Thursday, July 9, 2015

Who Am I?

Who am I? Have you ever really tried to answer that question? “Hi. My name is Rhea Jones. I was born in Beeville, Texas in 1971. I’m married, with two teenaged sons, and currently live in Phoenix, Arizona.” That much is easy. It’s just a plain recitation of public record facts, and tells the audience almost exactly nothing. I could probably fill a few pages with that kind of information, and it wouldn’t add a measurable amount to your understanding of who I am.

If you and I were to meet for the first time, you would see a man in his 40’s, about 5’6” tall, and carrying a little more weight than he probably should, though less than he was a few years ago (I have put some serious effort into that, so thank you for noticing). You would notice the full beard, considerably more grey than I would prefer, but most likely neatly trimmed and brushed. It usually is. If we were outdoors, or if we met as I was coming inside from outdoors, I would be wearing a hat, probably a cowboy hat, but sometimes a baseball cap. Occasionally it might be some other type of hat, depending on my mood and what I am doing, but those two are the most likely. If I have just come from the office I will be wearing slacks and a long-sleeved, button down shirt. Otherwise it will almost certainly be jeans and a t-shirt. Either way, boots will be involved. These days I usually keep my hair (still mostly dark brown) buzzed but not shaved, and I’m told that my eyes tend to be a standout feature. They are very dark brown, and just slightly slanted. I usually think they just look tired, but I might be biased. I usually feel tired.

Still don’t really know anything about me, do you?

I like to write. Too obvious? My musical tastes are all over the place, but usually lean on various forms of rock, country, and classical. If I’m not reading at least two books at a time, I might actually suffer withdrawal symptoms. My favorite genres are science fiction, fantasy, and horror, but I’ll read a cookbook if it’s well-written.. I am a comic book fan, mostly super heroes, but my list of all-time favorites includes such titles as Sandman (Neil Gaiman), Hellboy (Mike Mignola), and Poison Elves (Drew Hayes, R.I.P.), so I am certainly not limited to super heroes. I watch very little TV, but I love movies, especially the big, fun, special effects-heavy movies that fall under the heading of science fiction, fantasy, or horror. I won’t even complain if you change it from the book, as long as I still had a good time.

I have a very slight stutter that you’ll probably never notice, unless you happen to spend many hours in conversation with me. I have some very strong beliefs on things like politics, spirituality, and philosophy (that you will almost certainly notice if you ever spend hours in conversation with me), but none of them fall neatly under any organized system of parties or religions. People make me uncomfortable, unless I know them very well, and I find it difficult to function in large groups. I’m not afraid of heights, but I am terrified of falling. My favorite super power is flying, mostly because then I wouldn’t be afraid of falling anymore. We might be getting somewhere now, but we are still very much in Casual Acquaintance territory. If you and I work in the same building then you already know that I am a nerd who looks like a cowboy, with questionable tastes in music and a reading addiction. If we work in the same section, you probably know the rest. Not exactly groundbreaking.

I drink too much coffee, and almost enough water. I don’t often drink much of anything else. I like a cold beer or “adult beverage” now and then, but my alcohol intake doesn’t even register on most medical questionnaires. I quit smoking a few years ago, after smoking at least a pack a day for about thirty years. I did that one cold turkey, which I thought was fairly impressive. I avoid processed foods, and try to eat somewhat healthy, though I’m not, by any means, obsessive about it.

Are we getting into the details now?

I hate pills, and will actively avoid most medicines if there is not a serious need.

A couple years ago I was diagnosed with diabetes, and have to take pills for that every day. This required a rather obvious mental adjustment.

A couple decades ago I was diagnosed with depression, and had to take pills for that every day. This, too, led to a mental adjustment, though one of an entirely different nature.

That adjustment eventually led here.

Notice the descriptions getting shorter? I’ll have to watch that. When it starts to get more personal, I tend to start getting more clipped and more reserved. Despite the stated goal here, I don’t open up easily. Not for real, anyway.

I think that is true for most of us, but most of us don’t have have a real reason to find out. We tend to go through life without looking too closely at who we are, let alone telling anyone else about it, and that is really the whole point of this exercise. Think of it as cleaning out the attic.

It is usually pretty easy to tell people what they already know, or what is common knowledge. It gets more difficult as you start to dig a little deeper, and it can get almost impossible as you get closer to the personal core of who you are. For some people, there is no “almost” about it. For some people, the words just stop coming past a certain point.

Most of the time, and for most people, there is no need to ever go past that point. There is rarely any good reason to share more than you are comfortable with sharing. You should, however, be able to share with yourself. You absolutely need to be able to share with yourself if you have any intention of improving yourself. You can’t fix the dents if you don’t know where they are.

Get a pen and paper and start writing down descriptions about yourself. You’re not going to share this with anyone, so don’t worry about sentence structure or paragraphs or anything like that. Just be descriptive and, above all, be honest. If you can’t be honest with yourself then the rest of this becomes pointless. Believe it or not, you may have to start over a few times before you start being honest, even with yourself and in complete privacy. That’s normal.

Push yourself. Discover where your comfort zones are and see if you can find the rooms inside your head that haven’t been dusted in a while. We all have them. Throw back the curtains and let in a little sunlight. You might be amazed by what you find.

It has probably become obvious by now that we have changed directions a bit, but this is where we were going from the beginning. I had no intention of boring you with my deepest, darkest secrets. They’re not that dark and, to be honest, most of them aren’t all that deep either. They’re certainly not terribly exciting. When I air out the attic, which I do try to do periodically, I do so in private. I strongly recommend that you do the same. This kind of honesty is never easy, but it is easier if there is no fear of outside judgment.

Who are you? It’s a question that is more difficult to answer than you might think, but give it a try some time. If you ever find yourself at a point where you feel that something needs to change then this is a question you will need to answer. You may not like all of the answer, but that is how you determine what to change. It may also turn out that some of the things you thought were a problem really aren’t, or aren’t as big an issue as you had believed. That happens too. It’s all about perspective. If you start laying things out, side by side, you may find that you have tools you had forgotten about, or had not realized would work for a certain situation because you had not looked at them together.

It’s a scary process, but useful. Ultimately, it is almost always worth it in the end. Knowing who you are is the first step toward building a better you.

Do you know who you are? Is it time to find out?

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