[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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Reverb10 – Dec 23 – New Name

oil painting, girl with red hair

Image by freeparking via Flickr

Let’s meet again, for the first time. If you could introduce yourself to strangers by another name for just one day, what would it be and why?
(Author: Becca Wilcott)

Years ago, my university tutor complained that he couldn’t read my signature. I was a bit taken aback by this, because I didn’t realise people would want to actually read it. I thought it was just a unique and inimitable scribble which was mine and no-one else’s, and which marked everythingI wrote it on on as somehow mine, too.

He squinted at it and moved it back and forth in front of his face, trying desperately to decipher it. In the end he shrugged and said, it says, ‘Mimi Houlihan.’ I’ve used Mimi Houlihan as an alternate identity a few times (she even has her own Facebook profile), but until today I never imagined what she’d be like, or what I’d be like if I was Ms Houlihan.

I’m thinking she’d be tall like me, but with an Irish-sounding name like that I’m guessing she’s a redhead; dark copper, with a hint of a wave, and green eyes – brighter than mine, which are a weird sludgy green – and covered in freckles. She’s got a loose walk, and she walks everywhere.

She can play the piano, but secretly she wants an orchestra-sized xylophone. She’s always the first one dancing at parties but she doesn’t drink much. She always has the wittiest responses on the tip of her tongue but you rarely hear her say a bad word about anyone. She has lots of friends, and always manages to remember people’s birthdays. She comes from a big family and is loved by her nephews and nieces.

She rollerskates and has a secret thing for seventies songs with jazz flute middle eights. She can’t draw to save her life. She collects old buttons – preferably still stitched on their little square of cardboard – and postcards of staircases.

She sounds like fun. I’m liking her already. I think I want to be her friend.

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