Embracing Uncertainty

“I spent a lot of years trying to outrun or outsmart vulnerability by making things certain andCarie Sherman definite, black and white, good and bad. My inability to lean into the discomfort of vulnerability limited the fullness of those important experiences that are wrought with uncertainty: Love, belonging, trust, joy, and creativity to name a few.” – Brene Brown

One of the hardest pills I’ve had to swallow is the uncertainty that comes with a chronic illness. There I was … a new mom … with a new career … living the dream … until WHAM! A doctor slaps me with words like systemic lupus erythematosus and undifferentiated connective tissue disorder and antiphospholipid antibodies. With the final blow being there is no cure.

I can’t remember what my plans were before getting socked in the gut. But if any words can make you feel uncertain, it’s those.

Suddenly my thoughts were tangled. Will I be able to have another child? Will I ever have the energy to provide for my family? Can I be the kind of mom I want to be? What if my clients find out? What if my brain fog gets worse? Will my symptoms ever get better? Can I go to the beach? Why me?

Today I started thinking about this uncertainty and boo-hooing about how much it sucks to be me. But then, my brain went Click. And I realized that just being alive is uncertain. There’s no such thing as certainty—outside of dying, of course. And I ain’t there yet.

In fact, I realized that, at the root of everything wonderful in my life, there was uncertainty.

Think about it: Were you certain the first boy you kissed would kiss you back? Did the job you love today come tied with a bow marked You Will Most Certainly Love It?

Dealing with Uncertainty

Brown makes a few suggestions on how you can lean into uncertainty in this blog post. She suggests three things that you can do to embrace uncertainty.

The first? Pay attention to what makes you feel better (and worse). For Brown, feeling better comes down to self care. Something any person dealing with chronic illness should always keep in mind.

Number two is to create an emotional clearing. To Brown, this means finding moments of quiet (meditation, prayer, nature) to reconnect with your intuition. It reminded me of this quote by Carolyn Myss:

“The soul always knows what to do to heal itself. The challenge is to silence the mind.”

The third is to find support. She reminds us that it’s normal to feel vulnerable during times of change. But she also says that uncertainty is a necessary part of getting where we need to go.

Maybe it’s not illness that Brown was talking about when she suggests we embrace the vulnerability of uncertainty. But lupus or not, life is uncertain. Bad stuff may come … but it’s where everything that’s wonderful comes from, too.

What My Inventory of Bruises Revealed about How I’m Living Life

I recently read a blog post by a writer who described herself in her bio as (when not writing)Carie Sherman “earning bruises in the dojo.”

Of course I rolled my eyes. But then I scanned my body. I am covered in bruises. I counted seven on my left calf alone. Not surprising, since I’m anemic and pale and a klutz. But my impromptu inventory made me realize: I couldn’t find a single bruise that I could say I actually earned.

Looking back on my life thus far, I see that I have taken risks–the kind of risks that can result in the earning of a bruise. But humor for me a sec, and let’s examine those bruises. I figure they come from two places.

Source #1: The Relatively Sure Thing.

Most of the risks I’ve taken have been carefully calculated. The only one that wasn’t curated so deliberately was moving to Colorado with no job, $325 of graduation money in my pocket, and a crush on a cute boy. But I was 21. I literally had nothing else to do, and if I failed, I’d move back in with Mom and hide my face in shame when my friends came around. I sustained quite a few bumped-into-the-couch—type bruises and a few embarrassing hickey-on-the-neck-type contusions, but I managed to avoid the significant wound of paying rent to my parents. Oh, and I later married that cute boy.

Source #2: Going Big (But Only Because I was Forced To)

My ego got beat up pretty badly when I got sick. My illness still knocks me around. But it’s forced me to take a hard look at who I really am: the me that cannot and will not be changed by the circumstances of life. She was buried pretty deep, and I got black and blue trying to find her. It was a risky endeavor, and one I only took because I was out of choices: being depressed, sick, lonely, worn out, and scared with no foreseeable end in sight tends to force you to drop the pretenses, scrap That Which No Longer Works, and engage in an extensive rebuild. None of this was ever my intention.

A Risk vs. Bruises Inventory

For the purposes of this (tenuous) argument, I’m going to define “risk” as doing the scary things that are sure to get me closer to the person I really want to be, yet may result in a black eye or bloody lip, of course.

I’ve enjoyed relatively good health this year and yet I counted my risks and came up with a big, fat ZERO.

I counted my bruises (currently visible only). I came up with 11.

Why did that one writer’s comment bother me so much? Because I’ve been camped out, lounging in the recliner of my comfort zone. I’ve been treating myself with kid’s gloves—for fear of getting sick; for fear of failing. Yet careful as I’ve been, I still have bruises. I continue to get beat up by life.

That’s what life does.

So Now What, Wounded Me?

Well, dear self, here’s the thing: If you try that 90 minute Hatha yoga class and you peter out midway, so what. If the extra activity leads you to getting sick, you’ll recover.

If you finish writing the dang book you’ve been yammering on about for three years and it’s best used as kindling, then so be it. Will I feel like I’ve been punched in the kisser by Mike Tyson? Yup. Will it kill me? Only if I let it.

We all have a choice. We can choose to earn our bruises by putting ourselves out there, taking big risks, and trying new things. Or we can let life bump us around. Either way, we get bruised.

The least I could do is earn a few.