Thursday, December 23, 2010

and again

I am actually reading - for the first time in six months. A book on the Women of the Raj that is very good and by a professional historian so it is not quite leisure reading but it is good, and interesting, and I am sitting down with it (or I was until my computer decided to have a heart attack (I performed cpr and heroically saved its life). Adding five hours later - - - maybe not. Computer is not happy, not sure why/how/bleah. At least I think I got a full back up out of it.

Writing I am not, haven't been, but need to. So many thoughts dashing like pinballs through my brain, constantly being redirected by impact (brain matter, other thoughts, experiences). Some scattered notes will follow, and as I try to sort through how to organize them I realize they are all about identity - or how fragile identity is.

Traditions - Women of the Raj - "What will I lose next" or "aging on crack".

We were talking about traditions at a lunch with a group of women. I told them how messed up I get every Christmas as I try to figure out what to do and what to let go of and how important it was to me to have my stepson and parts of his family come along to the traditional Lucia celebration in Dallas. We talked about why traditions are so important (and why they become more important as you age - and why they have to be MY traditions and not someone elses - why things that connect us to our childhood have such a grip ... and I think it has to do with identity - the things we did as children, whether good or bad, are reliable in a way that nothing we do as adults is. It is real, because we were more real, more immediately present. The adult critical mind that helps us understand things also creates distance, because it is aware of the contingent nature of our processing and the alternate ways in which we might experience things. So, doing what we did as children has a tinge of that magic immediacy, lets us feel the wonder and the dread we felt then.

What is interesting here is that as we get older and in one sense better know who we are our identities are also in some way more fragile ..there is also a difference between my identity as an individual and as a member of a society. I am me on the inside, but I am also a person situated in society and rituals and traditions verify where I belong, where I am situated and how I relate to that.

The women of the Raj - there is lots here about gender and colonial history and stuff - but there is, again, also the matter of identity. The women of the Raj could not be only themselves, their social situation demanded of them more and different things than they might have chosen for themselves. They are always also Britain. They have to be more independent than women at Home because nothing can be trusted, but they have to be more British (and therefor traditional) because the environment doesn't do any of the work for them. Indeed, the environment in some ways subverts their identity - not British, but British-in-India.

Finally, my friend who has had so much surgery, stents after a heart attack and then a double bypass and then when the remaining veins did not feed enough oxygen and more tissue died, a partial mastectomy on both breasts and of course she has diabetes type two so she has neuropathy and has little feeling in her fingertips, mostly in her palms now and they have removed several toes on each foot so she has altogether about six toes and she is getting very tired and scared sometimes even though she is doing much better now and she told me she never feels safe - always wonders "what will I lose next" ... I explained that I feel aging works a bit like that - you know something will disappear or change or mess with your sense of self, you just don't know where it will come from and how fast or far it will go. The universe - and identity - is not reliable and not predictable. At this point in my life I am also realizing that it never will be reliable or predictable - I will not figure that one out. My identity is not stable somewhere out there waiting for me to find it - my identity is always only what I can scramble together at any given moment.

A bit like a computer grabbing bits from all over the place to make up the screen I look at ...

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