In our family, there is an oft-told story about me when I was two or three years old. I was on a car trip with my grandparents and little sister before the holidays. My older sister and parents would join us in a few days. In the car I looked out the window and I kept asking questions. Finally, my grandmother tired of finding answers and she said, “I don’t know.” In toddler brashness, I responded, “Old people don’t know anything. Katy knows everything.” Katy is my big sister, seven years older. Little did I know that she made up stuff when she got tired of my constant questioning. My grandmother loved that story and never failed to remind me of it, laughing to show me that she always found humor, and not offense, at my childlike frankness and curiosity.
I never really outgrew the incessant questioning. Questioning feels as much a part of my identity as brown hair and my love of New Mexico. Lately, in grief, I haven’t asked as many questions. It feels odd and alien. In the last week or so, though, the questions have returned. It takes bravery for me to ask some of these questions. I feel their presence a comfort, and perhaps, I feel the slow return to myself.
This is what I have asked recently:
I asked my boss about a new job posting.
I asked a dear friend for forgiveness.
I asked a co-worker for help.
I asked a new friend to meet me for coffee.
I asked a new boyfriend for grace and the ending of our relationship, because I wasn’t ready to date.
I asked an editor to consider some of my ideas for new articles.
I asked my mother about one of her painful memories, because I wanted to know about deep forgiveness and redemption.
I prayed and asked for peace.
I asked a friend, with whom I had lost touch, who sent me a short message via LinkedIn, for her phone number so that we could talk.
I asked for an extension of a deadline.
I asked my running group’s coach for an informational interview so I could find out more about being a personal trainer.
I went to my favorite bookstore and asked them to order a book that I wanted, but was embarrassed to ask about because of its “self-help” category.
I asked an out-of-town friend to cancel and delay, yet again, a much-talked-about lunch outing.
I asked a dear friend, who is a new mother, how she was doing following her first two days back at work after maternity leave.
I asked for clarification about a boundary in a relationship.
I asked the universe about the meaning of international news and political news.
I felt blocked and asked where I should begin in my spiritual work.
I asked the building manager for repairs to be made in my apartment.
I asked myself if I was on the right path.
I asked myself to find self-love.
Some questions are more difficult to ask than others. Sometimes, it’s the answer we don’t really want to hear. Other times, the question and answer will go through revisions. Once in a while, a question takes our breath away. I realize that a question can be a starting point or the end. Knowledge and answers often come only after a time. As Rainer Maria Rilke said, “Live the questions now.”