Most nights, I find myself lying in bed in a darkened room, talking about death. This evening ritual begins mundanely enough, with putting on pajamas and brushing teeth and then, somewhere between the story and the prayer, Maverick inevitably asks a question like: "How does your Soul get into your body?" or makes a statement like: "When you die, can you ask your new family to bring you back to our house so we can be together again?" After a few minutes of wondering together about the magnificent mystery of it all, the focus turns to Pokemon or Paw Patrol, or sometimes even, to the soft snore of two exhausted humans. A few years before my curious second child was born, I was confronted with a simple question that helped to change the trajectory of my life:
"Are you having the conversations you want to be having?"
At the time, I was doing a job that felt like exactly that while struggling to balance life with a toddler. I felt a keen sense of living out of alignment and a yearning to reconnect to myself and my path. So I started to pay attention to which conversations lit me up and which ones drained my energy. I observed how I felt during and after talking to someone, and noted those people with whom I felt a spark and others who put out the fire. And I suffered when I realized that much of my daily interactions drained and dampened me. While some of it was the content, more often it was the quality of feeling between myself and the other person. Ultimately, it meant letting go of a lot, which eventually gave more space to seek out inspiring, challenging and nourishing conversations with people with whom I feel alive, connected, and heard.
Sure, I still engage with people I love (and some I don't) in plenty of ordinary, even boring, discussions (most of them related to the weather and household duties, let's be honest). And while they may not ignite my passion, these strategy sessions ensure that kids are fed, bills are paid, and, when necessary, rainboots are worn.
The point is not to ensure that every time you open your mouth some extraordinary insight lands, but rather, to become aware of the quality of your conversations, both with others and with how you speak to yourself, and to choose the ones you want to be having and who you want to have them with.
So while it's true that conversations about death are not the typical bedtime topic, and not at all what our 9-year-old daughter wants to discuss (or most people, for that matter) it is my joy to explore big questions with our 5-year-old who embodies Rilke's recommendation to "Live the questions now." For it is in this space of wonder, of "being comfortable with uncertainty," as Pema Chödrön calls the challenge of daily living, that we come to understand and connect, to evolve and align.