Here & there: Curiosity didn’t kill the cat

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FEATURE — Week whatever this is of COVID-19, I’m still curating and editing a weekly newsletter for the women in my neighborhood. Each week, two or three women write their truth about COVID life. Their frustrations. Their joys. Their struggles.  

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We’ve dubbed it the COVID Chronicles. And it’s a complete and utter joy – to both edit and read.

Initially, these chronicles were a free write response to the simple question, “What is life like for you right now?” We’ve had poems about the joys of bralessness during the early days of shutdown, discussions about “soft pants” vs. “hard pants” (basically anything with a zipper) and rants about remote learning.

Some of the rants about remote learning may or may not have come from me. If my boys were reading this right now, they’d take exception to the fact that I didn’t put the learning part of remote learning in quotes; they vociferously maintain there is very little learning taking place. 

Rants are cathartic, of course, but they only get you so far. And so far, they haven’t changed anything about our forced remote only school situation – or anything else. 

So, four weeks ago, we changed the format of our COVID Chronicles. 

Now, instead of a free write, we ask submissions to respond to three questions: 1) What are three things that are helping you cope with life right now?; 2) What is a book/podcast/show you recommend?; and 3) What is something new you’ve learned about yourself in the last six months?

The responses have been wonderful — Still honest and true and chronicling what life is like, but in a way that’s actionable for others.

Need a laugh after a hard day? How about “Schitt’s Creek?” 

Want to improve yourself without reading a whole self-help book? How about Sy Montgomery’s collection of essays entitled “How to be a Good Creature?”

Interested in baking but have no tolerance for kneading? How about some no-knead bread from the New York Times

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One young attorney who is now a stay-at-home mom thanks, in part, to COVID said one of the things that has helped her cope is watching the world through her 18-month-old’s eyes. 

To him, all rocks, sticks, and airplanes are amazing.

Curiosity isn’t a COVID-only coping mechanism though. It’s a life-coping mechanism. Albert Einstein once claimed, “I am neither clever nor especially gifted. I am only very, very curious.”  

I was listening to a literary podcast the other day. The hosts were discussing a specific chapter of a book through the theme of curiosity. Towards the end of the episode, one of the hosts had an epiphany. But it wasn’t just about curiosity, it was about control. 

Control had been the theme through which they’d analyzed the previous chapter of this same book, and so it was still top of mind. 

The co-host’s epiphany went something like this: control without curiosity is dangerous. 

As in, when you try to assert control over something or someone without first asking questions, it can be dangerous at worst (think dictators and autocrats) and limiting at best.

She had reasons from the text to back up her assertion, but I found myself not listening so much to her but looking to my own life to see if that statement held true. And it did.

I am at my worst parenting self when I take control without curiosity. 

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I am my best parenting self when I stop and ask questions before I react. Questions about what happened in the preceding five seconds before one brother “for no reason whatsoever” threw a pillow at another brother’s head. Questions about why my senior is falling behind in remote learning when his course load doesn’t seem that heavy. 

In fact, I am my best spouse self, my best worker self, my best human self when I am curious. About places and things and movements. About people and their motivations and dreams and disappointments and ideologies. Political and otherwise.

With that curiosity often comes awe. Or, at least, a new appreciation or understanding. About those bigger things. And the small ones, too, like rocks and sticks and planes. 

Einstein called himself, “passionately curious.” And that, if this COVID time has taught us anything, is what we should all aim to be. 

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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