Who Am I?

“Questions”, image courtesy Clip Art Panda

“My life is a package tour and I am simply the passenger.” – Lucas

I have no idea who I am.

I can tell you a lot of things. I can tell you, for instance, that George Fullerton is far more responsible for the iconic Fender Stratocaster than Leo Fender. Leo was an engineer. His first attempts at electric guitars were a Hawaiian lap steel and the Fender Esquire/Broadcaster/Nocaster/Telecaster, which was essentially a hunk of wood with either one or two single coil magnetic pickups depending on the model. George Fullerton was a guitar player who encouraged Leo to make a guitar with a more contoured body that would be more comfortable to play. He drew up some ideas for Leo. Those ideas became the Stratocaster.

I could also tell you that Luke’s gospel announces that it is more social and economic justice minded with the Magnificat, in which Mary sings that God “has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty”. I could tell you that Luke’s Beatitudes includes not only “blessed are the poor” (not “poor in spirit”) but also “woe to you who are rich”. I could tell you how ridiculous it is to quote Paul from 1 Timothy to tone police, especially profanity, when Paul in Galatians tells his opponents to go cut their dicks off. I could tell you that the book of Job includes a robust criticism of the theology of temporal retribution as well as the first recorded Judeo/Christian speculation about life after death.

I can tell you the same types of things about art printmaking, and photography. I could tell you the same types of things about movies from the 90s (I managed a video store in the 90s and watched almost everything that came out that decade). I can tell you the same things about baseball and basketball statistics and strategy.

I could tell you these things because when I am manic I care deeply about each of them. I become obsessive. I have to know everything about whatever I am obsessed with, be it music or sports or theology or anything else. I need to know everything. I pour over whatever I can find about whatever it is until the very odd hours of the night.

When I am manic I am also outgoing, personable, funny, affable, social, and well-liked. I like to go out. I get stir-crazy at home. And I need to interact with as many people as I possibly can. I also feel an interconnectedness of all things and a close connection to the Divine. I even fancy myself as some kind of prophet, offering a cultural and theological critique of whatever is bothering me at the time.

When I am depressed I don’t care about any of those things. I don’t care about anyone. I don’t care about anything. I just don’t care. Everything that I have been obsessed with is stupid. I’m stupid. Everyone is stupid. Everything is stupid. Caring is a waste of energy.

When I am depressed I am a homebody. If I have to go out I am awkward and shy. I am introverted. I am uncomfortable. I am anything but jovial. In fact, I am often described as surly.

I am tempted to believe that the “real” me resides in some hypothetical place between mania and depression. The problem is that I don’t often have access to that place. Even when I am “balanced” I lean more one direction or the other. And so I try to locate myself in this nether region that may not exist. When I do that I have absolutely no sense of self.

The trick to discovering “me”, whatever I mean by “me”, is to stop looking in the place that I don’t exist. There isn’t a middle. Not really. There is no point that sits exactly between the two extremes, at least not one that I have access to often, if at all. The inquisitive, outgoing, obsessive me is no more or less me than the grumpy, cynical introvert.

The loving, gentle, patient parent is no more or less me than the raving, unpredictable lunatic the kids have to walk on eggshells around. The fun and exciting me is no more or less me than the homebody.

So who am I? I don’t know. But I don’t think we can distill ourselves into some kind of one sentence mission statement. I am manic. I am depressed. I am bipolar. I am obsessive. I am inquisitive. I am cynical. I am disinterested.

I am an artist, a writer, a musician, an advocate. I am an awful lot of things and often I am also none of these things.

I am Legion.

I contain multitudes.

I need to not fall into the trap of looking for this ideal me that exists outside of bipolar in some mythical “balanced” place that doesn’t really exist.

I am me. I am the good. I am the bad.

And I am everything in between.