Being comfortable with uncertainty is the path to peace. Whoa. Take that in for a moment.
It’s easy to say we embrace change. But truthfully, most of us would prefer to know exactly how all the people in our lives will behave, what situations will arise and the outcome. We expend a great deal of energy trying to make this possible because somewhere deep inside we believe this is the way to complete freedom from stress and anxiety and the way to discover peace of mind.
My mind doesn’t want to digest the thought that, not only is it not possible to control the circumstances of my life, but that the way to experience a joy, peace and ease, is to in fact let go of the need to control and practice opening to the unknown. My mind does not want to concede to my Spirit’s incessant urging that this is a fundamental practice for healing a deep-seated and habitual need to perfect that’s driven me since childhood.
In fact, I’m fairly sure that my perfectionist tendencies are largely responsible for most of the anxiety in my life at present. As I look back, I can clearly see that I have been on a mission to root uncertainty from my life since childhood. My career in journalism was all about insatiable curiosity and striving to get the facts. It was all about knowing. My career in corporate marketing and public relations was in large part driven by my desire to acquire stability through wealth, as was my acquisition of several properties which I bought and sold. Even my desire for marriage came in part from a deep seated desire for stability, certainty and everything within my control – I was on a mission to eradicate the unexpected.
My current mental resistance is fear. And I am learning that fear can be a powerful guide. Often when we move through fear, when we take on exactly what scares us most – that is the path to freedom. If I’m willing to walk through my fear into the unknown, not with the goal of disappearing it, but with a practice of being willing to be uncomfortable, I know that I have the opportunity to step into a whole new realm of living. The first step: Stop believing that when I take risks and have the courage to be vulnerable that there is a payoff down the road where suddenly everything is certain and there is no more fear.
Lately I’ve been practicing remembering that perfection is a myth and therefore completely and absolutely unattainable. Mostly this has taken the form of self-acceptance: allowing myself to make mistakes and not beat myself up over them, to embrace the beauty of imperfect living and give myself the space to fail over and over again and have that be ok.
It’s only in the unknown, which terrifies us all as human beings, that our true creativity and life’s passions can truly be unleashed in a way that will bring us the joy we seek.
Somehow I had come to believe that not knowing, not discovering the “right” answer or way was failing. That part of me that wants the neat little package tied up in a bow where there’s no question about which way to go and what to do and nothing unexpected or painful ever happens was still there. I had thought that that was the reward that I would get – through the pain of risk I’d somehow end up in a better comfort zone. But now I see that would defeat the purpose of the journey altogether. I’d just end up in the same place again: a boring, stagnant and stifling no growth zone.
So the good news is, it’s not only ok to be uncertain – that’s where we all have to go to fully come alive. The not so good news is that to stay alive we keep going deeper and deeper into the unknown again and again to stay alive. And fear doesn’t ever leave us. We just get practiced in making it our friend, welcoming it even as a sign that we’re headed in the direction of our bliss.