We get so caught up in this adult thing, and we get pretty good at it over the years. We condition ourselves to answer almost any question…questions we thought we could never answer.
I was a very anxious child, hell-bent on perfection and pleasing others. So when the time came for me to learn how to order something on my own without the help of my parents, the cash was a sweaty wad by the time I made it to the cash register.
I rehearsed my answer until I was practically insane to make sure I didn’t embarrass myself in front of the cashier at the pizza joint. You see, I had it in my mind that adults never screwed up—that they had their shit together.
Funny as hell to think about that now.
As you get older you learn to think on your feet, so you can act like you have your shit together even when you don’t. As adults, we have to make choices and answer questions constantly. Whether it’s a purchase we decide to make or an interview question we babble through, we start to think we can handle just about anything that comes our way.
But sometimes you get asked a question that stumps you. One you continue to think about long after it was spoken.
At a restaurant the other night Mr. H asked me, out of nowhere across the dimly lit air we shared, posed above the salt and pepper: What inspires you?
I blinked a couple of times. I’m pretty sure I grunted, unattractively attempting to form an answer, until finally I busied my lips with my pint glass. I folded.
What a question. It was just SO real.
I can handle all of these other crazy questions on a daily basis, but this one was really tough.
I suppose it’s because we don’t ask real questions very often. We don’t want to pry, we don’t want to go there—or we’re afraid to ask it because we don’t know the answer ourselves. Too many questions and answers are automatic in the modern world.
How are you?
I’m fine. And you?
Imagine how different conversations would be if we asked meaningful questions. And sometimes a very simple question can have lots of meaning. I love to ask people what their favorite color is. I often use it as a conversation starter if I’m ever in an awkward group situation.
It’s a question that never fails to amuse and loosen up adults, because they probably haven’t answered it since they were a child—back when that innocent dialogue was commonplace. The answers are so fascinating, because the colors we are drawn to really say a lot about us.
Okay, so back to the inspiring question. After a few minutes I bumblef*cked my way through a couple of answers that kind of made sense. Something about living life fully and inspiring and helping others whenever possible.
It wasn’t a terrible answer. I mean, the delivery was terrible but it wasn’t what I really wanted to say.
Then, I landed on it.
What inspires me is reality…people being real and showing their vulnerability. I love to see grownups playing with their pets, exuding affection and acting like complete idiots. I love to see a husband look at his wife from across the room, entranced by her after so many years as if he was seeing her for the first time.
That kind of stuff. Real shit.
Anyway, it’s good to be asked a question like that from time to time. It makes us slow down this merry-go-round we ride on, so we can seek an answer.
So, I’ll ask you now. What inspires you? And for grins…what’s your favorite color?