So What

things-you-should-focus-onThe email arrives in my inbox, long and emotional and full of fear and self-doubt masked as anger and outrage.  Or it is a phone call, through tears and words choked out and whispered in a strained voice.  Sometimes it is a conversation, beginning innocently enough before spiraling into negativity and hopelessness.  The social contract, unspoken but universally understood, requires me to agree, to commiserate, to join the rant, to rail against the injustices of life.  I find it difficult to comply; uncomfortable and foreign to ignore the question looming in the middle of it all.

And so I ask it.  So what?

So what doesn’t mean I don’t love you.  It doesn’t mean I don’t care.   It doesn’t mean I think what you’re dealing with is easy.

So what means the fact that the situation is difficult, or sticky, or upsetting is beside the point.  It acknowledges the reality of the situation, the root of the matter, the place where your focus needs to be unless you want more of the same.

And so I ask…so what?

I have people in my life, people I love and care about, who come to me when trouble visits them, when it’s their turn to toss and turn through the night, when the butterflies take wing inside them.  Why do they come to me, I sometimes wonder.  I do not hold their hand and commiserate the awfulness of their situation.  I don’t hug them and tell them everything is going to be ok.  I don’t curse the source of their strife or complain with them that life is not fair.  I ask…so what? 

Sometimes they fight me, argue to convince me that what they’re dealing with is very hard.  I don’t need convincing.  Hard doesn’t matter.

Life is hard.  It is unfair.  And it is gloriously full of possibility.  Endless opportunities and innumerable permeations.  Countless outcomes.  Each action and inaction a step on a path that leads somewhere else.

Life, as they say, goes on.  It does not stop and wait while we cry, while we dig in our heels and resist that over which we have no control, while we hide in fear of change or inadequacy, while we balk at what is being asked of us.  Life is what happens while we’re doing all of that.  It is hard and messy and beautifully unpredictable.  The only thing we can know for sure is that it is limited in length.  Tick tock, tick tock.

And so I ask…so what?

I think that’s why they come to me.  Comfort and commiseration are place holders, resting spots.  They are more easily found than what I offer, but clarity…clarity is liberating.  We tend to see mainly what we look for…self-fulfilling prophecies and all that.  But so what, if asked repeatedly until we reach the heart of the matter directs our attention to the place where real change can happen.  It may not be easy to look at.  It may ask more of us than we want to give….and that, I think, is the reason so many avoid the question.   But in that revelation peace can be found.  Peace that we have choices, even if those choices are less than ideal.  We get to choose.  And by virtue of choosing, we are finding something favorable, something for which to be grateful, not matter how small.  Gratitude, whether for our current situation or the opportunity to change it, is the seed that grows lasting peace within us.

There is much to be said for a hug, for a nod from a friend acknowledging your struggle, from the proffer of a tissue that says I care you’re hurting.  These momentary respites allow us to take a breath and gather strength.  I sometimes wish that comforting others came more naturally to me.   But I also know the dangers, all too real, of lingering too long in comfortable places.  Tick tock, tick tock.

And so I ask…so what?

It doesn’t mean that I don’t love you.  It doesn’t mean that I don’t care.  It doesn’t mean I think what you’re dealing with is easy.

It means I respect you enough to ask, confident you’ll arrive at an insightful answer.  It means I regard your life as precious and I don’t want to see a drop of it needlessly wasted.  It means that I believe you have within you all that is necessary.

And so I ask…so what?


© Kelly Rainey and 500wordsandcounting.wordpress.com, 2015.  

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5 thoughts on “So What

    1. Thank you. Sometimes asking “so what”…gently and with compassion, is exactly what is called for and more often than not results in relief that is truly appreciated. Thanks for taking the time to stop by and read and share your thoughts.

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    1. Yes…empowering! “So what” as in…how does this matter? Should it matter? If so…is there anything we can do about it? If not…why waste the energy getting worked up about it? That thought process is often lost in the midst of emotional response and stepping back for that focus is extremely empowering. Thanks for taking the time to read and share your comments.

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