Skip the BS Please … Answer the Question


One of the first times that I went out to coffee with my friend Jo Ann, we had a conversation about her recent weight loss. She lost 102 pounds in a rather short period of time. I asked her if she felt different after she lost the weight. She mentioned how much more energy she had and how much better she felt, but that was not what I was looking for. “No,” I pressed. “Does losing the weight make you feel different as a woman or see yourself differently?” She answered me and the conversation went deeper as we get to know each other better. Before we left for the evening, she turned to me and thanked me for asking her questions that make her think.

I love conversations. I’m terrible at small talk. I’m awkward. I actually don’t care what you think about the weather or the government. I don’t really care that your day was “good.” It’s why I’m really uncomfortable at parties. I’m great one-on-one or even with a few people. I look at you, and I want to know what’s in your heart. Tell me that you love painting, and I’ll ask you what happens inside you when you are painting? I’d want to know how you choose the colors you use. I’m dying to know how an idea first percolates in your brain and what you do to get it on paper. I want to know if you are attached to it after you finish. I love pointed questions that get to the root of who you are.

Jo Ann’s Before Pics

My friend Karen sent me this link tonight – The Questions That Will Save Your Relationships. I immediately knew I wanted to write about it. Earlier this week, my sister-in-law Laura posted this quote on Facebook:

“Being heard
is so close to being loved
that for the average person,
they are almost indistinguishable.”
― David Augsburger

I learned early in my life that people like to talk about themselves. If you let people talk about themselves and really listen, they will think you are the most fascinating person on the planet. I read this in How to Win Friends and Influence People. It was such a relief to know that I didn’t have to impress people. I just had to let them impress themselves. But, it does take the right questioning. If I ask, “How are you?”, I will get an answer of “fine.” The answerer doesn’t really think I want to know, so they don’t really give anything. It’s just a passing remark. So, I don’t like to do that very much. I try to ask something specific.

Men and women like to talk about themselves. And, bringing them out is so much fun. I’m not always a good listener. Sometimes I’m distracted. Sometimes I’m waiting to talk. I know I like to talk about myself, too. But, when I ask a question that makes someone think or explore something about themselves that they’ve never explored, it really ignites the conversation. That’s the beauty of asking the right questions. I get to have fun. Some people don’t like it. They’d like to stay with “fine” and get on with it. That’s okay. But, it’s not much fun.

The article Karen shared with me has some great insights about asking questions that matter. Asking people about their feelings is a great place to start. Some groups I have attended started our gatherings with a “check in”. We were asked to give two feeling words at the beginning of the circle and two at the end. When someone tells you how they are feeling – anxious, fearful, happy, closed down, giggly, isolated, etc. – it gives you so much information. Plus, it helps them get in touch with what’s inside themselves. Most often, the feelings would change by the end of the meeting. It was interesting to see how they ebb and flow. My ex and I used to have a list of feeling words hanging on the refrigerator so that we could find words for what we were feeling. It really helped. And, often, as I’d ask questions about how he was feeling, he’d refine those to something that fit better. We often ignore our feelings. We are emotional beings. It’s how we roll… and don’t think it’s just limited to women.

I’ll leave you with some pictures of my friend Jo Ann. She’s an amazing woman that has lost 102 pounds in a short period of time. Now, I ask you, do you really want to know how she did it or what her health is like? Or, do you want to know more… like what has changed inside of her? How she sees herself differently… what goes through her mind when she looks in the mirror? How does shopping feel different now? I’d ask her husband Robbie what he sees differently in her? I’d ask what he misses about the old Jo-Ann? Is there anything new he’s discovered in the process about her? About himself? To me, that’s infinitely more interesting. Following the photos is one of my favorite poems that begs you to tell me who you really are … skip the BS, please.

I always loved that poem The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer.

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shrivelled and closed from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own; if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not pretty every day. And if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, ‘Yes.’

