Am I who I am or where I belong?

One wonders why this craving, longing, for identification exists. One can understand the identification with one’s physical needs – the necessary things, clothes, food, shelter and so on. But inwardly, inside the skin as it were, we try to identify ourselves with the past, with tradition, with some fanciful romantic image, a symbol much cherished. And surely in this identification there is a sense of security, safety, a sense of being owned and of possessing. This gives great comfort. One takes comfort, security, in any form of illusion. And man apparently needs many illusions. In the distance there is the hoot of an owl and there is a deep-throated reply from the other side of the valley. It is still dawn. The noise of the day has not begun and everything is quiet. There is something strange and holy where the sun arises. There is a prayer, a chant to the dawn, to that strange quiet light. That early morning, the light was subdued, there was no breeze and all the vegetation, the trees, the bushes, were quiet, still, waiting. Waiting for the sun to arise. And perhaps the sun would not come up for another half hour or so, and the dawn was slowly covering the earth with a strange stillness. Gradually, slowly, the topmost mountain was getting brighter and the sun was touching it, golden, clear, and the snow was pure, untouched by the light of day. As you climbed, leaving the little village paths down below, the noise of the earth, the crickets, the quails and other birds began their morning song, their chant, their rich worship of the day. And as the sun arose you were part of that light and had left behind everything that thought had put together. You completely forgot yourself. The psyche was empty of its struggles and its pains. And as you walked, climbed, there was no sense of separateness, no sense of being even a human being.

– Krishnamurti to Himself Ojai California Tuesday 10th March, 1983

It’s easy to confuse having a strong sense of self to the comfort of a well-established social identity. Personally, I have been grappling with this dilemma in my head. It began with reading some scientific research-based book on what it takes to succeed at dating and get into a relationship. This is something that has been on my mind a lot as my family begins to pressure me to take my personal life more seriously, and some of my best friends sign up for holy matrimony, even while others are in long-term, stable relationships.

Turns out that in the early days of courtship, once you identify your prey (that’s the language these books use :/ ), you need to showcase what you bring to the table. No sooner that I count my virtues (which include loyalty, friendliness, independence), another article tells me that there is no reason to think that these are flaunt-worthy. Apparently, this is doing the bare minimum, and any attempt at making them out to be more than that, is simply going to seem unattractive and entitled.

I’m caught between a rock and a hard place here. So, I start to wonder if my social identity is worth anything – but thanks to my peripatetic childhood, that extended a little into adulthood as well, and my parents relatively unconventional choices of lifestyle and community, I have always felt like an outsider. I have embraced it thus far, because it has given me a unique perspective into things, but apparently, when it comes to dating, people seek out the familiar.

I’m really lost here, as you can see. I think of public figures like Oprah and Obama who have struggled with their own sense of identity, carving something out for themselves, and I wonder how I am going to figure this one out in the coming months… Or if it is worth figuring out at all?

 

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I’m scared, honey.

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I still believe.

In the recesses of my heart, there is no doubt.

In my mind, I do not question it anymore.

It is a reality, and I am in acceptance.

However, it is here that I cleave.

To pursue dreams that were long before you were sought.

To become the person I always was at my core.

How these paths may converge, I can only sense.

Against destiny, I have no defense.

Who Am I?

Sometimes you associate with a sentiment too closely, and it assumes a part of your identity. If you aren’t careful, it can hijack the core of it. You build yourself around it. Your thinking, your philosophy, your calm and chaos, your highs and lows, your sleep and wakefulness, your grief and joy, your ecstasy and melancholy, your longing and indifference, your desire and repulsion, your dawn and dusk, your breath and quiet, your darkness and light, your need and gift,… your everything begins to revolve around this sentiment that has come to define you.

One day, you simply stop feeling it. You are panicking. You furiously search for it wherever you can. You rummage and burrow. You tear open and glean. You carefully unbutton and stitch it back together. Where could it have gone? You take a break, and sit in the sun. You look up and wonder why you are looking for it at all. After all, it was that which grieved you. You described it to strangers as your ailment. You sought help for it. You hoped for it to be healed. You yearned for it to be soothed. It was your glitch. And now it was gone.

“But there is a hollowness,” you moan.

Isn’t that a good thing? It can now be filled by whatever you would like to fill it with. But you are despondent for that which is lost. With distance, you see it solely for its beauty.

“Take your time,” you tell yourself in your head.

Some days you miss it, so much that you cannot do much but just curl up and ruminate. Some days you pick yourself up together, determined to create something new with your soul and mind. “We will concoct a bright, new, beautiful being together,” you reassure yourself. Some days, you just watch them days float by, and realize that you are just yet another individual, hoping for a chance to just be. There is no struggle, there is no oneness, there is no ‘you’ – just a fleck of the cosmos that is conscious. Muddled, but conscious. Like when you are drunk with wine, but you can still tell that you are. However, control over your actions feels like an unnecessary struggle against your better judgment. Just a fleck of cosmos with consciousness. Like an offhanded superpower.

