[Scintilla Day 01] Who are you?

I don’t mind telling stories about myself – hell, I have some really good stories that I’m often asked to relate to new victims: there’s the one that involves a plant pot and a curtain rail on a first date, and the one about the cat on heat- I can guarantee that if I told you these stories you’d either be peeing yourself with laughter or looking at me in a slightly terrified manner. Possibly both at the same time. Through neither luck nor judgement I’ve ended up in some strange situations in my life, and I fend off potential ridicule by turning them into stories, stories that I know will entertain people and either endear me to  or alienate me from them forever.

Talking about myself is another matter entirely. Opening myself up, letting my inner thoughts spill forth like seeds from a ripe, split melon – that’s not something that comes easily. I can articulate the thoughts and the feelings, I can even put them down in words, but sharing them takes me well out of my comfort zone. I have a whole sackful of cunning strategies to avoid this – and yes, I suspect telling my legendary stories is probably one of them. Choosing not to answer questions like, ‘Who are you?’ should probably be another, but it’s a little late for that now, isn’t it?

I was mulling over the question during idle moments this morning, and the more I turned it over, the more I realised that the answer depends in a large part on who’s asking it. My mum would tell you that I’m her daughter, my former colleagues would say I was a fellow nurse. My son would be the only person in the world who could tell you that I’m his mother, and I’d like to hope that my partner would say I’m a lover, an equal and a friend.

I know it’s not fashionable nowadays to define oneself in relation to others, and that some people might say there’s a hint of dependence there, or the suggestion of subservience, of subsumed identity; but I don’t exist in a vacuüm. Like John Donne said, ‘No man is an island,’ and that makes perfect sense to me. Without the people I care for and the roles I choose to assume, I’d be a duller, flatter version of myself. There’d be less quirks, less intricate details, fewer opportunities to challenge myself and blossom through rising to the occasion. I would be quite boring, I think, and more to the point, I’d be lonely and miserable. Sometimes people are like mirrors, shining your best – and worst – bits right back in your face.

And most of my stories involve other people, too. Yes, even the one about the cat in heat. Hang around long enough and I might even share that story, and hopefully plenty more that will show – rather than tell – you who I am.

This post is a response to prompts from The Scintilla Project, a fortnight of story sharing
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