Continuing to think about identity. Here's the big question .. who are you ? as the caterpillar said to Alice. Who are you ? Who am I ?
Stripped back, no family, no friends, no home, no job, who would you be then ? Are you comfortable with that person ? Most of us attach our identity to things outside of ourselves in order to establish our identity. Maybe that is what is so terrifying about Alzheimers and dementia. Perhaps, not just for the sufferer but also those who care.
Oh woah, that is not where I had planned to go. I had figured to coast around talking about identity being how we dress, who we hang out, yes families but families as a good thing or at least families as a constant.
But, here is the rub, families are not constant, they shift and change, in the natural order of things children grow up and make lives that do not depend on their parents, parents grow old and die (my parents are both still here, the way we relate may not be perfect but it is still ongoing), siblings part ways and so on.
Families come in myriad shapes and forms, what suits one may not suit another, the manners of each family vary, some families yield to accommodate newcomers, others not so much. Some newcomers are unbearable, others a welcome addition.
As a single parent I had to quickly get used to my older two children's father introducing new mothers into the space. Thankfully only two, and both women who my children have benefitted from knowing. I'll admit it hurt, and that there were times i was jealous, struggling on my own it was hard to see him happy. I know that's wrong. But while digging through my catalogue of ugly feelings I may as well get that one out.
But lets pull back to a more general notion of family. Our first identity is very much visited upon us by the family we are born into, we are good, we are bad, grizzly, easy, pretty, ugly, large, small. It's a natural response to categorise but what if we tie down a person too tightly, squeeze them in to a box that is all wrong, force them to wear a skin that doesn't suit them.
Adolescence is the first real opportunity children get to take off that skin and try out others. Their friends become their family as they out grow their family of origin. It figures that if your family of origin was a comfortable fit that later when you are gone away you will return but having left it is never quite the same for you cannot return to the innocence of before.
Lets say that in our quest for identity, we have grown up and left home, and made a family of our own. A self picked family made up of people you really like. They say that we take on the characters of the five people we spend most time with. For many that will be their partner and a mix of workmates and friends. Five is a handful, talk to almost anyone and they will say that they have, at most, a handful of good friends, really good friends, who know them well. So it figures they'd be the ones you keep company with but it's not always the way.
So looking at identity, we have blood family, the family behind us and sometimes a family in front of us and to the side, and friends and acquaintances who make up our new chosen family. And chances are we may be a slightly, or very, different person according to who we are with.
I'm going to reference my friend Sally now, who in conversation some weeks back said it's not so much about the other person being right or wrong but do you like who you are when you are with them, are you who you want to be when you are with them. That feels like an interesting spin.
Am I blithering on ? Yes. How does this connect to identity ? I guess, as I'm really just thinking on to the "page" I'm thinking that this notion of skin, the skin our companions give us when we are with them as part of a collective is all part of the "who am I" conundrum. Those who we find ourselves close to lend their being to our being and borrow, take or steal, a little of ours in exchange. So what you value becomes obvious through the company you keep.
Where am I going with this ? I'm being long winded and not really getting anywhere maybe. this is not the blog I'd meant to write about how the clothes we wear represent a facet of our identity and so on, but they do. The clothes we wear, the places we go to, the people we hang out with, the things we do, the way we speak, the language we use, our voices. And, well now, maybe that is a path to follow. Who are you when you are stripped back to just a voice ? I'll leave that one hanging and come back to it tomorrow.