How to Be Certain in Uncertainty
I think it’s important that I state as I begin to write this blog that there are no simple steps, no quick fixes, and no clear-cut how-to’s when it comes to dealing with uncertainty in life (even though I have often wished there were). In fact there was really just one basic idea that I needed to attune myself to so I could start being at least a little more comfortable with uncertainty, and that is that life is constantly uncertain.
Anything could happen; we could lose our job, a partner could decide they don’t want to be our partner anymore and leave, our parents could die, our pets could get ill, a business we have lovingly crafted could fall apart overnight, a huge unforeseen cost could suddenly occur, meaning we can no longer commit to those travel plans or other exciting things we’d had that money earmarked for. Events can happen that can flip life 180 for us in a matter of days, hours or even seconds.
It certainly seems to be the case that so many of us like to think we have total control over our lives and the Universe, but really we don’t.
And you can be sure that if you think you’ve created a solid, steady, safe life for yourself and everything’s sorted, you’re most likely under the spell of illusion.
I’ve danced with the concept of stability for years and have come to rest in the acceptance that nothing is ever stable. We think we’ve got a level-playing field in one area of our lives and something comes along to make us realise we’d been paying no attention in another and we have to start digging up the field all over again. When I was coasting through my life rather unconsciously, I used to refer to this as messiness or chaos. Now I understand that it’s simply a necessary unravelling, clearing an opening for me to go deeper into what’s actually true and what isn’t. Each time something or someone comes along to rock my world, I know it’s time for me to decide what gets to stay, and what simply has to go.
The other day I reached out to my coach and shared with her that I could feel shifts beginning to happen in my life but I couldn’t see them yet and that was terribly unnerving for me. It finally cemented the realisation that I have never been good at dealing with or understanding the concept of uncertainty simply because I have been too resistant to actually sitting in the discomfort of the feeling itself (yes, I used to, and still can be at times, a very controlling person). But here is where we get to the deeper meaning behind uncertainty; life is mostly uncomfortable. So are relationships and careers and trying to figure out our purpose. It’s just that the majority of society (alongside a very guilty advertising industry) have been following ways that numb from that discomfort via things like alcohol, drugs, shopping, sex, busy work, food or video games. These are all the ways so many of us try to control life, building in distractions and avoidance techniques so expertly that we can actually convince ourselves that’s how we actually want to live. Until something stops us, uproots us, moves us or stirs us to the very depths of our soul, and we realise that perhaps the certainty we had told ourselves we’d built with that friendship group, routine, spouse or career wasn’t so certain after all.
So if everything is so constantly uncertain, and if life is just a series of ups and downs, how are we supposed to be ok with that, if our family or environmental conditioning has told us that we have to create and sustain comfort, security and stability?
And what if some of us, me included, have finally admitted we have addictive, compulsive tendencies and we’ve actually been told stability can help us stay clean, clear and focused?
The only way I’ve found to be helpful lately in such uncertain times is to continuously plug into my knowing, despite external circumstances.
If the waves were going to come no matter what, I decided it was time to learn how to surf instead of settling for the idea that perhaps I was just one of those weaker types who didn’t have as much resilience as everyone else and was just destined to keep getting knocked over.
Moving into a deeper place of knowing within myself hasn’t come easily. It’s cost me relationships, money, my health and at times my sanity, but only because I continually ignored the whisperings of my intuition because on some level I still believed I had to do life the way everyone else wanted me to do it instead of trusting myself. The more I tried to keep up, and the more often I gave in to the demands of others, the harder it became to stay energised, and the more I tried to control everything, the quicker everything would unravel once again.
My coach told me she could see in me what seemed to be a flipping between getting caught up in the frenetic place of life and a toxic work environment that I know isn’t going to serve me long-term, versus the deeper truth of life where I feel connected and in-flow. It’s connecting to that deeper truth that helps me begin to feel more comfortable with the idea that life is uncertain and that I have what it takes to withstand the waves when they begin to build. There are things I know I can do that will help me stay steady through transitions; deep breathing, taking care of my wellbeing, being as organised as I can, putting everything in my calendar, practicing stoicism and preparing for the worst so I’m not caught without something I might need. But then on the flip side of all that planning has to be a sense of letting go; being ok with the fact that things might not work out, practicing ease with the realisation that as present as we can be and as organised as we can make ourselves around the future we think we’re headed towards, the Universe is still going to do its thing, trip us up, materialise a lesson for us to learn or maybe even stop us completely. But once we know this, breathe it in and sit with it for a while, the strange paradox is that we being to feel certain about uncertainty and I don’t know about you, but for me that’s recently brought a surprising sense of calm. Knowing that no longer do I need to be a passenger in my life, but that whilst I’m also now driving, I am at the same time being guided by something bigger than me, finally allows me to gradually let go a little more easily.
I’m not saying that when the tough stuff comes or when old emotions that need be healed bubble up that it won’t completely suck. It will. It still does. But there’s that beautiful knowing again. If we can know things will be tough at times, if we can know change is the only constant, and then if we can know we’re equally ready to deal with all of that because we’ve begun to cultivate that faith and trust in our abilities, we can finally meet uncertainty with the grace it’s been looking for from us all along.
There is no map, no path, no certain future, no final destination at which we’ll feel completely fulfilled and rested.
It will all ebb and flow and change and transform.
But if we can open to all of that and love it anyway, I think that’s a pretty empowering next step for all of us to be taking.
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash