“Finding Ourselves”

These words were poking at my waking brain: I am finding myself.

This phrase, not spoken by an adolescent seeking the reach of her wings. Not spoken through the torpor of middle age, of reassessing decades of a regulated life. 

Instead, articulated by a thoughtful and vital woman in an established framework – the complicated juggle of relationship, motherhood, career; the conventional triumvirate that steers our expectations, and threatens the survival of the female self.

How many of us are seeking?

What name do we give the imagined goal, the impossible state of emotional permanence, the promise of solutions to the discomforts of our consciousness, to our inquisitive essence?

Repackaging the product

Sometimes we label it Presence. Sometimes we label it Happiness. Sometimes we label it Acceptance. We believe it will grant us a measure of control. Sometimes it does. A measure of control.

Is popular culture conditioning us to turn away from a broader reach of human emotion? The very friction and doubt that propels us to challenge assumptions, to create and achieve, the reality that this comprises a state of self-discovery?

If cultural norms are the product and we are struggling with its features, have we yielded to rebranding and repackaging? Are we churning in the same murky waters as each generation before us?

My approach is not for everyone. This is my nature; I am relieved at my uncertainties, buttressed by my own interrogations. I do not seek to find myself, though the notion of an explicit search tumbles around in my head. I imagine a caged Lotto ball on a secret trajectory. Surely it can nudge its neighbors to follow suit, popping out the string of winning numbers, the Solution to All Problems, the Happy Ending in our constrained comprehension of borderless beginnings.

Changing the lens

Now I am slipping, I am drowning, I am drifting; I realize that my markers are disappearing. The face I know, the limbs that support me solidly, the script I cling to as my life.

Now I am climbing, I am projecting, I am revising; I do not name this evolutionary topography, but I know that I am not broken. I know that I am not lost.

Rather, I am aware of being newly found and repeatedly – heartily, painfully, joyfully. In each hour, each day, each sleepless night as dreams crystallize my resolutions or stomp on them, lull me as if intoxicated or toss me back to weary consciousness. It is a lifetime of hours, of days, of sleepless nights and dreams that newly find me. So I am found, and found again.

Seeking self, allowing self “to be”

To know myself a dozen times daily is not to be lost, though it may be dizzying. To float without coordinates is not to lose one’s sight. It is, nonetheless, disorienting. We must make peace with quaking and contradiction, with hovering close to beat and bone.

If I do not seek to find myself, this does not mean I do not seek, I do not examine, I do not sketch while wandering the unfamiliar landscape. I anticipate the times I reside within the marrow, replenish reserves and tend to schooling, knowing that I will reemerge with what I have learned, bowing to the discretion of answers in their own time.

This is recognition: I am the woman in this moment however dreary, the woman in the next that is brighter and just as fleeting; I am here in the constant preparation of canvas, the splattering of colors, the layering of oils, the  reconditioning of memory, the cracking of surface, the celebration of my once fertile womb, the wonderment of what the human hand or the divine may make of me, the fingers that are my own, the sorrows of aging, the pride of continuing to question, the vision that is nascent, that floods my spirit, that belongs to another – refashioning my outlook, my composition, my capacity.

Changing the game

I do not live without plan; I revere improvisation and its necessity.

I reject rules not of my choosing and their premise: one settled self that will not stagnate, duos that need no break from their rut, trios to tempt us into more plentiful arrangements.

I offer my belief in variations on a theme: the pleasures of plurality as we define it, each human emotion in its turn, the gathering of figures as they will, movements and their glittering inevitability.

I know that I will march, advancing. I know that I will stagger, blindly. I will stumble, and pick myself up. A stranger may startle me with her assistance, and another, with the possibility of shared exploration. Voice will reawaken on a schedule of its own and instruct: now it is time for tears, now it is time for laughter.

The Happiness Board

I cannot grasp the token I am given, nor even the one that I select. This is a lesson.

Woman Thinking Through Life's Good StuffYou who sit and dictate are chaste, would-be puppeteers, frequently with good intention. I understand the multiplicity of your reasons, the governance of systems, the insistence that we all shuffle around the same board, in forfeit and in victory. These are the rules, you say. We are expected to follow.

