Yes, we are proud, we want to be here, we want to relish in all that being American means…while still being from somewhere else, while having primal roots that dig deeper and hold longer truths than our infancy of citizenship in our new country.  We can’t divorce ourselves from our earlier histories and the nation of our nativity…we simply can’t.  We are what we are and our blood is fluent in the tale of its ancestry and we cannot remove it from our beings.  The hyphen in our identified ethnicities joins our past and our future and creates a bed in which our children will be born and live and know from whence they came and understand the price of sacrifice that was paid to inform their lives and make them what they are and will be in the many tomorrows of their future.

Being a White male with a western European lineage, a few remaining drops of North American indigenous blood, and a family history of having existed on this continent for documented hundreds of years, I don’t have a need, personally, to identify myself as belonging to a particular culture or country of origin.  At times, I have wished to be anything other than a White male because of the history associated with being such…on this continent and in this particular country.  But my identity doesn’t revolve around the color of my skin, gender, or ethnicity.  I think this might be an unspoken luxury of being born into the country’s majority.  If I had been born into any other status and worked hard to remove certain stigmas or economic situations that have been common to my “kind,” I might feel differently…and I might feel differently very strongly, especially if I were still witness to others of my “kind” being discriminated against simply for having been born with a different color of skin, or on the proverbial other side of the tracks…or river.

Why do we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, or Cesar Chavez Day, or Martin Luther King Day?  Why do we have Black History Month, or Chicano History Month…or Gay-Pride Day…or for that matter, or any matter in this discussion, why do we have Mother’s Day, or Father’s Day, or Grandparent’s Day, or Secretary’s Day…or Valentine’s Day…aren’t we simply celebrating some part of ourselves or honoring a part or role that someone else plays in our lives in their given or chosen identity…doesn’t it all come down to that…identity…who we call ourselves?  Maybe….

Keeping the name or identity of our and our forbears’ nationality is somewhat akin to when we take the name of our new spouse or partner and keep our own family’s name; we’re proud of both.  We’re keeping the label or tag that informed our earlier existence and life, we’re honoring our history…and we’re keeping a substantial part of ourselves; we’re not forsaking all for the mate or partner that we’ve chosen…our identity remains intact, not sacrificed on the altar of tradition.

When we get adopted, we hope to keep at least a part of our name so that we have something of our primary identity, the person we were first…even if we didn’t know it or weren’t yet aware of it, but it was still who we were, and now we might have a new last name or some kind of, or part of a new name, a promise, almost, that we can be or will be someone different, that our potential has changed and we’re going to be something that we probably couldn’t or wouldn’t have been if we hadn’t been adopted and had our name changed…and become part of a new family, become a new person…or at least a person with a newer part of themselves…and after all the legal mumbo-jumbo or mumble-jumble, we’re still able to say, “I know my name is….”

And lastly, what about when we finish school after those long and many and tiring and trying years…and decide to put that B.S., or M.A., or PhD after our names?  Aren’t we further identifying ourselves, telling people who we are, what we accomplished…and hope that they might see us as a person who accomplished something…maybe…we set out to complete a task, to succeed in reaching a goal…we endured somehow…we were driven to learn or know…and now we know how little we know…and how much more there is to learn…about life, ourselves, and who we are…and others and then.

While our identities are often fluid, transforming in kind and character within moments or seconds in response to some stimuli, environmental or societal factor, or the presence of some other person or personality, they are often as solid as bedrock in the core of what they represent in our souls…the deepest reaches of our inner-most being.  Sometimes those hyphenated names speak to the completeness of what it means to be us, you and me, as only you and I can be.

