Two weeks ago, Lisa posted here Michael's parting question from his seminar: "I would do anything to complete my goal. Just don't ask me to do ______, because that's just not me." He said our first answer would not be the real nut keeping us from our goal. Rather our first answers would be planted in our protective identities and it might take some digging to get to the essential root of what keeps us from accomplishing our goals. (Insert collective groan here)
As we prepare for the feast of Thanksgiving, I've been thinking about gratitude and what I'm thankful for. I've come to realize that there is room for identity and essence even here. My first answer when I ask, Keely, what are you thankful for this year? is pretty standard identity stuff: my job, my friends (you all rock!), my family.
These are all true, don't get me wrong. But they are also surface answers, protective answers, easy answers to share at the thanksgiving table before moving on to the main course.
So where does the essence come in? For me, it's when I peel back the layers of the onion by asking why.
Why am I thankful for my job? Beyond paying the bills, this job over the last nearly eight years has engaged my brain and my heart. It has challenged me, nurtured me, provided a safe space to grow and learn and grow some more.
Why am I thankful for my friends? Because when I had a really bad day last week, they rallied around me, offering support without telling me I was silly or lacking or to "just get over it."
Why am I thankful for my family? Because being in their space makes me feel - everything from grief to rejoicing to kooky humor to love. My family is present moment hijinks and long ago baggage and future hopes and dreams.
So there you have it. Thanksgiving gifts in a Michael Hauge onion sauce. As writers, that's what we're supposed to do, yes? Peel the layers of our characters' protective identity onion away until we reach their essential core? (yes, yes, this metaphor would be even better if onions actually had cores...maybe on the rewrite...)
What are you thankful for this season? What are your characters thankful for? Identity vs. essence: Is it either/or for you? An onion of many layers? Or do you make sense of it using some other construction or metaphor?