But what are we really doing?

Bonsai tree in the DC arboretum.
I like getting to the bottom of things. I used to think that meant I had an obsession with truth. Every time the word "truth" was used in a book I was reading, I would underline it. I would pay close attention to how that word was being used.

I was not sure how this related to lying, but I suspected that I was less interested in the opposite of truth and more in the gushy "getting to the bottom" of a reality, of a relationship, of a desire.

This morning I was prepping for a meeting that was happening later this afternoon. The meeting was to write a mission statement for one of our projects here at Arc; we were asked to write a few statements on our own and bring them to the table at 4pm. And as I was working on this, I realized that I kept focusing tighter on the subject at hand, like a surgeon zooming in on the monitor as he cuts.

"But what are we really doing?" I thought to myself. And then I'd write the answer. Then I'd ask myself again. "But what are we really doing?"

And slowly, surely, I started to center in on the crux of it.

I'm not sure if this is searching for the "truth," but I know that I used this exercise when thinking about getting married. Here's how it worked:

Fact: We're having a wedding.
But what are we really doing?
Fact: I'm wearing a white dress and Chris is wearing a gray suit.
But what are we really doing?
Fact: We're having a party with our family and friends.
But what are we really doing?
Fact: We're having a ceremony that others are coming to witness.
But what are we really doing?
Fact: Chris and I are promising to spend our lives together, among other things.
But what are we really doing?
Fact: Chris and I are embarking on a project. This day kicks off that project and there are a number of promises we're making related to our commitment to the project. Others will witness those promises and help us honor them.

There. That feels about right. And in this light, concerning ourselves with wedding colors and gift bags in hotel rooms felt RIDICULOUS. Right? Like, totally out of scale. Getting to the bottom of the "truth" of the wedding event was really helpful when it came time to tell the florist we weren't spending $2,000 on flowers. And other insane things.

Here's another one:

Fact: At some point in the not-so-distant future, we would like to leave New York.
But what are we really doing?
Fact: We want to have more space.
But what are we really doing?
Fact: We want to start a family sometime before my eggs rot.
But what are we really doing?
Fact: We want to slow down the pace of our lives a bit and re-prioritize.
But what are we really doing?

Well. That's as far as we're at right now. And that's ok! Sometimes you don't know what the next step is along the way. Sometimes you really only know the first fact. For example:

Fact: I am not actively writing my book.
But what am I really doing?

I have a couple of guesses. I think I might really be avoiding it because I'm intimidated or because I'm not actually ready to do it or… possibly… because I'm not good enough to do it. Tricky, that.

The job is to figure out what the next fact is. And then the next one. And on down the line until I get to a point where I can act against the "truth" of it. That might take a while. But you know, I think that's ok. If we were able to get to the bottom of everything right away, we'd have a lot more on our to-do lists.

So if you don't know what you're really doing, I think the answer is clear. Ask yourself some questions. And if that doesn't work, just wait longer.

1 comment:

Erica said...

i LOVE this post!