Ramblings, undifferentiated stuff of whatever

I sit here and wonder, truly, at the cause, the origin of my anxiety at working this job.  I know that lives can be in the balance and I can be held accountable for whatever goes wrong, but why is it so unsettling?  People around me seem unaffected, content, and otherwise the opposite of me.  The sweat runs in streams, almost, down my side, darkening my shirts under the arms.  I am only talking to people…people just like me.  I had a brain lapse first thing this morning and I don’t think I have recovered.  It was an obvious call in which I just couldn’t grasp from my mind the type of call that it should be coded.  The supervisor said, “What do you think?”  It seemed like a real “Captain Obvious” moment that seems to have set me back somewhat.  Self-confidence is at a low.  The people seem particularly irritating today, as well; and bossy, and ignorant.  I am out of kilter and they are primed and ready.  There were moments I felt like I wanted to explode from the frustration.  The Quiet Room was beckoning.  I couldn’t smart off and that’s what I really wanted to do.  But now it is lunchtime, my sad book is finished – I’ll have to get the rest of his books, too, Robert Stone.  So the day is half over – or more, actually, and when I leave I get to drive to Avondale to get my baby.  Softness, gentleness; reason for going on, reason for living, for many things.  It’s not creative, but it’s expression.  The pen is to paper and the elements are flowing.  Flashes of images: the anniversary card I put by the coffee pot three days early, knowing I will put one out for the next three days as well, a flash of Josh, the garage, my chair by the piano, the plant running the length of the stairs, my mom, and more.  “Everything is proved upon the pulses.”  And?

And where it stirs is unknown but for the stirring.  And then.  I looked within to find the reason and the reason’s reasons.  Closed eyes and opening heart.  Searching for the portal that will release the flood.  Searching for the portal.  I finished a book, most sad, about the destruction wrought in a family by a sick parent and an obsessed parent.  One child who was born with something wrong and hovered over by the sick parent, and another child who was adored by the obsessed parent and loathed by the sick one.  Hated and loved simultaneously.  The loved and hated child ended up losing her own mind and finding the end in darkness.  Finding the soothing nonexistence of death.  It was sad to watch her coming undone.  It was sad to feel what her loved one, her mate, was going through while partaking in her life, when they talked about things that were better left unsaid, but had to be, unavoidable things.  The kinds of things that further rent and harmed the other party.  And then?  The quiet house came undone.  The foundation rocked and never stilled.  Well, it was only to be stilled in the loose and fragmented mind.  The torn heart that hadn’t learned to love.  Where would she find salvation, since her god was dead?  Where would she rest her soul if she had one?  By mine.  By mine in the eternal hereafter.  And then?  How the chords come, how they burst forth in song that means only what the heart knows and the tongue fails to express.  How it stirs, from deep inside.  I would that I could listen internally forever.  I wish.  Oh, I would that the song could flow unrepentantly, without hindrance, without impeded thought and constraint by others’ eyes.  Soothe where the damage is done.  Assuage the recklessness, still the torment; show the way to clear sight.  And then.  And then.  The chords release the chains.  They release the worries and concerns pent up within.  They release what the tongue and lips cannot.  They release.  Find the saving release in their escape.  And then.  With ease.  And counsel.  And tight throat.  The door opened, the heart closed.

In a fever, I slipped from scene to scene, desirous of the portable pen to capture the thoughts and bring to them a permanence that was otherwise not theirs.  It was a cyclone of images that whirled together and apart and had a semblance of meaning that could have been deciphered with someone’s unease.  Places I had been and faces I had encountered in many unreal ventures of living and existing outside of the normal self.  Whence came I to understand the unattainable?  Whose life had been caught in the web of searching and find?  That is all.

