Friday, January 12, 2007
Who Am I? -- On Being Zan Malkovic
I am not Southern Baptist
I am not conservative
I am not Republican
I am not skinny
I am not straight
I am not extroverted
I am not good at math
I am not comfortable in the spotlight
I am not good at taking orders
I am not stupid
I am not a pretty girl (ya know what I mean by that, right? I mean attitude, not appearance.)
I am not a dog person
And so on and so on, ad nasaum.
But what I've never been really good at is defining myself by what I am. I'm doing better at it, thanks to my bout of therapy. I had to start out making myself make lists of what I AM.
I am smart
I am funny
I am a good friend
I am bisexual
I am spiritual
I am pagan
I am liberal
I am fat
I am happy
I am a cat person
I am a writer
I am an artist
You know, that stuff. And so, I'm getting much better at shaping myself by the positive -- that is, the things that apply in actuality. Defining myself by myself, not by other people. Being the measure of my own woman, as it were. And so, in some ways I've come a great way forward. This is evidenced by the fact that I'm not longer suicidal and that I'm blessedly hopeful about the future.
And yet, in other ways, I still see that Lack to be a defining characteristic and I'm jealous of those people who don't have that lack.
I am beginning to know myself, but where does this Self belong? Where is her community? Her chosen family?
I was not raised with any sense of ethnic identity. I longed for it, in ways I didn't understand then, but I didn't have it. I am, simply, a bland white girl. My family is Irish/Scots/Cajun biologically, but culturally? Eh. We're just bland, no really ties to any particular place, white folks. This is not, in and of itself, a bad thing. It is simply something that I wish were different.
I've noticed that the blogs I read most often are those by people of color/defined ethnicity. I confess, I am horribly jealous. In spite of all the baggage that comes with being a POC in this white-washed society, you have a sense of community. You have a network of people who have common cultural markers. You have somewhere to go where people go "Yeah. I get that."
And I realize, of course, that it's not so simple. I realize there are countless problems within communities, however they are constructed. I realize that my outsider eyes don't see everything or really much of anything. But it seems nice to me to have somewhere to go where you're understood.
The closest I have ever come to that is the Christian culture I was raised in. You know, the one that drove me to the brink of suicide, made me think I was damned eternally and left me with panic attacks and anger issues that required intensive therapy? Yeah, that one. And yet, as bad as it was, there was also a certain sense of belonging there. True, these people didn't really know me, and they probably would have kicked me out (or prayed over me real good) if they had realized some of those things I was keeping hidden, but it was nice to have somewhere I could at least pretend to fit in.
I don't do good in cages (and really, who does?) but I'd like to have some sort of vague definition, some set of parameters that I could see in the distance, to help me get my bearings. The church ritual, as much as I hated it, helped me do that. They saw me and said: "Ah, yes. Zan. The smart one, the stable one, the dependable one." I was called, routinely, wise. Imagine, for a minute, being a 15 year old and having adults tell you that you're wise. People who extolled wisdom as a virtue, gift from God sorta thing. I don't know that I agreed with them, but it was nice to have that place. It was frustrating as hell too, because who wants to be WISE at 15? I wanted to be fun and free and the bad girl. Alas, I never have been. (See, there I go again: self-definition by denial).
I keep thinking I should have done more, been more by this point. A pointless thinking. Everyone thinks that, don't they? But I take stock of my life and think -- where's my story? I haven't suffered greatly, not in the ways that we think are worthwhile. I am sick, it's true. I feel isolated, that's true. But isn't that everyone's story? Isn't that everyone's role? So, I have survived repeated suicide attempts. So, I have survived an immune system that is trying to kill me. So, I have managed to keep sane against the odds. And yet. . .those "bad" things you're 'supposed' to do? I've never done them. No run-ins with the law, no bouts of drugs or alcohol, no inappropriate sex with inappropriate people. Not so much as a fucking one-night stand. My obstacles are all internal. The only enemy I have is myself and she's not that much of an enemy most days.
(And see? Again, that paragraph. I cannot help it. My default position. Zan is not...)
What stories will I tell my grandchildren? The grandchildren I'll never have because I have no children. When I'm old and finally gray, sitting in the nursing home, what is it about me that's going to stand out? Because even though I hate being center stage, I have to stand out. I have to be different somehow, otherwise how will I know who I am in the crowd? (And yes, my therapist made a note about that need to be different too.)
Who am I, then? I work to try to keep from defining myself as what I am not, but lately I'm beginning to think that all I am is boring and unexceptional.