What’s in a Question? A vital ingredient to help is times of loss, pain and upheaval.
I admit my instinctual preference, I want answers and want to be in charge. But life does not bring that guarantee. A friend laughs each time she says to me: “So you want HEA?” Happily Ever After. There is no such existence. Life is not fair. Scott Peck, MD years ago in one of his first books, “The Road Less Traveled”, in the first paragraph frankly stated that life is not fair and until you own that fact you will have unrealistic expectations. It is a step into adult maturity to own that life is not fair.
QUEST, the first word in the title has much depth if pondered. QUEST is the core of the word: to seek, to desire to find; to be on a journey. The words we put to that journey, that quest is far more important than we realize. I have found in walking with people as a therapist and spiritual companion that “why” questions are 99% of the time circular. You get no where with ‘why’ questions. For reasons ‘why’ bad things happen, a major death, illness or divorce for example, rarely have satisfying ‘why’ answers. There generally is not an answer to that question.
The reason there is no answer is because it is an ‘external question’. Looking for answers at hard times outside of yourself leaves us spinning internally, our mind riding a roller coaster or hamster wheel at best. External questions are ‘naval gazing’ and thwart evolutionary progress and insights into your world and experience. A ‘why me’ question begs the ‘why not me?’ question.
Esther Frankel, PhD and rabbinic scholar states: “nonproductive questions tend to be ruminative, rehashing things from the past that cannot be undone.” 1 No one is elite or privileged to escape the normal processes of loss, pain and the struggle for right ourselves and finding the new path for all the ingredients to the old path that has been permanently altered.
‘Internal’ questions are empowering; they bring movement, curiosity: QUEST. And note I do not say they bring definitive answers. Internal questions engages one in decision making, not standing still or being stuck. The internal quest is about discovery that can lead to transformation.
I want to clarify that stages of grief have significant times of shock, disorientation, feeling lost and intense pain. What I am discussing is the journey through loss, after the shock begins to lessen and staying on the path of discovering this new space, your new place, etc.
Letty Russell, a renowned feminist theology states: learning to live with the questions and not have the answers is maturity. We don’t tolerate ambiguity or not knowing with much comfort. Here are some suggestions to approach staying on the quest, the path to what is new and to be learned?
QUESTions for work internally.
“A good question opens us to unknown possibilities, to the future…2
- What can I learn from this? What meaning? Learn about myself and the world from the experience? New things for sure but which also includes letting go of myths and fantasies of how life really is.
- Where is God/Divine in this? It is a time to be alert…look around and even acknowledge the beauty I see, although it may feel as if I can looking through a clouded lens. The important thing is to be watching…be alert.
- Who do I wish to be? My life has changed; I can’t map the path, but I can choose to stay on the journey of questions. I can watch for open doors, I can go exploring. What are the possibilities? Living is not over, changed for ever yes, but not over. We go on living within a new reality.
I have core values that have gotten me this far, what do I need to lean on that forms ‘who do I wish to be’ with this unexpected experience.
That’s the ‘QUEST’ we are called to in a time of intense challenges in the midst of feeling lost and void. Evolution, God working in us is never over, unless we close the door.
1Frankel, Estelle (2017). The Wisdom of Not Knowing: Discovering a Life of Wisdom by Embracing Uncertainty. Shambala Publications, Boulder, CO.
2IBID, pg 54.
©Kay F. Klinkenborg, MA August, 2022
Retired: RN, LMFT, Clinical Member AAMFT