So … I just might be a genius. Yeah. I bet you didn’t see that coming–me either. But alas, it may be true. In pondering and thinking (perhaps too much, as I ‘m known to do) I have stumbled up on the answers to three of this life’s greatest questions! And the best part is, I really think I’m right! Now, I know I should just spit it out and tell you what the questions and the answers are, but … that’s not really my style. In the words of Rainer Maria Rilke, I am first going to have to help you, “live the questions,” or the answers won’t make sense. So bookmark that thought, and follow along until we get to that metaphorical page.
My children have a book called, The Three Questions written and illustrated by Jon J. Muth. It is a great book about a boy and some animal friends who lead him on a very symbolic journey to answer the questions inspired by Russian author Leo Tolstoy. His essential questions were: What is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? What is the right thing to do? For me, those questions were a little too easy. The best time to do things is when they have to get done (in my case, right before they’re due). The most important one is whatever child is in my face shouting that they need me. And the right thing to do is always the thing that will make my life just a little less crazy. No brainer.
Okay, so that may not have been the answers Tolstoy anticipated, and they’re certainly not the answers the boy in the book found, but for now, in this whirlwind of a life … they’re true enough to me. Imagine, if you will, a boxing ring. In one corner, weighing in at forty-four pounds, we have the puffy-pout-cheeked four-year-old, crying with a complete lip-tremble for effect. In the other corner, weighing in at fifty-two pounds, we have the gap-toothed grinning six-year-old whose almost-apology might have been believed had it not been for his equal-parts-charm-and-mischief smile. Judging the opponents we have, “Hang on I’m on the Phone,” Mommy! Weighting in at … yeah not a chance (it varies depending on level of stress and proximity to holidays). Trying to determine the incoherent he said she saids between, “What? I can’t hear you,” chiming in on the line is nearly impossible … let’s just say the match ended in time-outs for everyone–including Mommy. I know, for a fact (because I was there when I said it) we’ve talked about this! Being nice, being kind and BEING QUIET when someone’s on the phone are the cardinal rules; yet they don’t seem to register … ever!
Then things are insane at work, well not things, people. Okay not people, middle schoolers. Spring is coming and kids are unhinging everywhere. Bad words fly along with pencils, excuses and unmet expectations. Regardless of the conversations, the motivational speeches, the notes of encouragement and the amount of time I dedicate to growing these young people, every Monday seems like the daunting beginning lineup of a marathon. Twenty-six point two miles-worth of inspiration we all train for but never get used to. No matter what your job is the two day recovery of a weekend doesn’t quite match the exertion of the other five days does it?
Then there’s me … and him, the love of my life who I never seem to have time for. Anyone in a relationship has to know this feeling of being torn and pushed away from the person you want to hang out with the most because you know they’ll actually wait for you, unlike the rest of your demands. Then, you get two seconds together and what happens? Attitude. At least I know mine does. Confession? I can be really annoying sometimes! And demanding too! Do you ever hear yourself in the middle of a conversation, or disagreement and pause just long enough to think, man I’m being a jerk. I do. And I’d like to say I snap out of it then and do something different–change my tone or point-of-view, but typically I don’t, because by that time I’m too far in. The worst part is, we are usually disagreeing over nothing of consequence, we just don’t know how to push the stuff-of-life far enough away to admit that the real problem is … we miss each other.
So here we are–back to the bookmark, like I promised. You’ve lived the questions with me and are ready to hear them … and the answers. In my day to day these are my three questions, my Tolstoy enigmas that are mysteries of life to me no more.
Is it supposed to be this hard? Yes.
When is enough enough? Never.
What is the point? Love.
I hope this isn’t a let down. I know the questions are deep and my answers are simple, and the thing is–I always over-complicate things, but not this time. These are, in my opinion, the right answers. Our lives were never meant, or promised to be easy–that doesn’t mean they’re not worth it. Enough is never enough if you believe in what you are doing and who you are doing it for. And the only point to everything we accomplish or leave behind is love. It is the greatest gift and commandment and I believe, if it’s pure, is our only unblemished legacy worth anything at all.
All kidding aside, I know I’m no genius. More likely, I’m just figuring out what others have known all along. Still, I’m going to need a lot of practice in order to actually live the answers … but I’m almost positive it’ll be worth the effort. So–what are your three questions? And did you live your way into the answers yet?