'When it comes down to basics, I haven’t got much personality. When I am by myself I never feel irritated, annoyed or frustrated, depressed or happy. In fact, I hardly notice I’m there. I am only really aware of what I am doing – writing, weaving, gardening, making sounds – or what I am doing things with – plants, earth, wool paper, colours --- and other people.
What people call personality only rears its personable countenance when in the company of other personalities, and then mainly in an adjusting capacity. When I’m with a meek person, I adjust the situation by being firmly assertive, to compensate and get things moving; when with aggressive characters I counteract them by being calm and peaceful and tolerant. In the company of intellectuals I often revert to my rural philosophical self and when with rural, philosophical individuals I prefer to listen mostly and contribute just the occasional intellectual observation when we get bogged down. When amongst the stingy types I tend to be moderately generous, but when with spendthrifts I change to temperate habits.
In all such situations and their endless variations, I am. I do not act. I play no roles. I merely try to adjust the situation, the atmosphere, the conversation, to a golden mean of harmonious proportions by being, for the duration of the event or encounter, the opposite of whatever the counterparts offer too much of in my perception.
Hence, if a scoresheet were kept by the hundreds of people who think they know or knew me well enough to give a thumbnail character sketch, not one account would tally with another. I know from rumours, loose-lipped references and intuition that the profile stretches from one extreme to the other: from saint to sinner, from guru to goofer, from peace personified to provocative pugnacity, from sublime honesty to ridiculous caginess, from killing kindness to cold callousness. Whereas some people feel the need to be reintroduced to me every time we meet, others find me so memorable they recommend me for Who’s Who.
None of all this has anything to do with any personality of mine, but only with the adjustments I made – in words, deeds or attitudes – to their own state of mind at the time we met.
This lack of personality on my behalf threatens to defeat the purpose of writing an autobiography. It wouldn’t really be about me, nut about everyone who knew me. The other complication is that I’m the cat with nine lives. No matter how I push and pull and pummel my material, I see no hope of fitting all my adjustment experiences into one book that would simultaneously shoe me as a product of my times ‘in the round’.
But perhaps herein lies the solution. Having already spent eithg of my nine lives, why not spend the ninth writing eight autobiographies? Not eight accounts of chronological periods up till now though. That would not sufficiently reveal the undercurrents at work, the karmic links, the flights of imagination which landed me on solid ground. Nor would it do justice to the crazy patchwork created by history in the making which cross-stitched erratically all over the nice regular pattern I was working on.
… People live at least two lives, an inner and an outer one, because society dictates that whatever it is that moves us remains largely hidden so as not to complicate ‘reality’. But many find their lives so inextricably rooted in the inner life that it colours all aspects of daily existence. I realise that after living eight lives in just half a century, I have become tired of hiding my sources, what I imagine my sources to be. I want to reveal what it is that stirs me into action and not hide behind a fictional character.'
Lolo Houbein, Wrong Face in the Mirror
In Queensland Senior English (Theory - practice connections)
edited by Margaret Miller & Robyn Colwill, Macmillan 2003.