I haven’t posted in a while because—aside from the limitations of my chronic illness—I’ve been somewhat stunted with uncertainty. In our world of ever-presence—on social media and now Zoom or WhatsApp—I have felt guilty about being invisible of sorts. But I was reminded of something important the other day. Doubt and uncertainty, while uncomfortable, are actually important states that allow for necessary change.
Reading and rereading some work by James Hollis PhD gave my head a shake, out of its despairing over uncertainty. Thank goodness for Jungian psychology, which has a much more redemptive view on human struggles than our typical worldview allows. Click for more on his work The Middle Passage and What Matters Most: Living a More Considered Life.
I’m viewing our modern struggle through Jungian interpretations and maps of midlife crisis because the parallels are actually uncanny, especially as the personal intersects with the social. We are all, now more than ever, being called to justice and authenticity.
3 Reasons to Embrace Uncertainty
In brief, here are three reasons to embrace uncertainty. I was reminded of them by James Hollis in What Matters Most. These are my own historically relevant interpretations of his call to tolerate ambiguity, to embrace uncertainty. Perhaps they might help you too.
- The world has gone mad, but that’s not bad, necessarily. Madness when viewed outside of the dominant value systems of a society can actually signal a higher consciousness that the rest of the world has yet to realize or adjust to. The world is now waking up to the reality of racial injustice, to its facts, its extents, and to our own roles in it. Yes, this is extremely uncomfortable, but there is also great potential here for growth and greater justice and humanity on both personal and societal levels. For me, I am uncertain what role I will play in the light of this new consciousness. Many people probably feel this way. And that is perfectly normal and good because this is huge. It should not be forced to conclusion too quickly. The potential that is opened up with uncertainty grants us all unique opportunities to make real, thorough, conscious, just and lasting change. I am reminded to ride out the discomfort, let it happen, and be open to the changes it calls me to. In this sense, my uncertainty over my role in this worldwide struggle, and over how a new world could be is about as sacred as a human experience can get. When I think about it that way, I feel gratitude for my doubt, and realize that right now, what I am called to do is entertain my uncertainty, make safe space for it for myself and for others. It is reassuring to know that this is exactly where I need to be. Somehow in this light, the discomfort becomes “just” discomfort. As the larger context creates space for it, it ceases to overwhelm me.
- I can “rest” in the relative calm of necessary, temporary inaction. There will come a time to act, but until I know the next best action, I can rest, observe, meditate, listen, and sleep in trust that when the time comes, I will know. This can and will be deeply uncomfortable if done in courageous and complete honesty, but it can and will bring peace and healing as well. And in this relatively quiet space, I can work on building strength and confidence, take refuge in the strength of others who are already mobilized in their own certainty. I can build my strength from theirs. I can learn from the wisdom of others. I can recognize my privilege to take this time, to choose (so far) not to act until a path becomes clear. I appreciate that I am not yet forced to fight, physically or otherwise. I am not completely inactive. I am active in ways that I have learned to be before. But I know I will be called to new, stronger acts of anti racism because this moment in history, thank f#ck, calls for it. For now, I can take rest and strength by immersing myself in my own deeper wisdom and that of others.
- Last but not least, the creative potential, the potential for an authentic life in open-hearted, conscious and accepting doubt is immense. The first two reasons remind me of how embracing uncertainty helps me connect myself to the rest of the world in deep and fundamental ways. This one is the icing on the cake. If this personal/global metamorphosis succeeds even just a little bit, I (and others) will be freer and safer to live out in the open. Zero fucks, right? Exactly. But more able to maintain compassion and respect and appreciation for others AND give zero fucks. Experts say this is the purpose of the second half of life (I’m 41). It is yet another paradoxical, fundamental truth. We can only truly love others if we love ourselves, and we can only truly love ourselves if we love others. This is easier said than done, but it gives me a great sense of peace to remember that supporting the authenticity and dignity of others supports my own authenticity and dignity, and vice versa. Which means… (drum roll)… for me? Well I’m still figuring out exactly what that is, and here’s where the uncertainty comes in. Embracing uncertainty will lead me to places I have never imagined if I can truly open myself to it. The whole “beyond your wildest dreams” prize elders who have successfully walked this path speak of. I’m like pfffft. But I’m starting to see it as I work at embracing it. If I am anywhere close, it will have something to do with success in art, community, and my own serenity.
These are my own thoughts and experiences of this moment in history. I hope my own making peace with uncertainty gives you heart, too.