On Learning to Love & Live The Questions

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By Jillian Stacia

There’s this quote from Rainer Maria Rilke that I’m obsessed with:

 “Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps someday far in the future, you will live your way into the answers.”

Now I don’t know Rilke, and this might sound like a particularly woo-woo thing to say, but I know without a doubt that he wrote those words especially for me. Somewhere, almost 100 years ago, a young Rilke was channeling a neurotic twenty something woman when he wrote those lines. Well, maybe not. But isn’t that the thing about great writing? It transcends decades and genders and circumstances and snaps something back into place deep inside of you?

Since reading this quote about a year ago, it has seeped into my skin and lodged itself into my heart. These words are everything I’ve ever needed to know. This is the answer. The answer that says that there are no answers. The answer that tells me to learn to love the questions. Not just tolerate or ignore or solve, but love. The key is to love the questions for what they are, to embrace the uncertainty, to make a beautiful home in the land of the unknown.

How much time have I spent trying to solve questions that I should be loving? How much pain could have been avoided? How much joy could I have experienced if I could’ve just fallen in love with the questions that live inside my own heart?

I guess it’s time to acknowledge that I have a lot of questions. I desperately want to know how things will turn out. I want to know the best possible course of actions for all possible outcomes. I want to know that everything works out alright in the end. I have questions about everything, and I am desperately craving the answers.

But as Rilke says, “do not search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them.”

He’s right, obviously. You have to live your way into the answers. Looking back, there is not one single thing I’d go back and tell my sixteen-year-old self. There’s not one tidbit of wisdom I’d pass on, even though I certainly have plenty. But if I had the chance, I’d only pull her close, kiss her forehead and whisper in her ear that it gets better. That’s it. There would be no answers given, no clues, no next steps. Nothing but some gentle reassurance that she will figure it out, that she will live her way into the answers.

She would need to get there on her own. She would need to learn to love the questions. And so would every version of myself. We don’t need to know the answers. We can’t know the answers. We need the courage to live them. We need to remember what this whole thing is about – which is the living and the breathing and the doing and the trying. Once we do all of those things, the answers will appear.

When I look ahead at my life, I see thousands of questions. The future is blank and vast and predominantly unknown. But I am trying to heed Rilke’s advice. I am trying not to fear the unknown or chase after the questions with reckless abandonment. Instead I am going to get down on one knee and call them too me. I am going to fall in love with the questions, pulling them closer instead of pushing them away.

And then, I’m going to live my way into the answers. Messily, angrily, awkwardly, uncomfortably, authentically. I am going to show up and tend to my life with vigor. I am going to live. Because isn’t that the point of this whole thing, anyway?

Jillian is part of the Contributing Writer Network at Thirty on Tap. To apply to become a Contributing Writer, please click HERE.

{featured image via unsplash}

3 thoughts on “On Learning to Love & Live The Questions

  1. Robert Varga says:

    Very deep today, we are. I should give that quote to my wife every time when and if she works too much. She must do researches for her tasks often….so, ideal joke would be! 🙂


  2. #themaskwriter says:

    i’ve been thinking, and writing, about this lately because of another author: thomas moore. on his book ‘care of the soul’ he invites us to a new perspective on problems. i’ve learned to accept them and understand where they come from, instead of running, worrying or trying to solve them.


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