I am not what I am.
Viola in Twelfth Night, III.1
The shadow of my sorrow? ha! let’s see –
’Tis very true, my grief lies all within,
And these external manners of lament
Are merely shadows to the unseen grief
That swells with silence in the tortur’d soul.
There lies the substance.
Richard II, IV.1.291-296
Who is it that can tell me who I am?
King Lear, I.iv.221.
Perhaps I should be reading Shakespeare.
Iago, too, says, I am not what I am. (Othello, I.1) My own willful evil is not what torments me; I mention Iago only as a further indication of how frequently and thoroughly Shakespeare addresses the conundrum of inner division, of what we purport to be and what we are.
Viola is a little closer, in the sense of donning a disguise to get from here to there. I thought of her, oddly enough, in connection with a Facebook Quiz that a friend did and the onset of Holy Week and the RevGals Friday Five, which asks about where pastors find restoration, strength, and encouragment during the busy week ahead. While Easter does not carry the same weight that Christmas does in the secular culture, for those who are attentive and practicing Christians it is a far more important celebration. It is THE celebration. And I am hiding out. I am not ready to contemplate resurrection. It is easier to disguise myself publicly than it was at Christmas, which required a journey to Key West to put sufficient distance between our family and the rituals that had been meaningful to us, but it is no easier inwardly, to know that I am so out of sync with what surrounds me.
I remember loving Richard II in high school. That "tortur'd soul" of his speaks so well to lost adolescents; I wonder that it isn't read as frequently as Hamlet. His words about external lament being but a shadow of unseen grief ~ well: I am including a bit of my experience in a sermon I am working on for a class. It seemed to me, as I preached part of it yesterday, that there would never be a way to approach the reality of what I am saying, not without sinking the chapel beneath the weight. Most of it I have to reserve for myself.
And Lear ~ he is the one. When I came across that line of his several days ago I thought, No, I am not old enough to be Lear. There are, God help me, more decades of self-delusion and anguish between the woman I am now and the old man he became.
But you know what? For the first time in my life, I feel a slight sense of the deepest affinity with him. Not the intellectual recognition that the student of literature brings to her analytical approach to a text. But the deeply and generously heartbroken recogition of the awesomely terrible disappointments that life inflicts, some of them due to our own limitations and some to the limitations of others. Lear, naked in the wind and rain ~ perhaps who we all are.
No, I am not ready for resurrection.