Saturday, November 14, 2009

Who am I? The Identity Game We Play

This short, to the point post by Marguerite over at Mind Deep resonated deeply with me because in many ways, here and I are in a really similar places. Marguerite writes:

Strangers ask, what do you do? I say, I am in transition. Been doing a lot of meditation. Taking time to discern what to do next. All true. Response seems to satisfy questioners. I am the one who's struggling. Wishing I could rush to an answer, quick. Yes, I am a social worker. Or, I am starting a nonprofit. Or, even more dramatic, I am becoming a nun . . .

Instead, I am to follow the path of the heart, that requires no less than complete authenticity. At present, the truth lies in not knowing what other role to play yet, beyond that of wife, spiritual seeker, and hospice volunteer. And in knowing fully naked self, moment to moment.

I had conversations this past week with a few friends wanted to know what's up with me. It's been somewhat of a struggle lately, and I haven't been very outgoing and energetic. There have been a lot of offers of help, which are very kind, but also sometimes feel a bit anxiety-driven. It makes me think of people who have severe psychological disorders or physical disabilities, how sometimes offers of help are tinged with a desire by the helper to return the other person to some sort of "normal" state, or at least to something which is more comfortable for them.

This definitely hasn't always been the case in my recent experience, and I have been blessed to have people in my life who will just listen, and maybe offer a question or suggestion at the right point. However, like Marguerite, when you feel naked and without the ability to really name all that is going on within you, there is more sensitivity and awareness of the actions and reactions of others. At least, that's been the case for me.

It's really challenging at times to stick with not knowing, not having a clear answer or answers to questions like "What's going on with you?" or "What do you do?" The funny thing is that no matter how things are going in your life, any answer you give misses the mark in some ways. How can we ever pin it all down?

And yet, as Katagiri Roshi said "You have to say something." Of course, I'd add, not always. Sometimes, silence is what's called for, even when others want an answer, or are scared that no answer means something is terribly wrong. I'm trying to learn how to let others deal with their own stories about me, to let go of the feeling that I have to fix or reassure or prop up a fake "self" to keep things comfortable. It's not too easy, letting all this go, and realizing that how others view you is just that, no matter what you do. But really, what else is there to do with those stories? They're out of your control, like most of this life is.


Marguerite Manteau-Rao said...

Thank you, Nathan, for connecting. Regarding how to relate to the world, during these times of spiritual nakedness, what I have learned, is there is a minimum of persona that's required in order to function in society. Of course that persona is not fixed. Right now, I am making do with half of husband's blanket :) I wish you a guide in whom you can trust, and good spiritual friends, during this very worthwhile, and also at times, emotionally challenging, spiritual journey. Deep bow, Marguerite

spldbch said...

Yes, it is very difficult to stick with not knowing. Supposedly though that's exactly where the answer lies. Stay with that feeling, explore it, and it will become apparent what you should do. Or at least that's what is supposed to happen. Best wishes!

Richard Harrold said...

Hmmm, I'm wondering if nothing has changed except your awareness of the impermanence of self is not more keenly developed than it was in the past. The self was always fluid, it was never static. We just aren't aware of it. As we become more aware of the fickle nature of self, we tend to analyze it, and this bewilders us, because how do you analyze something that is always changing?

Perhaps the answer is don't analyze, just embrace it! Or better yet, let go!

Nathan said...

Hi Richard,

You know, maybe that's getting at it. Thank you for the comments. I have felt like there's been a lot of grasping at straws in my life lately.


Nathan said...

Thank you Melody and Marguerite for the well wishes. I appreciate it!