Category Archives: Questions

Day 11 of 20 *Questions*: Where am I wrong?

Isn’t it intriguing how the questions we make lead us to answers – but we may not notice how leading the questions are?  I think there are too many people who willingly ask themselves “Where am I wrong” because they expect themselves to be wrong.  I know for me, I tell myself that I’m being humble or modest or flexible or proactive, when in reality, I’m looking for ways to shoot myself down. 

So – if you see the question above and think, “I’m always wrong” or any thought like it, may I submit this reframing:  ask “What am I learning?”

Oftentimes when we’re processing things that have gone wrong, we ask ourselves (often angrily), “What was I thinking?!?!????”  This is a question that beats us up and does not lead anywhere good.  But the more important and realistic question to ask, if we want to process past events, is “what was I …”  [ready?] “learning?”  If you’re looking back, you’re hoping to find something that you can use for changes in the future – and this is the perfect question for accepting that something failed, without spiralling into negativity.

“What was I learning?”  is a question that gives hope, and creative energy, and it reminds us of the power in each of us to influence the future.  We are not powerless.  We are not without resources. 

If you can first ask yourself, “what was I learning,” then you are probably more ready for asking “where am I wrong” with the needed self-respect, hope, and true courage.  That way you get answers (because questions are leading!) that will build you up, and by extension, care well for the matter at hand.

Day 10 of 20 *Questions*: What’s so funny?

What’s brown & sticky?  (!!!kcits  A)  That’s my favourite joke.  I don’t know if it’s funny, but it makes me laugh, and we know that laughter does all kinds of good things for one’s spirit and body.  So yes – ask what’s funny, and enjoy!

But I want to explore another aspect of this question.  First – a story [some details changed].  While I was studying to become a pastor, I spent 10 weeks in a hospital as one of a group of 8 student chaplains.  We learned to care for others, but we also spent a lot of time examining ourselves – our histories, our fears, our assumptions about people.  While serving on a floor for people doing short-term stays to receive antibiotics, I met a lot of people who weren’t very sick, but who were very bored.  We had some good conversations.  One man was morbidly obese and was hospitalized because of an infection related to his diabetes, a disease that had caused the amputation of several toes.  He jokingly told me how his brothers had always called him “Piggy” and finished his story, laughing himself, and said, “My brothers sure are funny.”  I laughed along, but I was uncomfortable.  It wasn’t funny.

Back in my group, I shared the conversation as a case study.  It was there I got a wonderful piece of wisdom: play dumb, because it allows you to ask the obvious question.  In this case, the question was, “Why is it funny [that your brothers joke at your expense]?”  This fellow had been so brainwashed about his own worth that he couldn’t ask that question; but I was a newcomer to the situation, so I could have asked, “What’s so funny?” and given him permission to break out of a system that mocked him but didn’t help him.  His weight/diabetes was stealing his life, one body part at a time.  He needed support, not mean jokes – but by then, he didn’t know the jokes were mean.

In our world, we sometimes need to ask, “What’s so funny?”  When people use profanity all over the place, in the name of humor, we can ask, “is that actually funny?”  When bullies act as ringleaders, we can ask, “What’s so funny?  I don’t get it.”  When people tell racist jokes or jokes that put women down, we can resist by asking, “What’s so funny?”  Make people name it; make them spell it out; make them admit what they are really saying.

Play dumb.  You can get away with a lot of undermining when you ask the obvious question.

Day 9 of 20 *Questions*: How much junk could a chic chick chuck if a chic chick could chuck junk?

First off, that is really fun to say.  Second, this is one of the areas in which I feel I’ve grown most in my years, so I could say a million things about this.  Third – and proof of second –  I wrote a blog post on this way back in August  – you can find it at: https://flungforthanew.wordpress.com/2012/08/23/divesting/

Fourth, and I’ll stop counting here because I think I know the main thing I want to say:  junk is clutter, and clutter does not enhance life.  Often, clutter just sucks the energy right out of you , or me, or us.  For many people, we look around our house and there are little piles on each of the flat surfaces.  That’s visual clutter.  It’s also mental clutter – each of those things hangs on us in some way: the catalog I wanted to order something from, the toy that’s waiting to be glued, the medical bill that I have to call about, the picture my friend sent me, the plate that didn’t get back to the kitchen, the DVD that didn’t go back in its sleeve.  I have to be careful of each of these in some way (don’t lose the toy part, scrape the dvd, lose the bill).  And I don’t have a place to set anything else down without starting an avalanche – so I am less free, even in my own home.

Here is the take-home message for today’s question, and for me it was a game-changer.  “CLUTTER” is “A DECISION DEFERRED.”  Each and every piece of clutter is something that was in my hands, and I said, “I don’t know what to do with this.  I will deal with it later.”  And I set it down, and there it stays.  95% of the time, the decision is no easier later; in fact, it’s harder, because that item now has a story and a challenge and I’m unlikely to have the energy for those when “later” does or doesn’t come.

So here is what one does: say you’re holding a phone bill, and there’s an extra fee on it.  Yuck.  Get a post-it and write on it the steps to getting it fixed (1. Get phone # to call; 2. Call and write result on bill; 3. File and move post-it to front of that file to remember to check bill next month.)  WAIT.  Write down WHEN you will do these steps.  Stand up for yourself in getting to these tasks.  You deserve a life without little hooks and large piles of crap.

Tell yourself that you will only defer decisions if there is a legitimate reason to.  And if you’re facing junk like full closets, recognize that there are a lot of “deferred decisions” in there.  Take 15 minutes (set a timer) and start MAKING decisions: wear, donate, trash, repair (how & when?).  Being a chic chick means making decisions.  (And guys, you can be chic, too.)  The more you make, the better you get, and the less clutter will have power over you.

If you want to learn more about caring for the spaces you live in, I highly recommend www.FlyLady.net.  She has a system of what she calls “home blessing” and she teaches how to manageably clear out junk and make your home (office, car, etc) hospitable.  She emphasizes that you deserve to live with energy and joy – and she is right!

Day 8 of 20 *Questions* What is my body telling me?

My body is telling me that it’s hungry for “trick food.”  Honestly, that’s what my body says all day every day.  My body used to tell me that it was tired *and* wanted trick food.  Thankfully, with doctors help I found solutions to the sleep issue, and I am daily grateful for that – so maybe I should say, the first thing my body is telling me is to be THANKFUL!  Always a good place to start.  Then my body says, “we’re going to work hard today.  Maybe start with some energy from sweet tea and cookies?” 

This is where I am in my journey now.  I have been working on exercising for awhile, and that is a gift – I love feeling the wind in my hair when I’m running (which sounds romantic, but could technically be called “jogging” …)  But I tend to believe that the fuel we give our body is what will define our days.  Filling my tank with sludge (mmmmm, partially-hydroxinated oils!) will not help me run as well as a slice of honeydew and a hard-boiled egg.

I’m listening to an audio book right now called “the mouth trap: the butt stops here.”  The author talks about what we tell ourselves is “fun food” – and she explains that in her journey, she went from her “fun foods” being the traditional sweets and salty-crunch foods to her “fun foods” now being raw red peppers and roasted Brussels sprouts.  I think she’s on to something – if we take time to taste our food, most any of it can be fun – our palate and the variety of foods available to us is practically miraculous!  And yet we tell ourselves that only a few foods are really treats.  That doesn’t make much sense biologically, yet, we are “consumers” – meaning, we consume food, and we “consume” a “diet” of images from tv and magazines and even memories that instruct us in what is “fun” food.  I am trying to make the transition to seeing more foods as fun, and it brings the double benefit of it helping me be more svelte, but I’m also realizing, I’m giving the programming for what my kids will think of as “fun food” decades down the line – maybe even what they will be feeding my someday grandchildren!  Yikes!  Oreos are for special occasions, kids – have some honeydew!  Have a whole orange!  Have some fruity oatmeal and homemade tortillas!

And so – each of us has messages from her/his body.  Maybe it’s the need for sleep, or real food, or a massage; maybe it’s a trip to the doctor, or a walk at sunset, or to simply let our tastebuds celebrate life.  The question for today reminds us of the miracle that we are given: our body and our life.

