Ask the Question. Get the Answer.

One of the first individuals I vividly remember identifying with in my life was actually not a real person but rather a character in a poem. In high school, we read "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T.S. Eliot. The first time I read it, I felt like I knew this person, like I was him and he was me. 

We watch J. Alfred Prufrock struggle over the course of his life as he ponders whether or not to ask "an overwhelming question." We never learn exactly what the question is that he wants to ask, we only know that he never asks it. Prufrock repeats that there will be time to ask the question, and then he ages and he ages, and he analyzes and and he analyzes, and then it's too late. He's a man gripped by fear and paralyzed by what the answer to a question he is too afraid to ask will be.

I've been thinking lately about my own "overwhelming questions." What questions am I afraid to ask? Or rather, what answers am I afraid to hear?

There are two rough types of questions in my mind: the Scary and the Clarifying, although I could argue there's a third because the two frequently overlap (the Sclarifying?).

The Scary
These are the questions most likely to make us sweat when we think about asking them (of ourselves or others). Things like:
- Do you love me?
- Will you promote me?
- Should I take that job out of state?
- Will you help me?

My former life coach, Chelsea, would frequently remind me to pay close attention to the things that make me sweat (and for me, also the things that make me want to vomit, which is slightly more graphic and I apologize for that). That is some rock solid information my body is giving me in that moment. Nine times out of ten, it means I've got a question that needs to be asked. (It does not mean, however, that I'll get the answer I want.)

These questions are scary and make us sweat, not because the questions themselves are scary, but because the answers are terrifying, more specifically, the stories we tell ourselves about the answers before we actually know them are terrifying. 

The Scary questions (now we know this means the supposed Scary answers) are the ones we tell ourselves could leave us feeling like a failure, disappointed, or hurt. These are the ones that tap into the dark, cobwebby part of our brains where we store away things like, "I'm not good enough," "I'm unworthy," "I'm wrong," etc. ad nauseam. These are the questions that challenge those lies--because that is what they are--to come into the light and prove themselves. And in my experience, every single time I have challenged one of those lies to stand up and prove itself, I ended up proving the truth instead: "I am enough," "I am worthy," I am not a mistake."

But here's the best part--a lot of times, like a lot a lot, when we do ask the Scary questions, we do get the outcomes we want or something even better! And do you know why? Because we're doing the hard work. We're telling the Universe, "I am scared to death to ask this question, but I really, really, really want to know what is on the other side of it, so I'm going to be courageous and ask it anyway." And the Universe says, "Ok, that works for me."

The Clarifying
The Clarifying questions, while not as intimidating as the Scary questions, although I've asked some pretty puke-inducing Clarifying questions, can be equally problematic when not addressed appropriately. These are the questions that make you clam up, shutdown, glaze over, and then wake up in the middle of the night wondering things like:
- What did s/he mean by that?
- Would this be an appropriate alternative?
- Did I mis/understand you?

As adults, we don't ask the Clarifying questions because we don't want to look stupid. That's it, plain and simple. Somewhere around, I don't know, for me it was fifth grade-ish, not only do we have to know everything, but we also have to become mind readers. And when we have to know everything and read minds, we don't get to ask questions anymore because it would mean we don't know everything and we can't read minds.

I'm not great at asking Clarifying questions, mainly because they start to drift into more of the Sclarifying zone for me. I've always hung my hat on being "smart," so to ask Clarifying questions is a humbling (read scary because then you'll know my deepest, darkest secret--I'm not perfect and I don't know it all) experience for me. It means saying, "I didn't understand that. Could you explain it to me again?" Or, "This is what I heard, is that what you were saying?"

But I keep practicing because I don't know what I don't know. How do I start to know? I ask. 

Here's the thing: unanswered answerable questions keep us out of okay and stuck in fear and uncertainty. 

What is the overwhelming question in your life that you're not asking right now that you could be? I challenge you this week to ask that question.*

I will do it, too.

I am on a mission to be okay. What I want more than anything else in this world is to help others be okay, too. So my Scary, overwhelming question is this: If you have read something here today, or in previous weeks, that helped you and you think might benefit someone else, will you share my work so someone else can hear the message of okay?

That's it. That's the big, scary, goes bump in the night question for me. And I'm still alive to tell the tale. You will be, too.

Ask the question. Get it out of your system. Find an answer, not necessarily the answer.

Take comfort in the period at the end of the sentence. 

*I'm a big fan of telling someone else what your overwhelming question is because then s/he can help hold you accountable to asking it. If you need some extra moral support or accountability, email me your question (kate at aimingforokay dot com), and I will check in with you before next week's article to make sure you're asking it! I would be honored to hear it.