These are the questions I’m asking myself these days, trying to come to grips with why, now that my life is idyllic, now that I have the time and opportunity to do anything I want, I’m sitting here, doing nothing, my hands turned up, feeling fearful, disconnected, directionless.
These are no-escape questions: No closed-ended “yes or no” questions. No hypothetical “if’s” that I can safely answer knowing that the “if” is just a fiction (“What if I had only 37 days to live?”) and no “why’s”, the answers to which are probably just excuses.
I’ve answered these questions for myself, but my answers aren’t the point of posting these questions. Probably best we all keep our answers to these questions to ourselves anyway: Private answers are likely to be more honest.
So here are the questions:
- Who am I, really? Behind the veneer, behind the ego, beneath the roles that I play, behind who I pretend to be, who I think I want to be — who am I? What’s my sense of myself? Not what I do, or what I think or believe, or what adjectives I apply to myself, or what I associate myself with (vegan, poly, radical, naturalist). What really motivates me, what frightens me, what drives me to do what I do, what stresses me and stops me from acting, what am I really good at and not good at? How do I really feel about myself? What are the stories I continue to tell myself even though all stories are fiction? What am I addicted to, without judgement as to whether that addiction is good or bad (sugar, sexual fantasy, TV, shopping, “stuff” and the work of taking care of that “stuff”, escapist music/movies, love, comfortable escapist job, the approval and attention and appreciation of others, etc.)?
- What do I really care about? Not what I think I should care about. What keeps me awake at night, including things that scare me and things I’m ambivalent about what, if anything, I could do to make things better (factory farms, climate change, poverty, war)? What do I really want to do before I die, even things I lack the courage to try (hang gliding, to sense what it would feel like to fly like a bird)?
- What am I really accomplishing? Viewed from the perspective of someone else looking objectively at my actions, is what I am doing important, purposeful, achieving anything enduring, aligned with what I want to do, with who I am? What, of the things I’m doing, follow Pollard’s Law (We do what we must, then we do what’s easy, and then we do what’s fun.)?
- Of the things I do now, what could I stop doing? Do I know what I have to keep doing, and what I could let go? How much of what I do is just because I’m caught up in routine, or living up to others’ expectations?
- What could I live comfortably without? How much of what I do is to acquire, or keep, stuff I don’t really need? Why am I so afraid to let that stuff go?
- What does the world need from me now? Not stuff that I want to give that the world doesn’t really need or want. Not stuff I don’t want to give, or don’t think I’m competent or ready to give.
- What’s holding me back? I’m not who I think I want to be, and I’m not doing what I think I want to do. But things, I’ve learned, are the way they are for a good reason. What’s the good reason I am who I am, and the good reason I’m doing what I’m doing (and not doing what I’m not doing)?
- What’s really holding me back? This is the Byron Katie twist on question 7 (or for that matter, any of these questions.) Do I really know that what I said in my response to question 7 is true? What if it weren’t?
- What one simple thing could I do, in the next 24 hours, that would just get me started towards learning or doing something I always wanted to learn or do?
- What would it take for me to accept myself as I really am? How can I accept myself without needing affirmation from others that that’s OK?
Answering these questions was a pretty sobering experience for me. In some cases I don’t yet have very good, or clear, answers. I’m going to try to draw a self-portrait that shows me as I portrayed myself in my answer to question 1. Should be interesting.
And I’ve put my answer to question 2 on my laptop, alongside my Six Principles, to look at whenever I decide, as I do often these days, what to do next, and how to go about it.
And beneath them, I’ve written question 8.