Who am I?
I am, as the tagline for this blog says, a husband, a father, a slut, a blogger. I have used a number of adjectives to describe myself over the now nearly two years I’ve been blogging, to attempt to capture some combination of how I am and, inevitably, how I wish to be seen: thoughtful, creative, hungry, horny, dominant, navel-gazing, open-minded, respectful, serious, funny. Short (or average height), fit, shaven-headed, bearded. Iconoclastic, curious, considerate, self-obsessed, narcissistic.
But who am I? This isn’t an idle question for me. One of the challenges addicts generally face is an elevation of the concerns of self over just about any other concerns – love, generosity, kindness, relatedness, compassion, for example.
I note that when I came up with the blog’s tagline, without thinking about it consciously, I came up with four words that capture my seemingly infinite hunger for connection – with my wife, our son, various women, and you, my readers. If there’s one characteristic that defines me, it is this – a passion for social (familial, romantic, sexual, intellectual) connectedness.
But what of this? Is this me? Essentially? Fundamentally?
Years ago, in one of those “aha” moments that occasionally occur in therapy, I said to my shrink, “… but that’ll never be me. I’ll always….” And I finished the sentence with some or other habit of mind or body, I don’t remember what it was, and it wasn’t important, really.
My therapist, who often surprised me with his interventions, his words, his interpretations (which tended to be few and far between), gently asked, “Always?”
It was a watershed moment for me. The question shook me, brought me face to face with the rigidity with which I experienced my self. Well, of course not “always.” At some point, I wouldn’t be whatever it was, however it was, I had said. I would, later, be sick, unconscious, dead. Panicked, afraid, rapturous. Whatever supposedly permanent, essential sense of my self-hood I was then feeling was certain to recede at some point, in the face of something more important, more compelling, more urgent, more necessary, more fundamental.
But I had said “always,” and this seemed significant.
On that day, I think my sense of rigidity, attachment, clinging to a certain set of ways of seeing myself began to loosen just a bit – to soften, to recede. I began the long, slow, difficult process of seeing myself not simply as an agent in the world, an actor, moving from one subject-verb sentence to the next, forever functioning as a first-person subject. (Virtually every sentence I spoke at the time began with the word “I,” I imagine from where I sit now.)
I began to understand that “I” isn’t the subject of every bundle of meaning – verbal or otherwise. Sometimes, it’s the object. Sometimes, it’s one among many in a multiplicity of subjects.
And, most surprising, sometimes “I” am irrelevant.