Stop asking questions if you want any peace and quiet
There’s a misconception that asking questions and being a curious person leads to effortless clarity, enlightenment, and having all the answers.
The opposite is true, in my experience.
When I was young, all my friends dutifully sang the “Clean up, clean up” song along with Barney, while I refused. Why do I have to clean up, Mom? That question made my mother’s life more difficult.
When I was in high school, most of my friends were going to expensive colleges far away from home, while I racked up credits at a local junior college then transferred to ASU. Do I need the 4-year college experience if it’s going to land me in a load of debt? That question made my life more complicated in the college years.
When my son was three days old, my pediatrician wrung her hands over his “slow growth curve” while I fought off feeling like a failure. Why should my son match the curve if he’s a unique being with a unique growth pattern? That question made my son’s life less complicated but placed a burden of responsibility upon my husband and me.
The answers I find I don’t always like, agree with, or understand. Answers leave me with many more questions than before. And I believe that’s how it should be; most questions don’t have One Answer, they have many answers.
I’ve found that asking questions to make things instantly make sense leads to discouragement and confusion. Instead, I see myself on a continuum of understanding. I understand a little more today, a little less tomorrow. I’ve become OK with uncertainty (begrudgingly!) because I despise standing still.
The answer shouldn’t measure a question’s worth. Sometimes the point of the question is to ask it. To voice something. To be vulnerable. Sometimes I just need to hear myself ask a question to know the answer or find the path to an answer.
Being curious isn’t a formula for tranquility, it’s the path to so much more. Ask questions for curiosity’s sake, parse the answers, come up with the next round of questions. Little by little knowledge adds up to understanding, and in the process, fear is banished.
Fear hates questions. Fear thinks questions are judgy, mean, and intrusive. Fear would rather we all leave well alone and come up with answers that are figments of our imagination.
Asking questions is scary business. At one of our many visits to the pediatrician’s office before my son’s weight gain steadied, I contemplated the worst of my fears. Would my son ever gain weight? Was I cavalier by insisting on breastfeeding? I knew the question I had to ask my doctor, and I was terrified. But it wasn’t until I gathered up my nerve and asked, “What is the worst that could be wrong with my baby? What are you looking for?” that I found clarity. The doctor stumbled over words and shifted her gaze and had no answer. She had nothing concrete to tell me and no recommendations. She was scaring my husband and me when she had no reason. After that, I was able to move forward confidently, focus on my baby, and stop letting the damn growth chart ruin my days.
Asking questions is scary, but to me, not asking and living in willful ignorance is even worse. Fear wins when questions are silenced. Answers, no matter how bad they are, are worth finding. Questions, no matter how intimidating they are, are worth asking. We wake up each day with the option to grow or to stagnate, and asking questions is my favorite way to grow.
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Also published on Medium.