Monday, 14 February 2011


How do we do when faced with uncertainty?  My sons are an interesting case study.  One of my sons worries a lot.  He plays through every worst case scenario in his head.  Asking a lot of questions no one has answers to and hunting down guarantees.  He’s sure it’s not going to work out and as a result, he decides he doesn’t want to do whatever it is he’s uncertain about.  Usually I gently make him do it anyway.  Suggest he tell himself some different stories.  Try very hard not to say anything remotely resembling ‘I told you so’ when he actually quite enjoys whatever uncertain thing he has finally decided to embrace.
One of my sons just barrels ahead.  Plunges in.  Tries to figure out how the thing works, what it’s all about, checking it out from multiple angles.  He’s not sure about ‘it’, but he’s sure about himself.  Once when he was two he climbed nimbly up the outside of a banister of stairs.  Clinging on to the top railings he looked confidently over at me and yelled, “Mom!  Is this wise?”  He can handle whatever comes along so he blasts through the uncertainty.  Sometimes it means he doesn’t think about or take in certain crucial issues or features.  Most of the time he doesn’t let it bother him.  I try to help him with critical thinking and learning from his mistakes.  
My other son is a baby.  Uncertainty is his MO.  He doesn’t know much about the world around him, or how things work, or even how he ought to relate to it so he just tries it all out.  Confident the world is a kind place and someone will rescue him if he’s gone too far.  Eager to learn about every nook and cranny.  Excited to test and perfect each new skill.  Today he stood up for a few seconds on his own.  He didn’t know he could do that. What a rapturous look on his face when he discovered he could!
Uncertainty.  Much of our lives is uncertain.  After losing two men in our circle in the ‘too young to die’ category within a year I’m quite sure that none of us has any idea how many days we are allotted on this earth.  After having many friends lose jobs and watching the painstaking process of finding new jobs I think that it’s unwise to be over-certain of our financial standing.  A stint in England will sure drive home the point that we can never know what the weather will do.  From the simple to the profound we just don’t know what life will hold.
We can plan for this uncertainty to a certain extent.  Plan for the ‘just in cases.’  Life insurance policies.  Emergency savings funds (Scott and I have started saving for one of these).  We can bring umbrellas, but isn’t very certain.
I’m not a gal who has ever done very well with this reality.  I like to know stuff.  I have trouble relaxing if I don’t know.  Scott and I discovered this fact on a backpacking trip through Europe.  He wanted an adventure to the tune of never making plans, never having any idea what we’d do or where we’d go until we were doing it or going there.  I thought this sounded romantic and exciting.  We learned the hard way though that I could be adventurous to a point.  I needed to know fairly early in the day that I had a place to lay my head that night, and I needed to know exactly where that was going to be.  Given that knowledge I could let the whole day go--follow where the wind led.  But not the nights.  I was afraid of the uncertainty of having nowhere to sleep.  It terrified me and led to entire days lost with obsessing and worrying (I wonder where my son gets it).  
It’s mid-February.  Three and a half months until we have to be moved out of this house.  Things are still up in the air.  Uncertain.  I know that we will be in the US for the month of June.  We’ll stay with my parents and Scott’s parents and friends along the way.  We’ll take in the mountains and some baseball and hopefully some fireworks on the 4th of July.  And then...and then I don’t know.  The timing and location of the position Scott has been asked to fill is being looked at a bit more strategically.  The stuff they were certain about are now uncertain after a deeper look.  The country we would live in is in question and new things have come to the surface that need to be looked at.  Maybe they would want us to stay here for a bit longer.  Maybe.  Possibly.  Potentially.  
Ah...there it is.  The lifeline.  The paradigm shift.  Over the years I’ve learned to let things some things go.  I’ve worked towards a more calm demeanor and chosen to obsess less.  I may never have the ‘plunge right in’ attitude of my son, but I don’t run through the worst case scenarios over and over in my head.  Well, not as often anyway.  However, ‘uncertainty’ is a fearful word for me.  I try so hard, but I need a new word.  Potentially.  Potential.  I like that.  There’s a good potential we’ll be in Asia.  There’s a potential we’ll be here.  There’s a potential we’ll return to the States.  Potential.  Potential.  Potential.  I still don’t know.  There’s still no plan.  But inside of ‘uncertainty’ I worry.  Inside of ‘potential’ I dream.  I explore.  There are possibilities instead of unknowns. There is light instead of darkness.  Inside of potential a person can realize they are able to stand on their own two feet where before they always needed something to hold on to--and enjoy the rapturous excitement that offers.  I still feel a bit afraid, but inside of ‘potential’ it feels easier to be brave.  
Three and a half months.  Three and a half months until a massive change.  To where or to what I don’t know--I’m not certain.  But I’m going to choose to relish in the potential.  


Noel said...

I want you to know that I always see you as C and me as B. So it's funny to me to hear you comparing yourself to B. I will say this: It has been extremely helpful to me in my increased state of anxiety to hear your voice in my head saying, "Don't tell yourself stories."

And you could POTENTIALLY move back to the states? What are the chances, like one in a million? So you're sayin' theres a chance.

Pepper said...

I just found your blog on a whim, and I love all of your stories. We live near San Francisco, and have for about 9 years but may be moving abroad soon. Your stories make me a little braver...

Thanks so much!

Cori said...

Noel--isn't that such a great concept? The Four Agreements. GREAT book.

Pepper--so glad I could help you be braver! It's not easy, but the adventure has been so very worth it for us! Where abroad are you 'potentially' moving?