How do you focus on your big questions? I’ve used various methods over the years to focus on mine. In the past few month, I’ve just gone ahead and posted them around my apartment (no one’s here to see, after all). 

What do you wonder about?

What do you wonder about?? I mean the big questions—the ones that you find yourself coming back to again and again in your life.

I have a few, in different areas in my life. One is How to live a good life now? I’ve asked this most of my life, as I believe many of us do, thinking about ethics, enjoyment, fulfilment, and sometimes, like now, how to live a good life in a smaller world. In some ways, I suppose I’ve created this blog as a way to explore this question and to find out how others like you think about living a good life now.

A photo that illustrates the question, "When old mythologies pass away, what do we do to give our lives meaning?" Also pictured are several vintage and handmade coffee mugs, as well as other knicknacks
I see my question every time I do the dishes. Also, my mug collection, which includes one of the best flea market finds. Somerville, Massachusetts, USA

Thinking about our mythologies

Another question is one that I’ve had a hard time formulating, but it’s something I’ve thought about in different ways for most of my life: When old mythologies pass away, what do we replace them with to give our lives meaning?

What I mean is that I think that we live in a time when stories that we’ve told ourselves to structure our lives—religious; those about our place in the universe; gender, sexual, and/or racial hierarchies; our ideas of what makes a community; economic systems ecological beliefs; etc. In other words, many of the mythologies that make us believe that our way is the right way have steadily fallen away in our era. Much of this is critical to advancing human freedom (another mythology—human freedom is good); however, it does leave us adrift as we develop new stories, which often feels unsettling, and to my mind is the cause of much of our conflict right now. We live in a unique moment, with a lot of opportunity if we knew how to realize it, but also a challenging one.

Related to this is another question, What stories do we need? We tell ourselves stories to situate ourselves in relationship to the world, and we need new ones. What shape should these stories shape, and how to ensure that these stories serve everyone? I’m interested in how new stories start.

An image of a desk, with cards reading, "What stories do we need?," "How to live a good life now?," and "What Do I Want?"
My desk, strewn with questions to make me think. Somerville, Massachusetts, USA

A big scary question and a new one to encourage me to wonder about possibilities

Another question I have most I think most of us ask of ourselves, and the rest of us should: What do I want? For a number of reasons, I find this question rather scary to ask of myself, but I’m making myself ask it more these days.

I also have one in my kitchen that says What if …? to encourage me to reframe conundrums and to think about possibilities. I got this one from my childhood friend and current life coach Emily (life coach sounds a bit cheesy, doesn’t it? I probably never would have tried it had I not already known Emily. Definitely worth it).

How do you focus on your questions?

So what about you? I’m sure you have big questions too. I’m curious about how you keep them in your mind.

I’ve engaged with my questions in different ways over the years. I’ve journaled about the mythology question and read up on it from time to time for decades. A while back, trying to remember if I’d written about something before, I pulled out a really old journal. The details of my life then almost seem like a foreign country, but that question… I wrote and wrote about it.

Back in the BeforeTimes, and when I had time and a willing group, I used to throw salons, or conversation parties. Any and all topics were on the table, and many friends came with questions. A memorable one was about how to be happy without shirking from the need to fight injustice. Why do we need art? I almost always asked my question about living a good life now. Sometimes I asked about mythologies.

For a couple of hours, we’d engage in thoughtful conversation over wine and snacks. Last winter, I had bringing back my salons on my list of things to do in the new year. Alas. Over ten months into this strange time, I’m giving another thought to trying Zoom, but the energy just would not be the same.

Kitchen table, with the question, What If? Also, liquor, produce, and a fan
What if ...? greets me when I eat my meals. Somerville, Massachusetts, USA

My current approach—more cards!

I’ve mentioned my questions before, in my post on using cards to game myself into focusing on my favorite things. As no one is around these days, I’ve taken to posting these questions around my apartment.

I wrote out the questions (again, in regrettable handwriting—one friend included practicing penmanship on her happiness cards, and I need to do the same!) on larger, brightly colored cards, and posted them around where I would see them. The mythologies one is over the sink, so I often think about it while I’m doing the dishes.

I don’t have clear answers to these questions, and I don’t think that’s the point. What I’m doing is using the cues to remember to focus on what’s important to me. I get caught up in work, current events, my damn phone, and looking up and seeing a question helps bring me back. I’m going to move them around some to ensure that they don’t fade into the background.

What do you do to focus on your life questions? Please leave a comment below.