So you let the hollowness be. A magical space, a rich void, a promising rut, a soft corner, a sleepy hollow, within your heart, reaching for your soul and engulfing it from within and without. This is a new way, but it is very becoming on me.

The Risk and The Reward

I have realized that other people believe in me. It came with me believing in myself; so much that I put myself out there to be judged and taken apart. In all my broken glory, and scarred realness, I put myself out there. Lo, they volunteered their belief in me! That was a powerful moment, because I received validation. But I couldn’t have, if I hadn’t dared to accept its denial.

I remember manipulating you, tricking you, begging you, and demanding from you, your belief in me – whispered in the privacy of a telephone call, on a moonlit night by the lake as we watched the stars, on a stroll along the beach, at my darkest moments, when the cold draft of loneliness threatened my soul. I asked for your empathy but where I had believed there was remedy, there was the mirage of a placebo. There was nothing.

It took me a while to admit, but there really was nothing.

The first time I thought that thought, I struggled with sadness. We always struggle with letting go that which we believed was real, for belief is an emotion of the heart. But I urged myself to consider it again. And again. And today, I have a new belief.

I build a picket fence around your opinion thinking it was the Garden of Eden. Now, I take it apart to sell it for scrap. I’m taking away everything I had to give- a heart, a hearth, permanence. But it’s time I set out my wares at the market again.

See me there, if someday if you find the courage to be raw and threadbare- for that’s what spirit is made of.

Value #1: Community

community-social-media-success

I am trying to contemplate and put a tag on my values. I understand that they are fluid over the longer run, but it pays to have them nailed and labeled, while approaching life.

A sense of community is an important source of value for me. In my early 20s, I traveled quite a bit and lived in close to 3 different cities. I have met several hundreds of people – in fact, facebook tells me that I have been adding an average of 100-130 people every year over the past couple of years, and prior to that, about 60 people every year for about two years. While that doesn’t necessarily mean that I have been meeting and interacting with that many people over the past 5 years, since quite a sum ought to come from reconnecting with schoolmates from my equally well-traveled childhood, that’s still a lot of people.

Has this rendered my relationships superficial? Nope, I wouldn’t agree with that. I cherish all of my friendships, and social media has definitely helped in keeping in touch, but what was missing is a sense of community. With a single friend, you have an equation. You likely picked one another due to shared interests or circumstances, and your ideas bounce off each other to form something more coherent and realistic. It probably even shaped your identity to an extent, but depending on the personalities involved, this could also cut you off from realistic principles of the world, partly because you picked each other to create this cocoon of security and understanding, but there exists a world out there that doesn’t necessarily agree with your principles and methods.

This is where a sense of community is different from simply having a support system. The latter is a subset of the larger community. A community is a system that can cause you discomfort, angst, and frustration. It exists as a transactional setup in the background, within which you can carve out various aspects of your life- your relationships, your career, family and home, and more. Having a sense of community helps you understand and participate in the co-creation of your image – your sense of self that you don’t invest in the same way as you do in intimate relationships, while still featuring on the spectrum of accessibility.

It helps you grasp the larger picture through experiential learning, and the ability to look past your comfort zone. It creates a sense of balance- this is why people choose to complement their work lives with volunteering engagements, a social life, a family life – a layered existence.

I believe that it is important to stick around long enough to be able to create this sort of an existence. I want that. It’s not a picket fence reality that I’m shooting for here. It goes deeper than that. It facilitates reaching out, contributing to shaping a society and economy, and leaving behind lasting legacies – this is important to my identity. It is something I value, and ‘drifting’, simply doesn’t allow me that. Connectedness and deliberate engagement are key.

Communities are not necessarily just physical. As networks expand, communities are becoming virtual, and the playground is larger than ever before.

 

Decisions, decisions

To whom shall I hire myself out? What beast should I adore? What holy image is attacked? What hearts shall I break? What lies should I uphold? In what blood tread?

Rather steer clear of the law.- The hard life, simple brutishness,- to lift with withered fist the coffin’s lid, to sit, to suffocate. And thus no old age, no dangers: terror is not French.

– Ah! I am so utterly forsaken that to any divine image whatsoever, I offer my impulses toward perfection.

O my abnegation, O my marvelous charity! here below, however!

De profundis, Domine, what a fool I am!

– Translation of Une Saison en Enfer, Arthur Rimbaud

Katabasis is Metamorphosis.