Do you ever ponder who you are? Now don’t get spooked, but I like to mull over who I am. Think, before you read further, of how you would describe yourself.
Like others, I usually describe myself in terms of the roles I play: sister, wife, mother, grandma, nurse, teacher, friend, writer. But these don’t get at the essence of who I am without my roles.
The best place to ponder who you are is someplace unfamiliar. Then you have no reference point. You are none of the roles you play. You are just you.
I pondered the question again recently while sitting on a bar stool. Now, I don’t normally hang out in bars (thus an ideal unfamiliar place to ponder), but our shuttle bus driver back to Nashville from the Tennessee Fitness Spa told Marianna and me that we had to visit Tootsie’s and the Wild Horse Saloon.
So the next morning found us sitting on bar stools at a brightly painted purple and pink Tootsie’s on Broadway. As I sipped lemonade, the performer, Harold Allen, began to sing Sweet Home Chicago for a group of young giggling Chicagoans sitting at one of the tables. That surreal feeling of who am I crept over me. Who was that person sitting in my skin sipping lemonade? Why was she there?
At that moment, I wasn’t any of my usual roles, not wife, mom, grandma, nurse, teacher, writer…
This bar was deep and narrow and dark with a high ceiling, framed photographs of singers hanging floor to ceiling, and live music featured on a low stage in the front window. The other patrons seated at the bar or at the rows of bar-height tables could be my kids or grandkids. Neither of us fit the mold.
Later that afternoon, we found the Wild Horse Saloon. By contrast, this bar was huge and deep and wide with three vertical tiers of tables on either side of a dance floor, plus a wide elevated stage at the far end. It was too early for Nashville nightlife, and we were two of less than ten customers in the place. As we sipped our drinks and split a quesadilla, I was aware of the “who am I” question again.
By now, maybe you know that I’m getting at self concept. Self concept, as defined in one of the psychiatric nursing textbooks that I taught from years ago, is “all the notions, beliefs, and convictions that constitute a person’s self-knowledge and that influence relationships with others.”
And, without identifying self concept as such, Marianna and I talked about who we are outside of the roles we play. For starters, I see my essence as still being a fun-loving kid at heart, always curious, always exploring, always learning, always loving life, always striving to understand what’s right and moral, and as a seventy-year-old with few regrets about choices I’ve made along the way.
So who was I and why was I in a country music bar? Part of loving life for me includes immersion in old-time, soul-filled, twangy country music that’s been lodged in my DNA since I lived in Indiana when I was ten. I still clean best when accompanied by One day at a time, sweet Jesus… I feel unencumbered by expectations of others, free to let go, free to get in touch with my natural, spontaneous child as described by Eric Berne in his theory of Transactional Analysis in Games People Play.
Make your own list: what are your notions, beliefs, and convictions about yourself. How does your answer differ from the one you gave when you started reading this?