This week I’ve been visiting with my mom, and thinking about decisions. The decisions I made while under mania’s influence. And I’ve come to some conclusions.
The decisions were in the past. They may have shaped me, but they are not me. Just as bipolar isn’t me, just a disease I have. Just as parish pastor wasn’t me, just a career or job I had for a while. I’m still coming to terms with this last one. Like I’ve said before, I drank the kool-aid of CPMs and formation for ministry so that my identity became “pastor.” But all this is in the past and I have the present before me. The past doesn’t define me.
Who am I? I’m still not sure. I can list adjectives, such as intelligent, kind, adventurous, justice-loving, people-person, idea-person, cat-lover, funny, compassionate . . . But they feel like labels, not a self. I can list things I like to do, such as watercolor and color mandalas, listen to and watch the ocean, play with cats, watch movies, have coffee with friends . . . But these too feel like labels, not a self.
I’ve been repeating these labels over and over, hoping they sink in, and a sense of self would develop. So far nothing. My therapist wants me to work on self-esteem and therefore do this exercise. I quipped back, “That would require a self to esteem.”
So, decisions are not me, characteristics are not me, likes and dislikes are not me. What constitutes a “self”? More than a philosophical question, this is a matter of intense importance.