I‘m at University for the sole (soul?) purpose of writing a memoir. I want to tell you what happened when I gave up dieting, left my marriage and fell in love. But here’s the problem ~ I’m struggling big time.
A memoir is meant to make sense of the things that happen in someone’s life. My life makes no sense. When I ask the question “why” I get no answers. Why did I endure a loveless marriage for almost sixteen years? Why did I lose my voice and become a cold and brittle version of my real self? Why did I fill my life with goals that I pursued relentlessly only to be dissatisfied when I reached them? And why did everything around me go so horribly wrong when I was just beginning to awaken from my slumber?
I have realised that asking “why” is one of the worst things you can do.
There is a story of a woman who loses her car keys that illustrates what happens when we get caught up in the question of why.
A woman was about to head out for a lunch date with her friend when she discovered her car keys were nowhere to be found. She looked everywhere for them. She phoned her friend for help. Her friend said “Look in the kitchen drawer.” She searched inside that drawer in the kitchen that is filled with pens and batteries and all manner of things that might be useful one day (otherwise known as the really useful drawer). The keys weren’t there.
“It’s no use,” the woman cried, “my keys are lost forever. I can’t find them and my friend doesn’t know where they are – it’s hopeless. Why did this happen to me?”
Her head filled with negative thoughts — she was too lazy to put them away in the right place, she was disorganized and irresponsible, she couldn’t even do this one simple thing correctly … and the self-blame went on and on. Maybe it was her friend’s fault. Her friend had told her to look in the wrong place. Obviously, her friend wasn’t a friend at all; she was only pretending to be helpful while secretly laughing at the woman. Or perhaps the woman was being punished – after all, she should be vacuuming the floors rather than wanting to have a glass of wine with her friend in the middle of the day.
And she stopped searching for the keys.
When we indulge in following the path of “why” we usually end up either blaming ourselves or blaming someone else. It stops us in our tracks. We are no longer capable of taking action, of continuing to look for our keys and find the way out of our predicament because we start focussing on the wrong thing. The distressing circumstances are either our fault, someone else’s fault or the fault of an omnipotent being who delights in making our lives miserable.
It doesn’t matter “why” something happened. Let it go. Just move on and take action, take the next step, keep looking for the keys somewhere else.
That’s what I’m doing. I’m not worrying about trying to work out “why” my life unfolded the way it did, instead I’m writing about what happened, how it happened, and what action I took when I did.
Why did this happen to you? It just did.
Now what are you going to do about it?