How to Deal with Uncertainty
The total agony of not knowing the future, not knowing if it really will be ok, and not knowing if we are making the right choices that will ultimately lead us on the right path can be just that . . . total agony! Personally, I’m the queen of suffering with uncertainty and have struggled with trusting my gut and letting go of the intense need to know how it will all turn out for as long as I can remember. In fact, when I was a freshman in college, I found myself at a particularly painful crossroads. I was faced with the decision of whether to stay with my high school boyfriend who was my first love and the most wonderful guy I’d ever known, or break up with him to start a new relationship with an old crush that finally showed interest in me. At the time, it felt like life or death. My 19-year-old brain was convinced that whichever guy I chose was ultimately going to be my husband someday, so I better damn well make the right choice! I was so torn up about not knowing the future that I ventured out to someone who might be able to give me some insight . . . no, I didn’t go to therapy or pray to God . . . I went to a psychic.
Because, who else can really hold your hand, look you in the eye, and tell you exactly what the future holds better than a psychic? I’m not so sure that he really saw my future, but what he had to say to me totally rocked my world. He opened me up to the possibility that perhaps my future was not locked into this ONE choice. He had the nerve to ask me if it might be possible that neither of these great guys was going to be my future husband. “How preposterous!” – thought my 19 year old wise self. However, with that simple question, eventually I was able to shift my perspective from the pressure of my entire life riding on this decision of which guy to choose, to maybe there’s more out there for me in this great big world. That whatever I choose today will continue leading me on the path toward a fulfilling life . . . even if it’s with someone I’ve never met before. It’s interesting to me now, as I look back at that time, with the luxury of knowing how it all turns out, that I never could have guessed how awesome my life would be in 10 years. Now, I’m in my 30’s and happily married to a handyman from northern Minnesota. I feel a little sad for my 19-year-old self that I insisted on gripping so tightly to the black and white thinking of limited choices. I continued to go back and forth and back and forth between those two guys for many months, breaking their hearts and mine over and over again, simply because I could not relax into the discomfort of uncertainty . . . but honestly, relaxing into fear does not come naturally! So often, we miss out on the joy of life in the present moment when we allow ourselves to become consumed by the anxiety of the unknown. This may come in the form of fear of wasting time in the wrong relationship, wrong major, wrong city, or wrong job. There may be a sense of intense urgency to figure it all out right now so that you don’t waste any time in the wrong scenario. There is nothing more human than the natural yearning for safety and security. There is nothing safe or secure about not knowing how this will all turn out, so of course we freak out from time to time about the unknown. However, it is interesting how quickly peace floods in to replace anxiety when we choose to relax into the uncertainty and accept that to some degree we have no control - that there is no wrong choice. When we can take a breath and experience this moment just as it is, be present with the pit in our stomachs, be gentle with the fear of not knowing, and then trust in our own infinite wisdom . . . that calm, quiet whisper that actually does know it will all be ok. That is when we are finally able to make choices with the certainty that there is no certainty . . . that there is just life, a string of moments in which we are able to choose and re-choose and adjust according to what is right for us now.
Written By: Stephanie Trueblood, MA, LPC