Category: introspection

Staying the course

Ever had a season in your life when everything that is constant in your personal universe decides to change? One moment you’re putzing along in your little boat on a lazy, little river of which you know every bend, and the next you’re speeding down foamy rapids that don’t know the meaning of lazy. I’ve had times when big changes tossed me out of the boat for a cold, hard swim (no more of those, thank you) and I’ve also had times when the deviated course made for a thrilling ride (the changes were for the most part good), but that didn’t mean I could just lay back and trail my hand in the water – know what I mean?

There is this little joke spinning about the planet that says if you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans. We smile at that, but really I don’t think plan-making makes God double over in holy chuckles. I don’t think he’s the cosmic prankster some have made him out to be. I think life truly is what happens to us when we’re busy making other plans. It’s great that we get to make plans. But it’s also imperative that we adapt to the unplanned. Making plans is smart, forward-thinking, reasonable. Adapting to the unplanned is exactly the same, I think. Some people like change, some don’t. But change is like rainy days and the fifteenth of April and trips to the dentist. It will come, whether we like it or not.

I am in one of the seasons where the river is changing its course; it’s all — for the most part — pleasant and exciting. This is the time to sit up, take the oars (if nothing else than for something to hold onto) and enjoy the ride. The water will settle in time and there will be a new normal for awhile. I don’t want to not get there. And I don’t want to close my eyes to all the sights and sounds around me while my boat heads down an unfamiliar stretch of water. There are things we learn when we’re not where we’ve always been, and not doing what we’ve always done. “The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction not a destination.” – Carl Rogers

The best stories I’ve read and certainly the best I’ ve written are the ones about characters responding to change.

So here’s to a more thrilling life story! See you ’round the bend…

 

How to ask big questions

When my husband was active duty in the Air Force, he had a creative commander who decided not to call the weekly staff meeting the weekly staff meeting. Instead, he called it The How Goes It.

A grammatical nightmare of a sentence, I know, but I like the image this conjures. Yes, it was still a staff meeting and yes, staff members still had to brief the commander (military members always brief, never explain or tell) on the week’s events. But How Goes It seemed to imply you could add what It meant to you personally. If all the commander wanted to know was the status of this and that, he could have called it What Goes It instead (which I know grammatically sounds far worse). But “how” invites interpretation, reflection, consideration. Like this:

Commander: How goes the widget line, captain?
Captain: It goes very well, sir!

Compare that with this:
Commander: What goes the widget line, captain?
Captain: We’ve counted 500, sir.

You would never know if that was good or bad. “How” invites the use of an adjective. Adjectives color our world with meaning. “What” asks only for a list or a number or an identifier. Meaning is always deeper than definition. I mean, you can define chocolate (i.e. what is chocolate? a brown confection made from cocoa beans) Or you can give chocolate meaning by asking how. “How is chocolate?” doesn’t sound like a nicely worded sentence, but I like it better. I can give meaning to chocolate better when I begin with the awkward “how” than the stiff “what.”

I’m thinking I need to ask myself more”how” questions. The last few months I have felt like I am at a crossroads of sorts. Usually when I have to decide which road to take, I ask myself what will happen if I go this way, what will happen if I go that way? Maybe I should be asking how questions. Like how will I be remembered if I go this way? How will I change? How will I grow? How much will I learn? How little? How will this fulfill my purpose? How will it hinder it? How will it honor my Creator? How did I get to this place of decision? How will I look at the next crossroads if I choose this way? If I choose that? How much will it cost me? How much am I willing to pay?

I was a reporter at a newspaper years ago. I know the importance of “what” questions. I know all the W questions are supposed to come first, and then the H question. But perhaps during times of self-reflection, it’s okay to begin with H. If what I am looking for is meaning rather than information, then maybe it’s not only okay to start with H, but the smarter choice. It doesn’t take me long to ask myself what in the world I am doing. But it sure seems like a deeper queston to ask myself how I am doing it.

‘Know what I mean?

Oops. Make that, “How what I mean?”