I don’t think I have a split personality; but if I did, would I know it? Maybe it’s just the neighbor’s marijuana wafting in through the swamp cooler on a hot day, or maybe I really am two people living in one body.
There is the confident me and the fragile me, the gregarious me and the shy me, the funny me and the me that wants to curl up in a ball because of the pain. There is the performer me and the wallflower me, the erudite me and the stupid me, the me I see and the me everyone else sees.
Some people think they know me. I can carry on a conversation and appear knowledgeable on many subjects. They see me as a good listener . . . well, except when I just “need” to interject. I make eye contact. I am sympathetic and chagrined at the appropriate times. They think I am confident, capable, and sure because I hold myself erect and use my hands expressively like an Italian. Since I have a degree of authority in some of their lives, they feel I am someone to please and seem relieved when I don’t blame them for their lack of organization or tardiness. They laugh with me and know that when I cross my arms over my chest, it’s not because I am mean or defiant, but that I am holding my middle-aged stomach in. They know that . . . because I told them. So they think I am transparent. I look like I know what I’m doing as I sit behind my desk or stand at the front of a classroom, and they think I surely deserve the pay check I get at the end of the month.
Other people think they know me because I share my innermost feelings in my songs and monologues. I sing with passion and tap my feet in rhythm (well, almost). They see me sit casually in a coffee house with my guitar or in an ornate concert hall on the bench in front of an enormous grand piano that reminds me of a black stretch limo; and they think they should give me a tape of the songs they wrote while singing in the shower because they think I could help them become famous. They see my album covers and my press releases and wonder how it must feel to have followed my dreams and succeeded.
Other people see the me that has gone through tragedy, that has lost her first baby girl; that has watched the broken body of her beautiful youngest son being cut out of his car with the jaws of life and medi-vaced away; that has sat alternately singing and crying at the bedside of her sweet daddy as for days and days he withered away, denied food and drink because it would supposedly only cause more pain. People see the me that lost her singing voice, her career, and her identity in one fell swoop. They think I am strong, resilient, full of faith, and able to scale tall buildings at a single bound. They think trouble has made me stronger and that I know all these things are “working together for good.”
But there is another me that I see: There is a shy me that enters a room and skirts the edges uncomfortably till she finds someone she knows. There is the me that thinks the qualification police are just around every corner ready to strip me of my “credentials” and expose my lack of ability and worthiness to an unsuspecting public. There is the me that panics when a person I’m supposed to know enters my office, and I can’t remember her name or the details of his circumstance. There is the me that screams inside when she is in a place she “belongs” and yet feels so incredibly useless and out of place. The faithless me rises uncontrolled at times, shaming me for using God-words when I am doubting that He is good and thinking with so many planets to manage and prayers to hear He has lost my address. A me I recognize wakes with memories of betrayal and rejection while surrounded by love and acceptance. There is the me that is pseudo-happy with so many blessings, and who yet bleeds discontent.
I see both sides of me and wonder which one is real. But it really is a both / and kind of existence, regardless of how I am perceived. I am good and I am bad. I am weak and I am strong. I am happy and I am sad. I am kind and I am mean. But apparently, “God writes straight lines with crooked pens” (Ignatius), and there is comfort in that.
The Two of Us