Your Quest2016 Prompt today:
You wake up to discover a knock at your door. A wealthy uncle you barely knew has passed and left you a fortune. It’s more than enough to live out your days in glorious splendor, but there is a condition. To be eligible to collect, you must commit your full-time working energies to the pursuit of an answer to a single question of your choosing for the next 12 months.
You are welcome to continue that pursuit after the year ends, for years or decades if it warrants, but you must remain fully focused on seeking the answer until the last minute of the 365th day. A minute shorter, the entire inheritance goes to your annoying and equally long lost cousin, Philly.
What is your question?
Oh this truly is my dream come true. For most of my professional life I have waited for wealthy uncles to die, but having none, the wait was futile. Which is to say I do have uncles. I have several, some still alive, none with wealth that might extend past their own children; so really, this dream-come-true prompt finally announces the arrival of the ship that I have waited to come in for years and years. Hurray!
Welcome Wealthy Uncle! Come in; let me stir you up a cup of tea while you wipe your chilly nose on this clean napkin laid before you. I am so happy you have arrived. I will turn up the heat so you can shake the December chill while the pot boils.
This condition, of glorious splendor coming if I commit to the pursuit of a single question, comes to me with some questions for you. Does this have to be a new question, or may it be a question I have been working on already? And how transparent must I be with the question? How will you check up on me-oh, I know the answer to that-you will know, just know, right, because when I veer off course, then truly, we will both know, eh?
Okay. Then even before I pour your tea, I can answer you this.
What if I don’t wait until my kids are out of the house to fully unmask my creative fertility? Why wait?
This question: Why wait?
For so many years I have waited for the kids to be grown, for life to find a rhythm like a boat at sea in a steady wind, cutting waves with accuracy and efficiency. But life, she is not like that. And I dare say, though I am not sailor enough to confirm it, that neither is the sea like this, steady all the time.
Life is messy. Life is chaotic. Ships rock. What happens if I write anyway?
Could I have a completed manuscript by the end of 2016? Maybe even a book designer and publisher? Could I work towards completing my manuscript while doing for others what I pledge to do with myself, to unmask creative fertility?
What happens if I write anyway, in the midst of even these questions? What if I show up at the page, every single day, even on vacation (but especially on vacation) and illuminate my literary and visual answer to this question:
So Uncle. Here is your tea. Rose tea, with pear, ginger and lemon infused honey, something to ease you as you warm yourself. I am deeply appreciative of you offering me this gift. If I complete it, may I use it for my own purposes? Could I supply a refugee family with this money? Could I fund my own retreat and supply scholarships for women in need to attend, all expenses paid? Could I re-insulate my whole house and upgrade our systems so that we are more energy efficient? May I use these funds to support the cleanup of the Housatonic River? Could I escape with Jonathan and our kids to a cabana in Costa Rica where we can work, surf, hike and eat more of that salted fish at Selvin’s in Punta Uva? Might I finally get to see the textile museums in the Norse Countries and spend weeks in a cottage up in the mountains working, resting, reading, hiking and getting to know about elk? Oh the places I could go with this money. My children would have the degrees they seek; we’d all have plenty to share, but Uncle.
If I don’t want the money, but want the question, would you hold it for me until I do, when I may use it as I wish? For Uncle, I have found, while waiting for you to arrive, all of these years, waiting to be discovered by the golden aura of success and financial independence, my own tincture of success that heals and eases and excites me beyond anything money could buy. Forgive my Dickensian, Raold Dahlesque, SARK-y digression here, for I am supposed to be writing my response to your generous offer, but I cannot stop my fingers to say, money is nice, but not everything. And in my life, as a woman who mothers, I have found so much. I would not want to lose any of the grace I have discovered when pots are boiling over, a leg gets broken, and we are late for church or soccer or bed. I have found in the cramp of yearning that has colored my years as a mother with creative dreams which knock me off my steady pace over and over again, that in this yearning, in this ache, is a certain medicine that women need. I want to deliver this medicine.
So in asking, you have given me a chance to tell you this. Yes, money would make it easier for my family to live while I work fully and completely, immersed in my book and the next, teaching and making this work available to women in need, it would send me to the Congo to help Eve or to Armenia with John to sit in circle with women whose stories bear agonies I have never known. Money would do all of that. But, if your offer is to ease the life I have, then I would rather that you hold it until I need it for these projects, for I would not want to be released from my hunger to create from inside motherhood, writing from inside a woman’s life.
Oh Uncle, I misunderstood you. I thought this gift came with reconciliation of social norms and our government so that all people in our land value the offerings that caregivers contribute by raising families. I thought this dream-come-true assured me that our health-care and education systems would be overhauled in order that mothers and fathers could have paid leave and thrive fully in their lives. I thought this came with gun control and solutions to climate change, the polar bears and white rhinocerii. Oh. I see, yes, now I see that I have over estimated your gift, I over estimated the power of money. I see this is not your offer. Forgive me.
In truth, it seems your offer is simply to let me live in my question so fully, so that I could just keep living in to it, like wind in sails, they don’t ask, they just fill. If that is the case, Uncle, I must tell you I don’t need the money. You can hold on to it until it is my time to go to the Congo or run that retreat with scholarships. Yes for that work, I will take it, but only when I need it.
Dear Uncle, thank you. Let us meet again in December 2016. I will have the pot on the stove, tea will be ready.
JONATHAN FIELDS is a New York City dad, husband and lawyer turned award-winning author, media producer, and entrepreneur. His last book, Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt Into Fuel For Brilliance (Portfolio 2011) was named the top personal development book in 2011 by 800-CEO-READ.
Tracking Wonder’s Quest is here. It is free. And as you can see, it is though provoking.
Brenna Layne’s response is here.
Kate Arms-Roberts’ is here.
Millie Jackson’s is here.