If I were me…
I have a little book, the collected writings that Brazilian author Clarice Lispector used to publish in the Jornal do Brasil, short little mediatations on the cotidian life of a bourgeoisie woman artist. For some reason, I find them very relatable.
One of my favorites is titled Se eu fosse eu. In other, English words: “If I were me”. Lispector writes that sometimes, if she’s looking for an important paper that she’s filed away and cannot find, she asks herself, “Ïf I were me, where would I have put it?” And then she becomes so fascinated by the possibilities of “If I were me…” that she entirely forgets about the paper.
“I think that if I were truly me, my friends wouldn’t recognize me on the street because even my physiognomy would have changed.” That unrealized doppelgänger, the true me, the possibilities! Why not just live as her, the “me” who exists outside of time and history? There are no limits to what I would I do, if I were me!
Perhaps we cannot imagine the extasy of life as ourselves, the things we’d do and wouldn’t do. What I love about Lispector is her depth: in a few casual paragraphs, she brings the idea around. She realizes, “I know that, after the first calls to crazy celebration that being ourselves would be, in the end we would have the experience of the world. Better said, we would experience the full pain of the world.” Because what is this me that is sitting here, half undressed in the heat of Saturday morning, writing, if not the me I have created to avoid some of that pain? We learn to position ourselves in ways that protect from the full blast of life as we hurtle into it day by day. A crouch, a slant, a shadow to lessen the blow. And though the protective crouch means I don’t constantly launch into the largest, most graceful grand jeté, the leap is still there, ready when I am.