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.
It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

6 Comments on “Skip the BS Please … Answer the Question

  1. Jo Ann has always been the kind of person who would give you the shirt off her back even though she still really needed it. The old Jo Ann vs the new Jo Ann is mostly physical. She seems to smile a whole lot more now, but when it come to the heart of her she is still the most selfless person I know. She has opened her house and heart to dozens of people. Her house was grand central when her kids were home. No matter what ” the plan” was with the boys, Jo was right in the thick of it being a kid with them. To the boys of Watson she is and always will be “da momma”. Jo is active in church, scouts, community events and still finds time to work, take care of her house, her husband, her children, and our momma. She has always done this. I don’t think that her physical appearance could ever change the large heart that she is willing to give a piece of to everyone she meets. I do think that by losing the weight she has added many more years to her life so she can continue to give of herself to others. I so love this skinny momma.


  2. Sharon, I really feel like I might have something to say here, but I’m shy. I’m afraid of saying too much. I’m going to give it a shot anyway, and I’ll try to keep it short. I think I’m intrigued by the question because I just recently learned who I am. Or rather what I am. I’m still a little baffled by it because standing back and looking at it, it’s maybe a little impressive. That’s not bragging about my character, it’s just unexpected.

    You posted a couple of things lately that took me back to high school It wasn’t all that comfortable a trip down memory lane. I literally had no clue…about anything. I just didn’t know it at the time. Fast forward 3 years and I’m a real live MOTHER.! I never wanted anything more and Anna was answer to my prayer. My marriage was crap, but I had Anna. That’s when I learned what it really meant to love. I learned it was more than just physical attraction and any other superficial circumstance. I knew what it meant that I would give my life for another. The separation from her father took 8 long years. I got a little stronger, a little smarter along the way but not that much. Though being a Mom seemed to be in my genes. I was a natural, I was good at it and I loved every minute of it. Well, maybe there were a few minutes when she was a teenager and young adult that I didn’t love… I digress. But the divorce from her father and subsequent custody war took a serious toll on me personally. But what was I to do? I had this beautiful, wonderful child to tend to, I had to pick it up and get on with it. So I just did. There wasn’t much thought to it other than it’s what needed to be done. The scars lasted many years though. I eventually married a wonderful man who loved me completely despite my ignorance and childlike thinking. I knew there was great strength in me, I came from really good stock. I guess until this horrible divorce and custody battle my life had been well orchestrated and protected. But being a busy Mom, I didn’t notice any strength, I was tired and lonely and feeling very sorry for myself. This is about the time I met Jay. He gave me confidence, courage and security. It took me a couple of years to get comfortable with this newfound appreciation. But I settled in and on with life we go. We had a son and life got busier. A very good life. My wonderful, beautiful daughter had some struggles of her own after high school and eventually became a mother herself. Her relationship was not good, just like me. I struggled so much with the guilt of my selfishness. There has been struggle and hardship and darkness in her life and with her children that I never believed I could survive. But survive I did and in so doing, learned much about me. Things got very much better in Anna’s life and her children’s and things are as they should be now. And just as Anna’s life was coming together and I was feeling better about the mother I had been, we learned that Mom was in the early stages of dementia. Boy, that was a big one. I really had to step up my game. At the time Anna and her family were living with us and we were quite instrumental in the kids everyday lives. That’s hard work, and now that I was, well, past 45, it seemed even harder work. Not a complaint, just a fact. But to add tending to Mom too was a heavy load. But one day I looked and I saw that I was able to carry that load. It was heavy, but I had it. I was strong. My shoulders are wide. About the time I got a rhythm going with all my balls in the air……”Mrs. Marchesseault you have cancer”. And thus began the undoing of me. I raged for a long time. I don’t have time for this, too many people depend on me, did I mention I don’t have time for this? The monster that started in my colon traveled to my liver, I almost was in serious trouble. Trouble enough, but common. Chemo and