Day 7 of 20 *Questions*: Are [vegans] better people?

Again, fill in the brackets with your own word.  Early risers, ultra-marathoners, from-scratch bakers, people without a sweet tooth, and people who lift their hands while singing at Church would be my go-to ones.  There is nothing wrong with any of the above categories, yet I often feel like there’s something wrong with me that I’m not in their club.  Each of these sounds really, really good to me, I’m just not sure how to get there, and so my energy goes into judging how far better they must be than me – rather than maybe taking a step or two in their direction. 

So the question is, are [they] better people?  In theory, no.  In practice, I’m tempted to say yes, but wait! The root of the question is, “who is judging?”  Is it your favourite magazine that’s judging?  Is it your teenage self?  Is it that person you’ve never really connected with, who only sees your surface?

What if it is God who judges?  (See Romans 8:31-39 –Oremus Bible Browser )  Ultimately we know it is God who judges – but whose judgment matters more to you today?  Your fashion or health magazine is certainly hoping that you aren’t hearing a voice that says you’re fine just as you are – that’s bad for business.  Your teenage self is so insecure, s/he probably shouldn’t be driving your thoughts and emotions.  That person who knows only a little of you?  They only know a little of you.  Don’t be afraid of their judging; get to know them (they’re wondering if you judge them, too) or let them go.

Ultimately, and today, it is God who judges – God, who created, who sent Christ to gather and redeem, who forgives, who offers both to accept us as we are and to open doors to who God made us to be.

I have a tattoo on my right calf (yes, I have a tattoo… stay with me here…) of the Chinese characters for “Beautiful Friend.”  A beautiful friend is there with us, and if they judge us, it is with love and hope and compassion.  My tattoo reminds me that God is my Beautiful Friend.  It also reminds me of the human beautiful friends who have shown me what life is all about.  And it reminds me that what I want, more than being an early riser or ultra-marathoner, is to be a Beautiful Friend to others.  Not so that I can count myself as “better” but so that I know my voice counts toward the good in this all-too-judgmental world.

"beautiful friend"Mandarin: Mei You

“beautiful friend”
Mandarin: Mei You

Day 5 of 20 *Questions*: “How do I want the world to be different because I lived in it?”

I’ve long known that I won’t be starting an orphanage or rewriting legislation or curing diseases with my life.  I’d like to, but I won’t; I’m 36 and have pretty much set a direction for my life.  But these things matter to me – why else would they come up first when asking this question?  And so I realize that I still dream that I may someday welcome foster children, and I have met with my Senators (when I lived in NJ), and I’ve walked with people facing debilitating illness.  In the classic example, I work to be more of a steady candle than a firework, and maybe my flame isn’t as big or bright, but it’s better than darkness.

ELCA Logo

Changing and Saving Lives
God’s Work – Our Hands

But — I don’t want to sell myself short, either, and pretend like doing less is okay.  I’ve heard from statehouse friends the difference that *one* testimony can make in local and state law.  I imagine that once a person joins the foster care system, they learn enough to *challenge* the system when needed.  I *can* make a difference.  The tagline of the New Jersey Synod – part of the ECLA/Lutheran Church – speaks loud and clear:  the job of each person, congregation, and organization is to “Change and Save Lives.”  Hold that like a mirror up to your life.  How have you changed and saved lives?

At first blush, you may say, “aw, shucks, I can’t do anything like that.”  But maybe you’ve stood up to a bully, or offered your time at an animal shelter or school classroom or at a friend’s bedside.  As a camp counsellor, I once had to walk over a live bee’s nest out on a wilderness trail to carry an epipen to a child who had just been stung.  Would I have thought I could do something like that, or that I would be one to volunteer for that job?  Nope, because I’m humble (I hope…) and not so creative in dreaming up differences that I can make.  But that doesn’t mean my future – or your future – won’t hold life-changing or life-saving moments.  Be prepared.  Be a person that others know they can ask for help.  God may be preparing you for something wild – or God may already be using you daily for the most domestic of miracles.

