Thursday, February 4, 2010

Because I said so

Every time I sit down to write lately, a Greek chorus of negativity (roughly the size of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir) kicks in. Much of this is the everyday, run-of-the-mill self-criticism. But there's also a subtler recurring theme emerging: "Why?"

It comes in many forms. "Why this?" "Why now?" "So what?" "Why is your house such a mess?" "Why not take the dog for a walk instead?"

That one little word can stop me in my tracks. I start an essay, and within two pages I'm wondering why anyone would want to read it. I get an idea for a children's book, and in the back of my mind I'm thinking, "But what's the point?"

I've always been more comfortable doing things that come neatly packaged with a ready answer to the question "Why?" Usually some form of, "Because someone else wants (or expects) me to." "Because someone is paying me to." "Because this will earn me someone's approval." Etc. And lately, "Because the kids need me to."

Meanwhile, I put off those tasks that have a less obvious (or simply more personal) justification. Indefinitely.

Of course, these are precisely the things I promised myself I'd tackle during this sabbatical. So it makes perfect sense that, in finally facing this hang-up head on, I'm stirring up a hornet's nest of "Why?"

I've been working on some new answers:

  • It's fun.
  • It's new.
  • It makes me happy.
  • It scares me.
  • I feel like it.
  • I don't feel like it.
  • It feels right.
  • I dare you.

  • Then again, the answers aren't really the problem, are they? What I really need are some better questions. Instead of "Why?":

  • How?
  • What next?
  • What's stopping you?
  • What if ... ?
  • What's the worst that could happen?
  • And of course ... Why the hell not?

  • If I can't stop questioning myself, these should at least prompt some more interesting answers.


    1. You're doing such great work!! Why not??
      ~ Carolyn

    2. I find that even being willing to _face_ the hard questions feels good. Painful and scary, but better than hiding from them.