Finding Strength in a Question Mark

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I was searching the internet the other day for articles on how to find out what motivates oneself. I wanted to know what motivates me because quite honestly, regarding my last post, I have a preference for a particular outcome. What I don’t know is whether that preference is from my nafsani, selfish desires, or from a loving guidance outside of myself (and no, I’m not going to indicate what exactly my preference is here). I’m the type of person to get lost in ideas like “you might love what’s bad for you and hate what’s good for you”, or seeing things in too much grey and not enough contrast or color, and so I mistrust a lot of what I think is coming from me and work very hard to keep my intentions and motivations under constant scrutiny.  I am fearful that my own subjectivity will mislead me or misguide me.

So out of boredom and lack of meaningful search results I took this short quiz that was supposed to tell me what motivates me. I originally didn’t expect much, but the answer was surprisingly helpful and I was astonished I never thought about it before: I am motivated (in part, I’m sure) by curiosity.

I’ve always known I’ve been extremely curious.  In fact, it’s been something that has outweighed any sense of fear that most people have in many situations the majority of the time.  I’ve also been relentlessly accused by friends, spouses and teachers of asking too many hairsplitting questions, so I know how extreme it can get. It’s also gotten me into trouble because snooping is a too-huge temptation, and has led me to engage in what was arguably obsessive and stalkingish behaviors when I’ve had crushes on others in the past.

But curiosity, I’ve realized, is the foundation to any resilience I might have.  I’ve had people tell me I’ve gone through things and come out of them in ways that astonish them. Some of my friends have told me that they keep expecting me to break (as I guess most people would) when certain experiences came my way, but I never did. Now I certainly don’t have that idea of myself, in my own mind when I find myself feeling desperately depressed I think I am breaking. In my mind I would never get that low, so I am not that fantastic. But I can’t deny that after the crises are over, I find my way back to a stasis that even I never thought I would arrive at…and the whole reason is because my curiosity buoyed me.

I remember when I was about 5, my grandparents went on a road trip across country in their vintage Chevrolet Malibu convertible (we were towing a trailer behind it). I will never forget when we drove through Oklahoma, because I had never seen mud so red or so many oil wells looking like wingless birds slowly plucking worms from the ground. The highlight of that road trip was being able to get a new smurf figurine at every gas station stop.

One night we stopped at a KOA campground somewhere in OK.  We were all sound asleep in the trailer when this huge explosion woke us up. I didn’t know what it was, but of course my grandparents hurried to find the source and before I knew it my grandmother was scurrying me off to the primitive restroom to urinate before we escaped right away. As we were making our way there, I saw one of the nearby birdie-oil wells engulfed in flames not far in the distance, and I realized that must’ve been the source of the explosion. I remember my grandmother trying to help me get dressed in one of the bathroom stalls while I was shaking, and she told me not to be afraid. I thought this was silly, because in my mind I wasn’t afraid at all….I was actually wondering what caused the fire to begin with and whether or not it would spread or exactly what would happen.  So I told her, “Mama, I’m not scared, it’s just my bones are shakin'”.

And ever since then it seems that’s been the way my cranks turn.  When I faced the potential pain of delivering my first child, the curiosity about what it would be like outweighed my fear of labor.  When tragedies and trials came my way, my curiosity about how they would turn out staved off the worst of the pain.  Even with the polygamy -arguably the most tortuous thing I’ve gone through emotionally- the curiosity of what it would be like living with that or how it would play out kept me going through it all.  After all, how can you know what the ending of the story looks like, if you give up before you reach it?  And I can’t stand not to know how things end or finish.

While all of that insight gained was helpful and interesting, I’m afraid it hasn’t done much to show me where my “preference” is stemming from. There is just as much curiosity about what life would be like (despite the challenges) if we were in fact divorced and I had to raise an infant on my own, as there is about what Bashir will be like with a new baby and going through other significant changes that are coming up in our lives as the older children finish school and we get an opportunity to move out of Georgia in a few years. The curiosity for both makes me willing and open to go down either path.  Yet, the preference I have is clearly because some questions already have answers, and they aren’t the ones I like.

In the meantime, I keep my ever-present curiosity trained on something that I will find out in a couple weeks in shaa Allah: is twinkles a boy or a girl?

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4 responses »

  1. When I was 16 my school bus almost plunged over the side of a steep embankment. In that moment I expected to die, and what I felt was an overwhelming curiosity about what would come next, after death. I wasn’t afraid. Just curious.

    When I was married and my wife and I wanted to go out to eat, we’d invariably argue because she wanted to go to the familiar places that she knew and liked; while I always wanted to try someplace new.

    One of my favorite things to do when visiting a new city is simply to pick a direction and walk. Notice the people around me, the buildings, the view. I’ll walk for miles sometimes, then find my way back or take a taxi.

    I see this same curiosity now in my daughter. If I’m looking out the back window and I comment that I see a cat, or a bluebird, or anything at all, she’ll leap up from her chair to look, as though she’s never seen a cat before.

  2. This is probably irrelevant in the extreme, but it occurs to me that among animals, predators are often intensely curious, while prey are timid. A rabbit will flee from an unknown sound or movement, while a cat or dog will investigate (the cat cautiously, the dog recklessly). The curiosity of cats is proverbial, as is their corresponding tendency to get in trouble. I wonder what that means.

  3. I am not at all surprised that you have that quality as well, lol. It’s good your daughter is curious also. I can’t say the same really for my boys. I’m hoping twinkles may be more like that, though.

    I’ve had lazy cats, so I haven’t seen the full force of that proverbial curiosity or troublesomeness myself. But in theory, I guess it stands to reason that a high level of curiosity, if it indeed correlates to increased fearlessness, would increase the odds of a creature engaging in risky behaviors that could have adverse consequences. I suppose this could also extend beyond animals on to humans; I wouldn’t be too surprised if many of our “criminal” types have that same dynamic or makeup.

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