A sense of self

Who am I? This physical presence in the world, more awkward than I would like. A soft animal body that blesses me with perception and the scope for action. A story of physical ugliness and unacceptability I’ve been told too many times. Uneasily feminine, mother of a child who stands on the brink of adulthood. A body that works, and weeps, and does what it can and wants to do more. A body that used to dance, and hasn’t in a long time. A voice that seldom finds reason to sing anymore. Even so, I’m probably less alienated from my body at the moment than I have ever been.

Who am I? An obsessive mind full of uncertainties. Questioning all things, trying to make sense of an increasingly incomprehensible world. An anxious, uneasy mind, desperate to be doing more, but limited by the realities of a body that cannot give indefinitely without rest. A mind fighting to stay sane in face of the madness of ecocide, the needless greed and cruelty shaping this age.

A feeling being, intense in those feelings but not defined by any of those feelings. Always either too much (too intense, too needy) or not enough (not compassionate, patient, generous enough). Feeling, but never seeming to feel the right things at the right times to fit neatly in with everyone else. Feeling, but hiding those feelings, inherently dishonest in matters of the heart in the hopes of not causing offence or inconvenience.

There was a time when I would have defined myself in terms of my aspirations. That was some decades ago. I no longer have much sense of direction, more a suspicion that I’m not really going anywhere, that there isn’t much else I am going to achieve.

There was a long time when I would have defined myself in terms of what I was doing – writer, folky, activist, parent. These days I do what I can and I do what seems necessary but feel little sense of identification with any of it. There were times when I defined myself by the communities I belonged to, and the people I felt most closely associated with. I’ve come to think of myself as someone who isn’t very good at community or at friendship.

I’m aware that for many spiritual people, the loss of the ‘little me’ and the ego is a spiritual goal. Get rid of the clutter of identification and ideas about self to be a more authentic spiritual being. Clearly what I’m experiencing isn’t some kind of enlightenment or improvement. It feels like disorientation, loss of purpose, and increasing despair in all aspects of my life.

But then, is the loss of ego for spiritual purposes really a loss of identity? Or does the person simply import spiritual values, spiritual community, a sense of being respected as a spiritual person and a sense of being good, worthy and enlightened, in replacement for all the things they were previously hanging their sense of identity from? I expect it feels great to have an identity that is so firmly rooted in a spiritual path.

It’s not easy to function when you don’t know who you are. How do you make choices when you don’t really know what you want? How do you find the motivation to do anything? It’s not, let me be clear, the peace of slipping into simplicity either, because the not knowing, is not simple. It’s confusion, and unsettling, and never knowing what call to make.

About the only bit of me I can be sure of, is this awkward flesh self, but I can only be sure about it in a feeling way. The stories I have are also uncertain. This body I understood to be funny looking, unattractive, unfeminine, badly proportioned, unloveable, and which a few people insist on seeing very differently.

Who am I?

Honestly, I’ve no idea.


About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

13 responses to “A sense of self

  • Radhika

    So many of us are going through this, It’s amazing that you gave us voice. I’ve been alone for two weeks now and found myself questioning if I even existed. Then I read a book by Rainbow Rowell and it brought me back…

  • Christopher Blackwell

    You are a very creative and sensitive person, whom people like to read what you say and write. What more do you need to me. This includes all the roles that you play as well.

    • Nimue Brown

      It feels like a fire has gone out, and in the absence of sparks, everything gets colder, and harder to do. I’m hoping its temporary, but things I used to find easy I now have to sweat and bleed for. I think a lot of it is because my sense of self has always had a social component to it, but I’ve lost that in recent years and it’s left me adrift.

      • Christopher Blackwell

        Maybe it merely means that you are to develop in another direction Life is always changing, when change stops, so does life. There are stages of life and different things are important in different stages

        What with my health issues and disabilities there are not many things physical that I can do any more. I use a walker I can’t drive and I simply have very little energy so it is possible that even the model railroad I have dreamed of for fifty years, which I had a building built for, and I ought a great about of stuff will never get built for. However, I am still closer to having it than at any other time of my life.

        Meanwhile, that building is also my sanctuary, ceremonial. meditation, drumming room and holds my two libraries, one of Wicca and Pagan subjects and one on railroad history and model railroad subjects. Can you imagine what it is like to have a 24 foot my 24 foot room just for that.

        Remember that I once shared a VW bus with my partner, a cat, rock cutting through polishing equipment, mining tools half a ton of rock, a full size construction wheel barrow, a Colman propane stove with a five gallon tank of propane between my legs of the passenger side, and a case of forty 40% nitro dynamite. That was my life and home from Fall of 1979 to January of 1985. I rarely spent a whole week in the same place. Now I have lived at the same address for thirty years, have three shed buildings, 3.5 acres of land, 96 solar panels, a pick up truck which will outlast me as the 2005 model has only fifty thousand miles on it, and I feed over a hundred birds and other critters daily.

        So look back at what you have done, appreciate that you have done it, and then explore what is next to do. It could be anything, maybe something that you never would have thought about before. Life is the traveling the trip, not a particular destination.

        Obviously there are a fair number people that keep up with you for some reason. You have a few people that seem to care about you. So don’t devalue yourself. Nature does not duplicate, not even in the case of identical twins, each of us is unique, each of us is exactly what we are supposed to be. All we have to do is discover who we are, allow ourselves to do what we can do, and be ourselves. Nothing else is required of us.

      • Nimue Brown

        Thank you. I think for the short term I need some serious rest, see where we go from there.

  • spirited13

    Hi Nimue…You reached me….I felt what you had to say, and I wished to respond. We no longer need to define ourselves. This has been our way of doing things for ever. Now, it’s the time, as I am sure you know, to just stop being a Human Doing, and just be a Human Being. What does that mean? Not sure, but I find peace within the stillness within and joy at most times, and I have a ready laugh to share with others. You are doing what you love, you have people who love and treasure you, at home, and here as well. Let the love in, let it emanate, and see what it brings to you….and just remember to Breathe! ha Ha! Sending you Angel hugs, and blessings, All is Well, Barbara xxxxx

    • Nimue Brown

      Thank you for the thought. it could well be birth pains into some other way of being, I’m trying to hold space for that, but at a death-point in a cycle of being, its not easy. I may be a caterpillar in a coccoon, but what I feel is the stasis, and the darkness. I’m trying to allow it to be what it is and be open to whatever, if anything, follows.

  • Terra

    I read your post, and I feel like I’m hearing my own self. So many things you say about yourself are true of me. My body is incorrectly proportioned. I don’t sing or dance much any more. I have seen myself as writer and folky, but I can’t really define myself as such. And so it seems to me that one part of who you are is that you are someone who gives voice to things that many people feel. I have often seen people responding to your posts by saying that you have expressed what they feel. Your recent posts “Healing the broken” and “Living with pain,” resonated with me. I don’t live with pain or depression, but what those posts said to me was that living with chronic illness comes not only with the symptoms themselves, but it also comes with other things. It comes with the experience of being pelted by advice, and withdrawing in order to protect oneself against that hailstorm of advice. And it detracts from the ability to be all the things that we thought made us who we are. That you gave these things expression made me feel that my experiences are not just peculiarities of me, but things that are common to people living with chronic illness. Having you put these things into words helps me understand what I’m going through, and helps me communicate to people around me what I’m going through. One of your gifts to the world is that you articulate what many of us are feeling.

  • Jan

    Hi Nimue, your writing always resonates with me, thank you. Jan

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