If you’ve spent time with kids, you have probably fallen victim to the eternal line of questioning that inevitably comes when they understand the concept of “why,” around age 4 or so. “But why?” becomes your best friend or worst enemy — depending on if you can satisfactorily answer it. Ask a child to tidy up their room: “Why?” Tell them the sky is blue: “Why?” If your pint-sized interrogator processes your “because…” statement and deems it worthy, the asking stops. If not, well, take a deep breath because another “why?” will meet every “because…” in sight.
“Why?” is part of us, and it’s a great question! One of my favorites, actually. Who doesn’t love a good cause-and-effect chain? (Sherlock trained me well) Asking why allows us to monkey-bar along into unknown turf (technology-wise, scientifically, philosophically). It takes us on an adventure — sometimes forward, sometimes back.
Sometimes back. That’s where why gets tricky.
I used to think knowing why was non-negotiable. I thought that was how life worked. Things happened, and yeah they sucked, but you had the right to know why so you could move on. Why helps you justify, understand and accept the stream of uncontrollable events that turn into your story. Why brings closure.
The tricky comes in when why can’t be answered. As a collective, humanity asks a lot of really, really big whys, like why we’re here, why God allows pain, why war happens, why Miley is cray, why Stonehenge exists, etc. Then there are the more personal kind of whys, like why my puppy ran away, or why this ex chose to hurt me, why my friend got sick, why my child was taken from me, why my best friend betrayed me, etc.
It’s in the personal whys that I sometimes find myself stuck: “If I could just know why, I could move on/accept it/be vulnerable again…” but the truth is, you don’t always get to know why right now, or ever.
So what do you do when an answer to “why?” isn’t an option? You either let it become a roadblock that stops your progress, or you learn to let it go.
I’m not saying to stop asking why completely, but I do believe that releasing the need to have all the answers makes for a happier life, and opens up brain space for more productive things. Letting it go is soooo not easy, but it is magnificently freeing.