I talk a lot about being awake and aware, but truthfully, I prefer to sleep.

These days, I guard my sleep. I’m a clock watcher, I must be in bed by 11. Awake much past that time, and some serotonin or dopamine process begins, provoking me into a review of the day’s events, if not my entire life, and the review tends toward regret and remorse. I take melatonin. I refuse to speak to the man in bed with me, I gesture at the clock, I grunt with slurred speech, affected in part to make my point, as I am not one to muddle up my words,  even if exhausted. I am not interested in sex. I have to sleep.

Tomorrow will be destroyed if I don’t sleep tonight.

I wake too early, I wish I could sleep in.  I also fantasized about sleeping in when my children were young, those days when a little face appeared by my side of the bed in a plea to make contact after a night spent alone. Saturday or Sunday, there might be an unexplained rest. I remember one daughter’s first dream, or the first she said anything about… “momma, I dreamed about Thomas”, the little railroad engine. My older daughter, a darker sort who loved magical tales, could not hear about the White Witch of Narnia without a nightmare, a nightmare of being tricked or deceived by  an evil mother.

I was more relaxed with the sleep of the younger girl, she sometimes joined my ex husband and I in our bed; I wasn’t willing to endure the screaming a second time around. Cosleeping was a shameful secret that almost everyone I knew would own up to in private.  She does not seem to have suffered greatly from sleeping with us as a toddler, she can sleep on her own at twenty,  and the controversy over childhood sleep habits has now become irrelevant; a minor, preoccupying debate for new parents whose lives are relatively secure.

The warning about cosleeping really should be for the parent. When I have the rare chance to embrace her now I smell her hair and remember how we both could drift into secure relaxation, into sleep.  I feel my own tension, the tension dissolves, and for a moment she is home, and I am less alone. These days I am the restless one,  trying to trick myself into temporary unconsciousness. I am the one who needs a family bed, having experienced that special intimacy, I now am able to miss it.

Sleep is a strange thing. No one can really explain why humans need to konk out for hours per day, and how our minds churn on to make the sense of the conscious mess, even while our bodies are at times deactivated, motionless, so we don’t take a swing at the ball, or a swing at a dragon, or at our boss, and end up on the floor.  Sleep often ushers us quietly away from conscious life, and maybe that’s why my body acts out the ambivalence, needing the rest, yet not really wanting to let go.


Identity: Constellations

“I was married to someone who wanted me to change. Become more adult, more responsible. I began not to like myself, not like what I do. I lost my identity. Everything began collapsing around me”.   Marilyn Manson

  “Spirituality is meant to take us beyond our tribal identity into a domain of awareness that is more universal.”   Deepak Chopra

“Identity is an assemblage of constellations.” Anna Deavere Smith

“Identity theft is one of the fastest-growing crimes in the nation – especially in the suburbs.” Melissa Bean

“A wife should no more take her husband’s name than he should hers. My name is my identity and must not be lost.”   Lucy Stone

Identity is too small a thing, limiting, too small a number, too small a box. A woman in a box, in a cube, in a cubbyhole along with a million others, categorized and data-mined.  Identity is on a toe tag, or a gravestone.  Identity is what is on my ID card at work, hung on my neck like pigeon with a message: this is her, her with the weird smile in the fish-eye picture, a flag at her back. No one at work knows me, maybe four people in a building of thousands.   They have my identity, my name, my social security number, my chip. My ID card, merely a snap in a second in time and space.

Identity can be stolen, compromised, honored, protected, hidden. My identity has been hidden behind mom, female, programmer, geek, nerd…at work my Indian name is “Pays-attention-to-detail.”  My public identity has nothing to do with me. Linked In, Facebook.  My public identity is all over the internet, like a maze of mirrors I can’t hide from and must travel, stuttering along with blinding flashes of my past.

Most people I know, know me as a poker player.  The men at the game are nicknamed Cowboy, the Face, Bad Larry.  The women, Big Easy, Shortstack, Svetlana. My Indian name would be: “She-raises-with-threes.”  Playing a predominately man’s game, I’m trying to beat them at it. I have to think about my image at the table. Am I a bluffer, a bully, a rock, an actor? Can I charm the other players out of their stack of poker chips? Can I beat them through trickery, through skill, by out-playing them?  Can I camouflage the cards in my brain from their hooded, sunglass-covered reflective smart-ass eyes?  Can I magically discern their cards by their little physical tells and how they bet their chips?  It’s an elusive thing, the identity of a poker player.  We sit for hours and know each other by our deceptions.

Growing up I was the little sister, sick kid, a girl to be protected in a family of boys. They taught me poker.  I wanted to strike out on my own, take risks, travel.  Adventurer?  Independent?  But mostly I wrote…. of course I am a writer.  Identity: writer.   I think most writers are sort of born into it, like a genetic footprint,  or they fall into when they realize their mortality, like a streak of white hair on the subconscious, or an early trauma…maybe some combination.  “I can’t breath, we’re all going to die”….”maybe we can imagine something else?”  “Be somewhere else.” You know, I nearly failed geometry in school trying to be somewhere else?

Or is it the cliché: the act of writing a journey of self-discovery?  I write to find truth?  I write to understand “the other?”  I write to take on other personas?  Who the hell knows?  Does it even matter? Author’s intent used to mean so much.  Intention is nothing compared to survival. Sure, I write to have meaning…..if there is such a thing.

Other people still want a different identity from me….mom, working woman.  I’m ok with it, but the world wants dishes done, and well-kept hair, and eyeliner, and something I can’t quite fathom which is neat & tidy.  I like order, but I can’t quite shake the mad scientist … forgetting my own presence and image. Hair unkempt,  disheveled.

