The other day, J informed me that he had “two Aunt M’s” and wanted another visit from “the one who plays with superheroes.” I clarified that he had one Aunt M and got that fluttery feeling inside that this was important for him to know—that a single person can have many different layers, that we are complex beings, with sides and faces and phases that may appear and behave so differently, at times, that others may have a hard time combining them into one. Yes, there may have been many different weather patterns, but inside, one Aunt M—one beautiful, loving, Aunt M. And we are all this way—our stories ending and beginning, shedding, gaining, reshaping, as we grow into our different selves with every changing moment.
Perhaps that is the fun of life—growing and experimenting and trying on different things that allow us to become new people. J goes flying down the hall in his Wolverine costume and says, “I’m Batman!” He flips his costume backwards and declares, “Now I’m Bumble Bee!” He wears his Fireman costume out to dinner and corrects anyone who asks about it, insisting, “I’m a Space Guy!” All this identify changing and trying and moving can get a little confusing, especially to others who are just watching. He says he wants to be Darth Vader from Star Wars, Hero Hamada from Big Hero 6, and a character created by his Aunt M called Flash Dance. Sometimes, when he’s in a grumpy mood he says, “My name’s not J! Why does everybody keep calling me that?!” Who are you then? I ask, “I’m Nothing!” Fair enough. Perhaps all this can get exhausting, and we need a break to just be Nothing for a while.
It is not fun, and actually quite painful, to look back at some of my different selves—the ones I grew out of, decided to change costume, processed through, gained more control over. Of course, it’s one thing to think back on my good/happy/strong selves, like the kindergartener who proudly wore tie-dye to school every day, the one on the soccer field who made it through grad school, got a job, fell in love, survived a human birth. Those are the easy selves to look at. But what about the little girl self who was afraid, who had weird things happen to her (like most people do), or the one who couldn’t control, who made bad choices, who wasn’t kind to others, wasn’t strong, wasn’t truthful or brave. Those are the hard selves to look at. J certainly would not recognize my twenty-one-year-old self who went speeding down the 101, crying, hungover, melodramatically listening to Green Day’s Boulevard of Broken Dreams on repeat. This self is especially embarrassing to think about for some reason—so lost and hurt and random. I cry for her sometimes, especially if her song comes on. But thankfully, like Aunt M, we can be more people than just one flat memory, more layers and levels and colors and shades all connected together by something.
“Why are you wearing that costume, it’s not Halloween!” Two older boys shout at J while we sit eating pizza at the mall, and J disappears with lightening speed into a puddle of Batman cape under the table. He waits a moment for the boys to pass then pops back up and continues eating his pepperoni slice like nothing happened. “I think they were curious about your costumes,” I tell him, and he shrugs like he could care less. He doesn’t want to explain his creative mishmash of identities to anyone, doesn’t need to. We wait in line for dessert and when we are handed our ice cream cones, he turns to me ecstatically and says, “Now let’s go eat these!” We ride the escalator up and down, J’s cape flapping behind him, and put quarters into the kiddy spaceship so he can travel to the moon. As we move about the mall, he ignores more comments about his outfit—”Is he Wolverine or Batman?” and I respond with a friendly smile and response, knowing people are just curious— they want to sort out any signs of confusion, to know who it is they are sharing space with.
So who is my current self? This is tougher to pin-point (easier to look back and reflect). Well, I know that this holiday season I was filled with a deep sense of love, which says a lot because sometimes holidays can be rough in my book. My family of origin has been through a lot (like most families have) and we are currently all getting along perhaps better than any point in history—the cracks between us becoming fertile ground and growing little white daisies (because of who knows what—time? death? ticking clock? forgiveness?). For whatever reason, this settling into peace is happening and this helps my feet stay on the ground, because even though we are cities apart, I can feel them all through the air, as strange as that sounds, our blood and memories connecting us like vibrating sound waves. This is all very good timing, as I will need all the flowers and good juju I can get when this baby pops out. So, I guess current self feels thankful to be at this place in time (although with a sense of sadness that the Christmas-family/friends-extravaganza is already over) and, at the same time, feels excited for 2016 and all of the Wolverine, Batman, Flash Dance, Bumble Bee, and Darth Vader-like selves to come.