Zora Neale Hurston once wrote, “there are years that ask questions and years that answer”; ten words that took my breath away.
As I pondered them, the cocoon that exists in my heart, the one that holds inside it the need for connection to meaning in this life in the midst of the daily chaos that is full-time work, marriage and motherhood, began to crack open, and stir. I recognized in someone else a knowing that is also in me, and I felt a deep connection, so big and so encompassing, I started to cry.
It was just a moment. They say I’ll be having more of them as I close in on menopause.
But, as I reflected on my 41st year of life, and all of 2013, I thought, well, clearly, that was a year for questions. And it was. I questioned every little and big decision I made for and about my children (usually between the hours of 1 and 3am). I questioned whether I want to remain in teaching. I questioned how to reconcile who I’ve been up to now with who I am becoming, and balancing the things I want to do and accomplish with the things my family needs.
It never felt like I had answers, but the questions, my god, they sometimes consumed me.
Do you remember the classic ‘Who’s On First’ skit? I have always hated it. One spring when I was a teenager, my dad drove us to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. The only thing I remember about it was a screen the size of a whole room playing the recording of Abbott and Costello performing it. I stood there, arms folded, thinking idiots.
The line we all remember Costello asking was misinterpreted as a question – “Who’s on first?” – while Abbott heard “Who’s on first.” So he answered “yes,” because Who was, in fact, playing first base. Once the audience gets the miscommunication, we want everyone’s misery to end. But no. Who. What. I Don’t Know. They’re all there, and they each get their long, drawn out turn. Who’s on first: is it a question or is it an answer? Let’s go ahead and hash it out for 7 minutes 53 seconds and when we finish, let’s just go ahead and start again. Until the end of time.
I spent 2013 in Costello’s role, frustratedly asking my questions every different way imaginable, trying to get at an answer that made sense. In fury, I’m sure I even stomped around in a tantrum once or twice, red-faced and twitching. If I’d’ve had a hat, I’d have thrown it.
2013 was about asking questions. That isn’t less true just because 2013 was also very busy answering questions I’d asked years ago, questions like should I have a family? How many children? Should I go to work full time? Doing what? Can we afford to buy a house? If so, where? My life has been answering those questions for quite some time now.
It’s silly to think that because our calendar slid from December into January that suddenly my life’s fraying loose ends are going to get neatly tied up in a pretty pink bow. Because this little skit of questions that runs unceasingly in my head? It’s going to keep on playing itself out. It’s called life.
Abbott’s character seemed to get that. Even tempered, he simply answered the questions he was asked, very matter of fact, very knowing. It is his steadiness, his sureness, that moves the skit forward.
2013. My questions included: Is it time? Is it time to apply to graduate school? Is it time to begin to build a scaffold so that I won’t have to teach school for the next 25 years?
“It’s time?” Is it a question?
It’s time. Is it an answer?
And yes again.