If you have children, or have been a child, you’ve heard the words, “why?” Literally one thousand times a day. Why is the sky blue, why is ice cream cold, why does my finger hurt, why won’t Sallie play with me, why do I have to take a bath? From our earliest childhood we have a desire to understand the complexities of life around us. We ask why to fill in the blanks.
As we get older, the path to understanding is not always as simple, and not within our own power to navigate. Our minds are programmed to fill in the blanks, making the gaps that much more difficult. Brené Brown writes and speaks about just that. She explains that in the absence of fact, our minds are hard wired to fill in the blanks. We create stories, usually far more dramatic than the actual truth when we don’t know the other person’s reasons. Their ‘why.’ We tell their side of the story.
And the result doesn’t paint the other person positively. They become the villain.
But I’m slowly realizing that there will be gaps in my understanding that I can’t fill in. Areas where I simply don’t understand why a series of events led to an unanticipated outcome. I naturally want closure, but it’s not there. Make no mistake, I’ve created a Pulitzer winning novel around the reasons, because I’m a normal human person. But that story is probably part fact, part fiction. I’ll never know.
The absolute truth is that the life journey I’m on requires me to keep taking the next step. I don’t have to understand it, but I have to take it. I’ve realized that when it comes to other people, I must understand that I won’t always understand. I could continue to wrestle the information I have into a cognitive story, but that’s all it would be, a story.
So what do you do with that? How do you shift your mind past a difficult situation when you don’t know the full story and never will, when you don’t understand? There’s no magical answer, but that doesn’t mean you’re powerless in your own narrative. There is value in processing your existing information and emotions.
Get curious about your own ‘what’s’ and ‘why’s.’ What is the emotion you’re feeling, what was your experience, why did you make the choices you made? Examine those feelings and ask what you can learn from them. Understand your own perspective and current narrative. And then? Either you continue to retell your negative narrative, or you create a new one. Take the information and emotions you have and use those to create a story for yourself that extends grace and love, to yourself, and another person.
Hard things happen, relationships fail, and we don’t always understand. But we can make choices to move forward. To frame our experiences from a different mindset. To let ourselves and another off the hook. Not understanding, unresolved feelings, we process them and let them go. Imagine pulling against an immovable object and suddenly you let go. The rush of lightness that overcomes you, that’s what letting go and moving forward is akin to.
There will be things in life we simply don’t understand. What you do with that? It’s your choice. Be brave my dears. We’re on this journey together.