I own two virtually identical leather bags, bought about a decade apart in different countries. We discovered this excavating a closet some years back, when we found the first (buried) bag and compared it to the recently-bought one. I’d forgotten that I had the first one, over the years… The two bags were made by the same guy. Upon investigation, it turns out that we bought them from his store both times, which he’d moved from one country to another. This was the beginning of the realization that I’d settled in my tastes and that did, in fact, know myself pretty well. Thereafter, when I found something special, I had the confidence to go ahead and buy two of the same shirt, for example, in different colors, if that was my impulse, as it was clear they’d be worn. This actually led to a reduction in the number of items in my wardrobe, as what resulted was fewer things that got more wear. It was the start of my “fewer, nicer things” kick, trying to pare down all the stuff we have in our lives. It’s worth noting that this initiative is a work in progress, and has been only moderately successful so far. Still, it’s helpful to have a theme around which to work.
My recent experiences have disrupted the sense of knowing and trusting myself, because there are so many things I don’t actually know anymore. It’s odd, to have arrived at a place in life where I was comfortable in my own skin, only to have that skin (or, more precisely, in a nod to Michael, Mr. Precision Himself, the insides) change on me. This is all a part of the larger matter of what was “me” all along and what was brain chemistry. I’m still exploring the existential questions this raises.
Two recent illustrations: the stitching I gave up sometime in the unknown-tumor-was-growing era (described here) and the fairly abrupt switch in my wardrobe color preferences some years back. At the time, I stopped wearing any color but black for the basics: all black pants and tops, with limited color only in jackets or sweaters. When it was called to my attention back then, I attributed it to my more somber general mood from being at the law school, from both the origins and reality of being there. Now, I’m thinking it was likely a brain tumor effect, as there were a whole series of things I did in that era to simplify my visual existence. I pared down the number of things on my desk, I became more vigilant about keeping the desktop screen of my computer clear, I stopped doing crafts that had many colors, I streamlined my list making system, and so on. None of that was maturation of my character, I now think, rather that I found visual complexity a serious strain. To this day, visual overload disrupts my balance and causes fatigue, and that’s pretty clearly a brain tumor aftermath.
The steroid tapering process is almost completely done: one more dose Wednesday, and then it’s over. It’s interesting in light of these other brain chemistry issues, because the dreams I have on nights after steroids are qualitatively different than on nights after several days without meds.
This all gives rise to questions about how well I know--and don’t--who I am any more. Of course, that’s an overstatement, since my core values and reactions are mostly the same as they have always been. Still, it gives pause.
Our holiday celebration was a nice hybrid this year, with a focus on the elements that really mattered to people in the family, with most of the extraneous flourishes that added stress edited out. We enjoyed each others’ company, and had a low-key, loving time together. We appreciated that we don’t have any drama or stress and gave thanks for that. It took work to achieve it, as well as editing over the years, as my family of origin really liked drama and stress was part of the package. It’s nice to have overcome that.
Unlike most years, there’s a ton of work that still needs to be done over this break, consistent with the demands of a self-driven work life as opposed to an other-driven one. I miss the complete break, but I also like the control of this new life, so like so many things, it’s important to count the blessings of the good problems to have and find a reasonable balance. That probably turns out to be the story of my life. It’s not a bad story.