Yet players fade in and out, prescribed paths grow old and ask for a renovated face. I toss the dice, I spin the wheel, I count off paces and try to believe. But I balk; my stake in the ground plucks pleasure from a different register and sequence of my own: joy will find us and we will seek it; noise will deafen and we will cover our ears; clarity will arrive in perfect pitch – the blaze of bodies connecting, the sweetness of breeze, the child’s softened cheek.

I am finding myself. It is a worthy statement and I will not demean it. But it is not my search. Are you certain it is yours?

I am not lost, though I am a moving target. I am here, I am gone, I am here: noting little in my beginnings, remarking on the morning sun breaking, unveiling the long day’s labor, cherishing the legacy of dream, respecting the roulette we spin and equally, the one we do not.

I am content in this process, and know it to serve me.

Visit Motherese on The Happiness Project for a provocative discussion, including the comments, which sparked this musing.


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  1. says

    I love much of this but this idea struck home at the moment:
    I know that I will march, advancing. I know that I will stagger, blindly. I will stumble, and pick myself up. A stranger may startle me with her assistance, and another, with the possibility of shared exploration. Voice will reawaken on a schedule of its own and instruct: now it is time for tears, now it is time for laughter.

    What a poignant and genuine statement.
    I am not “finding myself” and yet every day, in every experience, in every challenge, I learn more of myself… I evolve and that takes differing forms.

  2. says

    I’d never really thought about this one before, but as I read, it seemed so familiar, so accurate, so true. I find myself moment by moment, breath by breath. Although I am not lost, and do not seek, I evolve and discover myself constantly. New opinions, different desires come and go, and I know that “finding myself” is a never-ending journey because I will never stop changing, learning, discovering.

  3. says

    I have felt a certain pressure from today’s society to set out on some journey to “find” myself, as though there is some finite place or emotion that will unlock all my mysteries.

    I prefer your approach — to take myself as I am, to revel in my infinite moods and desires and missteps, and to focus on the journey rather than grasp for its end.

    Great post!

  4. says

    I think, finally, I have a grasp on who I am. I am. That’s it. That’s all that’s necessary. If I’m not who you need to be, I am sorry for that. Not sorry that I am not, simply sorry that you need me to be something I am not. I am. That makes me happy. I am not perfect. I need not be perfect.

  5. says

    Some developmental theorists suggest that the search to find ourself is unworthy because we have so many “selves” to find. Each road we take brings us to a new person that we may have never seen before. I know that each year I am amazed at the number of Ambers I have met. It’s kind of refreshing.

    • BigLittleWolf says

      What a delicious way to put it, Amber. “Each road we take brings us to a new person that we may have never seen before.” So many selves, yes, I agree with you.

  6. says

    I suppose I find myself often enough – through revelatory realizations, memories, or ideas – but I don’t spend time looking (as Amber pointed out, it’s a moving target!) I’m here. I react. I’m comfortable in the things I don’t know.

  7. says

    Wow, Wolfie, this is good stuff and so passionately written. You make a good point; the term “find myself” is really quite preposterous. I mean, as if there’s one solid, unmoving self to find? Situations are fluid, circumstances change, things are constantly in flux; why would our “self” be any different?

  8. says

    I’m with Kitch. Wow. This is intense, beautiful and riveting. As much as you know I can identify with it though, so I cannot. I AM trying to find myself and I think, for me at least, the distinction comes from comfort. You say: “We must make peace with quaking and contradiction, with hovering close to beat and bone.” And I agree, wholeheartedly, but it is that peace which I seek in trying to find myself. I am uncomfortable in my own skin, and I’m trying to reach a place where if I cannot feel as you so eloquently describe here that at least I can feel happy knowing I won’t. I’m not there yet. Becoming a mother sent me into a tailspin and I’m struggling to slow it down. There is much here, so much. I might have to write a rebuttal my friend :-) I’ll try for Wednesday.

