It seems to me that my existence is a succession of states with no permanent center.
This is an important observation. Can you stay with it and not try to create a work identity to provide you with a false sense of continuity?
Can I not expect something better than this?
The potential for a real ‘I’ resides in attention and presence. The continual shifting of states lies in identification and habit. The battle with self is between these two sides.
In my experience, this battle is never resolved…it has to be fought every day. Perhaps you will prove differently, that there is some perfected state in which the compound that is a human being, the compound of donkey and angel as Rumi says, is permanently harmonized. I cannot say. But in the meantime, you must do battle with yourself and it is this struggle that opens your eyes and summons the energies of awakening. The key requirement is that you must be able to discern in real time what is operating in you. Otherwise, you may join the wrong side and your work will be stolen by one of your identities.
The different states are written into the nature of life on this planet. There are sacred spaces where the Absolute can be invoked. When Solomon built the original Temple, it was to protect the ‘holy of holies’, where the Presence of Jehovah could be invoked. You cannot do this on the street. There are times and places when things are possible and others when they are not. Working successfully requires this discrimination.
At home with the family, do you not need to meet at least some of their expectations for who they think you are? You can respond with presence when your presence is called for but it is neither possible nor desirable to try to be present all the time. Find out what you can do. Perhaps you can always be attentive to your inner state, including your reactions. And you may find it is possible to have voluntary attention on your surroundings and the people around you most of the time. These are realistic accomplishments that arise as you learn to observe self.
Can attention see that it is able to settle into itself and become an undistracted, potent force? Can presence see that its presence is the immediate cessation of identification? These realizations have a particular ‘taste’ which is not found anywhere else. Knowing these states is the key to winning the moment-to-moment battle with self.