If you’ve spent much time around Alex Jadad, you know that one of his favourite questions to ask people is “What is your verb?” I’ve heard him ask this question many times, and often witnessed the recipient’s expression quickly fade from a smile to deer-in-the-headlights. I don’t think he means to cause panic or anxiety. I believe he asks this question to satisfy his own verb: to question. But it’s also a great question to get to know someone; their response most certainly provides insight into their core being.
I’ve often wondered how I would answer that question when he inevitably asks me. I’ve spent the better part of two years reflecting on this question, partly to be prepared but mostly because I revel in self-discovery.
There was a time when I felt my verb was “to grow“, but I now feel that was a cop-out. I think all humans strive to grow in some way – simply, people don’t like to stay the same forever – and that your verb is the way you like to achieve that growth. So after reflecting on my self-discoveries guided by Ken Robinson’s book, I realize my verb is “to piece”.
Piecing is a term that comes from quilting. It’s the act of taking different pieces of fabric (or parts, often of various sizes, shapes, and colours) and stitching them together into one larger piece (or whole).
In those moments where time doesn’t exist, when I am at my happiest, I am piecing. It could be tangible things like piecing a quilt, putting together a puzzle, or building my own headboard, or it could be more abstract like reading a mystery novel or finding the best way to move forward on a project. In all of these examples, I take great pleasure in collecting all the pieces, thinking about how they could fit together, beginning to put the pieces together, then readjusting my approach as new ideas, pieces or challenges come to light.
“To piece” is quite similar to “to construct”*, “to build”, or “to assemble”, but I find those terms don’t fit quite right. To me, they imply that there is one or a few ways to do something, or to do something right. You assemble Ikea furniture. You build a barn. But with quilting, there is no one way to stitch pieces together, and there’s no one “right” finished product. The same pieces could be assembled in any number of ways, each creating a unique finished product that of the same quality.
I naturally gravitate toward activities where I remix, edit, recycle, or repurpose existing pieces. I’m not so interested in creating or generating new pieces or parts, but rather in taking those that already exist and putting them together with my own slant.
Knowing my verb is a good step toward happiness. Now to find opportunities to piece every day.
Do you know what your verb is? How do you find ways to do it every day?
*Note: I purposefully left “to construct” out of my exploration because I have not fully considered the philosophical aspects of construction. In due time.