Who Do You Think I Am?
…says every living being in some manner, implicitly or aloud. You, I, the tiny cell under a microscope under scientific observation, the lime-colored baby lizard playing chase with me this morning before scurrying back to its gap. I saw its head poke out once before popping back to the dark safe space. “I am not here for your amusement, woman.”
Who do you think I am? I’ve said it and thought it plenty. I’ve asked it of others, and of myself, especially during these months of losing loved ones. I consider a neat life landscape with many holes in it. Who am I, right now? What do I need? What do others need?
I need to work on the Fall semester’s syllabi. One class includes discussion of gap analysis, which examines the chasm between where a business wants and needs to be, versus where it is now. Here I am in front of my computer, following the path of a management lecturer. Or trying to.
This morning I find myself quite alive and distracted by gaps and music and the baby lizard. I’m listening to a song by Sinead Lohan. Who Do You Think I Am? is an old favorite. I’d pulled the CD because Marc and I, prompted by recent losses, have scheduled time this summer to review our trust binder and discuss again, our final plans and wishes. So far my only written wish for myself after death is to have this song played at whatever memorial my loved ones choose to have. I can’t fathom a requiem for myself, though, and I am listening again to determine if I really need the idea of a gathering and a song.
I am not on top of a mountain
And I am not under the ground
I am not spilling over the edges
And I am not easily found…
At Marc’s mother’s memorial the other day, we experienced the beauty of Ruth in moving and often humorous stories.It was easy to discern her influence in life reflected in the love and commitments of her friends and children.
Communal reflection with a focus on the good reminds us who, and what existed in this world, and more tragically, what was lost. Some find this inexorably depressing. But Sigmund Freud, dropping professional decorum in a letter to a close friend after losing his daughter in 1918, noted: pain is not something to be buried, disregarded, or forgotten. It is instead a uniquely human way to keep the love that remains with us here, nurtured and alive.
Relationship between people is not static. When we love and commit, changes and transformations occur that include gains, but also loss of some kind until death, that consummate surrender. Avoiding thoughts about it is a common strategy. But avoidance is a mistake that threatens the best of our own lives here.
So maybe I am not completely against the memorial idea for myself after all, because I see it may be helpful.
Once when I was flying past the steeple
The bells were ringing in my ears
And I was counting the broken hearted people
And I was following their tears
I am not sinking in the sadness
I am not throwing bitter stones
I do not worry who will mind me
I am not dancing alone
Still, I prefer others to decide how to acknowledge my exit from this life, and not orchestrate too much of a memorial. I know now that in this life, I am not “dancing alone,” and never did. Not really. Everyone I have ever known has shaped my life, in the aggregate, for the better.
Granted, I might rarely see you (or perhaps, never met you face-to-face.) Maybe we met for a semester or a season. Physical details may elude us, even the names attached to our physical selves, and yet – soul- sparks alight in different ways, thankfully beyond mere memory. We’ve been part of the journey together.
Is it winter where you are?
Try to find me if you can…
And when it's over, it's never over
And when it's empty, it's never gone
I am in silence gone from danger
Far away is the forgotten one
I am headed from that distant lighthouse
I am twisting towards the sun
I wrap around me all your goodness
If I go that way am I the only one?
There really is a oneness to which all consciousness connects. There is no separation ultimately. I’ve had to think about this kind of thing through time as things change, bodies weaken, children grow up. Losses pile up with the years. Paths change and new obstacles emerge. But personally, I’ve never encountered an obstacle I couldn’t address like the ivy meets up with the fence in my backyard. Upward, outward, beyond, next. Give me something to go up against and I’ll go on forever, season after season. That’s my name, Persistent. (The image of Jacob wrestling with the angel occurs, but I am not religious enough to do more than acknowledge them both).
As I review for my finals, as it were, this is the hardest question of all. In what religious tradition did I most identify, or find myself? Is “I was the girl, and then the woman, who found herself in a bubble of goodness and mercy her whole life” enough of an answer?
Anyone who knows me knows I have loved exploring faith and religions. This will make me an apostate to some, but some souls recognize the relentless path. Consideration and prayers of any kind are welcome. I imagine for anyone who cares about me, this will be the Great Mystery. Was she Catholic? Born into it. She loved her Catholic grandmother, who preserved and loved her. Was she evangelical? Once upon a time, until her passion for life and the experience of others overcame her willingness to sell her point of view. Was she Jewish? She was baptized into it, as Rabbi Jesus was at the hands of John the Baptist, and she tried above all else to do what she had been unable to do when she was younger: be a true partner to her husband in a common spiritual partnership. But she didn’t do it just for him. She did it for herself in the spirit of “no more separation.”
I must leave others to the task discerning any religious conclusions when my time here is spent. I ask people not to fret over my immortal soul. Those remaining will be here on there own familiar ground, upon which I hope they find solace. I believe Sinead is onto something on behalf of those whose souls have departed and twist toward the sun, whose feet are no longer made of clay:
I am not in shelter from the winter
When your head is buried in the sand
Why do the secret sellers explain things
Things I already understand?
Well, this was rather complicated, but I think I got one task done for the sake of the Big Binder. In typical Linda fashion, I started to do one thing – write a lesson plan for gap analysis in business, in order to become an ever-better instructor – and somehow, ended up on a different and more rewarding path. All because of that lizard, this song, and random subsequent thoughts. Where on earth did I go?
To infinity and beyond! And back here again.
And you, who do you think I am?
Yes you, who do you say I am?