I can’t sleep at night out of fear of not sleeping enough. It seems I can only sleep once people start getting up to go to work. As if I don’t want to share my dreaming-time with anybody else.
I’m trying to rest, mourn, recover, heal, but the nothing I’m imposing on myself is stressing me out.
The days-to-come are made of unanswered questions and my heartbeat is trying to fill the gaps by speeding up. It’s not working.
I haven’t breathed consecutive days of fresh woodland air for over six months and my asphyxiated skin is driving me insane.
There’s a heated outdoor pool in the middle of the City. It’s better than nothing. I go and swim. The first time I go I count how many lengths I swim in how little time. I’ve been in the City for too long and the racing front-crawls around me have infected my use of leisure time.
The second time I go I don’t count. I swim in the slow lane, drifting back and forth, the water warm and soft, the wind catching my face, the clouds disorienting me as I lie on my back and I veer off to the sides, my hands brushing past more purposeful bodies.
The clouds have a lot to say. They say:
You are not these things:
You are not your admin.
You are not your achievements.
You are not your failures.
You are not your prospects or expectations.
You are not this aspirational society.
You are not rush-hour traffic.
You are not the nationalities your passports tell you you are.
You are not your tax bracket.
You are not on your way up.
You are not on your way down.
You are not stagnating.
You are not how much you earn, own, or borrow.
You are not you parents’ guilt.
You are not your grandparents’ sorrow.
You are not your partner’s success, social standing or outlook.
You are not what other people think you are.
You are not what other people say you are.
You are not what you think you are.
You are not what you say you are.
You are not your insecurities.
You are not your vanity, pride and ego.
You are not your beauty.
You are not your dry skin, inadvertent hairs and cellulite.
You are not the many screens in your life.
You are not how many friends you have on Facebook.
You are not how many followers you have on Twitter.
You are not your website.
You are not your CV.
You are not your artwork.
You are not these things.
What am I then, I ask the clouds. But the sky is clear again. The clouds are gone and someone splashes chlorine-water in my eyes.
I swim some more and say to myself, over and over: I am not these things. I am not these things. I am not these things.
Am I, then, just a negation? Am I a negative space? Is there not something essentially me? Luckily there are some new clouds in the ever-changing sky and they have some clichéd wisdom to impart.
You are not these things.
You simply are.
I simply am what?
I smile. How self-help-bookish of you, I say to the clouds.
But of course, saying to myself, over and over again, just be, just be, just be, is making me feel better. It is calming me down. The knot of fear at not doing enough (whatever that means) is unravelling and I swim and swim and swim, not nothing, just being…
There are naked bodies in the changing room. I add mine, just another collection of shapes.
4 thoughts on “You Are Not These Things”
Oh Miriam. Am I right this ‘writing’ is yours?
It is. I wrote it last year. Thanks Heather. x
This is a great post Mo. And you’ve hit the nail on the head: you are not those things. You are not your career, you have one; you are not your thoughts, you have them; etc.
As for the question “what am I?” (or “who am I?”) I think that’s probably the most fundamental question of psychology, if not human existence. How we answer that question defines everything else about how we approach life, and it also raises the challenge “am I living consistently with what I think the answer to that question is”?
I lament the limitations of commenting on a blog, as opposed to having another good old face to face drink and chat (few years ago I would have said “and cig”, but not anymore)! But I will jump straight in and ask, what if the answer to that question is not found in the combinations of molecules of which we are made (ie we are not our bodies, we have them!) but in our relation to the God who created us, and made us “in his image” (ie made us to be miniature versions of himself, sharing in common with Him a capacity for intellectual, relational, loving, conscious thought, aesthetic appreciation and agent – as opposed to mechanical – causation)? I think that option ought to at least be on the table of options, and I cannot commend the pursuit of it enough!
I hope you are doing alright and that these asphysixiating moments are not recurring nor overwhelming. It was great to catch up at your gig with Judi a few months ago! Go for it and keep creating, writing, and exploring. There’s not enough of it out there!
Many blessings and best wishes!
Hello my dearest Pete,
Thank you for your caring words and your open heart. I hope we can talk about these things sometime in the future, but to put it in the simplest possible way: throughout my life, throughout grief, loss, joy and new experiences I have found, for myself, that I am happy without an answer. I don’t even know if I believe there truly is such a thing as ‘me’ or a ‘self’. I am happy to be apart of and shape a narrative that makes meaning and creates this notion of self. It feels pragmatic to do so and through it I can chose to give my life meaning. This meaning, I make every day. It’s usually to do with having a positive effect in my immediate vicinity.
I find peace in this and I am able to love everything around me as often as I can through this.
A friend expressed it as joyous nihilism. Maybe that’s the right word, maybe not.
Let’s keep talking about this if you want.