See these photos of my mother? If you knew her really really well, had ever thoroughly pissed her off, or gotten tipsy with her, or watched her go through tough times with her "stoic" face on, or been embarrassed by her enthusiasm for life which you unfortunately inherited, then you'd recognize these faces as hers, always and forever. From the beginning, she has been Marjorie. She changes, she grows, she learns. And yet always she has this immutable quality, the Marjorieness that has never disappeared.
It's a complex question that's no longer under the purview of philosophy but belongs now in the schools of psychology and neuroscience: what is it that makes you you? is it continuous? does is persist in the afterlife? If you die and then come back as per Hinduism and Buddhism, do you come back as you? does an interruption in your existence alter you? Our cells change over in 7 years. Our ideas change. We change. We are the flow of life, changing, responding to the shape of our river beds, moving through the landscapes of time. And yet the Mississippi is the Mississippi and the Columbia, the Columbia. Like sports teams who change players, names and cities, but never, never their colors; we root for the colors and we align with the uniforms.
When asked, I'd always say it is nature + nurture. Neuroscience has found that experience can change our DNA, turning elements of it on or off. Very deeply, nurture affects nature.
But when thinking about myself, I've named nurture as my nature. A pastor's daughter, the middle child, a Libra with the rest of her chart in Aries except for the moon in Sagittarius, a female, a mother, an adventurer, a farmer, etc. I've looked to my past to describe who I am and how I came to be this way. I've sought an explanation for myself that is outside myself.
I remember a journal entry from middle school in which I wonder why it is I write in a journal at all. I suppose it's for the purpose of self exploration, self-discovery, and self-knowledge. And then I wonder what is the point of self-knowledge. My answer confused me even more. I supposed that the purpose of self-knowledge is to find your shortcomings and work to make up for them. This opened a new line of questioning where I wondered who says what "short comings" are? And why? My teachers said my impulsiveness was a fault, but then they're all about controlling the classroom environment. So their judgement had some serious self-centered motives. What are faults? And who's the judge? And where do we learn to call them faults? And shouldn't we be questioning that? And then I became bored with the subject and ran off to do something else. But the questions have lingered, unanswered and likely unanswerable, their value perhaps more in the asking than the likely pat, unsatisfactory answers we could shout out.
Although perhaps the pursuit of self-knowledge, if valuable (and how do we judge value?) might be in knowing what it is we love and what it is we ask others to love.
Although I have treated others as souls within circumstances (location, birth order, skin color, sexual orientation, gender, and astrological sign), I have not thought of myself as a person with some sort of unchanging and pure quality within circumstances. But I have always thought of myself as molded and shaped and reshapable. This is hopeful and true, but there's also something else true about me. Something I can't name, but exists. Something my culture can't direct and mold. Something that would have been there no matter where I fell in line with my siblings, if I'd had them, or if I was a boy, or (godforbid) a Scorpio.
I suspect that my immutable qualities are unnameable and perhaps unknowable. The circumstances which cradle my Self and are nameable include: female with a female brain with the feeling centers closely located to the expression centers, my farming life, my heterosexuality, my spousalness, my motherhood. But I suspect that the truest parts of me have no handle but are expressed in every circumstance my soul finds itself in.
It's time I had a talk with myself and the world. A coming out. I'm going to take myself to a beautiful little glen in the woods, near a small waterfall. I'm going to sit myself down on a mossy rock and tell myself the truth.
I've always been inspired by my gay friends who have this moment of truth with the world, a frightening moment to be sure, with the potential to take a bad turn just as in any birth. The truth is born and they say to the world, "I am who I am. If you have a problem with that, it doesn't change the truth. If you have a problem with me, that's your problem, not mine." I've found a lot of courage from them. As PFLAGG says, "You being you makes me happy."
And so I'm here in a similar way, to say the Truth which cannot be said, the immovable, non-relative Truth about me. It is the Truth that has no words, no description, and so I'm not sure what the point of writing about this is. But it's True none-the-less. I am me and you are just going to have to deal with that. My self-knowing is NOT about making your life easier and molding myself to your expectations, making your classroom manageable so-to-speak, and ridding my Self of things you call "faults". My Self will not always please you. My Self is difficult to understand, but that doesn't get you (or me) off the hook from trying. My Self is an odd collection of traits that don't fit any mold, like cayenne and lime with chocolate. I'm smart and I have enthusiasm (which resembles a 13 year old at a slumber party and is often confused for nievete and inexperience), plus follow-through, and that's a hard combination for people to wrap their minds around. But you're going to have to try. And I'm here to make you. Plus, that's just the stuff with names, that's not even the hard stuff that's more complex than language.
And in other news, I'm bravely posting some photos of Huck and I going out for his office party and a subsequent night on the town. I assumed that because the cruise was leaving from a fancy hotel that it would be a fancy cruise. But it was a solidly jeans and parka affair. I knew there was a risk of this going in to it, because I live in the Northwest and Every Gol Dang event here is a jeans and parka affair. A girl gets Sick of it. Knowing the risks, I dressed up anyway and even shaved my pits for the first time in 13 years. And I loved it (except for the pits part because they really itch now!). The camera does not do justice to how beautiful I felt. The flash and my general chronic unphotogenicness both destroyed my inner glory. It reminded me of how I wanted to be a rock star when I was 7 and spent a lot of time jumping on my bed belting out the only tunes I knew, "Jesus Loves Me," and "The B-I-B-L-E," until I borrowed my brother's tape recorder and cut my first track. And played it back. And, oh Jesus, I'm glad somebody loves me. I never dreamt of spotlights and spandex again. That's what these photos are for me, my brother's mean ol' tape recorder. But, in the corner of this boxing ring, cheering for my inner sensation, helping me beat down the reality and ouchy truth of cameras and tape recorders came an elderly rich-looking woman sweeping through the hotel lobby with her entourage and as she passes me she whispers in my ear sweet things that I cannot bring myself to repeat, they were so breath-takingly flattering. After seeing the pictures, however, I wonder if she wasn't just preparing to die by doing pennance for a life of hoity-toity harsh judgements by whispering incomprehensibly fabulous compliments to every little thing the cat drags in. Or maybe I really did look stunning and cameras and tape recorders are all liars. In which case, break out the the laser light show and hand me some tall leather boots and a microphone, I've got a song I'm ready to sing.