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Not sure if it was because I had some tea at 6pm, or because I went to bed at 9pm, but anyhow, here I am, awake at 3:30am Pacific Standard time. Which is great, gives me a chance to catch up on the day's news in Iceland while it is still daytime in Iceland.

Unfortunately, though, my attempts to go back to sleep have been plagued by deep philosophical musings and so I have decided that the best sleep remedy, for both myself and my readers, is to write down these ramblings.

There are certain "I am" statements that I am comfortable with, but I was realizing that very few of these are empirical. Rather, the ones I am comfortable with are situational. I am hungry. I am tired. I am sick. I am lonely. I am 43. All of the other "I am" statements I could make would acquire some sort of equivocation. For instance, if I ever make the statement "I am Icelandic", I have gotten in the habit of clarifying "I have Icelandic citizenship". I am even less likely to say, however, "I am an American", let alone "I am a Republican" or "I am a Democrat". It is remarkable to me that the title of this blog, 50/50, and the description of myself, that I am not good at in-grouping, remains entirely valid, 7 years later. I guess really the only consistent thing about me is that I do not like being put in a box.  

But I do climb into boxes sometimes, and try them out. For instance, I tried out becoming a Jehovah's Witness when I was a teenager. And one thing I learned in that process was that Jehovah is God's name, and do you know what it means in Hebrew? It means I am. God was asked "What are you", and he replied, "I am the I am." In other words, God cannot be categorized, he is always in an immediate state of being. Now of course I am not god-like in any way. But I did find this an inspiring idea, and it has given me the freedom, I would say, throughout my life, to feel perfectly comfortable climbing into a box for a while, and then climbing out again, taking with me whatever 5% to 30% of the boxiness that I found to be valid. Because let's face it, most boxes - I am a woman, I am a mother, I am smart - are only 5% to 30% true, the rest of it is just identity politics, an elaboration that tries to make a small truth and turn it into a categorical, empirical reality.

And I don't think I am unusual in that sense, I have always assumed that most people only lightly wear whatever mantle of identity I meet them under. This has however not proven to be an entirely helpful assumption on my part, because it turns out some people I have met are very committed to certain identity-matrix. I tend to treat most identity boxes, like I did with the Jehovah's Witness, I climb in, hang out for a while, in sort of an anthropological "participant observer" sense, and then climb out again. Unfortunately, I haven't found many people willing to climb out with me. My first husband, with whom I had a lot in common in terms of interest and background, well, he had an identity firmly in his mind, from growing up in the ridiculous materialism of Southern California, that he was poor (even though he was not, just middle class in Los Angeles, which makes one feel very, very poor). Anyhow, the whole time we were dating and married, I could never get him to shake off the idea that poverty was a central component of his lifestyle. It worked of course when we were in college, counting pennies to decide if we could afford the newspaper that week or not. But I always understood it as a temporary condition, while he wanted to keep the gigantic chip on his shoulder he had against anyone who had a materially better situation than he did. Being poor amongst rich people was fundamental to his identity; he currently works as a teacher at a private high school for very rich kids, so he is well within his comfort zone still. My second husband was in the Coast Guard, and I climbed into that box too, did the whole military wife thing of waving at the ship as it went off to sea, staying home, unemployed and pregnant, waiting for my man to return. But I made the assumption that after 20 years of that identity, he was ready to shake off that uniform, and try his hand at something totally different, namely, living in a foreign country with me. I know there was a part of him that was tempted, because of course we talked about it before we got married, that I wanted to move to Iceland someday, and he said that sounded great. I guess he meant it sounded fantastic, as in something he could entertain but never do. He is still working for the Coast Guard, I guess it is a box he never plans to get out of. Somehow I thought I would be enough to inspire him to do so.

I assume there are lots of people in the world, crawling in and out of boxes, just like me, in other words I don't claim any exceptionalism, it strikes me as a totally normal and natural thing to do. But unfortunately, I haven't met many crawling into and out of the same box at the same time as me. My friend Wendy and I, we crawled in and out of the Jehovah's Witness box together, as well as a few others, and I guess my friend Heather and I, we went through the whole military wife and then divorced thing around the same time. But it would be nice to find a companion willing to go in and out of boxes with me for a lifetime, like two rats in a garbage dump, just rummaging around, saying "Look what a tasty bit of banana there is over here!" Because like I said, there is, on average, 20% of any box worth respecting, while the rest is trash. It usually takes a while to figure out which is which though, and I wouldn't mind at all having a travel companion to help me figure it out. 

One thing I have learned however is that lots of people like their boxes, even the tiny, strange little boxes they make for themselves. I keep trying to invite people to leave their boxes with me, and I suppose from their perspective, it is very hypocritical of me, to crawl in and make myself at home, and then, after a bit, declare it is time for both of us to leave.  It isn't really fair of me, I can see that, and therefore I don't blame them by any means. They stayed true to themselves.

I am born in the year of the rat, so I guess I stay true to myself too, in my own way.

P.S. I meant to put in this link somewhere, just for the fun of it. 

Comments

Jono said…
I really understand this. Being curiosity driven takes me to a lot of different places. It's more like jumping into a hole just to see how deep it is and what is in it. Usually I find a way out again until I find another intriguing hole.
Anonymous said…
People can be disappointing.
Lissy said…
Optimists work extremely hard to avoid disappointment. But once an optimist becomes disappointed, the disappointment is total and irrevocable. Because the only natural response an optimist has to disappointment is to pretend it never happened. Optimists are psychologically incapable of living in the past.

http://exploreim.ucla.edu/mind-body/power-of-positivity/
Lissy said…
Optimists work extremely hard to avoid disappointment. But once an optimist becomes disappointed, the disappointment is total and irrevocable. Because the only natural response an optimist has to disappointment is to pretend it never happened. Optimists are psychologically incapable of living in the past.

http://exploreim.ucla.edu/mind-body/power-of-positivity/
Lissy said…
Optimists work extremely hard to avoid disappointment. But once an optimist becomes disappointed, the disappointment is total and irrevocable. Because the only natural response an optimist has to disappointment is to pretend it never happened. Optimists are psychologically incapable of living in the past.

http://exploreim.ucla.edu/mind-body/power-of-positivity/
William said…
Stripped of all human emotions, the box surrounds you with it's true nature. If the walls of the box are flimsy and smell like cardboard, you may not be inclined to stick around very long. If you enter a box that overwhelms you with the sweet aroma of cedar, then you may be inclined to stick around longer than you should have.

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