Who Am I, Exactly, at Core?
I had something of a meltdown today, and I needed to calm down. So I meditated, and consulted with my favorite oracle deck, The Faeries’ Oracle.
(It’s the most playful, serious set of non-instructive instructions I have found. If you click that link I might earn a tiny affiliate fee if you make a purchase.)
I drew Lusganna, the frog queen. She says to explore the heights and the depths, the parts of myself that I am not familiar with. She points out that we often don’t visit the most interesting parts of our own landscapes — until we have someone else to entertain.
I understand that. I lived in New York City for years, and never saw many landmarks tourists travel from other continents to visit.
If I were NYC, what would be my Empire State Building? My Ellis Island?
What beauty of mine have I missed because I took it for granted?
Well, let’s see what the answer might be to that question.
The thing I have missed about myself is that I have no idea who I am. I am so many things at once that there doesn’t seem to be a central core identity. It’s like “I” am a field, not a thing.
I am the space between things. Empty but full.
This is not what most people feel they are at core. I know that. I find it very hard to explain to most folks what this feels like, but I’ll try.
I once read an explanation of dark matter, and I’m not going to remember the details, but I do remember the essence of the explanation. Dark matter is a type of absence that is present in between all the concrete pieces of matter both here and in the universe. It seems to be the place from which gravity arises.
It’s everywhere and influences everything, but you cannot directly measure it. You know it is there because of its absence, in a way. The only way that everything else makes sense is if this non-substance is also present everywhere.
A physicist would have a much better definition, and I’m sure I’m getting at least some of that wrong.
But that explanation of dark matter fascinated me because I understand it on such a foundational level.
No One In the Mirror
Thinking of something that is everywhere and cannot be directly measured was revelatory, like the first time I saw my face in a mirror.
That was in my late thirties. I had suffered from anorexia from about age 11 to 22, and then stopped the stopping eating thing and started overeating as an alternative, abetted by being on the pill, which turned out to not be a good thing for me.
So I had been out of touch with my body for a long time. And in order to hate myself as much as I did, I hadn’t been able to see my own face for a long time.
I didn’t know that this was a weird thing to only look at an eyebrow, an upper lip, or a cheek. I didn’t know that many people can step back and see all parts of their face at once.
But one day, after understanding many new things about my past, I found myself staring at myself in a mirror and seeing every part of my face at once. A gestalt of a face.
It was stunning. Not that I was “stunning,” but I was stunned to see a whole face looking at me. I had a perspective I hadn’t had in a long time, maybe not ever.
My father used to call me ugly. He also pointed out that I had “little piggy eyes” and a mole on my upper lip. He said my hazel eyes were “nothing-colored” and my mother said the curl in the middle of my forehead was like the little girl who had a little curl right in the middle of her forehead and when she was good she was very very good but when she was bad she was HORRID.
And I think maybe as early as I had a face and as early as I looked at my face in mirrors, I didn’t see the face. I saw the mole, the small ears that stuck out, the scar in the eyebrow. The little piggy eyes.
I did not know how to step back and see everything at once.
And I suppose that if I had stepped back and seen it all, it would have upset me.
Because realistically, I am quite pretty, especially when I smile. I have fine features, and beautiful coloring in my eyes. I have pale skin and peaches and cream cheeks and dark hair and thick, dark brows. My nose is finely made. My upper lip is just a hairs-breath longer than it should be for symmetry but my lips are pretty, and my chin is sweet, and my face is oval and proportional.
When I smile, my face lights up.
Yes, my already-small eyes almost disappear when I smile, but that’s because they are so expressively happy. When cartoon characters smile, their eyes turn into the same upside-down crescent moons with thick, dark lashes. They are not little or pig-like … they are adorable and happy. They make other people want to smile, too.
Another thing that happens when I smile is that dozens of star shapes jump out of my face. I have lines around my eyes that crinkle into sparkles, and I have lines around my mouth that do the same. I have a deep dimple on one side that charms.
I have an infectious smile. It makes other people smile, and it makes me joyful not just inside but outside.
I am not the most beautiful person, nor the prettiest. But when I smile, I might be the most radiant.
And I think when I was little, and I smiled, I made my father very, very jealous. I don’t care why he felt that way, not anymore, because I know it was mostly just due to his various mental illnesses. It had nothing to do with me.
But what did have to do with me was his attempt to make me never, ever smile.
His focus on how small my eyes got was trying to lessen my smile. Try smiling while keeping your eyes wide open … you’ll see how ugly it looks. I looked panicked, not happy, when I smiled so my eyes didn’t disappear.
I think that I must have been quite tiny, and looked in the mirror and saw a pretty girl turn into a fairy shooting star with a simple smile, and I thought, “uh oh!”
That fairy with sparkling eyes wasn’t ugly. She wasn’t horrid, either.
So I was in trouble. I wasn’t living up — or down — to my parent’s expectations and desires.
I believe that I stopped smiling … and stopped seeing my whole, pretty-enough face … so I could comply with my dad’s deepest wishes. I looked at the problems, the mole, the scar, the small eyes, and the long lip. I looked at one thing at a time, and forgot the whole, forgot the radiance.
And in so doing, I forgot myself.
Because I am not one thing, and certainly not one thing at a time, and certainly not one problem after another.
I’m the whole. I may in fact be, at core, dark matter, a swirl of thoughts, feelings, and identities whirling around, connected by the unmeasurable absence in between. A something that isn’t a something but a radiating unifier.
I can feel how awful it is for many people to imagine someone identifying most with something that can’t be measured, seen, felt, or heard.
But for me, that’s the most reassuring, stable experience there is.
The Ultimate House Band
Here’s another way of explaining who I am at the core, and perhaps it’s not as mystical and more effable: if I were a Muppet, I would be The Electric Mayhem.
Yes, the whole band. There’s a lead singer, Dr. Teeth on keyboards with his wild and flamboyant style. There’s a laid-back back up singer guitarist, Janice. There’s Floyd Pepper on bass, Zoot on sax, and of course, Animal on drums. That’s the core band. Sometimes Kermit joins on banjo, and Lips on trumpet … and sometimes a guest musician joins, too. The band expands and contracts as needed.
They play rock, and jazz, and soul. They play classic show tunes and classical pieces. They are folkies, and groovies, and hip-hop artists. They are multitudes and play anything. They are at home everywhere, genre wise. They just need an amp … and if there isn’t one, they can play acoustic.
Together they provide all the music for every show, every movie, and every guest appearance. They are always part of the Muppet universe. Sometimes they take center stage, sometimes they are just playing instrumental underscores. They are wild, and crazy, and funny, and calm, and serious. They are whatever needs to be there. They are the music, and the silence.
So am I. I am multitudes and I am the soundtrack for life.
So when I’m asked “what do you want?” or “what are you going to do?” … no wonder my first response is flummox.
How could I possibly plan past this very now moment? I respond, first and foremost and maybe even only, to the moment. Dark matter doesn’t create or initiate, it connects and stabilizes. Music is the movement of sound through the world, not the thing that makes the sound.
I need to remember that at heart, at my core, I am no one and nothing. And from that, all things arise.
I do not need to be someone to be effective. In fact, being no one and totally free from form might be the most powerful expression of myself there is.