    • BigLittleWolf says

      Ah, Christine – but in a way our positions are not so different. It is only that I think we are always finding ourselves whether we seek to do it or not; we are found (yes the passive voice) by everything that we encounter, fully embraced by intention or not. We are found even in our confusion and disorientation and oh yes – motherhood sets us all (I believe) into a tailspin of sorts. Eventually we slow the spin enough to make some sense of what we can and perpetually deal with the everything that surrounds it.

      We are in different spaces in time and situation, which of course affects our views, but I am looking forward to whatever you have to say on the topic. The motherhood tailspin. Yes, it’s the perfect way to phrase it I think. Struggling to slow it down, yes. But I know I’ve never been able to – only to float with it, ride it out in a way, take advantage of the periods when the waters are calmer so I may have a greater measure of control (if not true control) – all that, rather than fighting it, if that makes any sense.

  9. says

    Quite an interesting post and interesting discussion in the comments. I appreciate what you have to say here about owning each stage and each moment, whether you’re soaring or stumbling, and accepting each as part and parcel of a life well lived.

    For me, I have found early motherhood to be a destabilizing event. I know that life is often out of our control, but I’ve never lived that so actively as I have since becoming a mother (and continuing to stay at home with a 1-year old and a 3-year old). So making small resolutions for myself feels to me like a way of regaining some control over my life. I suppose the key (for me at least; how nice that we can all have our own “keys”) is to try for control over the things that matter, but roll with the punches when control is lost or unattainable.

    • BigLittleWolf says

      There’s no question that motherhood is destabilizing – and any sense of control over the world as we knew it before disappears pretty quickly. I like your concept of reducing “drag” and finding certain things we can control to maintain a degree of functioning (and recognition?) even with everything that changes. But taking bits and pieces of concepts and making them work for you is a bit different from some of the “answer to everything” sense that I get when reading about the desire to be present, happy, grateful, etc. I believe life is both more complex and simpler than that. But plenty of people are making big bucks with this latest round of interrelated books, films etc.

  10. says

    BLW, intelligent and reflective posts. The discussion is also equally stimulating. I think of myself in revision. I know the core me, but the subtleties are ever-changing. From girl to woman to wife to mother – all of these roles have me constantly questioning and revising until I can find a self that fits.

    • BigLittleWolf says

      What about the thought that you have many constantly evolving selves that fit – more or less – and no “one” that you will arrive at?

  11. Glacel says

    You play with words so beautifully. I felt dumbfounded with this post. I always feel I’m in a constant battle with myself…trying to find “me”, but I manage to be “lost and found” time and again.

  12. Glacel says

    Of course, I’m an avid reader. I remember your blog on MySpace, and I’m not sure what happened but you weren’t there anymore. Thankfully, I found Daily Plate of Crazy on Facebook. I knew it was you, with your infamous “shoe-stopper” blogs. :)

    • BigLittleWolf says

      Wow. Do I have a twin who’s wearing my shoes? Never had a MySpace blog. Just my Daily Plate of Crazy – here – for the past 500 days or so! :)

  13. says

    I needed this today, BLW. All these months, I wanted to find myself…not for anyone else but for me. These last couple of days, I have “fallen” again. Lost in my own self, unsure of my intentions, confused at the looming chaos my life had become. I have become angry with myself for “losing” myself again…but you reminded me that I am a work in progress, I don’t need to find myself. I just need to be at peace with myself.

  14. BigLittleWolf says

    Joy, I’m glad you found this today if it is what you needed. As for finding peace with oneself, it’s not a static state, in my experience. But knowing that there are times when I am more or less at peace with who I am – if not my circumstances – there’s comfort in that. And, as you say, in the fact that we’re all a work in progress.

    I know this is a difficult period. The sense of falling lasts so much longer than we think it will. You’ll find your way. Hang in.

  15. Sheila says

    Its been some months since I have read your blog. I just spent almost an hour catching up…
    Reading your perspective and thoughts are so inspiring. It makes me think of my life and how to see it in a different light. To accept the person I am and the life I have lived with all its failings and joys. The rules of my life are those that I define and that is o.k. I find comfort in your writing and in the readings of your followers so enlightening….
    Thank you.

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