Monday, April 26, 2010

Who Am I?

"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?


  1. You are Gwen, and we love you just the way you are...I can always remember as a kid/teenager, finding the empty coffee cups and bringing them to you...I used to be more organized until....well life got complicated...I cam getting back to my organized self....and I think you are just finding a new you!

  2. I have never believed in possession until now. This is not the same person who wandered around the dorm in Louiville, a coffee mug permanently affixed to her hand. This is not the same woman I escorted out to the parking lot in the middle of a near zero, wind howling night looking for the cell phone she had left in someone's car. Stephen Hawkings just posted that aliens arriving here would be similar to Columbus discovering America. I wonder if you are an advance scout?

  3. I hope we are all judged (defined) by more than just how late we are all the time or how many trips we have to take to the store to get everything on our list or how disorganized and messy our house is. If not, I'm in trouble. I hope when I get the paperwork tamed in my house and the garage looking less like a garage sale I don't feel alien. Just less stressed and able to enjoy some down time cause everything is in order. A little order is good. I hope you are enjoying being able to do these things effortlessly. You'll have more time now to write and ponder life. You were always the one adult that always had time to talk to us kids. If a messy house was the result-I'm sorry-but life is short and I always enjoyed the talks.

  4. "The roots run deep, but the leaves are new." I loved when you said that at our wedding. I think about it often.

    I like your new leaves, and I love your roots!!! Your roots are part of my roots:)

    I love you, and I loved reading this.

  5. Narda, talking to kids, listening to kids, laughing--was/remains onne of the best parts of my life

  6. Wendy, thank you! It's actually fun finding out that life never stops surprising us

  7. Larry, nice try at being anonymous--and I would always need you to escort me. And trust me I'm only organized by gwen standards

  8. "Larry, nice try at being anonymous" <-- made me laugh.

    You are not just a bunch of chemical reactions any more than the rest of us are. And wondering what makes you you is proof that you're still you. That sentence was worded much better the first time I tried to comment. Your blog hates me.

    I think you're finally becoming more organized just in time. Tripping over items strewn across the floor is no longer humorous, it can be costly.

  9. Just before I read your blog Lea Anne said to me "who are you and what have you done with Blake." Seriously within two minutes.

    So yes, I can relate. Change has beset upon me like a wolf on a chicken. No bone unaltered. The way I eat, think, love, work, write and now yes, organize and even spell are changed on some kind of core level as if some of my most basic programming has been rewritten.

    All this to say: i can identify. Some things haven't changed though Gwen, you're still a lovely woman with an open heart who's serious about never taking life too seriously. That's the you I see, doesn't make a bit of difference to me where you put your car keys except that you don't have to scramble for them. That's my two cents. : )

  10. I love you, Blake.

    Interesting that you're having a similar experience. Maybe alines have already invaded, have taken over some of us but are somewhat benign> Maybe Stephen Hawkings doesn't know everything.

  11. Thank you for mentioning the charger for the cell; I just jumped up and plugged mine in :).

    Being a natural-born people-pleaser is a hard row to hoe. We worry SO much about whether what we do (every little bitty thing) makes our loved ones happy, appears correct and proper to the neighbors, looks normal to the other people in the grocery store. The worry makes us lose perspective. I've often thought, how nice it would be to be one of those people who just doesn't give a damn what anyone thinks of them, but then I think that that would make for a lonely life.

    However, I have often erred on the side of trying to appear so together and "perfect," sometimes at too great a cost, pretending to be things I am not. It actually pushed me into social phobia for awhile, a real fear that people would see how messed up I am if they were around me, which of course messed me up more.

    Anyway, I'll tell you what I think you are: you are magical. Your messy home was a magical place and you were the center of it. Beautiful and lively and full of love for everyone. I've been spending the rest of my life trying to emulate you.

  12. Paula I love you and I don't deserve these wonderful words. I've been down so many of those roads! Even the social phobia. After George left I would have these moments of feeling so appallingly ugly that I could barely go out. Iwould literally check out people in the grocery store and remind myself that homely people had to buy groceries too.

  13. Wow, I am glad to know others have felt that way. I felt that way when I was married and fat. I dressed in frumpy clothes just because I didn't believe I deserved to dress nice, I was fat and worthless....and I was embarrassed to go out with the ex because he said stupid things...

    You are a wonderful person and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. My theory is that having John as the example has just made you see a different way of doing things, you might stick with it you might not....enjoy it and have fun.

  14. Well Amy it's so silly of us to think that way. You are beautiful and wonderful and were such a fun kid--picking up coffee cups, surprising me on my birthdays

  15. I always wondered how you got out of bed every morning, because just watching the amount of time you spent looking for things and back-tracking and and...well it just made me tired.

    The meds do worry me, because there are so many side-effects. Please also consider looking into natural alternatives down the road. You do have to consider the whole body after all.

    Love you Gwen, always have. But I am looking forward to not being exhausted around you..


  16. I was exhausted and the more I stressed and worried about screwing up--the more I did. Sorry that I was exhausting everyone else too! I know the meds have side effects. Working on the heart cholesterol stuff with foods etc. Don't know if there's any equivalent to lamictal out there....