Friday, December 2, 2011

In Which Several of My Alter-Egos Duke It Out

There once was a gal whose mentality
Tended towards split personality.

Alter-egos she juggled, and constantly struggled

To maintain just a base functionality.

Like some people are blown around with every wind of doctrine, I am sorry to admit that I am blown around on every gust of emotion - mine and others'. I am way too affected not only by my own emotional swings, but I am hyper-sensitive to the moods of everyone else in the house.

When someone in my charge is less than satisfied with life, my alter-ego, LoserLady, dons her cape. LoserLady's Unsuperpower is feeling like a total failure whenever anything remotely within her sphere of influence is imperfect. This may seem like low self-esteem, but it really isn't. When she is not dealing with other people in one of her life roles, she morphs into another personality, maybe one with a real Superpower. And it isn't humility, either, because humble people, it is said, don't think less of themselves, but rather think of themselves less.

When LoserLady is on patrol, everything is about her.

As her therapist, I am aware that in some ways this Unsuperpower developed because she was reared on a far distant planet, fed a diet of Abandonment Soup, Insecurity Crackers and Fear Pudding. She eats better now, but has many lingering problems from this malnourishment...

Okay, I HATE allegory and it is proof that rapidwriting taps into oft unused brain cells if I drifted into it. But the point is that I am tired of LoserLady and want the equivalent of a Buffy Vamp Stake to do her in...I just don't know what weapon would work. LoserLady's arch nemesis (who seems healthier but really isn't) is Self-Improvementista, and she is always trying to slay LoserLady by choking her with wadded up plans and schedules shoved down her throat, or hitting her on the head with big, heavy books on how to better yourself. So far, this has failed and LoserLady lives on.

Recently I have been experiencing a queer lack of drive and/or ambition I thought was a manifestation of LoserLady (or maybe her frienemy DiscouragementDiva) but now I am not sure, after I read this in a blog post (by a man who happens to have Stage IV cancer) today:

"Most of us are mediocre, make unique contributions only in the peculiar ways we screw things up, and could easily be replaced as husband, father or employee, by somebody better suited to the task...As I look round the church, it strikes me that this zen-like condition of a lack of ambition is much to be desired because far too many Christians have senses of destiny which verge on the messianic. The confidence that the Lord has a special plan and purpose just for them shapes the way they act and move. Now, just for the record, I am a good Calvinist, and I certainly believe each individual has a destiny; what concerns me is the way in which our tendency to think of ourselves as special and unique (which we all are in some ways – D.N.A. etc.) bleeds over into a sense of special destiny whereby the future, or at least the future of myself, comes to be the priority and to trump all else."

Despite being quite lazy in lots of ways, I have always been a sporadically productive person of an artistic and somewhat visionary bent, and I do like to help and encourage people in that area, as you probably know. I have all kinds of plans and ideas for things I would like to do or study or accomplish at some point in my life, but lately I have been wondering what the point of any of that is. At times, those thoughts come when LoserLady is visiting, or I assume it's just creative block or whatever, and that it will pass. There is also the fact that basic day-to-day tasks keep me busy and make me tired and so television sounds much more appealing than dragging out and cleaning up paint.

But then there is this underlying sense that nothing I have done or will do is really all that earth-shatteringly important, and I say this in the most self-loving of ways. Even though I have several negative and unmotivational alter-egos who haunt me, I usually think I'm a fairly likable and intelligent person with a somewhat interesting past and present life, and a moderate amount of wisdom that might conceivably be used to help others, make them laugh, or teach them something if I happened to translate it into a book or an art workshop or whatever. But there is nothing I could offer that is so unique that absolutely no one else could offer a reasonable facsimile. Plus, I still struggle to know whether I am using whatever talents I have for God's glory or my own 15 minutes of fame. I don't know how to tell.

Recently I have been considering giving up (for an indeterminate time) my grand plans and the work I do which is geared somewhat toward fulfilling them. I want to do this because:

1) A lot of the stress in my life comes from trying to juggle the daily tasks of wife and motherhood with "the other stuff" focus is divided and I can't give either one my full attention. But the artwork doesn't care one way or another if I neglect it, and it will always be there. The people in my life do suffer when I feel resentful because I am being disturbed in the middle of something. Because I become more or less unpleasant, depending on how resentful I feel. This is not to say that I will never write or paint or whatever, but for now I want to let go of the struggle I have trying to carve out the time for it.

This leads into the next reason:

2) My spiritual life has been in the proverbial toilet for a long, long time, and I know my more annoying alter-egos thrive on that fact. I realize we can't really know what God wants us to do with our lives in detail - we know that whatever is lawful is fine to pursue. But this past week SelfImprovementista has been reading First Things First, and a kinda cliche phrase stood out to her - The Good Can be the Enemy Of the Best. All the creative stuff a few of my other alter-egos like to do are good things, but I know I will never get anywhere with them while I put more focus on them than the eternal things. I could create the most beautiful and emotionally resonant art journals in the world, but when my flesh has gone to The Body Farm, they might, at best, be somewhat interesting to my grandchildren. But apart from that, they will pass into obscurity, which is as it should be.

I am not planning on "fasting" from my creative pursuits for spiritual reasons per se, like a personal Autumn Lent. But I feel burdended so much of the time trying to get so many things done, and the burden does not feel light at all. Even though I am not a Career Woman, I am striving to "fit it all in". Even when I succeed in doing that, you know what your clothes look like when you unpack, if you just shoved everything, way too much of it, into the suitcase. I want to free up some space in the suitcase of my life, and see if God will work in an obvious way to fill it. I am sure he won't charge 50 bucks a bag like the airlines do, no matter how much it ends up weighing.

He might give me a nice stretch of time and a burst of clarity and talent to paint a huge canvas next week. I have no idea. But I don't want to be trying to scratch out that time with my ineffective little chicken claws, squinting down at the earth and trying to decide whether the corn or the grubs would be more tasty.

I'm not sure of the "official" meaning of Revelation 2:17, "I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it." But I know that in other contexts God gives people new names when He lets them in on at least a bit of the future He has planned for them. Jacob literally wrestled with God before he got his new name, but I am too tired for wrestling. I have named every one of my alter-egos so far, but I still don't know the Real Name of my primary self. I do know that whatever her name turns out to be, what she ultimately wants is to hear the words, "Well done, good and faithful servant".

Since I don't know if or where any of my talents or plans fit into the pursuit of that goal, I am just going to loosen my grip on all of them, and see what happens. Believe it or not, relinquishment is the only thing I haven't tried in my personal quest, despite knowing that in God's kingdom, the maxim to follow for discovering ourselves is Finders Weepers, Losers Keepers.


  1. Samantha...this is pretty incredible and is so full of truth that it is dripping, spilling over. You, lady, are however completely unique and irreplaceable. There is truly no one like you and I'm so glad, glad, glad to know you. Thanks so much for sharing your heart so openly - it's deeply soul-stimulating and inspiring to this weary, struggling wife and momma, artist-writer-mentor wannabe.

  2. Yer pretty cool yerself, Woman! Come over sometime before Christmas one afternoon and we can wallow in our strivings, and perhaps rest a little bit together over a cuppa. Maybe week after next? Let me know, any day but Wednesdays.

  3. I don't do art, I do music, and I have a very strong LoserLady, who wrestles with a Self-Improvementista, too! I'm not so much at the whim of the emotions of those around me, but I have a pathetic desire to be liked, in a way I would have preferred to grow out of by now. Then I go into a field where our very survival will depend on whether people "like" us. It's been quite the fight between my alter egos over the last year.