radiation began immediately to hopefully shrink the tumors before surgery. It wasn’t fun or easy, but I did it, like I always do. Then we had the big surgery. It was BIG surgery. Things I had to live with now were not acceptable to me. What was supposed to be on the inside of my body was now on the outside and not only did I have to look at it, I had to take care of it. I should clarify here that by this time, only a sliver of my dignity was left. Recovery in the hospital was…well, all the doctors called me remarkable. While my cancer was well advanced, Stage IV, they were able to do what they needed to do. I did not spend time in ICU and left on the 6th day. Remarkable they said. 2 weeks after I got home from the hospital, I walked into the kitchen to get a specific knife to slice the vein on my wrist. My pain was so intense, my objection was so complete even the thought of my children did not stop me. They are grown, they’ll be okay. Earl will take care of Mom. But I thought of my husband. Jay. He would be devastated if I did this. We are and have always been joined at the hip, we do everything together. I just could not hurt him this way. Besides, he still had to pay for all this. The fight continued. Acceptance of my situation did not come easy. Anyone who goes through chemo learns just how strong they really are. As I did. I thought the hardest thing I would ever have to endure in my life was the horrible divorce and custody fight. Well, I was wrong. About halfway through this hell, when things were really getting hard, I remember the day as clear as anything, waiting to go in for treatment, I was sick, I was crying because I had to do it again. I turned to Jay and said I don’t want to wait any more. For the last 15 years we’ve dreamed of moving to Tennessee. About 5 years ago we were planning to open a business there. Plans had been made. But Mom got sick and Anna needed help, the time was not right. We promised ourselves we would retire there. That day at chemo, my mind was made up. My life is forever changed, things will never be as they were. I said to Jay that he should do whatever he needed to do to get me to TN. He easily agreed. Cancer wasn’t just on me. It was hell for him too. We thought it would take a while. We had all this property to sell before we could do anything. When I realized we really were making plans to move I got scared. I wanted it bad, but was it the right thing to do? Who do I think I am that just because I got sick I should get what I want? Well, one thing after another fell right into place for this to happen. I took it as divine providence and got over my fear, mostly. I thought, this is a really bold thing to do, where is this coming from? I looked at myself, really looked and saw that bold is what I was meant to do. I have been fearless at times in my life, I have been resolved at others, but I saw that I had always come through whatever adversity came. And I had become strong. No weak willed, mealy mouthed, mamby pamby personality could survive chemo. It does take courage to fight cancer, it takes courage just to live at all. I didn’t know I had it. I didn’t know how strong I was. They say that if your dream doesn’t scare you, you’re not dreaming big enough. I’m strong enough to go after my dream of living in TN without reservation. We will leave Watson Feb 3. I’m both a little melancholy and very much excited. I’m glad I grew up in Watson, I’m glad I raised my children here. My memories are good. Now I’m looking forward to the rest of my life. However long that may be. They won’t call me cured, but I’m good for now. Two weeks after surgery, I would not have thought I could have positive thoughts and feelings again. I didn’t know I’d be able to look so forward to something again. We went to buy a house there. I wasn’t sure how this would go, the town we’re moving to is VERY small. We found the perfect house in the perfect spot. It literally could not be any better. More of that divine providence. I’ll go into more about that another time. I’m going to leave it at the gift of my faith sustained me, not only through divorce and illness, but throughout my life. God took my anger, even rage without even blinking. Also, my fear and all the rest of my worries, bathed me in His grace and sent me on my way. But never alone.

    Thanks for asking the question. I think I needed to answer it. This is way too long and will take up way too much space, read it and delete it. I hope others will answer too.


    • Oh my, Nancy. What a beautiful story though very difficult to live it. I am so impressed with you, your strength and your awareness of your journey. Jay is a very lucky man. I hope to hear more of you in your life in Tennessee. I hope that it will be the respite and adventure you both want.. And I hope that damn cancer stays away. Thank you so much for sharing your heart. You did it beautifully, and I’m glad I asked the question for you to answer. You have mountains of strength!

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