“Life isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. It’s the way it is. The way you deal with it makes all the difference.” – Virginia Satir
Uncertainty. The problem with uncertainty is that it’s, well, so uncertain. We all strive to avoid uncertainty. In a sea of constant change, we all want to know where the life boats are.
It wasn’t too long ago that life was something you could sort of plan. There was an expectation of stability and predictability as you transitioned from one phase of your life into another. The steps were well worn and well defined; graduation led to the job which led to the marriage which led to the house which led to the children which eventually led to the retirement and the pension from the job which you never left. As predictable and as certain a path as a train on a track.
I was raise in this environment. My Dad worked in the same factory his Dad worked in. The two of them gave their entire working lives to one company, 77 years between the both of them. Why? Because they could. The process, the path, just worked.
HOLES IN THE DREAMBOAT I guess the world has changed a little bit. Certainty, the cornerstone of how life used to be, is long gone. The now-vacant lot where the factory once stood that my Dad and Grandfather once worked in serves as a stark reminder of what used to be. The factory will never be rebuilt, and neither will the lifestyle and the expectations that came with it.
These days life can at times feel like you’re adrift in a rudderless boat, at the mercy of the winds and the waves of uncertainty as you hope to find your way back on the course you set out upon. Outside influences well beyond our control can instantaneously bore holes in the bottom of our dreamboat life.
Suddenly, what was known is now unknown.
Uncertainty has an ugly friend. Fear. Fear usually shows up soon after Uncertainty kicks the door down. Fear is a thug. It’s sole purpose is to convince you that you’re not strong enough, that you’re not good enough, that it’s time for you to call your mommy.
THE TWO UNCERTAINTIES No one ever taught me about fear, at least not directly. Fear is something that you learn about by watching how others react when Uncertainty walks into the room. Especially in your formative years. It becomes a conditioned response. When what was known suddenly becomes unknown, fear is what happens next.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
There are two different types of uncertainty. First, there’s the uncertainty outside of us. The things that we have no say over. These external events, well beyond our control and sometimes beyond our comprehension, carry us to the threshold of an important decision we need to make. The quality of that decision is shaped by the level of uncertainty that resides within us.
Unlike external uncertainty, internal uncertainty is something we all have a tremendous amount of control over. How we decide to deal with internal uncertainty will greatly influence the quality of our life. Our internal uncertainty is directly proportionate to how much we trust in ourselves and the universe itself. Trusting, especially in ourselves, is a life changing decision.
LOOKING STRONGER As I look back through my own life, the best things that ever happened to me were the things that I never expected to happen. The things I never could have planned. The friendships, the opportunities, the twists and turns that my journey has taken. I am grateful and appreciative of all the blessings that have come into my life. Many of those blessings didn’t look like blessings when they first showed up, but mature reflection has taught me otherwise. As I look forward, I do so content not knowing where tomorrow’s twists and turns will take me. Content, in that I finally trust who I am, that who I am is stronger than the uncertainty of tomorrow. Content, in that life will take me exactly where I need to go if I try not to force my will upon it. If I just get out of my own way.
It took me a long time to get to this point of contentment, but life lessons are always as long as they need to be, aren’t they? I haven’t reached the point of absolute emotional nirvana. I still act very “un-Zen” when stuck in traffic, still have a difficult time “seeing the blessing” when my clients decide to buy from my competition instead of me. But I am getting better. And getting better is all I really hope for myself.
FLAWED EXPECTATIONS My contentment grew out of frustration of unmet expectations. In hindsight, my expectations were flawed from the very beginning. As smart as I thought I was, I just didn’t know how life worked. There is no owner’s manual. Life is sort of something you just have to figure out for yourself. The key to having expectations is that they need to be realistic. Not realistic in the practical sense, but realistic in that they are consistent with natural and universal principles. Most of the expectations we have are not realistic because most of our expectations are about our wishing that things, other people, and situations were different than they really are. It’s like standing under an oak tree waiting for an apple to fall.
I have gradually been able to shift my expectations away from things, other people, and situations and started to refocus my expectations on only one person. Me.
It’s amazing what you find when you start minding your own business, when the attention and energy spent on things outside of your control are redirected back onto yourself. It is incredible when you rediscover your real self, when you “love again the stranger who was yourself”, as poet Derek Walcott wrote in his poem “Love After Love”.
ALL THAT I NEED The real self I rediscovered was someone who was far stronger and far more complete than I ever would have given myself credit for. Looking deeply within, I found signs and evidence that perhaps I already was the person I was looking to become. That perhaps the Universe had already equipped me with all that I would need successfully fulfill the promise of my creation. All I needed to do was trust.
Slowly I started to trust myself. To trust that the laws that applied to the rest of the natural world also applied to me. And as my trust grew deeper, so did my appreciation for all that I discovered within myself. Which in turn allowed me to trust even more deeply.
I would much rather know than not know. I still don’t like uncertainty. But trusting in myself and the Universe has empowered my inner certainty to the point that on most days and in most situations external uncertainty is still respected but no longer feared. There are so many things in life that I don’t know, but somehow I know I’m going to be alright.
Living Half Full is about trust. It’s about trusting in our real selves and in the Universe. Trusting that the strength and wisdom inherent within us give us the internal certainty we need to better navigate the external uncertainties that will only become more prevalent. Trusting that as you cross the river of your life you will always find the yet unseen rocks to stand upon every step of the way.
I encourage you to refocus your energies rediscovering that amazing person that already lies within you. Look deeply and reconnect with your own inner magnificence. Begin again to trust that the universe will provide all you need to get you through and to exactly where it is you need to go.
When you just don’t know, trust that you’ll know on the inside.
All you need is what you already are.
It’s a great day to be you!
Thanks to Marie Forleo for exposing me to Virginia Satir’s opening quote.
Read Derek Walcott’s poem “Love After Love” by clicking the link.