As a side note, often the resources we can best share aren’t hands-on service.  I lent $50 to Kiva.org five years ago, and have funded microfinance loans to 7 different entrepreneurs around the world.  The original $50 keeps getting paid back so I can re-loan it.  I can go back and look at the stories of lives changed, of parents who can now educate their children, of groups that have bonded together to create more industry in poverty-stricken areas.  Your money can make a difference.  Don’t hide from that or think, “I don’t have enough.”  If you can afford a meal at McDonald’s, you have enough money to share, whether it’s with Kiva or a local food pantry or Bread For The World.  With your time/energy and with your shared monies, you can indeed Change and Save Lives, so that the world is a better place for your having lived in it.   Take another look at the question above – use today to let it sink in!

Day 2 of 20 *Questions*: Is this what I want to be doing?

Is this what I want
to be doing?

Since moving to Malaysia, I have become temporary chair of the PTA at our boys’ school.  I don’t yet know if I enjoy it.  But someone needed to step up, and I was there with time and energy, and I really wanted to learn more about how the school functions, especially as an international school in a local community.

It’s a fair amount of work.  There are lots of events that we’re expected to do, and the steering committee is made of people with 4 different mother languages.  We all have kids, so we’re busy.  And I often find myself asking, “Is this what I want to be doing?”  I ask it with each task I volunteer for, with each e-mail I send, with each time I wonder how I’ll get everything done before the deadline.  The obvious answer, you might think, would be, “No, this isn’t what I want to be doing.”  It’s not like it’s fun, easy, or terrifically rewarding.

But each time, I think, “for now, yes. This task is important, and I want it to be done.  For now, I will do this.”  It gives me permission to put my energy fully into the role, to commit, and in so doing I often find pieces I do enjoy.  Starting a Christmas charity drive was really special, and only happened because I repeatedly said, “Yes, this IS what I want to be doing.”

Asking this question also gives me permission to notice when I won’t want to do it anymore.  I already know that I’m winding down my time as chair – and it gives me some time to find a replacement so I can finish this commitment well and without guilt.  There are other things that I also want to be doing, and I need to be free to turn to those.  It’s said that discipline is knowing what you *really* want – this question invites your time to be disciplined and thus freed.

Day 1 of 20 Questions

What questions should I be asking myself?

OK, this question gets the “obvious award.”  Any project based on questions starts with, “well, what question(s)?”  But this question, for me, links to one of our House Rules (our 10 Commandments):  “Look and listen – slow it down.”  At almost any point, it helps to Stop, Look, and Listen.  I’m consistently amazed at what I learn when I do those simple things.  We get into a groove, and it can become a rut in no time at all – but if we pause, we might notice other options, other dreams, other ways of being that we wouldn’t be open to if we keep on at our same pace and direction.

Right now I’m into interval training – riding an exercise bike, and *every minute* I spend 30 seconds at high difficulty and 30 seconds recovering.  It completely changes the workout for my mind and for my heart (literally).  For the whole workout, I’m starting something new every 30 seconds.  It’s like asking myself, “what should I be asking?” – entering into a different interval in the pace and direction of my life.

Image

the 10 Commandments at the Trozzo house

So – if you don’t know what 19 questions lie ahead of us, and I hope you don’t – what questions do you think should go on a list of “20 questions we should all be asking ourselves?”

Let’s play 20 Questions … a new way!

I just read an article by Martha Beck about the 20 questions that you should be asking yourself, your whole life long. Kids ask about a million questions a day, it seems, and they use questions to learn about their world. They are curious about the world, themselves, and how things relate to each other. As [so-called] adults, maybe we can learn from them to keep learning about ourselves, this world we live in, and how we keep on relating to everyone and everything around us.

Full disclosure: these questions are from the article in the February 2011 issue of Oprah magazine. Later in the magazine, Dr. Phil says, “A question is really a statement in disguise.” Questions do lead us to what we believe, and can lead us to changing our beliefs (again, about our world, ourselves, and how we all relate).

I got this magazine from our state library, and in 2 years it’s been checked out 23 times. (That’s pretty good for a magazine!) Hopefully you’ll check back here 23 times to see the questions, comments, and if anybody has answers to share. Because this is one way to learn!

Take a poll …. about questions!