I am a “Why?” person. I am never finished asking questions and I am constantly wanting to dig deeper, uncovering the essential “why?” behind it all. My best friends are very comfortable with discarding of the body of evidence. They feel no remorse or shame in burying unanswered questions and letting well enough alone. I, however, must dissect, peel apart, and get my hands dirty as I uncover the gruesome underbelly of the beast of understanding. The only bad words in my lexicon include (and in this order) “Let’s - just- accept - things - the - way - they - are”
To me, that is utterly unacceptable… and also quit exhausting. I know I wear myself out with the tedious act of performing the autopsy, but it has recently been brought to my attention that my incessant dismemberment of information exhausts those around me as well. I imagine myself as the annoying toddler that won’t stop asking “why?”, driving her parents to drink. “It’s so cute!” others would exclaim as they saw this munchkin sitting in the top basket of the grocery cart pointing to anything and everything, calling out “Why?”... “But, Why?”...”Why?”
I envision my mother smiling and nodding at the ignorant strangers who thought of my curiosity as an adorable trait that I would eventually outgrow. Inside, however, my mother was probably seething… knowing that this cute little personality quirk continues day and night.
As I got older, wiser I found that answers like “... just because” and “that’s just the way it is” much less reassuring. “Because” is not an answer, it’s a blow off. “That’s just the way it is” is not an answer, it is a divisive desire for distance from the dissection that I am in, elbow deep. What makes matters worse is that I am fairly creative so my mind continues to wander in various directions. As they say “All who wander are not lost,” and I tend to agree. I am just probing into a path others would have yet to venture down. This causes me to ask “Why?” about situations that have not even occurred. I ponder the fictional possibility and ruminate deeper.
And of course, in learning that my processes annoy others, I needed to probe deeper and ask “why?”... I mean, doesn’t everyone do this? As I ruminated about ruminating I came to an interesting conclusion… you are either a “Why?” person or you are a “How?’ person. You are either interested in the underlying causes that create an outcome, or you are interested in the manner in which the outcome was reached.
“How?” is a mechanical type question. Answers can usually be traced back to hard science with a definite end. “Why?” is more psychological. The discomfort in this knowledge emerges as we know that there are no hard and fast answers based in psychology. They are theory and speculation at best, hence an endless loop of “Why’s” that can never be fully answered.
In all this self reflective, introspective work which I (never) accomplish during the analysis of my need to perform the autopsy, I have become keenly aware of the non-verbal expressions displayed by others. It is a true indication of the annoyance that they feel. One of my friends will fight me on the facts I am trying to uncover, becoming increasingly more irritated with my needs until she finally gives in and exclaims (with an ever so slight sarcastic tone of resignation that cannot go unnoticed) “Go ahead, do whatever you need to do Cathy!”
My husband will use his hands and his face to express his frustration. Like a human barometer, I can read his level of discomfort by how far up on his face be puts his hands. If he cups his own chin, he is being contemplative. When his hand moves to his mouth he is actively holding back his desire to tell me to “Shut up!” When his hands get to his forehead, I have entered into the deep bowls of his frustration. And by the time he is running both hands through his hair, I have cut the fiber of listening between us completely, leaving behind only discarded remains of a reciprocal conversation on the exam room floor.