Here’s The Thing

Figuring out how to deal with it would be easier if I had an outline. I could just move from point to point, only needing to fill in the details as I proceed. Knowing what I was doing wouldn’t be necessary. I would always just be following the outline. I could easily convince myself that I was my own person, acting on my own initiative, but that outline would always be there. Once I figured out how to complete the current step, I would know in advance what the next step would be, and the one after that, and the one after that. Maybe not my plan, but I could feel like it was my plan.

But what is the it in figuring out how to deal with it? Unfortunately, there is little difference whether it is life itself or the project I am working on today, whether it is how I spend my week or how to peel a banana. There is always an outline, a set of habitual steps or usual procedures. Most of the time and in most situations, I know what comes next. I need only follow the outline.

Now and then, I come across a situation, circumstance or problem where knowing what to do or how to proceed aren’t obvious. There appears not to be an outline. Nothing is telling me what’s next.

Here’s The Thing

When the situation, circumstance or problem passes – and they always eventually pass – I look back at what I did or didn’t do, how I dealt with whatever was going on. From that perspective, I assess my actions or lack of action. I now see what wasn’t apparent. I understand why I did or did not do this or that, what I could have or shouldn’t have done. I am able to retrospectively recognize the outline I followed or perhaps the outline I should have followed. The outline was there for me had I been smart enough, clever enough or insightful enough to see it and then follow it.

I’m not thinking that there is always a best way or right way to proceed. Even so, I do think that there are always better ways and worse ways, more correct and more incorrect ways to deal with things. Sometimes the outline is explicit, including specific step by step instructions; and sometimes it’s little more than guidelines or implicit suggestions. Even so, the outline is there, encouraging me to follow along.

Here’s The Thing

Since the outline is always there either prospectively or retrospectively, seeing it doesn’t seem like it should be such a hit and miss kind of thing for me. Even more confounding is thinking that I see the outline but learning later that the outline I picked was the wrong outline. I don’t get it. A good or at least sufficient outline is always there, so why do I sometimes pick the wrong outline or skip over the outline thing altogether?

I’m embarrassed to admit to how many times I have glanced at the instructions for one thing or another and tossed them aside or even worse, didn’t even bother with a glance. Granted, that usually works out but sometimes things don’t quite get the outcome I expect. More often than I want to admit, the outcome is far worse than I could have imagined. That happens with written instructions but also comes up when I don’t listen to the directions or advice of people who should and do know better than I do. I just plough ahead.

At other times, I know I don’t know what to do or how to do things but decide to proceed anyway. I tell myself things like I’ll fake it until I make it or perhaps convince myself that I can get away with making it up as I go along. Since I’m confessing, the truth is that I think I’m smart enough and clever enough to get away with just acting like I know what I’m doing. …