I came home from school after visiting the local holy place with a colleague (as I’ve made a habit of doing), boiled tea (as I also make a habit of doing), and sat down in a chair in the bedroom. And I looked down at my national dress then and thought, “I feel like a new person.”

It was a startling thought, so for a minute I continued looking at the fabric and thought it.

What did I mean by that anyway?

I’m not a better me. I know that much. At the moment, it is especially difficult to be me, so it’s not an easier me either.

I used to feel as if I existed on the other side of a glass from my own life, or that my world was shrouded in cotton wool. I feel less of that now, and it is such a change that it seems like I have changed and not just how I feel.

It’s interesting to think this, because it suggests something of a reward as if maybe I’ve gotten something out of this whole thing.

Lately, I am not generally more aware of being present in my own life or in my own body. Instead, I am more aware of having problems to manage internally. For example, a student misbehaves and I have to manage the feeling of frustration, which can lead quickly into discouragement and then despair and I also have to manage that. Despair leads to suicidal thoughts, which make me anxious, and I have to manage that too. Meanwhile, class needs to go on. I have to remember what I was doing before the misbehavior and my rush of feelings and thoughts. I have to keep doing those things that help kids understand difficult concepts while also responding in a helpful way to the student. All of this while still feeling.

But I have to manage all of that because I am more present.

The feeling of presence is so different from the feeling of numbness and dissociation that it seems like a change not just in how I am, but in who I am. I suppose that makes sense. Habitual ways of being often do become part of our identities.

On the other hand, I also think there’s something to this. Being present is what you might call ego-syntonic. As a person, I am very active, very energetic, very concerned with and involved in the world around me. A sense of aliveness feels like “me.”

However, most of the parts had numbness, a distance from the world, or an emotional flatness tied into how it felt to be them. A distance from the world and myself was ego-syntonic for them. Lana was stoic and emotionally unexpressive. Ghost felt he wasn’t even there. Katie felt alive but she had to conceal her aliveness. Virginie had only a single feeling: fierceness. I have other parts, but those are the ones I spent occupying most of the time. How they felt was mostly how I felt.

This “I,” that is present and alive and feels alive, is new. In the past, I have behaved like that person without feeling how that person would feel. So that’s the reward for all of this work, for trying to manage those avalanches of feelings. At least I think so.

Oh, and today (a week later), I played basketball in my national dress, which involves wearing two or three layers of cloth down to my ankles. That’s aliveness.