Don’t tell me about the person on your CV. Or the person you claim to be online in a search for love, or what passes for it. Try not to be selling some version of yourself when you answer. You’re alone in your house or apartment with no buyer in sight. So we’re talking about the real “you” here.

It’s a question that can easily arise during these days of solitary sequestration. What judgments are you making about what your “self” is doing, or not doing, during this time?  Where did those judgments come from? Are they really yours? How much are you still looking at whatever world is left to you within your four walls, including yourself, through someone else’s eyes?  Your goals, your ambitions, your needs, your guilts – were they, are they, really yours?

By telephone, I asked an old friend in Massachusetts — holed up with wife, two sons and a son’s girlfriend, in other words not someone in the ideally solitary situation for consideration of my inquiry.   “If you were an onion,” I said. “And we could peel away all the layers reflecting your reactions and defenses to life experiences, including experiences with other people – what would be at the core?” A bad metaphor to use with this particular friend. At the moment, he’s cooking all the meals for five full-grown people.  No surprise that he parried, “Not much to cook with! I’d need another onion!”

So forget onions.  I still think it’s a good question to ponder though, now that we have the time. Almost like a daily mini-psychotherapy session on your own couch. Or an hour at your desktop with “Clean My Mac X.” And if you arise from couch, or desk chair, somewhat liberated, or cleansed, of layers of self-judgment or other gunk that’s been weighing you down and/or slowing you up, then maybe this coronavirus lockdown thing will turn out to have been good for whoever “you” is, as well as for the rest of us.




15 thoughts on “WHO IS “YOU?”

  1. Good question, Nina. I’m answering right away so I can get my guitar lesson in before the—walk the dogs, dinner & evening take over my time. During daytime it’s Research—the Berlin Wall & the sequel story structure keep me busy, lately. Yard cleaning is ongoing. House stuff, etc., etc., etc. That’s the me, in pjs or yoga pants, and a lot of hours at the computer. Not much weighing me down or slowing me up. Peel the layers of the onion, and I’m still an introvert & a writer. Home is where my head & heart are. ❤️ Thanks for making me think about what I am—away from titles, and success as a (now retired) nurse practitioner. 📚🎶 Christine


  2. It would be nice that with ageing one could get to a clearer idea of oneself . The questions about who we really are is best left to others. Helvi used to tell me; ‘get away from yourself Gerard, it is not about you’! I did respect her opinion and with her it was always the other person who was important. I don’t know what a therapist would make of it.
    I do try and make a good impression. And the problem might be with the verb ‘try’.
    At one stage I did volunteering as I felt that doing good for other would make me feel good as well. But, after a while it became silly as I ended up doing the same work that others next to me were getting handsomely paid for.
    My best feature is that I can make others laugh, and that is something.


  3. cara joyce Gangloff

    I’m a simple, happy person who relishes knowledge and healthy sensual pleasures. You are an experience synthesizer.


    • Thank you for your comment. Did you know Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, St. Augustine, Spinoza, Descartes, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, et al. were also “experience synthesizers?”


  4. Over the years, I’ve watched the changes in myself and others, and continuously wondered just how much of the self is hereditary… attitudes and relationships that we might judge differently from a distance, and how much is reaction to all we’ve experienced or learned. But whether this way or that, there is something unique about each personality, and there are some that we seem to work with just so much better. I find solitude very easy to adjust to in old age. But it’s always good to laugh. I can love a fellow just for an occasional smile.


  5. When I was a child my mother was the anchor of our family. She passed many years ago and now I find that I’m the anchor of the family. My brother’s wife passed two years ago and we speak on the phone every night. He often phones during the day to tell me what he’s eating for lunch etc. I live with my ailing husband, and older son who has recently divorced. Our older daughter lives three houses down the street with our granddaughter. We see her almost everyday and if not, we talk on the phone. Our two other children are not far away and are dealing with all sorts of issues – mostly the elderly parents of their spouses. We are a network of caregivers. We miss our family get togethers and yet I still find a lot of beauty in the world and this I try to paint.


  6. Florence Gellman

    You might find utilizing your outstanding writing gifts examining past experiences of your multifaceted lifetime more rewarding than peeling an onion. But then I guess I live more in the past these days than in the present.


    • Been there, done that, Florence. Accounts of many of those “past experiences” can be found in the early years of this blog. Which is not to say I might not also write more in that vein. Nonetheless, I also live in the present, constrained though it may be at the moment, and therefore continue to be interested in self-examination (by now a life-long habit), if not in actual onions.


  7. I love this post! But isolation hasn’t prompted me to peel away my various personae. Rather, I’m deleting old emails—at 5000, my inbox had reached the bursting point. If only one could select them and bands them in one fell swoop~! But, no, it must be done one by one, hitting the trashcan non-stop, which I think may be causing repetitive stress injury. One of the old mails, from 2015, was about the Netflix series “Grand Hotel,” which I believe you watched too. Made me sad because that was one of the last times Fred could follow a plot. Otherwise, I’ve been dealing with the practical matters that follow a death. Keeps me busy, and from becoming a complete sloth. Xo. Martha



    • Glad to see you back and commenting,
      Martha. You’ve got emails going back five years? I too need to delete, but I don’t think my inbox goes back that far any more. Well, I’m glad you did keep it all, because the 2015 email you mention reminded me of “Gran Hotel.” Yes, I did watch it, on your recommendation. After a while Bill even joined me on the couch; it was the last summer he was alive. Then I wrote a post about it which turned out to be my all-time most read post. Blog readers are still clicking; I see it got 29 views this week alone.

      I’m sorry being reminded of the series made you sad because I just reread my post about it; five years on, it’s still funny. Also timely. Gran Hotel is now back on Netflix in the United States, fifty-one hours of meretricious but delicious viewing pleasure. So I think I’m going to dig the post out from under four and a half years of successive blog posts and run it again. Us old folks who will likely be in lockdown beyond forever, despite open beaches, will be needing something with which to comfort ourselves.

      Xo right back.


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