Ask Me Your Questions
In the heat of our argument, the red face in front of me shouted: “You never ask me anything!” I looked at him, sincerely surprised, and responded: “Because I don’t have any questions!” It was one of my finer moments where dry humor sent someone else over the edge besides me. Yet over the years I have had opportunity to address the underlying issue: do I have the personal intellectual humility to admit that I do not, in fact, know everything about every topic? Am I able to put myself even momentarily at the feet of someone else and ask a question that will help one or both of us?
In the course of what I do throughout the week, oftentimes I fill out nursing home forms with patients and/or their families. One of the things that always leaves me a bit misty-eyed is the couples that announce to me how many years they have been married … to each other. It is typical that I teasingly ask them, “No kidding? Just to each other? All those years?” … and then I give them my leading-the-witness, inquisitive face and press in with almost a clandestine whisper: “So. What’s your secret?” Not only do I presume there IS a secret –because so few people are successful at long term marriage – but I also presume they are willing to share it with me. They do not disappoint me. Ever.
One woman smiled pleasantly and stated: “I always let him have the last word.” I raised my eyebrows. The husband chipped in: “And it is always, ‘Yes, Dear.’” We all have a good laugh.
I have had the privilege to actually hear the emotion of adoration in the voice of more than one husband as he references his wife. That always bolsters my confidence in the male portion of humanity. I find myself sitting in a room which, while for the most part is just an ordinary hospital room, transforms into a sanctuary of sorts by the way that elder couples are present to each other in their critical health moments. I listen. I gauge my interview process carefully, as sensitively as I can. In the cases where I am on the phone with a spouse long distance, how beautiful to hear him say, “I can hardly wait to see her again. We’ve been married for 59 years.” God bless them. They have taken the time to crack the code of unselfishness, patience, thoughtfulness, and sense of humor.
I do not have one particular person that I am needing to be patient with – other than my three dogs – so generally it falls on me to try to be patient with whomever crosses the grid at the time. That is a variable task, to be sure.
While there is a lot of talk about “mindfulness” lately (what am I putting into my body/mind/spirit that kind of might not really be good for it?) I propose we raise the bar to talk more about “thoughtfulness.” Thoughtfulness is really other-directed-mindfulness. The other day, I bought a lottery ticket for myself … and then I added an extra … I gave it some thought as to whom I would share it with. I guess I picked the right person because she laughed at it, and then even though it was a “loser,” kept it on her desk for a couple of days just to look at it. Sometimes in the winter I worry that thoughtfulness will backfire – like, if I scrape snow off a windshield of someone’s vehicle in the work parking lot, what if I set off the car alarm? But then I go ahead and do it because by that time, if it is bitter, bitter cold, I have already used up my cache of PG-rated Swear Words and can turn the act into a sort of penance for my sins. With my luck, the good deed of scraping a windshield probably only “counts” towards the swear words I just used on my own windshield. Don’t mark me down as a hero, I’ve only done this once or twice. It’s the concept I love, not the deed itself. LOL.
It seems to me that “sense of humor” covers a lot of beneficial ground. I have warned people that tell me I am funny not to compliment me because it will just encourage me. I get funnier for the people that find me funny… either that or they have lowered their standards consistently. An elderly relative of mine spoke a truism to my grandmother long before I showed up on the planet: “Josephine, if you can’t laugh at something silly, what can you laugh at?” Let us laugh, then. Let us search out, find, and enjoy the incongruities of human life for they are many and varied. Laughing helps get our endorphins up and I suspect it affects our physical and psychological well-being in more ways than we know. I can’t remember the last time someone made me roar with laughter.
Take a look at television. Or not. After 30 years of not having even basic cable, I’ve got it now and
Dear Reader, you may think I analyze stuff too much. You will not be the first to suggest this. But actually it is my vehicle for asking Life questions. I ask myself questions. I ask God questions. I ask other people questions. Hidden within this asking process, comes the possibility of actually grasping the finer points of Life’s Mysteries. I think it is only at the point when I stand face-to-face with my Maker and He advises me, “Ask Me your questions,” that I will actually have run out of questions. I will be standing in the middle of the Answer.