I’ve been thinking a lot about a question we often ask strangers; ”...and what do you do?”
La Isla Bonita
As a family when we go on holiday, somewhere hot with a pool – we always start with the rather selfish intention of not really speaking to anyone, to dull the pain of the fact we can’t afford a private villa with a pool, except once in Menorca.
Inevitably, you do get talking, a few pleasantries and then usually, “And what do you do?”
I can answer that really quickly, with an answer which describes a role and a purpose instantly. I’ve become smarter at judging my poolside companions and tailoring my response, I’ve made the mistake of saying ‘Social Worker’ a couple of times...now I might say, “I work for a small charity” or something vague (but worthy!) I could answer, ‘Renegade Priest’ or ‘Lumberjack’ they’d at least be an opening gambit for a conversation.
It is a great question though, “And what do you do?” gets to the heart of the purpose of your life. A nicer, more open way of asking “What is the point of your existence?”
Isn’t she lovely? Isn’t she wonderful?
If you are lucky enough to meet the Queen - and if you are prepared to bow and scrape to the apparent superiority, accept the divine rights, ignore the sack loads of ill-gotten inherited wealth and brush aside the systemic national inequality her office embodies – you may discover that the Queen is also a fan of the question.
That is probably treason, or at least something to do with GDPR. I’m sure she is lovely.
Anyway you can see from the cartoons where this is going. What would people we support say in response to that question?
Would people even ask? Is that because the holiday makers would not expect people to do anything?
How quickly would people’s answers describe a positive role, a sense of purpose, some meaning?
We routinely organise people’s lives into a series of often random activities – in order to prove to regulators that WE are busy, we have to prove that people we support are busy, so we encourage them to be busy, so activity planners are created - any empty slot on an activity planner has to be filled with an activity. Busy is the goal. Repeat. Review. Repeat.
A full week or a fulfilled life? If I wrote out my own activity planner, my weeks are often pretty similar and often routine. But they are also filled with love, struggle, fun, anxiety, chance and ultimately purpose. Often ill defined purpose, and unfulfilled purpose, but purpose nonetheless.
I asked someone we support that question – he is an artist, accomplished, talented and has exhibited. He didn’t say “I’m an artist” he gave me a run down of his weekly activities. Perhaps I asked it badly, perhaps he’s not interested in being an artist.
Going back to the poolside, I can visualise a bit of chatter around the pool, “see that bloke over there? He’s a Renegade Priest” – or – “oh yeah him he’s a lumberjack”
“him? Oh yeah, he does some activities...”
And what do you do? feels like a question worth exploring though. That might become my purpose for a bit.
Songs in the Key of Citizenship;
I’m a lumberjack
La Isla Bonita
Isn’t She Lovely
Past the Point of rescue