“Who am I?”
This is to me, one of the most if not the most troubling question.
First, because I don’t think it can be answered in words or any other formal ways. Maybe through art, but I’m not sure. I feel that any answers in any forms will always be a part, a glimpse of something elusive.
The second reason is that I’m relentlessly changing. Answers are like photographs, they capture a moment. Even when I feel I have an answer, the truth about who I am has already moved. Maybe just a tiny shift, but enough to make any response obsolete at the moment it appears.
The third and most troubling reason is that anytime that question emerges in my awareness, I know something is off. When what I do is aligned with who I am, my life is the living answer to that question. So magically that question disappears from my radar. When it appears, however, that means there are some misalignments. And that question is like a voice reminding me that something wants to change.
There was this scene in a movie I watched yesterday; a sort of motivator was telling his followers that they should stop being who the others want for them to be and become who they are meant to be.
You’ve probably heard something similar many times. Myself, I think I’ve said and written stuff along these lines a few times.
This morning, however, a question was there, lingering on the periphery of my perception during my meditation.
Meant by who or what?
If you believe that life is fully scripted, then how can I know if being who the others want isn’t exactly what’s planned for me? Or in general, maybe even evil people are part of the script. So, whatever I’ll be and do, I supposed it is what I’m meant to be and do by definition.
If you believe that you are the sole author of your choices within a given playground, then the question remains. Meant by who? Me?
Maybe it’s an entirely irrelevant question. As Viktor Frankl wrote, “We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life“.
So, I should worry less about who I’m meant to be and focus on who I want to be today.
To know who we are is a lifelong journey.
And not an easy one.
I believe that the direct way, going head-on towards this quest doesn’t really work. It’s impossible to distil something as infinite as a human being in a few words.
So, usually, we recognise ourselves through the reflections we see in what’s around and outside us. Our relationships, the things we create, the word we do, our habits. In everything we do, there is a reflection of who we are, a glimpse of our identity.
We all have this universe of people, activities and things around us through which we recognise ourselves.
But what happens when a crisis turns everything upside down in a moment? When our habits get disrupted? When we can’t do our work anymore, not in the same way at least?
Can we still recognise ourselves then?
What if we look at the crisis as an opportunity to rethink who we are?
Most of the time, I don’t pay much attention to my breathing.
I think I’m used to giving it for granted.
Though it is vital.
But anytime I pause and focus on it, I can feel its perfection; so much power in such a simple act.
Two movements that exist only together.
We can’t just skip one of them.
Similarly, the creative process is made of two movements that exist only together.
The inspiration phase, in which we draw in ideas and stimuli. And the expiration one in which we create something.
We can’t just skip one of them without compromising the whole creative act.
Though, I feel I overlooked the inspiration phase lately. I got trapped in the doing spiral, and I caught myself holding my breath, working in apnea.
I need to breathe in.
To create space and open up, so new air can flow in.
To get inspired.
I read somewhere – sorry, I can’ find the source at this moment – that only 16% of intelligent and creative ideas come to us while we’re at work.
Looking back, I think I had my best ideas while I was doing something else than working. Walking, cycling, taking a shower, having a conversation, reading a novel, watching a movie.
I believe ideas are out there. We just need to pay attention enough so we can see them.
To do so, we must expand our senses. We must reach the boundaries of our peripheral vision so we can see what hides in the liminal space; between our limited knowledge and the unlimited wisdom of the universe unknown to us.
I grew up with the idea that the effectiveness of work is measured by my productivity. So, when I work, my attention is narrowed on what I’m doing to avoid any distractions that could compromise my productivity.
Plus, sometimes the agenda takes over, so I work in a rush with a continuous feeling of being late.
What I’ve realised over the years, is that this approach dries out my creative wellspring.
I know that I’m falling trap of this productivity trap when I begin to have the same ideas over and over.
When that happens, I now know that it’s time to unplug and do anything but work. To me, that means doing something for the pure pleasure of doing it, without expecting any outcome.
Like walking, cycling, having a conversation, reading a novel, watching a movie.