Several years ago, I started seeing a counselor. At the end of one 45 minute session, he summed me up in one sentence: "you don't ask enough questions." I was shocked because he was absolutely right and I knew it in that moment. I took things at face value, I didn't explore options, I trusted that other people thought the same as me when talking about their intentions and I didn't look at things from all the angles...and, well, I didn't ask questions.
Why didn't I ask questions? Ten years later, I still don't ask enough questions and I am still working through this. Part of it was my first marriage--physical abuse is enough to make you stop asking questions real fast. And even though that part was rather short-lived, the fear of it kept me in my place as the supportive wife. And why??? Why did being hit lead me to do everything I possibly could to avoid it happening again except walk away? Looking back, that seems ludicrous! But it was quite effective. I learned to keep my feelings to myself, to not ask about behaviors that didn’t match words, and to not ask for basic things that one should expect from a partner. I buried my head firmly in the sand and made every attempt to keep the peace, avoid difficult conversations that might lead to a fight, and to be as good as possible so that I would be worth choosing, to be worth loving.
I teach my girls to ask questions. Most of the time, I love theirs. So why didn't I embrace this for myself? Part of it was how I was raised. There simply was not room in my family for discussion about opposing views. There was absolutely no room to disagree with my parents and even less room for questions in my religion. If I came up with a different answer, not only was it the wrong one, but the implication was that I wasn't doing the right things to get the right answer. There’s nothing quite like being told to go pray again to make you learn to doubt yourself and not even bother asking anymore. It didn’t matter that my heart was screaming at me….I simply dismissed it as not understanding or feeling like I didn’t fit in because there was something wrong with me. The longer I felt like there was something was wrong with me, the more I was able to numb the sound of my heart screaming. I stopped questioning things that didn't make sense to me and I stopped asking questions when something I saw was different than what I was told.
The day that therapist told me I didn’t ask enough questions was the day I decided to start. But I didn’t really. Sure, I made surface changes--I followed my curiosity to try new things, meet new people, and started to enjoy life in ways that were even more beautiful and full of joy than I had previously. But I didn't yet know that I wasn’t willing to go deep enough and made several more life altering choices without asking enough questions. I wanted my fairytale love story to be true and didn't look closely enough because deep down, I knew it wasn't--I was too full of fear. I was full of fear that I would discover I really was broken. I was full of fear that I would have to make different choices when the answers I found didn’t match what I desperately wanted to be true.
Life has a funny way of pushing us where we need to go. Finding myself in the midst of a series of horror-inducing events with my children and another painful marriage, I sunk to the absolute lowest I have ever been. I buried my head in the sand even more in an attempt to dull the sound of my heart screaming that what I was experiencing wasn’t okay. I doubled down on old habits in an attempt to pretend my reality was different than it actually was. But one day, I could ignore it no longer. I hit my rock bottom and knew something had to change.
I remembered what that therapist had told me. My first question was to google where I found a coaching program designed specifically for wives of alcoholics. This literally gave me the framework to learn how to ask questions, to get curious about my own self instead of focusing on being a victim to someone else's choices, and changed my whole life. I started asking questions again. Mostly of myself. I remembered that when I had previously dug into my religious history, I found an incredible amount of beauty that did not balance out the parts I couldn’t accept. I was able to incorporate that beauty into my life while letting go of what didn't work for me. I held onto the knowledge that what I had learned in that process enhanced my life, even though it changed it dramatically. And I determined I was ready to do the same to save my own life. I let go of the desperate plea to the heavens to save my marriage and asked for guidance in each step of discovery. I let go of the outcome in order to embrace curiosity to learn, to grow, to see what was real. I asked myself what I really wanted in life. I asked myself what my goals were. I learned about what my guiding values were. I learned what I like and don’t like, I started trying new things again and exploring this beautiful world again. I remembered what it was like to feel joy in my body, in my heart, in my mind, and in my soul. I learned so much about myself--all of the things that make me who I am! And in the process, I fell completely in love with myself for the first time ever in my life. I fell in love with who I truly am instead of constantly feeling like a failure for not being the woman I thought I was supposed to be. I could no longer put off the toughest questions of all--why was I allowing myself to be treated the way I was? What was actually wrong with me? Was I actually worthless? And if I wasn’t--and I wasn’t--then what? Why was I okay being with a man who didn’t trust or respect or value me, even though I had done nothing to warrant that treatment? I learned how to look at my life as an observer and got super curious about the answers to all of these questions. I wanted to understand my reality, to be able to make the best choices for my future. I had to stop being afraid of the answers and dig really deep. I dug deep. And yep, my life changed again. Dramatically. And again, it was for the better. And again, it was letting go of the desired outcome and being willing to ask tough questions, examine the answers, and make choices based on what is real.
You see, curiosity isn’t just children looking under rocks or trying a new sport. Curiosity makes our lives better by showing us that there is so much more than meets the eye. It teaches us to embrace the process and let go of the outcome. It allows us to learn so much more about ourselves and our surroundings, to connect more deeply with each other, and to make choices based in reality and information. It allows us to discover why we do what we do and determine what we want to create.
If you’re ready to go deep into curiosity and learn more about yourself, ready to fall more in love with yourself, and to get serious about creating the life you love, schedule a free discovery call today. I can’t wait to chat with you about how you can use curiosity to tackle whatever your next steps turn out to be.
Much love to you, my friend.