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!
16 thoughts on “Who Am I?”
Who you are is a product of your nature (innate qualities), your nuture (what you internalized from your family), and your environment (what you need to be to survive on any particular day). You’re a good man with a good heart, a good head and strong character. You’re empathetic, an extrovert, a life-long learner, a risk-taker, adventuresome, and a musician. You have a positive outlook, high self-esteem, and you’re kind to friends, animals, and willing to give strangers a chance. You believe in seting goals, working hard, playing hard, and getting the most out of each day. You’re a future-thinker, looking for opportunities to make a difference as well as make a good living.
Maybe this can help fill in your self-analysis a little bit more.
Additionally, you are a wonderful, generous brother who gives great big-brother advice and a great uncle to a 4 year old that thinks you are awesome.
Well, thank you both.
But before this goes any farther, I certainly didn’t mean for this to be a fishing trip for ego stroking. It’s purely an exercise for self-discovery. I’d suspect that a similar exercise is played out in one way or another by those who have survived some type of loss that can be classified as “defining” such as divorce, death of a spouse or child, loss of a limb. But that’s just a guess.
I met a lady yesterday in the lobby of the gym. She was holding a book I just had to ask about. The title was Cure for the Common Life. She said that she was about to lose her job and was struggling to redefine who she was given the looming crisis. I, of course, saw parallels in her situation and mine and thought that maybe, just maybe, I’m not the only one dealing with this issue. Thus, this post.
Numerous people have written to say that they might soon be in the same situation I’m in now, or already are. I can’t help but wonder if they will or have already suffered a blow to their identity, too. If so, they aren’t alone in their quest for rediscovery.
Not offered as an ego massage. I simply gave you my description of what I see in you… much of it since you were a child. Of course, like all of us who are human beings, you also have traits that don’t glow quite so brightly; however, my purpose was not to give you a list of personality pluses and minuses. A public forum is not the place for something like that.
geez, this is so twentysomething, having jobs and people define you….hobbies etc…nothing defines a person except that person, leads a lot of people to something less than glamorous. big epiphany, duh.. i guess if you didn’t go through this then (in your 20’s), no better time like the present! just a testament to many things i have found on here. bye. bon voyage on your trip to self discovery. as doug would say ,”i’m outta here”.
Actually, I believe self-discovery and self-examination are, and should be, a continual process tied to a lifetime of physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual growth. Feeling that it is only the work for one’s 20s is myopic.
Anonymous, you obviously have just tuned in…
Or, you’re just a mean person.
Maybe you should take a trip to self discovery. You might not like what you find.
To Chris: Thanks again for your blog. I’ve posted before. My mom passed away on July 23 after an almost 3 year battle with colon cancer. I was her primary caregiver.
Oh, Peach, I’m so sorry to hear about your mom. My heart hurts for you.
I’m sorry too Peach. I’m losing my father now…maybe a couple of weeks before he passes.
Chris, While I realize that your question was rhetorical, I think it is “the search” which like your mom says should be continual. With every life change I find myself, like you, reexamining who I am. Or, maybe I reexamine to make sure I like who I am.
I don’t want to be narcissistic, or angry, or negative in any way…no matter what change has come about in my life.
It seems that you live your life seeking out the best in everything, the best of friends, the best food, the best of times and the best of yourself. Stay cool, your an extremenly interesting human.
God Bless, Bobbie
I don’t have any fancy degrees from anywhere…I just have “life experiences” to base my opinions on.
I have known and still know some very kind people, and several of those are members of your immediate family (your Mom, grand-mother, sister) and you are, in my opinion, just like them. You are, what I call a “kind spirit”, which means to me someone who is GOOD.
You have been kind to everyone you meet, and most importantly you were very kind and loving to your sweet Maggie, not only in good times, but even when life was throwing cannonballs at you, over and over.
I understand you wanting to discover “who you are” but just know that down to the very core of your being, you are a very kind and loving person. That is who you are….
I hope you can start from there and continue to fill in the blanks…..
Chris, I have been asking myself the same question for a while now. I have not found an answer to it. I have not gone through an experience quite like yours. My marriage seems to be falling apart due to an affair and somewhere along the line I lost myself. I don’t know who I am anymore because my life has been all about him and the two boys. I have supported him through college and he now has his masters. Me? I am still your ordinary woman. Go to work, come home, take care of two pre teens and keep moving. I’m too young to be going through this. I’m only 33 and I feel like I’ve done it all. I know I haven’t. My story is totally different from yours. However in a way its almost as if I am mourning something and I don’t know exactly what. What I do know is that what is meant for harm will be turned into something good. I think I am on the same road of discovery trying to find out who I am. Now I don’t know you from Adam, but from your blogs I can tell you that you have a heart bigger than your head!! You are passionate, kind hearted, loving, very intelligent, and a funny man driving down the street with tires around you on a Harley. Your sense of humor is amazingly contagious!! I know you will continue to have your days. However remember that each day that goes by is another day closer to the healing of your heart. I’m in Vegas, if you are ever in town email me or email me anyways if you just want to chat. Keep pushing through the road of discovery!!
I have no constructive input on your introspection but I just wanted to say I’m impressed you rarely shit your pants anymore.
Thanks, Trent. It’s something I worked on for quite some time when I was younger. And still now, if the day goes by without one “incident” then I call that a pretty good day.
Thanks for the perspective shift! I’ve had a lot of good days, then.
I don’t think of as a who am I anymore. I just am. We are all. There is no need to complicate matters. Our life experiences form our character and the way we mostly behave or react. “It is what it is.” Chris, I have great respect for you. Even though I did not get to spend a lot of time with you Maggie, I enjoyed every moment that I did. Having been an Oncology nurse myself, not every person/caregiver has the same type of reaction to a situation. You did an awesome job! This is not stoking your ego, just an observation. Everyone involved with Maggie’s care did an awesome job.
You are a sack of meat with infinite potential. You are gross and gooey and beautiful. I mean I’m sure someone thinks you are 🙂