It’s been pointed out to me by a wise and observant friend that I appear to be afraid of uncertainty. I never understood what she was talking about, because after all, I crave change. Homogeny insults my sensibilities. Too much routine bores me to tears. I guess I’m uncertain as to what uncertainty means, so I looked up the definition. Uncertainty is:
not known beyond doubt :<uncertain claim>
not having certain knowledge :<uncertain about her plans>
not clearly identified or defined :<uncertain origin>
not constant :<uncertain breeze>
I think this the dissonance my mind runs into. On the one hand, I crave change and the unknown because I love learning more than just about anything else. On the other hand, I’m afraid of not knowing what the outcome of the change will be. I then take my love of learning to a place of inaction. I plan and study and research, then research some more and knowing I will never know enough to ensure that everything will work out, I give up. I don’t try. I don’t move. My life becomes stagnant and stagnation feels like death to me. It makes me miserable and angry, so I go back to researching and learning so I can figure a way out of my misery. And round and round I go, never getting anywhere. This is what a vicious cycle looks like.
My siblings and I grew up in an unstable environment. Our mother was mentally ill. She was in and out of the hospital for most of our lives. Our father thought he was doing a good job of raising us alone by keeping a roof over our heads, but he failed to realize that we also needed to feel safe and taken care of. He was also sick with a bad heart, so between him and our mother, we never knew what was going to happen next.
We were shuttled off to our grandparents a lot and to spend summers with my parents’ best friends. We had people from the church bring us food sometimes or let us come over after school so we wouldn’t have to be alone all the time. My life was very uncertain as a child and I never felt safe, which probably explains why uncertainty frightens me so much. It’s why I try to control every aspect of my life and the lives of those I love. If I can keep everything under control, everyone will be okay. But things happen. That’s the nature of life. Life is chock full of uncertainty.
So when my yoga teacher spoke of uncertainty in class today, it caught my attention. She said something to the effect of ‘knowing doesn’t leave room for the unknown and the unknown is where all the joy, growth, and expansion in life happens. There is power in uncertainty.’ It took me a minute to let that sink in because my first reaction was “Power in uncertainty? She’s got to be kidding!”
She went on to say that what we want to do is live in the space between routine and chaos. We need routine to feel safe and grounded, but we also need chaos to shake things up so we can grow and move.
It’s like shaking a snow globe. You have a nice, serene winter scene, but the purpose of the globe is to watch the snow fall, so you shake it as hard as you can to make the snow fly. The serenity inside disappears briefly, but the chaos doesn’t last long. The snow begins to settle again and even though the scene looks the same, those snowflakes never go back to where they started.
This lesson couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m about to shake my own snow globe by moving away from the place I’ve called home for twenty years. Life is as certain as it gets here. Nothing much ever changes. And while certainty is comfortable, it doesn’t encourage you to experience all the wonderful things that the world has to offer. Certainty keeps you small and contained and I want to be expansive and free.
I’m trading the comfort of what I do know for the uncertainty of what I don’t know. The unknown is where the fullest expression of life exists and I want to live as full of a life as I can from now on. I have no idea what I’ll do or if it will work out, but the part of me that wants to live is ready for the change. I guess there’s power in uncertainty after all.