Asking the Tough Questions

thNever ask questions if you aren’t prepared to deal with the answers.

I don’t even remember where I first heard that, probably on some lame, cliche-filled TV show or right after a pregnant pause in a dramatic film. But isn’t it true that some of the most poignant turns of phrase show up in the oddest places? With great power comes great responsibility anyone? Luckily for me, I honestly don’t care where it comes from, if Alvin and the Chipmunks said it, or if it came from Al Gore, or even if it’s a catch phrase for Joey from Friends. I take every single one that interests me and I analyze it to see how it could be applied to my life, then I share what I’ve learned with others.

Question #1: Where is this relationship going?

This may surprise you, but before I got married the first time the longest relationship I had been in was a year in length, and three months of that time were spent estranged. So the question was indeed very valid for me. Was I ready at that point to analyze a relationship and see if it could be long term? Or was I just in it for the fun and excitement that came from being with someone new, and then with someone else new, et al. Honestly, my answer to that question back then was always, “This relationship is status quo, which is good enough for me.” It’s no wonder my relationships lasted such a short amount of time.

Question #2: Where do you plan to be in five years?

It’s not as easy a question as you would think. So much happens in the course of life that five years can be an eternity made up of a series of shifts and changes that define and redefine who we are. If you had asked me the question five years ago I highly doubt I would have said I would be here, doing what I’m doing, thinking the thoughts I’m thinking. I know I wouldn’t have said I’d be here writing a blog right now. In fact, back then it was all about writing for myself, and not sharing with others. And the big problem with plans is that we have a tendency to try and fit our lives into those plans and then to judge ourselves on whether or not we hit our objectives.

Question #3: How are you?

If that’s not a loaded question, then one just simply doesn’t exist, except we tend to use it as a place holder, as another way of saying “Hi.” Imagine if everyone you asked that question of actually answered you honestly. You would be hearing mortifying stories all day long, and you would probably also encounter a fair share of tears and accusations. People don’t exist in a vacuum. They affect others, and even though we get pretty good at hiding those effects, if we ever just let down that wall the whoosh of emotions would go flooding through the breach. Every once in a while I answer that question honestly and I can see the other person taking a step back. Whoa, buddy. I didn’t mean it. Then don’t say it.

Question #4: Why do you act the way you do?

Usually this question is asked when someone is frustrated. There’s someone at my job who is socially awkward. He doesn’t respect boundaries because they don’t cross his mind. And the one question I most want to ask him is the one right there. I want to understand why he acts the way he acts, but every time I’m about to ask it I hesitate. Because I realize that I don’t really want to know him that well. I don’t want to know about what really happened in his home growing up that made him the way he is. What I really want to ask him is if there’s any scenario where he might stop doing things that way.

Question #5: Are you happy?

Too often we don’t even know if we’re happy, or more accurately we know we’re not happy but we don’t know why. If we were to seriously consider the question we might see that we’ve never been happy. And what can we do about that? Or maybe we’ll see that the last time we were truly happy was a long time ago and we can analyze it to find out why that time made us happy. What variables existed then that don’t exist now? There was this song by Michelle Branch that went, “Could you look me in the eye, and tell me that you’re happy now?” Well, can you?

Sam

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