Sunday, September 28, 2008

When the Student Is Ready...

...the teacher will appear.

Or so the saying goes.

In my case, though, the teacher appeared this afternoon, through a good friend at church.

Last night, I posted in a state of a PMS, bad week at work, the world is a mess freakout. I was still in freakout, on the verge of tears mode when I got up and left for church and made the 40-minute drive. Today it was 40 minutes since I'm in the middle of a housesitting gig. I stopped at a Dunkin Donuts for breakfast and asked for a turkey sausage egg white flatbread, and got a vegetable one instead.

I was really feeling like I was living in the book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

Only in my case, it felt more like Kitten and Her Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Life.

So I went to church. A good friend of mine was presenting the service, and I didn't want to miss it. I was in the middle of sipping my iced tea and being lost in my state of neuroticism when she said something that immediately brought me back to earth:

"You are not your thoughts."

Okay, so if I'm not my thoughts, what the hell am I? How do I control the thoughts that so often have a way of wrapping themselves around my brain like tangled yarn?

What the hell am I, then? Why am I here?

I wanted to leave right after the service, as enjoyable as it was, but my car was blocked in because I couldn't find a proper parking space. Once again, another chapter in Kitten and Her Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Life.

I stayed for discussion. I wanted to leave after discussion, as enjoyable as it was, but the friend I had mentioned at the beginning of this post approached me and asked,

"Can I ask you a few questions?"

At least he approached me with a smile on his face. I was still annoyed, however, because I just wanted to go home and hide for the rest of the night. Well, I knew I had to get back to the housesitting gig and the dogs, but I needed to stop at my home, because I hadn't seen Mags and Gabs in two days and we all deserved time with each other.

During the service, one other idea that my friend had mentioned was, "If you need to talk to someone, don't be afraid to talk, no matter what's wrong."

Well, my friend had some questions for me, so I sat down, prepared to give him yes or no answers, and keep the conversation short, so I could see my furry friends.

I gave him answers, all right, but I didn't just nod and smile.

Instead, I spewed.

I went off about everything that was bothering me at the moment, how grumpy I was, and the general feeling of helplessness I felt with the world's problems. I then launched into my continuing struggles with the Catholic church, and telling him that I didn't know what to believe anymore.

"I just want concrete answers to my questions!" I moaned at one point. "I don't know what to believe anymore! Do I believe in God, a higher power, I don't know! How do I define it?"

My friend smiled. "Some questions don't have answers, you know."

"I have a lot of trouble with that fact."

"Have you ever tried living the questions?"

I frowned.

My friend smiled again. "Sometimes it's better to live the questions than it is to find the answers. Sometimes the search is more satisfying than the answer itself."

I sighed. "Sometimes I feel so naive compared to other people."

"Is that always a bad thing?"

"I think so. I've always associated naivete with either stupidity or a lack of awareness."

"Again, is that always a bad thing?"

What should have been a ten minute conversation turned out to be almost an hour. I really needed to talk to someone, anyone, about what was on my mind, since I was on the verge of tears all weekend long. But I was so glad that I had that conversation.

I am not my thoughts, but one thought has stayed with me all day.

Live the questions.

That's gonna be a hard one for me to wrap my mind around.

Who am I? What the hell am I doing here?

Is it possible to stay happy through the tough times?

Well, at least that question has a quick answer: Yes.

A friend of mine invited me over to her house for dinner, and her brother and sister-in-law joined us, accompanied by their two-year-old son. After dinner, the little boy was in a playful mood, and you couldn't help but smile as he played and clapped and giggled. I hung a spoon from my nose, played peekaboo with him, and had him imitate me as I touched my head, nose, cheeks and chin. We pretended that his little crocs were telephones, and we talked on the shoe phones for a little while.

There's nothing like a smiling, playful toddler to lift one's bad mood.

And now, I'm feeling quite content, thank you very much.

I guess I'm not the character in Kitten and Her Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Life anymore.

I'm gonna have to find a new title for my life.

Kitten's Guide to Living: Embrace the Questions!

Maybe my friend will co-author the book with me.

P.S. This post is in very bad need of editing, since it encompasses so many thoughts I had today, but I had to include them all. Hope you understand!


Jane R said...

The "living in the questions" is from the poet Rainer Maria Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet" - wonderful stuff.

I think there is also a book, maybe two, with a title like Living in the Questions. I seem to remember the author is a Unitarian Universalist (UUs are big on embracing the questions) but I am not sure. But anyway, the original for this living the questions is Rilke, that's for sure, and many people have picked up this wisdom.

Including you!

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