What’s your secret project?
I mean the one you’re up to most of the time, even if you don’t know it yourself. The one you took up as a child, and have kept going ever since. The one that most of the people close to you would probably be able to name, if asked. But which, unless they’re braver or more skilful than most, they’ll probably keep to themselves.
Do you know what I’m asking about here?
Mine? Having people see me as good.
I’ve developed quite an armoury of skills in this regard. It doesn’t take much for me to portray myself as clever, intelligent, considered. Or to give others a strong sense that I know what I’m doing. Or that I’m acting with integrity. I can do what it takes to look kind, considerate, caring, attentive. I can calm down a conflict. I can be masterful at having you feel like I’m on your side…
… even when none of is true.
When I’m deeply enmeshed in the being-seen-as-good project you’ll probably not know how angry I am, or confused, or lost. You might not know how strongly I disagree with you, nor how bored or irritated I’m feeling. It might take a while for you to discover when I’m secretly taking care of my own needs and wishes at the expense of yours.
Like I said, I can be a master at looking good, even when it isn’t true.
But, if we’re lucky, it eventually starts to fall apart. Which, in my case, began about ten years ago. I found I could no longer successfully keep looking good while doing work from which my heart was so absent.
Lucky? Yes, because one cost of a project such as this – and we all have one that we take up right from when we’re very young – is that we can hardly be ourselves. We’re managing all the time, creating a facade. We’re manipulating others so that they’ll see us just the way we want to be seen, and no other. And so that we can see ourselves the way we want too.
Perhaps it begins when we gradually start to feel how desperate we are. How out of touch with ourselves and life. When we start to feel how distant we are from ourselves. And when we get so tired – tired of all the effort and hyper-attentiveness keeping up such a project entails.
And when our efforts fall apart, amidst all the confusion and uncertainty, the pain and bewilderment, we can begin to experience ourselves fully as human beings at last. Beautiful, contradictory, and flawed. And then, instead of bringing the world an act, a carefully constructed fiction, we can gradually begin to bring ourselves in a more honest, present, and generous way.
Like I said, if we’re lucky.
So what’s your secret project?
And are you prepared to begin to let it crumble?