I was absolutely dying to take my persona off. I’d had it up to here with being polite, chipper, enthusiastic, patient, accommodating and on time. I wriggled out of it so fast I didn’t notice I’d forgotten to hang it up.
I have to put it back on tomorrow and was disheartened to find it compressed under a pile of unaccomplished to-do-list-items and some dirty socks, probably the mates of all those single socks that came out of the laundry as an annoying bafflement.
It looks even heavier than I remembered. I wish there was a Persona drycleaner who could steam it back into something elegant and desirable, maybe stuff its pockets with a few extra witty bon mots and some sincere sounding answers to the question, how was your holidays?.
It’s not that the answer is terrible, I had a lovely holiday, it’s just that I want to be wild and free a little longer. My inner wildness is uncivilized. It doesn’t want to be seen. It wants to be in the woods. But it’s also a bit reckless, tracking mud everywhere, howling and snarling just for fun. I don’t want to get that mud on anyone I care about. I don’t want someone to accidently get snarled at.
The Persona is graceful and kind, she always wipes her feet on the doormat and greets the door opener with a smile. I would like her to greet me first, to tell me everything is going to be ok. Then I would feel comforted as I slipped her back on, knowing that while she constrains, she also prevents regret.
My public pronouns are she/her. My kid’s pronouns are they/them. I like that we now have gender neutral pronouns. As I’ve gotten used to using them, I find I’ve started to use them as the default choice. For example, I might inquire about a new pet I am meeting for the first time, What’s their name? Or if a friend tells me about someone new in their life I might say, Cool, what’s their deal? What are they like?
Because I have been involved in a lot of pronoun talk over the last few years, I just noticed a few days ago that I often refer to myself as we. My friend and I were driving to Runyon Canyon for a hike. Excited to get back into shape now that the weather is cooling down, we were conversing on the state of our at home work outs. She hadn’t done any yoga that week. I said: We haven’t either. One of us really wanted to this morning but another one didn’t. Guess who won?
I do this a lot but only became conscious of it in that moment. Unlike the larger pronoun conversation the world is having, this is not about my identity and I don’t wish for other people to refer to me this way. But it does make me reflect on why I do this.
Don’t we all contain contradictions? Thinking of myself as a we is a way of unifying a bunch of unruly and disparate impulses, desires, and actions. Some of us want to eat Pringles. Others of us want less belly fat. Some of us want to read books all day, others of us want to get stuff done. I don’t know if they are the same people. They don’t feel like the same people. They make too much noise for one person. Some of them I like more than others, but we are a gang and it’s definitely an all for one and one for all internal situation.
Does anyone out there also use an inner we when talking to themselves?
A seesaw appears to be a binary. Either you’re up or down. Emotionally it’s easiest to imagine this as you’re happy or you’re unhappy. Stressed or not stressed. I am often stressed by responsibility so naturally I dream of relief. How wonderful it would be to roll the backpack of anxiety off my weary shoulders and shove it deep into the closet, not to be hoisted again until next season. I wish for this so often. I am delusionally imaging a world of equilibrium. I think if I am not stressed about too much to do, I will be in a stasis of happiness.
No. Stasis does not exist, it is merely the briefest moment of passing through the fulcrum from one state of anxiety to the next.
I noticed this last night. I was taking stock and feeling pretty darn good about my week’s accomplishments. I had managed to do so much! And the future was looking a little less hectic. It’s as if I had been stuck in the up position of the seesaw for a month by an elephant of labor who either refused to pump his thick legs up and down or who was just too large for it to be effective. But miraculously, he had shrunk in size and I was slowly floating down. Happiness is just on the other side! Here I come!
I felt total bliss as the board evened out, me and the now skinny elephant smiling across from each other, perfectly aligned, our eyes meeting in joyous anticipation.
How brief was that joy, how fleeting that sense of ease. The skinny elephant suddenly transformed into an emaciated rodent who flew up in the air as my terrified butt whacked the ground. Thrown from the game he scurried away, leaving me unable to go up again. What if I don’t get any more work? What if all the jobs dry up? What if I have nothing to do? All the anxiety was back, just a mirror image.
Too much or too little. Those are always the main course. The hoped-for sense of ease is a momentary movement in between.
I am glad I could see it so clearly. And the metaphor helps. Possibly the thing to do is get off the damn seesaw.
Illustrations by my brilliant husband, Andy Norman.