Sleep seems to be avoiding me…I can’t stop thinking about identity, satisfaction, self-worth, Maupassant, Tolstoy, Kafka, the human condition, a state of mind of a close friend… and most of all, about how life imitates fiction. The following paragraph was my introduction to an essay I wrote on self-worth and the middle class, but it applies to so many other things:
The task of addressing our faults and imperfections has never been easy for the civilized human animal. Doing so would be too real; it would push us to probe and poke into our very souls and it might let others see the rotten things we have kept in the dark places that no one can see or touch. It might just hurt too much to show the real ugliness within. We are too civilized to like that kind of pain. Literature has helped us deal with the common demons that usually lurk in the subconscious. This has been possible because “sometimes fiction can convey truths that non-fiction cannot touch” (Fisher).
This idea has been reflected in literary works such as “The Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant, “The Death of Ivan Ilych” by Leo Tolstoy, “The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka, and “Paul’s Case” by Willa Cather. These short stories show how some people would go to any lengths in order to satisfy Freud’s id, and to reach the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. However, things don’t always work out how we expect them to. In fact, they rarely do. The mentioned short stories are real creative examples of how the middle class’ struggle to define self-worth through material possessions has in certain cases resulted in the unintentional sacrifice of the self. (Guerrero, 2010)
I couldn’t sleep because my thesis was unraveling in front of my eyes. And as much as I understood that life has a tendency to imitate fiction, the whole thing was freaking me out. The details are not mine to share, so you’ll have to forgive me, my Wicked Darlings. I will tell you that the situation is happening to someone close to me. She’s lovely in and out; a woman who possesses a raw intelligence that can only be contained by an incredible individual who has a lot of brains and a huge heart.
This post is about identity and about trying to figure out what defines a person. Is it material possessions; a lucrative job; the way someone makes her or him feel; the way he or she makes others feel; is it spiritual path; or maybe, a combination of all the above?
I haven’t thought about what defines me or makes me the person who I am. Not in any serious way. I doubt I’ll ever really know the answer to the question (and I don’t think it matters all that much). I know the important things: I love myself; my witchy heart makes me happy, positive and stronger. That’s enough for me.
Of course, there are times when life gets difficult. I get pissed off, and scream, “Why me!” I’ve been betrayed by people I loved. I’ve had a couple of terrible accidents. At one point, my life was changed so drastically that I thought I didn’t have much left to live for. Then the things that seemed so IMPORTANT, while the pain was raw, became insignificant after time smoothed them out. The wheel continued turning. I was happy (and happier now) again.
Want to know what I else I’ve noticed? The period I spend suffering and crying over life’s sucky moments (have to love the word ‘sucky’) is very short. Why? Because experience has shown me that the bad things don’t last forever, especially if I decide that life doesn’t have to suck.
I wish with all my heart that I could share some of the life-has-sucked-but-it-will-get-much-better feelings with my friend. But I know no one learns with someone else’s head or heart. My experience will not help her define her identity or self-worth or see within. She likes pretty things. Has a rather expensive taste. And not being able to continue living her former life (somewhat privileged) is breaking her. I wish she could see how much she is worth, pretty things be damned. Maybe one day she’ll see herself through my eyes and be blinded by all that is there. Better yet, I pray she can see herself through her own eyes and love the view. Until that happens, I’ll stand by her and offer random hugs (and kicks on the back of the head) when needed; hoping for the day we can celebrate the miracle of her simply loving who she is.
Don’t get me wrong, my friend is not a whiny delusional materialistic airhead. Her life seriously sucks right now, but I wish she could use that big brain of hers to figure out that the suckiness isn’t eternal. Her life is pretty screwed up, socially and economically, but she still is a wonderful person. Lovable. Amazing. Intelligent. And I already told her that if anyone makes her think otherwise, she should send them packing. If that someone else happens to be her, then she needs to use that big old brain to find a way to pull her head out of her butt.
When I think about my identity, the first things that come to mind are Witch, Marine, sex, Dominican, Caribbean, family, writing, Nature, dancing, helping, running… Material possessions and status don’t really cross my mind all that often. I’ve tried to share that, but it hasn’t worked. Now, I’m accepting that I am me and my friend is her own self… I don’t know how to help her find the woman who I believe she is. I don’t think anyone can… only her.
I wrote this at 2:00 am sometime in May of 2010. Recent events, particularly a conversation involving the friend who inspired “She Who Keeps Silence While a Friend Commits an Act ofIdiocy Is No Friend at All” (who, by the way, happens to be the same person at the center of my 2010 thoughts) brought the old words to mind. Three years have passed, and she still sits on the same rock, watching the wheel of life turn and turn and turn… I ran out of ways to help her define herself in a better light. I can only hope she will find a way to see her Self with the eyes of her Heart.
What defines you? What kisses your brain when you think about what makes you who you are?
|“HeartSight” by Danni Suplicki|