I’ve always felt like there are two parts of me, distinct and separate, and I haven’t been able to let both live simultaneously. All of my writing incorporates this theme, living with an underground other. This is why I write, I’m in search of her, all the time. This is what drew me to acting -- I want to play characters who help me peel back the layers and peek deeper inside.
From the time I can remember there’s been a distance between me and me. Maybe I was born this way. I think the trauma of my childhood that sent me hiding intensified the feeling of an internal life that didn’t have a voice.
The pandemic has certainly intensified my daily introspection, along with getting older, along with the death of my mother.
In these past few months I understand more and can turn and see far back over my shoulder how much and for how long I have wanted to let myself fully be. Or let her, the other, fully be. And I can see the strategies I have in place that make it very difficult, particularly how hard I work to keep the hard, sharp turns in life at bay. I want to soften all the edges, get rid of the jolts and smooth it all out, even though I personally have a lot of edges, prickly even, easily hurt, opinionated, laugh really loud. I can see how much I thought planning my life was going to keep it going the way I wanted. If you asked me, I would have given you the “correct” answer, I know I can’t plan, life happens, but I am always planning. I have never been one to ride the wave of existence or even acknowledge that I’m on the wave. I would tell you no, I’m standing on the shore quite stable. And I’ve worked hard for that. Ha!
I started a self portrait photography project a few years ago in search of me, in search of something that’s in there that I haven’t yet found, the thought being if I can take the right picture, the true picture I will appear to myself. I have gotten glimpses of that person in various shots, something feels truer, righter, closer . . . but the search is ongoing and I imagine it will be the rest of my life. I don’t know that I’ll ever do anything with the photos. I’ve posted a few online here and there. I’m not sure it has a context for the world outside of me. I can see now as I look back on the hundreds and hundreds of shots the process wasn’t as much about revealing myself as constructing a self, trying to put forth the self I thought should be there, not letting myself be, being a bad actor as it were, trying to smooth out the edges.
My parent’s internal lives were a secret to me. I can only conjecture based on their choices and a little bit they shared. They weren’t used to talking that way and certainly didn’t ever offer it up. They are both gone now, but I know I’ll never stop wondering how they felt about themselves, what they thought, what they really wanted, how did they feel about how things ended up in their own stories.
Yesterday I caught my reflection in the mirror and I was struck that I looked “older”. Then an image appeared in my head of me standing across a chasm yelling to my younger self who couldn’t hear me. She was leaning forward, trying to hear me, but my words were not reaching her. What did I want to say? I don't know, but the feeling was intense, a desire to be with her, kindness toward her welled up, and an understanding that I was moving on, leaving her behind.