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The How of the Why

My mother has always told me that my first word was “Why?”  I’m not positive it was the absolutely first word, it seems mama or dahdah might have been more likely, but it was at least said often enough, early enough and clearly enough that it has stuck in her head ever since.

Yesterday the B’ster was here.  He was watching Cat in the Hat and I was blowing my hair dry.

“Moggie.  What are you doing?”

“Drying my hair.”


“It’s wet, so I need to dry it.”


“Because I took a shower.”


“Because I take a shower every morning.”

“Why?” …

How about those Cardinals, huh, B’ster?

I’m revisiting my favorite spiritual writer.  I’ve purchased a clean copy of his book since the other is completely underlined, outlined and written upon and I’ll just be distracted by the commercials in the margins and not pay attention to his show.

I made it four pages in before I hit the first wall (which I believe should happen on any spiritual journey.  No wall:  No growth.)

“What we want more than anything else on earth is to know and love some other person with our whole hearts and to be known and loved completely in return.”

This writer’s opinion is that this is our greatest motivation – which is a very good motivation – and the short of his take on this is that we search for this perfection of love until we find it in relationship with our God, which then flows outward into the world and our relationships.

I’ve been considering this.  As I move through the day, what is my greatest motivation?  (I do not define it as the author does, although I do agree with his definition of a/this motivation, especially within the realm of spirituality.  That’s his motivation, which is why he’s a priest.  If I were a person as loving as he, I would not be a sarcastic blogger with a Dammit Doll who asks WHY all the time.)

And why is that (whatever) my motivation?

If I know the why of the motivation, I believe I will know how to work toward the goal.  I will be able to understand if the motivation is the correct one – and how to use that motivation to best meet my intentions.  If I find my motivation is actually built on a underpining of desire for approval, for instance, my actions are going to be much different than if my motivation is a desire to own a yacht or corner the K-cup market.

Some other time we can discuss the formation of our goals, short-term, long-term, etc.; suffice it for now that I mean the goals I want to see accomplished when I get to the end of my life and look back; not financial, social, etc.  Although I do question why I never thought to invent the Keurig and K-cups because then I could have all the flavors available to me at no charge all the time.  I’d be bouncing off the walls in a caffeine-high stupor, of course, but I’d have my choice of flavors to do so without surreptitiously borrowing Bed Bath and Beyond 20% off coupons from the neighbors’ mailboxes to buy more.

Not that I steal from mailboxes.  I think  that would be a Federal Offense.  Sometimes the coupons just kind of fall out of mailboxes, is all I’m saying.

I watched the B’ster go through his day yesterday.  He is a very sweet-natured guy, always has been.  He is unconditionally loved by stable parents.  At 2-1/2 years of age his motivation in the day is to live, and he responds to life with love and joy (except maybe naps).  He lives in each moment.  He feels no need to accomplish, to gain approval or love, because it’s there 24/7, freeing him to be a little dude playing with Thomas the Train.

However, as we grow (assuming we do; I know some 2-1/2 year olds living in 30- 40- 50+-year old bodies) we are obviously affected by the things that happen to us – losses, fears, failures, accomplishments.

My parents were Depression kids growing up on farms in South Dakota.  There wasn’t anything available for extras, although they had food, clothing, shelter and many happy childhood memories.  A lot of people my parent’s ages who grew up in the Depression frequently seem to have lots of stuff.  Three packages of flour.  Four rolls of tin foil.  It was on sale with a coupon so stock up while you can, you might not get it later.  Friends my age comment on it.  Their mother has 13 packages of powdered sugar in the pantry and she hasn’t baked cakes in years.  But, it was on sale…with a coupon…

That mindset is ingrained.

What motivates each of us to achieve, strive, push our way to the top?  What is the fear or desire in the back of our head that needs to be reassessed?   Parental approval?  Fear of ridicule?  If someone loses a sibling or parent early in life, will they always have a little part of their heart that holds back in case they are deserted again?  If your father wanted you to be the star quarterback and you didn’t make the cut do you always have a nagging fear of failure, the boss expects you to close the big account and you dread work because some nagging voice you are not conscious of tells you – you won’t make this cut, either?

What about abused children?  Is it ever possible for them not to have the constant voice of more or less volume speaking to them that they are a failure, that they cannot measure up to the one that is supposed to care for them, that the pain or sorrow or loss is inevitable and unending?

And how do you motivate yourself through the day when there’s a fear driving your brain?  Those can be deeply hidden in your subconscious and very difficult to understand.  In 5th grade I was highly motivated to get sick every day in Math because Debbie Smith was in that class, and she hated me.  Like, hated.  I never understood why (there’s that word again!) since she was the most popular girl in the class and I was the social class just above bottom-feeder, but there it was, and she teased and tormented me every day.  I wasn’t aware I was motivated to get sick, I just plain felt sick – literally – and went to the nurse 3 or 4 days out of 5 until she finally called my mom to say she thought I had some kind of problem, and it wasn’t brain cancer causing my headaches or stomach cancer causing my upset tummy.  I didn’t know about psychosomatic issues but I knew I was motivated to get out of that classroom and I was grateful for the (self-made) opportunity.

