Highly Personal Musings Inspired by Rebecca Solnit’s Essay Woolf’s Darkness: Embracing the Inexplicable, Part IV

On the Little Pigeon Hole I created for Myself OR Who Do I think I am?

Quote from Solnit’s essay:

“Woolf is calling for a more introspective version of the poet Walt Whitman’s “I contain multitudes,” a more diaphanous version of the poet Arthur Rimbaud’s “I is another.” She is calling for circumstances that do not compel the unity of identity that is a limitation or even repression. It’s often noted that she does this for her characters in her novels, less often that, in her essays, she exemplifies it in the investigative, critical voice that celebrates and expands, and demands it in her insistence on multiplicity, on irreducibility, and maybe on mystery, if mystery is the capacity of something to keep becoming, to go beyond, to be uncircumscribable, to contain more.”

How do I begin this? With a question obviously. Because that is what is needed at this point: a whole lot of questioning. I have lived for forty years (almost 41 now) and each piece of who I think I am is another brick in this little pigeon hole of an idea I’ve created about myself. Here are some of the bricks:

  • I am shy.
  • I am awkward.
  • I am not good at talking to people.
  • And so on…

Some of the bricks I placed in front of the door, so I can’t get out anymore. I suspect I did this to protect myself. It was a way of functioning in a world I did not feel qualified to be in. If “I am” a certain way, then it allows me to back away from certain experiences. It gives me an excuse to say no.

I am not sure why I was born so shy, or why my default was to always feel like I was never good enough. These were not messages I received at home, where I had a very close-knit, loving family. But mostly, I never felt fully qualified to be a person in the world. I felt I was always pretending to be rather than actually being. There is a phrase for that now, called “impostor syndrome”, mainly used to describe people’s feeling of inadequacy in their professional career. But I have always felt like my very being was somehow an impostor, that I was only pretending to be a person and hoped nobody noticed.

But lately, instead of huddling in my self-made pigeon hole, I have started wondering how it would feel to NOT have these bricks surrounding me all the time. What would it feel like to push one aside and get a glimpse at what might lie outside?

Prodding at these ideas of myself to see if they would move a little, I discovered that most had lost their mortar, and shifted out of the way easily. The largest ones even crumbled at my touch. Suddenly, there wass a large opening where there used to be a brick wall.

So what did I see?

The darkness of course.

But this time, the darkness has shades in it. It is coloured like twilight with past experiences and memories but also with an exciting mystery, “if mystery is the capacity of something to keep becoming, to go beyond, to be uncircumscribable, to contain more.”

I want to stop being trapped in this idea of myself, this rigid structure I built as a younger person in order to protect myself from feeling overwhelmed, unqualified, inadequate. But I no longer feel those things, at least not in such a permanent and debilatating way.

“The future is dark, which is the best thing the future can be I think,” Woolf said.

At the age of (almost) 41, I have no idea who I am. And I think that’s okay. The future is dark and it is hopeful and it is ever changing. I am looking forward to my stumbling journey through it.

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One Response to Highly Personal Musings Inspired by Rebecca Solnit’s Essay Woolf’s Darkness: Embracing the Inexplicable, Part IV

  1. saleema says:

    I’m really enjoying these posts, Lina. The darkness is scary, but then, what could be more powerful than harnessing fear? And delving into mystery?

    I think of you as someone with great integrity, strength, and resolve…so I pity any bricks that might try to stand in your way!

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