The world will shred your identity like a cat with a silk scarf.
I set two intentions for this year. One was to meditate every day, because I wanted more clarity and less bullshit floating around in my mind. The other was to take a massage every month, to achieve the physical version of essentially the same purpose.
As for the meditation, I’m not doing so well. I set my daily minimum at five minutes, so I couldn’t possibly make the excuse that I don’t have enough time. Even so, in the best weeks so far I’ve only actually sat myself down three times, and I’ve had several weeks in which I didn’t do it at all.
I’m doing better with massages. I actually started before the new year, and I got in my January and February sessions. I get a good price for massages at work, but only if I schedule within twenty-four hours. On Monday I noticed that there were open appointments after my shift at work ended. (Because, yes, I’m still going to work. I can’t do this work from home. To people who say that everyone should be staying home all the time, I don’t really have an answer. I don’t know why I’m still going, but it seems like the right thing to do.) So I thought it might be a good time to take my monthly massage; but even when we’re not in the middle of a worldwide plague, some therapists might not prefer to be called in to work earlier than they’d expected, so, before asking the front desk staff to book me a massage, I texted two people to ask them if they wanted to come in for it.
I immediately got a reply from co-worker Z, asking if I’d been self-isolating. Um, I’m still working, so obviously I can’t say yes, and truthfully, I’d been in public the day before, avoiding being near anyone. She sent a longer-than-necessary message about immunocompromised people and vectors and the curve of infection. It looked like a lecture, but then again maybe she simply felt a need to explain why she didn’t want to give me a massage. Judging from other conversations we’d had though, it probably was a lecture. I thought about getting defensive and decided not to. I like Z. I’m glad there is one person at work who flagrantly ignores the rule about not talking about politics. I like her lefty bent, and her knowledge of issues that many other people don’t trouble themselves to think about. Her intensity is as often endearing as annoying.
So I didn’t get a massage, but today was my day off, and I finally sat down to meditate. I know I’m not supposed to be thinking when I’m meditating, but there was a thought about Z that came up, that none of the things she says are the essence of Z, they’re just signifiers of the person she wants to believe she is. And that’s not a bad thing; the person she is presenting as is a pretty cool one, who is well-informed and cares and is willing to speak the truth even if it makes people uncomfortable. But one of the things we’re supposed to learn from meditation is that we aren’t all those things we do and say, but that there is a more real and enduring self beneath all the layers of identity we put on like sweaters.
One thing I’ve learned over the years is that the things I do to present myself a particular way usually don’t impress people, and the qualities they see in me that they end up liking have nothing to do with what I thought I was telling them about myself. Since moving to a new city, I’ve had a few challenges to my idea of who I am and what kind of person I am. And I don’t enjoy that, but I am coming to see that that’s okay. I don’t need to be any particular kind of person, or demonstrate anything to anyone else. I just need to be as honest and real as possible, and stay connected to my compassion and love. The rest will come from there.
And what of that eternal self beneath all the layers of identity? Who will be left after I give up all my delusions about myself? I haven’t met that person yet. Maybe tomorrow, when I sit down to meditate.