river dam, maggie mcreynolds blog

In Recovery

“Low Disk Space!” said the error message on my laptop. “You are running out of disk space on your recovery drive! Delete old or unnecessary files!”

I had been getting this message every three or four minutes for over a week, ever since a failed back-up attempt. I had tried clicking where it said to click, deleting the files it suggested I delete, and reinitiating a back-up, but still the error message kept flashing, infuriating in its persistence. I had far too much to do to figure out how to make it go away.

See, that’s the thing, I was busy. I had deadlines, both external and internal, and I had my hands full with flogging myself to meet them. There wasn’t time to cook dinner, or eat healthily, or exercise, or meditate. There wasn’t time to read, or watch TV, or go for a walk. I had important things to do, urgent things. I was taking care of business.

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Ask for What You Want

A woman is sitting, menu closed in front of her, in a nice restaurant. Angrily, she waves at a passing waiter. “Where’s my dinner?” she demands.

woman holds blank placard, maggie mcreynolds blogThe waiter is nonplussed. “You haven’t ordered yet,” he says.

Unfortunately, the customer is unmoved by mere logic. “You ought to know what I want!”

“But…how would I know that?” the waiter stammers.

“If you really valued me as a customer,” the woman insists, “you’d know what I want.”

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Take This Quiz! Or Not.

If you’re on Facebook, you’ve seen the quizzes: If you were a children’s book author, who would you be? Which sexy movie star are you most like? Which Peanuts character are you?

Do we take them just for fun? Or are we hoping for some sort of confirmation that the world sees us as we see ourselves—or, perhaps even more accurately, as we wish to be seen?

What do the answers even mean? Maybe Facebook says I’m like Marilyn Monroe. Yay! Beautiful, curvaceous, iconic, adored! Oh, wait. Also miserable, confused, drug-addicted, and, um…oh, yeah. Dead.

i am graphic, maggie mcreynolds blogWhy do we so love to label ourselves, to compare ourselves to other people and things? It’s not unlike the Hollywood cliche of the screenwriter in a pitch meeting, packaging his story idea into a pre-digested form he thinks his would-be producer will understand and therefore buy: “I’ve got this great script! It’s ‘Gandhi’ meets ‘Hairspray’!”

When I was in high school, there was one brave guy in my whole senior class who came out of the closet—and he chose to do so in a spectacular way. He wore feather boas, Elton John-esque oversized sunglasses, and was fond of sweeping into the room and announcing things like, “I’m just so Scarlett!”

I’m not sure in what way he identified with Scarlett O’Hara—belle of the plantation who had men wrapped around her little finger? savvy seamstress who could whip up a darling frock out of the front parlor curtains?—but his label, while fascinating, didn’t have much of anything to do with who he actually was.

Even the labels about ourselves that sound true don’t have much to do with our essential selves: I’m a dog lover, we say. I’m a mountain biker. I’m a little bit country. I’m a little bit rock ’n’ roll. Those labels aren’t who we are, any more than we are “Marilyn Monroe,” “Scarlett O’Hara,” or even our own name. Those things are what we do, and what we and others call us. They say something about us, to be sure. But we are not a hobby or a role, any more than we are our houses, our children, our jobs, or our passions.

So while it is a social convention to say that I am Maggie McReynolds, I am a writer, a mother, a life coach, a terrible guitar player, there’s a core, absolute, essential me that these labels don’t describe and can’t reach.

The most honest, though perhaps uninteresting, thing I can say is: I am.

And that would make a really terrible Facebook quiz.

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