by Susan J. Elliott J.D., M.Ed.
Copyright © 2006-2019
When I was in graduate school, I was changing my life as were many fellow “adult learners” as we night program students were called. To help some of us deal with our new position in life as “students” when most of us worked full time and had kids, we had a required course called “Lifelong Learning.” It was a great course designed to get us comfortable with being students (most of us were in our 30s) and with each other. And it really helped a lot.
One of the inspirational stories likened our situation to a trapeze artist. At some point in a trapeze you are suspended in midair after letting go of the one swing and before you grab hold of the other. That moment of suspension is often what living in uncertainty is like. You’ve already ‘let go’ of something but have not yet grabbed, safely, the new thing. Will you get where you want to go or will be challenges or detours? Will you fall? If you do, will there be a net to catch you? Will you grab the new swing? And if so, will you understand the triumph?
When I first started this process I had no faith and no patience. I didn’t know where I was going or if there would be any there when I got there. I had NO idea that any of this worked and if it did work, would it work for me? I teach what I know and I know this stuff works. It’s worked for me and it’s worked for others. But the uncertainty is a challenge that we all face along the way. This post is for those times.
Patience is the Key
Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day. ~ Rainer Maria Rilke
Sometimes we are very impatient with ourselves and our growth. We want answers and we want them now. We want to be over something and we want it now. We want to know why and how and why not and where and how come and we want to know now.
Sometimes these answers don’t exist. Sometimes we’re not ready for the answer. Sometimes we just can’t know. Sometimes it’s not going to make sense in a million years.
Sometimes people places and things confuse us because it is so far from what we would do if the places were reversed.
We see the world as we see ourselves. If we think we are logical and kind, we cannot fathom illogical or cruel. It is hard to get there from here. We want others to act as we would, to be what we are, to treat us as we would treat them.
Many times we say “I don’t get it, I would never do that to someone.” or “How could a person do that?”
Then there is the uncertainty of who we are turning into with all this learning. Where are we going? Who am I? Who will I be? We thought we were being nice and loving and then we are being told we were being stupid or codependent. Can we have boundaries? What will they look like? Will people NOT like us? How will we deal with that? Our type didn’t work but who is our type now?
We can’t do the old and we don’t know the new. We are uncertain and we want answers NOW!! We need to be okay living in uncertainty. Living in our uncertainty about ourselves and about others.
I’ve written on here about how I used to ride a bicycle 15-25 miles every Sunday morning. I remember it fondly, but I was not fond of it at the time. I specifically remember watching planes take off at the airport and thinking that everyone was going somewhere with someone but me. I was achingly lonely. I had no idea that a little more than 7 years later I would be on a plane with the love of my life going on a honeymoon to the Amalfi Coast of Italy.
The Future is Blank and That’s a Good Thing
I did not know that then. I had NO idea what the future held. I only knew I was horrifically lonely and empty. It felt sad and horrible.
I lived in Warwick, Rhode Island and lived in a lovely suburban neighborhood near the airport. On Sunday, I rode through the neighborhoods near the airport where the state had boarded up houses when they expanded the airport. I would bike through block after block of these boarded up houses, mostly raised ranches built in the 60s, with overgrown front and backyards. It was desolate. And I felt like the outsides matched my insides.
But I was percolating and I was terribly unclear as to who I was and where I was going. I was getting in good shape but my insides were askew. My heart. My mind. My personality. Who was I? Those rides were SO important to who I am today. I had to realize I just had to be me and to be the person that the good and helpful things was turning me into. The old ways didn’t work and the new me wasn’t formed yet. At the time I felt so sad. I WAS sad. I was grieving. I wasn’t competent to be in relationships. I was lonely. I didn’t know if anyone would ever love me. But I had to keep the questions to the side. I had no answers and no ability to have answers. Asking questions that have no answers is a bad bad idea.
The answers will come. Things WILL become clear. Sometimes not today and not now. Sometimes we just have to be okay with “I don’t know.” and the fact that maybe we will never know.
Learn to Sit and Just “BE”
This is one reason I suggest that people learn to just sit and be. Resist the temptation to look at your phone, the tv, the computer, a book…anything. Learn to detach from the things you have been using to distract you. That is one reason I did those bike rides. I had a computer and the internet in the early 90s, long before anyone else did. I had television and my kids’ Game Boys. And a gazillion books (if you’ve seen my videos, you know I have books). I had to go and ride and be – by myself – with no distractions. It disciplined me in SO MANY ways that is beneficial to me today. I look around and every single person is looking DOWN at some little screen. I’m not one of them. Thank goodness. My head is where my feet are and I learn to sit and be. Just BE. Make peace with the peace.
Learn to sit and be with you and sit in the discomfort, the not knowing. Did you sit? Did the world end? No. And it won’t. Be okay with not knowing. Know you are on the way to someplace great. Even if it feels bad or weird or strange. Let it be that way. You are learning and growing. You’re not cooked yet. You’re cooking.
I am so glad there was no cell phones during those bike rides. I was not connected to the world in anyway. Those rides became the symbol of me trying to make my way in the world, trying to see where I fit. If you do something like workout or go for walks or engage in a hobby that demands concentration, put your phone away. Sit in the in-between. See what comes up for you – what thoughts and feelings. I am so glad I was not distracted during those rides…I honestly think that the “all alone in the world” feeling was one I had to face and be okay with.
The other swing will be there when you reach for it. Living in the in-between is difficult sometimes, but it is where growth and learning happens.
Embracing uncertainty is hard but sometimes it’s best to just know it doesn’t make sense, isn’t GOING TO make sense, and be okay with that.
Eventually more will be revealed.
You have no idea what the future holds. NONE. You probably cannot even imagine anything as good as it can get.
I know I had no earthly idea that the kind of love that I found in a man existed or that I could be happy both alone and with someone else (one is vital for the other…you must be happy alone to be happy in a relationship). Trust the process and trust your ability to ride out the uncertainty. You can do it.
Copyright Susan J. Elliott, J.D., M.Ed.
All Rights Reserved No Duplication is Allowed Without Explicit Permission of the Author and a Link Back To The Original Content