The general consensus of the English language is that a phase is “a distinct stage of development . . . a temporary manner . . . a fraction of a complete cycle.” I, for one, notice many changes as my own personal moon waxes and rises above the horizon. Appearances, styles, ambitions, friends, general disposition. From my exact position in space, it seems that I am moving through selves at exponential rates. Then, I remember a front stoop conversation some years ago. By phone. Over a few thousand miles. I was telling a very old and dear friend about what I figured was my latest phase, radically different from the me he had once known, but one I was particularly proud of at the time. I forget the words that he said, but essentially replied that I had not changed a bit.
So I was then what I had always been. Are phases, then, simply manifestations of some perpetual truth? Or do they disguise that truth from ourselves? I think of Joan Didion who wrote, “The tricks that work on others count for nothing in that well-lit back alley where one keeps assignations with oneself.” I wonder if she had it so eloquently wrong, if self-deception isn’t that hard after all. We think we are not deceiving ourselves, because we see through the “winning smiles” and “prettily drawn lists of good intentions”. Perhaps, though, it is only ourselves who we successfully deceive.
On another long distance call with that same friend, he revealed another secret. Seems he had been writing a similar memoir, keeping to himself those things most precious, in hopes of successfully keeping hold of them. He put on the face he felt represented best what he wanted thought of himself during any given phase. A good plan, but those who love us are not mere stargazers. They are intuitive and attentive astronomers, who see the phase, and marvel at its beauty, but see most clearly the solid whole of the satellite, whether we intend to reveal it or not.
Those who love us see us as we are and always have been. It is we who are always trying to achieve some newness, something to keep us interesting. But in the end, it is the unique and constant self that is so magnetic, not our passing fancies. Our phases are simply a means of communicating with those bodies gravitating around us, revealing in pieces our every angle.