"Who are you and what have you done with Gwen?" John was watching me lay out my clothes for the next day before I got into bed. The things I planned to take to work were by the front door, both lunch (leftovers packed right after dinner) and breakfast yogurt parked neatly on a shelf in the refrigerator waiting to be put in a sack in the morning. I found myself thinking I really should get one of those insulated lunch bags.
In the morning I would know right where my car keys were, my glasses, and my cell phone. An Obama style no drama departure for work.
Half joking, half serious I came back with, "No, the question is, what have you done to me?" A reasonable accusation, actually--he's an engineer (which means you can always find a pencil around the house) and ex-military. Which does not mean he doesn't lose things; it just means that wherever you find--wherever I find them--they will be in formation..
Never, not really of my own free will, never have I been tidy or organized. Chaos has always been my natural state and you could track me through a house or office by a trail of forgotten coffee cups, misplaced glasses, and lost keys. Fear, pressure, my mom, my ex, the prospect of company, and a kind of frail optimism have led to the short term wow clean up, but never long haul order.
Please understand, I never did this deliberately and 99% of the time without any intention of pissing anyone off. It wasn't, I would try to explain, that I thought being organized, tidy, neat was beneath me; it was beyond me. I didn't just frustrate the people around me--I frustrated myself.
A good survival strategy was cultivating a drifty artist, aging hippie persona. Not too far off--I'm a writer and I do live in my imagination a lot. And I was usually the third or fourth to point out my failings.
Now I'm 63. Medicated with a mood stabilizer, an anti-depressant, and more than enough other meds for the various mental and physical issues I am blessed with. I'm in a good relationship with a funny, cantankerous, loving, nonjudgmental man. I mostly live at his house which isn't haunted like the home I've lived in since 1969.
It isn't cluttered.
My anxiety levels are down. I've learned that my fear of failing turned my brain into an untuned, static filled radio station. And, besides, it was easier to screw up and disappointment everybody earlier rather than later. Saved time for everyone.
So what happened? An overdetermined result? Medication. The people in my life--including John but not exclusively him, who keep reminding me that they actually love me no matter what.
Which is a wow all on its own.
It's nice to know where my keys are,
So why, why, why do I sometimes feel like screaming that I've been taken over by aliens? Possessed? My mind not my own?
And that I don't know who I am.
The woman who lays out her clothes, remembers the papers, CD, and such that I was asked to bring to LA the other day. Who gets up and plugs in the charger for the cell. Who does these things almost naturally.
Who is she?
The thought processes are alien. It isn't that I haven't done these things before; I have never done them with so little effort. Never done them before without almost complete confusion, frustration, and a kind of inner resistance.
Is there a self? No self? What self?
If I am not Gwen the *charmingly* drifty and disorganized, who am I?
If my mind works in a way that feels completely alien and yet natural am I just a chemical soup modified by other chemicals and my self an illusion?
Who am I?
For that matter--who are you?