Photo by Omar Houchaimi from Pexels

After almost a week stuck at home, curled up in my bed, with food poisoning, I’ve finally left the nest. And that sounds grander than it actually is. I didn’t spread my wings and fly. There’s no soaring over mountain peaks or swooping through green valleys. The wind didn’t lift me high up into the clouds, and I most certainly didn’t fly close to the sun.

There is a bit of a wind, and the sun is shining. Oo, I think I’m getting a bit of sunburn on my left arm. It’s the only part of me exposed to the fireball in the sky. Hold on, let me move over a bit. Ah, that’s better. I’m in the shade but, it’s quickly receding. No, don’t go. My alabaster skin is too delicate, and I don’t want to look like an overcooked lobster.

Despite my predisposition to scorch, I’m currently sitting on my parent’s deck and enjoying this glorious day. I’ve been trapped inside for days and days. The world was beginning to feel like a mirage or a delirious dream. Did I make it all up in a fit of madness? Is the outside world real? I don’t know anymore! 

Oo, it does exist! That’s such a relief. I can’t bear to be inside for one more minute. So, here I sit, chasing the shade, and staring up at the newly budded leaves on the willow tree. It’s glorious! Magnificent. Truly a transcendent experience. Ah, the peace, the breeze, and the distant sounds of a lawnmower.

Ah, yes, there’s the contented sigh.

I’m still not feeling all that great, but I’m strong enough to drive over to my parent’s place. And before the virus police come at me! I’m still within my bubble, following all the local guidelines, and we’re being extremely COVID conscious. Cool? Brilliant.

I did isolate for a week just in case some funny business was going on. It’s better to be safe than accidentally pass something to others. I don’t think I could forgive myself if my carelessness got someone sick or worse. No, these are strange days we’re living in, and the extra precautions are necessary. 

Annoying? Oh my God, yes! It’s aggravating, and I have several other adjectives I could use, but I’m trying to be good. Let’s stick with grr and be done with it.

But it has to be done, and I did it. I lived the martyr life of isolation. Okay, that’s a bit extreme, and I should stop scrolling through Twitter. The Special People are bad influences. 

Fine, it wasn’t that bad. It’s just the way things are right now. Feel sick? Stay home. We all know the drill. We all hate it, but we do it because we are capable of basic human decency. 

So, to that end, I hid away until I was absolutely sure that this was a normal infection and not the fancy kind. I ate a contaminated avocado because, in a moment of whimsy, I decided to eat healthily. Don’t worry, I won’t make that mistake again.

Eat healthily, they said. It’s good for you, they said. Lies! Damn lies. You won’t fool me twice. I’m on to you and your wicked games.

Or, I could wash my produce better. That’s also an option, but let’s take the extreme approach. That’s a mentally stable thing to do. Overreact, ignore reality, logic, and basic hygiene. Yep, my mental health is in good shape.

Ah, nothing like a healthy dose of sarcasm to start your day.

To be safe, I stayed home. Sure, strictly speaking, it wasn’t necessary to isolate. Food poisoning isn’t contagious. Well, it is, but for someone else to catch it, they would have to do unspeakable things to me, and I’m not in the mood. Nothing spoils the fun, like intense stomach cramps, bodily fluids exploding from various places, and turning reptile green.

I wasn’t auditioning for the Outbreak Monkey Part Deux and why take the risk? Alas, I sucked it up and stayed home but, that didn’t mean my mind didn’t go out on its own adventures. It took leave of my body and followed the path carved out by my ever-growing wanderlust. That burning desire to break free from my bubble and just go somewhere. Anywhere. I don’t care where. I just need to get out of here.

My daydreams went off on their own and traversed the globe. Oh, and what lovely trips they were. Hiking the Incan Trail up to Machu Picchu. Surfing in Australia. Fighting dragons in Scotland.

Are there dragons in Scotland? I didn’t see any when I was there, but I stuck to the main hubs so, maybe I wasn’t looking in the right spots. Where are the decent dragon hiding spots? You know, if dragons are real and not a delightful fantasy. Oo, but this is my daydream so, I can believe in anything I want. Dragons, lost treasures, and a world open to exploration. Glorious dreams! I don’t want to wake up. 

To dream! Perchance to escape this never-ending cycle of restrictions, travel bans, and lockdowns. It’s the only way I can indulge my inner explorer. That small part of me that wears a fedora, carries a bullwhip and fancies herself a real-life dragon tamer. It’s a tiny voice that cries out for adventure and begs to be let out of its restraints.

Easy does it, tiny explorer, you’re forgetting an important fact that has nothing to do with viral contagions. There’s a much larger part of our personality that’s in control. That part is a homebody that struggles with mild agoraphobia. The thought of walking out the front door is daunting and we just shivered.

Wait, walk out the door? Oh dear, we’re entering troubled waters filled with sharks that have unicorn horns. I don’t want to be skewered, flayed and put on the bbq. I think I’ll just take my floaties and go for a swim in my bathtub. Mm, that sounds more sensible.

