Phone: Ring, Ring!!
“Hi, is Maggie around?”
Oh, I’m wide awake now. “Uhm, can I ask who’s calling, please?”
“This is Jim.* I’m an old friend of Maggie’s and wanted to say hi. This is Chris, right?”
“Hi, Jim. Uhm… Jim, I guess it’s been a while since you’ve talked to her. I’m sorry to say but…..”
* Jim is not his name. I’ve changed it because, well, I don’t know why but it seems like a good idea.
I’ve developed three modes of relaying that particular news. Mode I is pretty callous and nearly an attack. I’ve used it with bill collectors, mostly. I call it the I-Hate-You-And-Want-To-Hurt-You mode. Funny thing, though, if I’m throwing death-news daggers, it probably is at someone who will never be bothered by my pain. I might as well be throwing cotton balls at them.
Mode II is less of an affront and more just getting the information out. I use it with those who need to know but don’t know her, like, the Department of Transportation, AT&T, or Wells Fargo. Mode II is my default delivery method mainly for my own protection. It’s easiest and requires the least emotional commitment from me. Selfish, direct and over quickly.
Mode III is the most difficult. I only use this method when I really, really have to because the person I’m telling knew Maggie or me (or both!) well and I consider them worth special effort. I’d rather eat scalding hot pizza than use this method. Mode III almost always makes me and the other person cry.
For Jim, I used Mode II. I should have used Mode III but I just didn’t have it in me. I’m sorry, Jim. I hope the rest of your morning went a little better.
Maggie’s absence has caused me to dig into the question Who Is Chris? I used to have a pretty good answer for that. Now, I’m not so sure. In fact, I’m not so sure my answer back then was a good one. Nonetheless, here I am, asking it now.
Have you ever sat and thought about who you are? It’ll make your head spin if you try very hard. Ready?
“I’m Chris, Maggie’s husband.” Ah. That’s the easy, obvious one that until a few months ago worked just fine. Crap, it no longer applies. But I can tell you that many years that’s how I identified myself.
“I’m a graduate of Irion County HS, San Angelo State U. and Acton MBAE.” Ok, it’s nice I accomplished all that but I’m not the sum of my educational experiences. They are not Who I Am. They are tasks I’ve accomplished. Is the Who I Am now different than the Who I Am back before I went to school? The Who I Am chose this education path, right? Isn’t the essential Me now the same essential Me back when I was 12 years old sitting on the shores of Lake Nasworthy fishing for catfish? Me gots more smarts, yeah, but I’m still the same Me.
“I’m the guy who took care of Maggie.” Yeah, yeah. But that’s just something I chose to do. Boiling it down simply, the doer is not defined by the task. Saying “I’m a breather” certainly simplifies things a bit but gives no distinction between you and me. Saying “I’m a care taker” in my case, unfortunately, had a limited time scope. Similarly, just because you spend 40 hours a week welding does not mean “welder” is who you are.
Who am I?
“I am a passionate, intelligent, hardworking person.” These are traits who describe behaviors and choices. We’ve all heard the whole “criticize the behavior, not the person” bit. Well, same thing here. I’m not a behavior. People learn new skills and behaviors change. When I was two I used to shit my pants but I rarely do that these days. Yet, there may come a time when I do again (hopefully far into the future.) Behaviors change.
“I’m a cellist.” Again, more of the tasks/choices versus who made the choices. I’m not a task. Nor am I the sum of my choices. I am he who made the choices.
And what about when emotions get involved? Do emotions change Who I Am? For instance, for a while I was really, really angry and that colored the way I dealt with the world. So, does that run of emotions make me an angry person? Or am I a sad person? I took a personality test the other day that asked “Over the last year, have you been more sad than happy?” Bad timing, I suppose. But does that make Who I Am a sad person?
What if we approach the same question from a different direction. Think of it as if you were a simple, unfinished block of wood. Who are you? Are you just a block of wood? But what if you are carved into a beautiful, ornate piece of art? Then, does that change who you are? Or what if you are made into part of a house? Or a wheel-chair ramp? Or a weapon? What if you are wet? Or dry and cracked? Or partially burned? Maybe I’m taking it too far but it’s worth pondering.
Who am I?
I don’t know the answer to this silly simply question. But, riddle me this, Batman. What’s more important: The answer? Or the search for the answer?
Tune in next time when Chris reveals his true identity!!
Same bat channel! Same bat time!