I’m a Taurus. So stubborn, and loyal as a domesticated farm animal. By that, I mean stubborn to a fault. We must throw the constellations into our identities.  Chaos and the cosmos. We can’t ignore the stars our ancestors saw in the night sky.  We cant ignore our past and where we come from. The Hunter, the Water-Bearer, the Seven Sisters.  The priests and priestess and shaman that made our spiritual identities. Svetlana would say in a sultry voice, “we walk on the bones of the dead.”

I can have it all….I can be fascinated with words and imagination and maps to the past—and raise three kids. The part of me with the hoodie and sunglasses, the rotten gambler, knows that’s a lie.  But I’m forced to see that my writer-ly self, my love of books has to wait..and maybe it will be too long, books won’t be written, because my very life demands it, depends on it.  I can’t write when I have to grocery shop and run a house. It’s become an undeniable fact.  One has to make the mortgage, or as Virginia Woolf would say, it is difficult when you need time to yourself and “a room of one’s own.”  So the question is, if I am not writing, am I still a writer?

I say yes, yes because under this calm exterior are stories that I may have time someday to bring to paper.  Hemingway, Brautigan, they went for months without writing.  Better to bluff than to fold.  My Indian name: “writes-with-clouds-in-sky.”  So this identity is still mine, but I am less… and I am more.  Jane Goodall spent her life with one purpose, and I wonder though, does she too feel the splintering of her ego?   She is scientist, scholar, lover of animals, fund raiser, linguist, woman, human, lover of animals.

My own mom, god rest her soul, shot an antelope, and I want a copy of her photo, lost to me forever, but it’s burned in my brain–with her hunter’s hat and her bright red lipstick, the antelope beside her.  I don’t know that I could kill that antelope with its beautiful markings and its long eyelashes, but my mom could.  Her identity so different from mine. She grew up with animals on a farm, and lived through the Great Depression.  My mom did not travel the lengths I have down an imagined road, she made something more of the one she was given, planting roses and reading history and taking the dirt roads to Phoenix, past the orchids and cotton fields into the little house with cement floors and a clothesline.  I believe she was happy there.

My mom knew her own identity and seemed to be easier with it than I have ever been with mine.  She had a skill I admire to this day, how to be charming, or how to charm.  Maybe the secret to that was having her own happiness…. maybe it was a dialogue with herself that she was willing to share with everyone…. she was honest and entertaining.  But to be charming is more than to be truthful, and may be a more difficult skill to master than poker.

I guess we’re all Sybils, multiple personalities under the skin, shattered mirrors, with our own eyes reflecting in all the broken glass bits. They look back at us, watching.  But we’re influenced by the bits and pieces of all we see, the outside of ourselves, the other. We are molded by language and memory into that blob of self, that thing other people label “identity,” that person which we are at any specific instance of constantly changing time. We have to hold onto what we love about ourselves, we have to be more than what we believe ourselves to be, we have to understand that we are complex beings, we have to raise ourselves above the way others see us to listen to our own inner voice, our poker intuition. Something my mom called common sense.   For Pete’s sake, give me a blog and I write a book.  Be my editor, Pam.

Secret Identity

Identity is too big a word. It’s psychologized, and labeled. Psychobabbled, as an acquaintance of mine would say, repeated to the point of meaninglessness. Identity is a word that reminds me of my younger brother, trapped with me in the back seat of a station wagon, repeating my name, my name, over and over again, irritating me. A set up for me to smack him to get him to stop, then to hear a canned speech from the front about expecting me to be more mature than the whallop I just delivered. His smug smile.

First Identity:  Mature One. Assigned role, not optional.

Sounds like a boat or a spaceship. The Mature One. Ready to stomp out regressed behavior with torpedoes of wit, redirection and  new points of view.

God help me, I’d so much rather deliver the smack sometimes.

Second Identity:  Established in reference to others, gender specific. Daughter. Wife. Mother. Aunt. Student. Feet square on the floor, skirt just below the knees, hair as orderly as this curly wavy edition can get.

Overlapped with first identity, and everyone around is pretty pleased. I’m not displeased. It’s pleasant to be loved and admired.  No Windex needed, clear and bright.

Third Identity: My  feet are a bit sore and I’m tired of even length skirts. No one is around to tell me, or cue me, to what daughters or mothers are supposed to do. I find a picture of my own mother, dressed in an elaborate chicken outfit, complete with chicken beak headgear and feathers, riding a horse. I admire this photo more than her modeling portraits. I hang out with Indians who are repeatedly robbed of everything until they put out their hands for the pills and needles every type of drug dealer will give them, drug dealers endorsed by the State or by the street. I don’t understand my home life, mostly I am not seen, although sometimes, although it’s hard to know if I was seen before, or if I morphed into something to quiet the turmoil, mine and others’.

Is sometimes seen good? Is it good enough? Or maybe it’s just evolution into reality and I lower my expectations. I have a secret identity now, I can’t fully be seen, like an object too small or too big, and no one really has the correct magnification.

A doctor wants a full inventory of menopausal symptoms.

I watch Dr. Who a lot , I see the 13 iterations. He changes, he doesn’t recognize his own face. A hairstylist incorporates the white streak in the front of my hair, someone complimented me once on this, there is a comic book siren who has this type of streak, she is young, it is due to a trauma. How striking! she says.

My white streak is due to age, I’m fairly certain.  I’m not really sure how it got there.