The thing I hate most in life is uncertainty. I feel that I can deal with anything, so long as I know what it is I'm dealing with. When I was dating my not-yet husband decades ago, I remember saying to him, "Are we going to get married, or are we going to break up? Because if we're going to get married, I'm going to start liking you a lot. And if not. . . not." I went through years of infertility before I had my two boys, and all I wanted was to know how it was going to come out. I could be happy as a mother, and I could be happy bringing joy to my life in other ways - but which was it going to be?
But alas, uncertainty is inescapable in life. When I was seeing a therapist during a particularly hard time a few years ago, she tried to teach me to be willing to live in the space of the unknown. Her proposed mantra for me was "It may, or it may not." As in: "This thing you want most of all in the world may happen. Or it may not"; "This thing you fear most of all in the world may happen. Or it may not."
It was exceedingly hard to make myself look at my life in this way!
I'm facing a new year now that is going to have more than its share of uncertainty, as I transition in June back from Indiana to Colorado and face some questions about the future for my family. So I'd better learn to let go of my need to control my reality and accept that it will be some time before I even know what that reality will be.
So of course yesterday, on New Year's Eve, I sat down with my little notebook for the new year and made some instructions to myself on how to live with uncertainty. I came up with two thoughts:
1. Don't spend enormous amounts of time trying to decide in advance how to react to possible scenarios that may never even emerge - and which I won't even know how I feel about until they do emerge.
2. But do try to put myself in a position of health and strength better to face whatever happens in my life. This means focusing on physical health (daily exercise, healthy food choices); financial health (continue to pay down my mortgage and keep a savings cushion); career health (move heaven and earth to get a next book contract - or two or three); social health (prioritize friendship by making a concerted effort to connect with dear friends throughout the year); mental health (for me, the key to sanity is a clean, tidy, uncluttered home); spiritual health (church attendance, prayer).
This way, whatever comes to me in 2013, maybe I can meet it with calmness and cheer. I'm replacing my mantra of "It may, or it may not" with a line of Ezra Pound's I've always loved: "Thank you, whatever comes."
Oh universe, oh Holy Spirit, oh future that is to be: thank you.