• Last modified 421 days ago (Feb. 22, 2023)


Another Day in the Country

Keep asking questions

© Another Day in the Country

Whenever we get together with friends or family for lunch or even just riding in the car, my sister and I love to ask questions of the group.

“It keeps conversations from being redundant,” Jess says, “or mundane.”

There’s nothing quite as vexing as boring conversations.

A boring discussion is usually about the weather, some television program, or illness.

It’s like one of those awful Christmas letters people write when evidently nothing interesting has happened and they recite in minute detail all the catastrophes and medical procedures they’ve had in the last year.

Those things are important to talk about with those who can be helpful in the situation, but in the wider circle of life, brevity is best.

I think I used to take good conversations for granted. At this point, I probably should define what I mean by a good conversation. It’s where the subject is interesting because it’s either something you know nothing about or it’s some personal insight.

A good conversation is positive. It also is give and take — not a monologue with one person doing all the talking and the other doing all the nodding and listening. A singular voice in the room is a lecture, not a conversation.

A good conversation leaves you feeling refreshed or can make you feel in awe. Just the act of talking and listening feels as if you’ve had exercise, run a mile, or won first prize.

Tell me: When was the last time you had one? I wonder, sometimes, if we still know how to have a conversation with people. We get so used to just being entertained.

In a conversation, you have to do your part. It’s like a tennis game, where you take turns serving the ball. You talk. You listen. Someone asks a question. Others provide an answer. Back and forth across the net the ball bounces. Your turn. Now, I’ll receive. 

Lots of times, I think, that’s the point of playing a game — the conversation that happens while you are doing it. If we run out of questions, I’ve got a book of questions in the car, and there’s another book of the same ilk on a shelf in my office.

Questions are such good conversation starters. Just for fun, I’ll ask you some.

Would you accept $1 million to leave the United States and never set foot in it again?

If you could spend one year in perfect happiness, but afterward would remember nothing of the experience, would you do it?

If 100 people your age were chosen at random, how many do you think you’d find leading a more satisfying life than yours?

They’re food for thought —even better if you ask someone else the question and listen carefully for the answer. I guarantee you are going to learn something.

“Name three people who’ve made a difference in your life,” Jess asked.

She loves asking this question. It’s a question about gratitude. Every time you ponder such a query, the answer may be different.

For me, the first person that came to mind today was my Grandma Ehrhardt, who lived most of her life within a few miles of Ramona. She was the first constant person in my life who obviously enjoyed having me with her. I wasn’t in the way. I wasn’t too noisy or too shy. She just loved having me tag around after her. I was her first grandchild. 

“What about you?” I asked back.

“It was Keesey,” she said.

Keesey is an old professor friend Jess met when she went back to college to get her four-year degree. He’s someone she’s kept in touch with all these years. Every once in a while, he just calls.

He taught psychology, and the first day in class he wrote across the board: “You create your own experience.”

“I couldn’t believe that concept,” Jess continues. “I’d never heard it before, and I was curious to learn more. It changed my life!”

As happens in all good conversations, some ideas need explaining.

“This doesn’t mean you control everything that happens in your life,” she explains, “but it does mean you do have choices, responsibility over how you react to what life brings your way.”

There it happened again, as with all good conversations — something to ponder, on another day in the country.

Last modified Feb. 22, 2023