After my wife died, I went through her personal and educational papers as she was a teacher and had many binders filled with material. I came upon an old theatre review of hers she had saved that was ripped and on the back of it, she had listed all the stage names I had gone through and used as an actor during the 10 years we were in theatre together.
My first reaction to her list of my 10 or so stage names was why would she be interested in cataloguing them in a roster? As I pondered the question, what occurred to me was that she was unconsciously trying to figure out who I was or who the “real” me was. Perhaps she was wondering why I didn’t stick with one stage name and was having a moment of realization that her husband could not be defined or he was many people in one. She never asked me or brought this up to me.
My coming upon her list she made of my many stage names opened a doorway to help me understand that I am on a journey of self-understanding. All those names were me and they represent me and I was all those people with all the many sides those people/names represent. She was trying to pin down who I was. I’m not sure but maybe she discovered that she was with someone who could not be pined down. Her ultimate question was, “Who is this man who is my husband? I want to know!”
Her discovery was that I am not knowable. She perceived something about me and found herself listing my many stage names as if that list would help her find me. I’m not sure she was ever able to get a satisfying answer.
To my own thinking, my wife and I played many roles with each other in life AND on stage. Perhaps she was grappling with the reality that through our relationship, that people play many roles whether they are on stage or not. We played the roles of husband, wife, lover, friend, parent, confidante, co-worker, teacher, speaker, provider, breadwinner, actor, actress, musician, singer, roommate and many others. When she looked at the list of my stage names, she realized that she was with someone like her: a person with the ability to take on an infinite number of personae who was not afraid to express them at will.
Our home was a playground where we acted out our many personality traits for and with each other. It was great fun, exhausting, exhilarating, joyful, annoying, cathartic and loving.
She learned from that list of my stage names that she could finally be herself with someone!!!