How many times do we go through life unconsciously creating issues to solve an issue we want to avoid?  How many people do you know that move through life from issue to issue until you finally wonder if they’re somehow causing it themselves?  How many times have I made myself much more upset than needed by continuing to return to a why (why did they said that?  why didn’t they do that?).

So I’ve been sitting quietly for a while, trying to let everything else filter out so I could hear my word, the word defining what I’m really trying to achieve with and through and despite my daily life.  I was pleasantly surprised that Brain cooperated on this endeavor as it’s frequently stubborn and childish, and will attempt to dodge issues by trying to distract me.  It really was my idea for the mug of Carmel Vanilla Creme, though.

At the end of the day, I want peace.  I want a peaceful heart.  I want to feel I did the best I could and used my time well.  I want to feel that I looked at life with joy through pain, with peace in distress and with focus in confusion.

Having defined what I’m motivated toward now I can look at my life and figure out the how.  I can ask in each circumstance, will this help me toward my goad?  How can I turn this toward my goal?  If my goal is peace, but instead I engage in frustrating behavior (rehashing past hurts, rehearsing self-righteous tirades, putting off chores or activities which leaves me behind later) I can now look at what I’ve done and determine what behaviors and actions I should change to bring me where I want to be.

What’s the word that defines your motivation?  How are you working toward that goal?  What’s getting in your way?

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13 thoughts on “The How of the Why

  1. I think my defining word these days is faith. I need to have faith in myself. I need to have faith for God’s plan for my life. I need to have faith that the challenges I face help to build me into the person I was meant to be. I need to have faith in the talents and abilities he’s blessed me with. I need to have faith in the people around me. I need to have faith. Period. 🙂

    • terrileeclarke on said:

      I LOVE THAT!!! And it sure ties into peace, doesn’t it? If I use/have faith, I’ll have peace.

      • Anytime. The two go hand in hand, I think…

        • sorry to jump in here but wat u’ve said, Kitt, is what i think resonates with myself too. when things get really stressful for me and i’m incredibly overwhelmed i just force myself to believe that there is some kind of plan, a reason, for watever i’m going through and i just have to have faith in it. it’s incredibly hard but that’s wat i strive to do, be able to have faith in the process/journey and believe it will work out.

          • terrileeclarke on said:

            Cait – happy to have you jump in! The good thing, too, is as you go through life and have a few of those times you gain the benefit of being able to look back and know that it did all turn out OK, which helps give you more hope.

          • Thanks, Cait. That’s the beauty of blogs, I think. You never know whose heart you may touch or when someone may say something to inspire you. I’m glad Terri wrote this blog as it touched my heart and yours to comment. I know as a writer myself, that there is a sense of satisfaction and validation when people like you join in and speak up. 🙂

  2. Tonia Jackson on said:

    I look forward to your post, today is spot on for me.
    Patience has been my word for 2012. This last year has been filled with many not now moments. I’ve had my share of temper tantrums because I want it NOW. My faith has grown with my patience. What I’ve finally learned and accepted it is not in my time but God’s and Gods time which is the perfect divine time when I’m ready to receive these gifts. After all my parents didn’t give me a car before I was ready to drive. I’m also ready for another word, CRAP, guess I have more lessons on patience. Grateful God’s not finished with me

    • terrileeclarke on said:

      LOVE it!! I think Patience was definitely my word last year and part of this year while dealing with all the stuff with my dad. I had a lot of peace about the eventual outcome but I did not have peace about or in the process, and I struggled a lot.
      If your other word is CRAP you probably need a Dammit Doll.

  3. Powerful stuff happening here. This is right where I need to be spiritually.
    Thank you.
    A good friend told me earlier this year that if I’m constantly seeking the why of something, I may be missing the present (!). Huh. BIG news to me.
    Acceptance is my ‘word’. Faith and patience are right up there, too. My HP is working overtime on me on these biggies.

  4. I have read and re-read this several times and it is just one of the best posts I’ve read in a long, long time! So much so that I find myself forced to reblog it! 🙂

  5. Reblogged this on Middle-Aged Woman (newly) On The Run! and commented:
    Absolutely one of the best posts I’ve read in a long, long time. Of course I happen to think this writer is utterly brilliant in every way anyhow and I am honored to know her IRL and have her as a personal mentor in many, many things.

    P.S. Terri Lee, I consider you a mentor. In case I forgot to mention that… 🙂

  6. Wow–it took me a while to process this post! You are both hilarious and deep! (like those two things don’t go hand in hand…?)

    I think I’m in the same place as Kitt: the one word is faith. If I have faith in what I came equipped with and faith that I am exactly where I should be at this time, then I can use those abilities for good in the world. Doing so would give me peace.

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