Who and What Art Thou?

Today I’m a disciple of Peter Pan. Why? Well, since you asked:

As I enter the aftermath of the holidays, I feel disoriented. It’s not uncommon for me to hold together well in the face of a predicted struggle, only to drift apart when the challenge has been met. I marshaled my strength and resources to hold my self-care precious through these days, and I did a good job. But now–relatives gone, temptation-loaded meals served, overstimulating rooms quiet–I still feel the need to pull wisps of myself back together from the void.

It’s time to remember who I am.

Not that this is at all strange: I forget my truest Self thousands of times a day, because I am human. Progress is about improving the ratio between remembering and forgetting. When I have been around certain people or had a lot of stimulation, that ratio can get a little skewed even if I have worked very hard at maintaining it. Playing a role, even an innocuous one, for any length of time creates a need to re-establish an inner equilibrium.

So I need to revisit the parts of me that are inviolate, mysterious and sacred: the parts that not everyone can see. The parts that are beyond my old family roles and dynamics. The parts that are indestructible and exist outside hierarchies of perceived merit. In doing this, I get closer to knowing who I am. At the very least, I get an awareness that what I am may be very different from what I was taught to believe.

But remembering who I am is also about remembering that something about what I am cannot–need not–be known or expressed in any concrete sense. Many years ago, when I first read Peter Pan, I got shivers at this passage where Pan is fighting Captain Hook. Hook calls out to Pan:

“Pan, who and what art thou?” he cried huskily.
“I’m youth, I’m joy,” Peter answered at a venture. “I’m a little bird that has broken out of the egg.”
This, of course, was nonsense; but it was proof to the unhappy Hook that Peter did not know in the least who or what he was, which is the very pinnacle of good form.

I didn’t have the faintest idea of what that really meant, but I loved it. It spoke to my little over-intellectualized heart about the magic of simply being. When I fled to my computer today to center myself with writing, and thought of it as trying to remember who I am, that passage leapt into my head and would not leave.

Why is it speaking so strongly to me today? I think it’s because I need the additional mystery to increase my psyche’s resistance to the projections of others. Getting back in touch with my spiritual side and creative side helps reassure me that there is more to me than my past, but if I need something extra, I can also remember that I do share an important quality with Peter Pan: at the core I’m a mystery and I don’t know who, or what, I am.

And if I don’t know…they certainly don’t.

One response to “Who and What Art Thou?

  1. What a beautiful piece. We all are mysteries aren’t we. It definitely keeps life interesting. I think if I spent more time “being” and less time doing what I think makes me me, I’d be much more peaceful. I am mindful of this on most days at least.

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