The other question

This weekend I’ve had a cold, sadly breaking my six year no-cold record. Sigh. It’s been pretty mild, really, but I’m still feeling a bit ordinary. A kind friend let me come over and hang out with her family for most of the weekend, which yesterday mostly entailed lying on the couch under a doona, watching reruns of Happy Days and The Brady Bunch (followed by lying on the couch under a doona, watching the insides of my eyelids while the family played board games). Today I managed to stay upright for most of the day, and even managed a bit of crochet, so things are looking up.

One member of this particular family is a very insightful ten year old. She’s a deep thinker, that’s for sure, and she’s extremely thoughtful and considerate. As is her sister, for that matter – they’re a pretty awesome pair of kids. Anyway. Miss 10 turned to me tonight and asked, completely out of the blue, “What is the best part of your life and what is the worst part?” I said, “Well, those are pretty big questions.” (This was a stalling tactic while I worked out how I wanted to respond – the questions blindsided me a little.) She elaborated on the second part of the question by saying, “You know… what is something in life that you really want but don’t have?”

Um.

I know the answer to that. I knew it as soon as she asked, even without the further clarification. But that’s not something I need to share with a ten year old, so I said I’d prefer not to answer that question at the moment. She said fine, and moved on. So I asked her what is the best part of her life. She considered this for about ten seconds, then said, “The people in it.”

It was clear to me that she knew her answer to that question, as definitely as I knew the answer to ‘what is the worst part’. It also became clear to me that, actually, I don’t know the answer to the first question. Or maybe I do – I think my answer is probably the same: the people in my life – but it’s not a question I consider. I know the answer to ‘the worst part’, because it’s what causes me pain and therefore takes my energy and my attention. I spend so much time thinking about the second question that I forget the other question. I don’t think about the best things in my life. They are there, but I ignore them. Or don’t notice them. Or take them for granted. And then when I have to think about them, I’m stumped. The best part? How can I think about that while I’m over here dealing with the worst part?

I can’t make my ‘worst parts’ go away, but I think I could perhaps spend some more time thinking about, and enjoying, the best parts.

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