I’ve worked hard to make sure I don’t get caught up in a full-blown phobia. I’ve seen what that can do to a precious life, and I don’t want it to happen to me. Still, walking out my front door is a struggle. It isn’t a debilitating fear, I have that going for me. At least, most days, I win the battle. Sometimes I can’t bring myself to turn the doorknob or step over the threshold.

Those days are fewer than they used to be, but I still need to talk myself into leaving my home. Taking my dog for a walk, for example, takes me at least forty-five minutes to convince myself to get my ass in gear. It’ll be fine, I tell myself, and it’s safe. The odds of something horrific happening are minuscule. You’ll feel better once you’re out there, and when you get back, you’ll be in better spirits.

And it’s true! Once I’m out there, I enjoy the experience, and I find it incredibly rejuvenating. It clears my mind, loosens my stiff joints, and I feel a sense of pride because I did it. I fought this one dragon, and I won. Sure, it was one time, but that means next time, I’ll be able to do it again. After, of course, an hour of convincing.

I’ve always been this odd mix of identities. An extreme introvert with moderate social anxiety who desperately craves human connection. An adventurer with agoraphobia. A daydreamer who happens to be a firm realist. Someone who despises labels but has spent a lifetime trying to find one that fits.

Spoiler: It never fits, and that’s okay. Mostly. Almost always. With a few exceptions.

When it comes to every aspect of my life, I despise putting a label on who I am. From my body to my sexuality. My religious ideology and my political leanings. I don’t need to define who I am. I’m fluid. I’m changing. I’m constantly evolving so, why restrain myself with one identity when there are so many to explore?

Or, I haven’t found one that fits with any degree of authenticity.

I’m not here to discount the importance of identity. I know, for a lot of you, finding your unique selfdom is life-changing. Having a name for who you are, gives you a sense of belonging and a community. I understand that it can be life-saving.

A part of me is envious of those who’ve found themselves a name that fits their body, mind, and spirit. There’s power in owning that and an authentic beauty in being true to your distinctiveness. It’s courageous, wondrous, and magnificent.

For me, and my own neuroses-filled mind? I can’t bring myself to settle on just one identity. That’s not to say I haven’t tried, and I’m still looking for something that feels genuine, accurate, or fitting. I haven’t been looking particularly hard. It’s been something that crosses my mind every once in a while. Like now, sitting on this deck, in the shadow of a willow tree.

I toy with various identities and try to find one that sticks. Nothing ever holds, and I settle back on the notion that I don’t need no stinking labels. But here I am again, after another week of isolation, wondering if my life would be better if I could define my identity. 

Actually, over the last year of restrictions, lockdowns, and countless hours of alone time, this idea has been spinning faster. If I find my identity, would I uncover my community? If I discover that, will I feel less alone? Is that how this thing works?

How have I gotten this far in my life without learning how communities work? I should know that by now, but it feels like an abstract idea. It’s about people coming together to care and nurture each other. Support each other and their shared goals.

Huh, thanks Google. That was helpful.

Interesting, but I’ve never really felt that sense of community. I’ve “belonged” to various groups and organizations with shared ideologies. I’ve been in the collective but, I’ve never really been a part of it. I’ve always felt like an outsider.

They had a shared, clearly defined identity, but I didn’t. What do you do when you can’t place your own identity as an individual in that community? In my experience, there wasn’t a place for me in the collective.

I thought I’d made peace with that and accepted my place as an outsider. But after this last year of isolation, I realize that I was just fooling myself. It was easier to believe that I didn’t need to belong than acknowledge how much I wanted it, needed it. Instead, I went on daydreaming trips to fantastic lands. That’s healthy.

The wind just rustled the leaves, and the sun caught my eye. I’m sinking into these cushions and contemplating my existence. The multiple facets of my personality are playfully pulling me in different directions. It isn’t stressful or worrisome. Perhaps it’s my peaceful surroundings and tired, recovering body. It’s created this is a curious and, perhaps, luxurious thought experiment.

Whatever I settle on and whoever I decide I am, there’s one privilege I possess that too many people don’t. I have people in my life that have always supported me and will continue to do so, no matter what label I settle on. They accept all the conflicting sides of my personality. They allow me to try on new skins and throw away the identities that don’t fit. They love me and not the persona I’ve been assigned.

As I slowly turn into a half-baked lobster, and follow this train of thought, I have come to one conclusion. My tiny explorer is grateful to have the chance to uncover whoever I am and still be safe, loved. That’s a special thing, right there. I hope it’s something you get to experience, and I hope you don’t run into any dragons.

One thought on “Identity Crisis?

  1. I identify hugely with what you say about contradictory identities… and right now, as a bigger range of possibilities seems to be opening up than has done for a long time, I am feeling those contradictions acutely.
    And my sense of outsider-ness is becoming a chilly sense of alone-ness in the middle of it, which is making me reconsider a bunch of things.
    So this post resonated on a few levels.

    Like

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