Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Who Am I, By Myself?

I recently read a blog by a woman who is figuring out who she is now that her husband of many decades is dead.

This may seem trivial, but I’m asking the same question. My husband of many decades just took a 4 day trip. Eating is something I do with my husband. Do I really need to eat? I wasn’t particularly hungry for those 4 days. I went through a good stockpile of fruit for snacks, but it felt like I was eating as something to do. I do not eat as something to do. I eat when I’m hungry – that’s what I would have said. But I eat with my husband because it is something WE do.

I like to fix meals for US to eat. The few times I was hungry, I grabbed box of leftovers out of the freezer and heated it up. It’s not fun to cook a whole meal just for me. A good deal of the fun is watching my husband eat.

When my husband is home, we often watch an instant play show on a computer screen in the evening. I watched Lost while he was gone, but I watched it when we would normally have been eating dinner. The evening viewing habit is OURS, not MINE.

We exercise every morning. My husband often quits after 15 or 20 minutes and WE walk the dog. When he was gone, I did the entire tapes, and then walked the dog. I’m an exercise junky. He exercises to be with me. He walked between sessions at his conference, but he did not exercises without me.

When we were younger, I missed the sex every night. I would console myself that his sperm were still wiggling around for the first 3 days. Now, I need to see him, smell him, touch him, to think about sex. Instead I thrashed around in the bed while I slept and awoke tangled in sheets and covers.

While I did my work, it occurred to me that I don’t make enough to pay for OUR lifestyle. I’m in the process of changing careers. I don’t know right now if my new career could earn enough for me to live the way I want to live, the way I’m used to living. I’m glad I don’t have to face that question right now.

In Philosophy class, we used to ask Who Am I? The answers are a series of negations. I am not my thoughts. I am constant and they are always changing. I am not my emotions. I am constant and they are always changing. I am not my roles (daughter, wife, mother, worker, grandmother). These duties are always changing. These negations do not give me the positives – what remains? What am I?

An exercise junkie who eats fruit and loves her husband? That does not feel like a real and true summary of who I am.

What are my constants? What do I want?

Is my true nature even related to how get through my days? Or does it what I think about (as differentiated from my thoughts.) Thoughts can be trivial: Where is my sweater? Is it time to buy groceries? What do I want to say to my mother? Which book do I want to read next?

Or thoughts can be profound: What is the nature of the universe? How can I be a force for good and love?

If I solve the profound level, do I still have to solve the trivial level?

My husband has returned. My normal life has returned. But I see it differently. I am very conscious of the fact that all my current choices are temporary and circumstantial. And I have no answers.


  1. I have been unmarried for a long time, and unpartnered about 10 years. IMHO, many married people are kind of smug about what they have (companionship, sex, lifestyle). They think they deserve it. They also think they would do just fine alone. In short, they are not grateful enough. They do not scare themselves enough with "what if"s. Not that one should live in terror, but just remember it is luck that you are still both alive and both healthy. It will someday be otherwise. Then one of you will join my vast cohort: the old ladies who live alone. (It's not so bad, after all. Just takes some getting used to.)

  2. Deserve is a null concept. I learned that when my first employer did not pay me the promised wages. I figured I deserved my wages because I'd done what I was hired to do, when I was hired to do it. My employer didn't keep his part of the bargain. If you get what you bargained for, that's nice. And yes, it is something to be grateful for. If you don't, you have to keep going anyway.