Curiosity: Source of Strength

In Columns, Features, Pieces to Peter's Puzzling World by Peter Webster

I have a friend, a woman in her late 40s, who is going to a university and working on her master’s degree. She began college at forty, after years of being a cocaine and Valium junkie; after she got clean, her only child died of an overdose. She’s got hepatitis C and is an insulin-dependent diabetic. She’s had a rough life, but she’s kept going. She started college at forty. She’s persistent.

A fair number of years ago, I was talking to my sister about our lives; I was the first child and was raised by my maternal grandparents; my sis was raised by Mom and Dad. It was one of those things, never adequately explained to either one of us. This was not long after I had made some big-time changes in my life. One day I said, “I don’t know what kept me going this long.”

She smiled in a wise sisterly way and said, “Because you have such an incredible curiosity about things.”

I’d never thought about it that way; I knew I always wanted to see what was going to happen next, or soon, or on down the line. “Curiosity,” however, had bad connotations, like in “Curiosity killed the cat,” a phrase I’d heard often as a child, meaning “Don’t ask. None of your business.” So, I saw my interest in the future as a whimsical past-time.

I never saw my curiosity as a strength or a virtue. Now, I can see that it was a strength. It kept me alive through a lot of hard times. But during my late forties, I lost that wonder. I was in a bad place. It was lucky that I knew I was in a bad place. I actually started praying.

Something happened, the first step toward change. A friend said, “See, one door closes and another door opens.” I believed her. Then I wanted to do the next step and the next and without knowing it, I was
looking toward the future again–and had faith that my life was going to improve. It sure didn’t seem like life could get worse than it had been!

I hung in. My Creator hadn’t brought me this far to simply drop me out the cosmic back door. That faith produced optimism–my curiosity came back. Yeah: that was a major relief!

It took a lot of work–about eight or ten years of intense personal work. Counseling, a psychiatrist, lots of lots of group work. It wasn’t always pretty. For several years it was like having chronic emotional flu. Because I wanted to know what was going to happen, though, I kept at it. Hell, half my life was gone; there wasn’t any time to waste. It sounds corny, but that was the dynamic that kept me slogging/plodding along. “It takes what it takes,” they say, and that’s what it took.

It’s persistence. For some people, that means ambition–chasing after money, power, people, things. I’m not ambitious that way. I came to the world with nothing, and that’s the way I’ll go out. Power isn’t about controlling events: I’m not in The Director’s chair; I’m just doing my bit part in the world. Power is something around me and part of me, but it isn’t for me to exploit. The analogy I like is I’m just rowing the boat; I’m not the Navigator. That boat’s made, for the most part, of curiosity. It’s my lifeboat.

By my bathroom mirror is a slogan I look at every day:

“Good morning, this is God!
I will be handling all your problems today.

I will not need your help–so, have a good day.
I love you!”

Have a good month, folks.