I have been thinking about the idea of layers, how there are so many layers to a person, so many different characters or parts of us coexisting in one body. We adapt, becoming what we need to be in different situations. A survival technique, I have no doubt. I see this so clearly in my own mind…I am ‘Dr. Gainey’ the professor and musician, ‘Honey’ the wife, ‘Denise’ the friend and sibling. I was ‘Neese’ the daughter, though my persona changed from daughter to caregiver in my relationship with my mother at the end of her life. I am the woman who loves peace and solitude, and the one who loves to be silly and laugh with my best friend. The Denise who is at times totally confident and in charge, and at other times insecure and frightened. I have a stage persona when I perform, and a different persona as I interact with people I don’t know daily. So…who is the real me?
Perhaps there isn’t one real me, because there isn’t just one side of any person. I hope the core of me is in each of the roles I live, the one who does her best to be a good human being, the hopelessly flawed woman who is trying so hard to learn and grow…the one who is both terrified of change and hungry for it to sweep over me. For some reason, it seems to have become very important to me to understand all of who I am at this time in my life. Maybe it is delving more into my fifties (“nifties”, as a friend says), or maybe it is a natural progression of the positive changes I have been working hard to make in my life. Whatever the cause, I am ready to take a hard look at myself and right my course where needed.
There is so much to those layers of who we are inside. Our relationships with each of our parents, our siblings, our romantic relationships, our education, life experiences, our hopes and dreams. Everything that happens to us, every person we have had a relationship with, impacts us in small and large ways. We begin to identify with certain things that become a part of who we are- or who we want to be. For me, it was falling in love with Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins at a young age when I felt out of control in our divorce-riddled home. That idea of the ‘perfect” woman, classy, confident, strong, and in control, resonated with me at a primal level. I worked so hard to be that perfect woman…failing miserably the vast majority of the time because there is no perfect woman. I set myself up for failure from the beginning.
I don’t think that recognizing we are many things, many variations of our selves, is a bad thing- It’s just being honest and self-aware. It takes a certain courage to look at yourself in the proverbial mirror and really see what is reflecting back at you. And it goes to another level when you not only see yourself for what you are, but find the courage to tweak things, to change course along the way. The thought of major changes at this stage in my life is unsettling and fear-inducing, if I’m honest. There is so much that could go wrong….but there is also so much that could go right.
I’ve always been a ‘glass half full, and I’ll fill it up myself’ kind of gal, so I’m going to focus on the ‘what could go right’ side of things. I’m polishing my mirror to get a really good look at my fifty-three-year-old self, warts and all. Only after that clear and honest assessment can I move forward in the direction I need to go. Forward, always forward, in love and compassion for others…and for myself, too.