When I was a child, I spoke as a child and understood with the mind of a child.  What was a child?  What was the child in fetters to become upon release?  How would he know when the release came?  What herald could he trust?  They lied.  Thought censor prohibits reality from speaking with its multi-tongued lucidity and confusion.  The escape was unknown and lost to reasonable thought.  Never gave it another thought.  I guess I thought that this is just the life that I have and that’s it.  Of course I considered running away, but where was I to go?  Where could I go?  Naive in life and experience, fearful of the wrathful hand, I just endured.  Simple enough.  Behind the water conduit pipes that had been placed as playground equipment in the common yard, I lay contemplating a destination.  Further down the dirt road I went then, seeking any kind of escape, leading nowhere, but away.  The two tire-ruts that constituted the perimeter road lead further into the woods and then beyond the split to that one spot where we found the snake.  Torn open, its heart still beating, it had two firecrackers shoved into its internal organs, then BOOM!!!  A ringing and tingling of all my senses, fingers, and ears – scared me to death.  Unexplainable, I would certainly get my ass beat if discovered.  My ears still ring.  I have been discovered by none other than myself.  The snake symbolizes rebirth, everlasting life, and so she lives forever in my ringing ears.  Die not.  Salvation was scrawled out on a piece of notebook paper when I was sick.  The perfect crucifixion scene with the wind and everything.  I was ill and alone in that.  I have searched and cannot find.  Beyond the conduit and into the woods was a hole that had been dug into the rich earth.  A shard from a green ‘7- Up’ bottle left a scar on the little finger of my left hand.  Blood dripped into the dark soil, somewhat like a drop of mercury sliding across a tabletop.  Different though, it collected smaller bits of the dirt as it rolled further into the hole.  The pain shot up my arm and into the shoulder, registering finally at my brain before I knew what I had done.  Ok.  One of the neighbor kids would sneak out of the house with a baggie full of Oreo cookies and a cardboard can of frozen orange juice concentrate – Minute-Maid.  It was fun because it was stolen, but in truth, it wasn’t a good mix of flavors.  We hid in the conduit, out of sight.

Another day brought my father and me out into the yard to play catch.  One of the things that dads and their boys do.  It was not a sunny day and the grass, I believe, was nigh unto dead – it must have been winter or late fall, maybe early spring.  The ball kept coming to me faster and faster.  It stung my hand afresh with each catch.  I would toss the ball back to my father and he would burn it back to me.  With each rotation of his arm, I would wince inside at the thought of missing the ball.  I knew it would hurt like hell if it smacked me in the face – if it happened to glance off the outer edge of the pocket, missing its target.  Hey, batter, batter!  Hey, batta, batta!  Maybe the glove wasn’t the target.  My father. He told me later, when I was an adult, that he wanted to quit playing catch but didn’t want to spoil my ‘fun’ by simply calling it to an end, saying he was done…so he just kept throwing the ball harder so I’d want to quit myself…and I guess I thought the attention was good, it was positive somehow, I mean – he wasn’t yelling at me or beating me or ignoring me, so it must have been good…and I kept tossing it back to him…and he kept firing it back to me…it ended somehow…and he remembered it all those years later. I know why I remembered…but why did he?

Yes, they spoke of angels’ wings and other sacred things.  They, and I, sat on the edge of your mental periphery and scouted the ideas and concretized miscalculations that you had made in viewing us.  We happened to notice the wrinkle on the side of your one eye that was caused by long and hard pondering of things that you thought went around in the night of our minds.  You disclosed to nobody the inner dealings of those tangled nerve endings and beseeched your own unknown for the release.  Too bad.  You are captured in your self.  We are freed from your perpetual gaze, for we exist without you, and you do not.  You are your own imagining.  We live.  Free.  To free.

Fall from grace and find your own self.  Search those nether regions and un-lose your self.  We have and have not.  We have and are having to do that which is not.  We have seen the eroding sand castles on invisible shores.  We have observed the tide wearing away at the unimaginable.  We are.  We are beyond the imagined ourselves.  They have not unknown what in us lies.  Unimagined.

Looking through the mind and seeing out of the physical eye, I beheld that there were bars before me, like the frames of leaded window panes, structured, yet unmade.  Pointing the sight of my gaze, the lines began to sway in rhythm with themselves; undulations, and parallel.  Gone in the glimmer of the flicking eye; moving like a mouse along the baseboard.  She runs from the quiet become loud and hides beneath the empty wrappings of warm bodies.  And gone.  The spirit mouse vanished as though she never was.  Hiding in my mind.  You are pure crazy.  And then.  Bring on the cat to find the hiding.  Her little heart beats beside the shining of the stars, and the tiny eyes, while unmoving, see the world from an inch above the soil.  How do you acquaint the hunter, or scoop up the broom to unliven the furred runner?  Baby whiskers see, hear, and smell – me.  No.  Unfind the hiding.  Live, beat little heart – you are not of a roach.  My prejudice against ectoskeleton life- forms reminiscent of fouled kitchen appliances brought into pristine dwellings separates you from this lesser being.  Live and enjoy your diminutive yet worthwhile existence.  Live and enjoy!