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The Question I Can't Ask

By Karen Wright

The sweet soothing sounds of the song Nightingale by Nora Jones stabbed me dead-center on a lazy drive home today. I've heard the tune many times, but never these words - never this clearly. "Does it seem like I'm looking for an answer to a question I can't ask?" Songwriters are geniuses of the soul. One sentence distilled the enormity of personal angst into a few haunting words.

Looking for answers - who isn't? We're all endlessly seeking advice, devouring how-to best sellers, and praying for divine guidance. Perpetually feeling that something isn't quite right with this life. Something's missing…or forgotten. Like rousing from a sound sleep and being lost in the haze between clarity and slumber. All askew.

But most, if asked, can't clearly articulate what it is they're trying to find an answer to. And that is the very reason the answer remains elusive. Or perhaps I should say: the reason the answer remains invisible. Answers aren't recognized as answers until the question forms. Until then, answers are just bits and piece of static.

In the past ten years I've become infatuated with questions. Not any particular questions. Just with the purpose and potential they innately possess. I imagine questions as cosmic crowbars prying open life's precious secrets. Asking the right question - at the right time, is like performing magic. What was hidden becomes clear; what was impossible dissolves into "of course!"

We're pretty good at asking certain types of questions. Especially the ones that deflect attention away from our own responsibilities and onto other peoples' choices, the economy, authority figures, acts of God. "So, why can't they do something about this?" Those questions - no problem. We have them down pat.

The problem is, deflecting questions never improves our lot in life. It's a shill game whose only purpose is to deceive us into believing that others need to solve our problems and answer our questions.

The real leverage of a question worth asking is to create an opening. A space void of glib comebacks. What are the questions worth asking? They are legion, but they all share one quality that is unmistakable - their answers are forged in impeccable Truth. Not the popular truth or the truth that easily allays confusion. But, a Truth that stops your heart and steals your breath. Just for a second. And in that second you know that you cannot lie and cannot avoid. There's no point - this isn't a game - it's your life and it's who you are.

  • Am I living a life that honors all I touch?
  • Are my relationships clean?
  • Do I serve that which is most important to me?
  • Can I tell the truth even when I feel shame?
  • Am I willing to let those I love be who they truly are?
  • Can I help more than I'm helping? Can I afford not to?
  • Can I hang on to who I am if it means being rejected by another?
  • Am I happy?
  • Do I know who I am - really?

Any one of these questions, if asked honestly and humbly, will reveal you to you. And you may not like what you see…at first. The answers may not be kind. They may not be what society says they should be. They may make you ashamed. It's not the answer which has made you feel what you feel. It's your judgment of yourself and falling short of the perfection you'd prefer to believe you are. Don't hide from the truth. It closes the door once again on your freedom.

We could argue all day about whether you are perfect or not - and what perfection is. But, the real issue here is that you will judge yourself to be imperfect and you will want to hide that from all eyes - even your own.

If you have judged that you are selfish or hurtful or weak - so be it. Notice that nothing catastrophic happened with the admission. As a matter of fact, just the opposite. To admit to yourself that you're selfish is to notice that you've chosen to live in a way that isn't what you want any more. If it was, you'd have never noticed being selfish. You just wouldn't be aware of it. Name it, let it be the truth, then let it go.

Yes, it is that easy. The actions and words and behaviors you've defined yourself by in the past were simply a choice. Predicated upon your belief that the choice would serve you. If it no longer does, choose again. If selfish feels wrong to you now, then be generous. Be loving. Be patient. Pick it up, put it on and just be that.

Do it for you. Do it because if feels better and you like your self more when you do. Don't do it to get the praise of others. They may not notice or may not notice the changed you. That doesn't matter. Remember, this is about living your truth as closely as you can each day. This is about living your life, forgiving missteps (yours and others), and being grateful that you've found your cosmic crowbar.

What is the question being asked of you?

Karen is author of The Sequoia Seed: Remembering the Truth of Who You Are, a great read for anyone who is seeking understanding or guidance, inspiration or clarity in his or her life.
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