I became aware somewhere in my mid-30’s, around the time I had children, of a strong sense that there are two parts of me, distinct and separate, and that I had/have not let them both live simultaneously. All of my writing (even prior to that time) incorporates this theme, living with an underground other. This is why I write, I think I've been in search of her all this time. This is what I believe drew me to acting in my early 20’s -- I wanted, still want, to play characters who help me peel back the layers and peek deeper inside.
I have memories from childhood of moments of insight, a nagging knowing, that there is 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. In these past few months I understand more and can 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 out into the light. I don’t think I even know what that will mean, or how it will feel, or even how to do it. I’ve been afraid of what is there for so long, and I judge what I cannot see or fully understand. But I also feel that underground other holds some of my confidence in her clenched fist and maybe even some joy.
On the one hand I’m an artist constantly digging for the truth, on the other I employ a contradictory strategy to get through the day. I quiet the rumblings from underneath and soften my sharp edges, but it’s not what I really want. I like the edges for the most part. I’m opinionated, strong-willed, impulsive, laugh really loud, and can also be exacting, prickly, easily hurt. Out of fear I have not only worked hard to soften the edges of myself, but of my life, to keep the painful hairpin turns at bay, get rid of the jolts -- create a life that would reflect back to me a peaceful elegance. It’s all part of a story of who I wish to be that doesn’t serve me. Planning my life, and not listening to the nagging knowing, the underground other, was going to keep things on track the way I thought 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, controlling. 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!
In response to this nagging feeling of bifurcation, I started a self portrait photography project a few years ago in search of me, in search of the other, the thought being if I can take the right picture, the true picture, I will appear whole to myself. I have gotten glimpses of that person in various shots, something feels truer, righter, closer . . . but the search is ongoing. 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. As I look back on the hundreds and hundreds of shots the process has not been as much about revealing myself as constructing a self, again 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. Again, the theme of hiding and simultaneously wanting to expose.
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 about themselves that way and certainly didn’t ever offer up their truest reflections. They are both gone now, but I continue to wonder how they felt about themselves, what they really wanted, how did they feel about how things ended up in their own stories. I miss them terribly.
Yesterday I caught my reflection in the mirror and I was struck that I looked “older”. Then a concrete 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 something behind.