Re-membering the Divided Self

One basic tenant of Wise Woman Working is the dedication to personal integrity. By that I mean recognizing the seemingly disparate parts of the self – the lover, the worker, the writer, the philosopher, the dreamer, the cynic, the timid child, the warrior queen – and realizing that they are all just part of the universe that is you.

To make such a statement is still a kind of magical thinking for me; if I say it aloud maybe it could happen for me as well. This sort of unification is exactly what I would tell you stops me from emerging from cave of own dramas into the open vistas of the True Self.*

I don’t want to eke out my life like a resource in short supply. The only selfish life is a timid one. To hold back, to withdraw, to keep the best in reserve both overvalues the self and undervalues what the self is. Here’s my life – I have to mine it, farm it, trade it, tenant it and when the lease is up it cannot be renewed. Here’s my chance. I’ll take it.

from The Powerbook, Jeanette Winterson

In my pursuit of some sort of idealized self I have shattered my being into tiny shards. I send one version to work; she is wraith-like and incomplete. Giving all of myself to something as unenlightened as the pursuit of a paycheck may somehow diminish the real me who is meant to be extraordinary, who is meant to create and to heal. Another version of myself exists in a marriage and learns how to keeps pieces of herself in shadow so that she does not appear too selfish, so that my husband will not think that I value the written word over a good clean kitchen (because this incomplete version of me forgets that our love is forged on a lot more than sparkling counter tops). The me that sits and types in the early hours of the morning and meditates and chants Om on a yoga mat is meant to be the truest expression of who I am. I rely on her when the other characters in my cast cannot provide enough sustenance. She must be constantly ready to conjure something wonderful, even if I have been starving all of the other aspects of who I am by telling them they are not enough.

The thing is, the idealized version of me who has fairy wings and a halo and a yet unwritten book that will eventually change lives can never support the dreams of a complete person because she herself has been winnowed away. Every day I forfeit too many parts of my being to ever pretend to have the sort of integrity that can lead to real wisdom.

And so I dedicate myself to the task of re-membering a self that was never meant to be a prism, refracting the light and bouncing colors in a million different directions. Instead I will be the rainbow itself – brilliant with different hues, but still a united spectrum that cuts across the sky.