There’s this feeling that has seeped into nearly every moment of mine lately. This realization that I never before experienced as a Mormon, stay-at-home mom, married to a man with a steady career. It now pervades my minutes, drizzles itself about my days, sits all over my sleep, and whittles it’s way into my work.
It is this feeling of uncertainty.
What will tomorrow look like? Where will the money come from? Am I capable? Will they discover I don’t actually have any clue what I’m doing? Will I be alone forever? What if I totally mess it all up?
I was on the phone today with a work contact who lives in NYC. He was chatty and kind, and took me of guard with his vulnerability. “You get to a point in your life where you think you’re supposed to be doing a certain thing, making a certain amount of money…not still trying to figure it all out…yet I’m still trying to figure it all out” and together we dove into this truth like it was a meaty dish. Agreeing with the equally terrifying and thrilling state which is uncertainty. Not knowing. Not having all the answers.
Having once been the sort of person that thought I had all the answers, I asked him the question I ask myself, “do you like it? Does walking the tightrope of the unknown excite you in some way?”
To which my telephone companion replied, “Oh, not in the moment. But afterwards? Afterwards I’m so glad.”
How true. When I feel that fall of the gut, that fear of the unknown, ponder the chasm of the future right in front of me…I sometimes wish I could have all the answers. In the moment, I don’t want the responsibility of deciding what direction to set my feet. It doesn’t always feel good having faith in the weak-kneed soul that is myself. But then I realize. This in the only way…to lay down the dots one at a time, hope for the best, trust others, ask questions, work with all your atoms, be ready to lose it all at anytime. Because, that’s just the way life works. And answers can only come in the looking back–when we draw a line between those dots we’ve walked and make the connections in retrospect.
And, of course, that can only happen when we move far enough forward to turn and see the trail we’ve left behind. So we keep on moving forward. Us, with our frail bones and fragile hearts. Yet the moving makes us strong beyond comprehension. The blazing of the trail shows us power we didn’t know we had.
It helps to know I’m not the only one doing this with my days. It helps to know that, somewhere in NYC, a guy I’ve never met feels just as unsteady about his tomorrow as I do. Yet, he pulls on his Patagonia and treads into territory unknown. He pulls together his resources, trusts the recesses of his mind, and sews the hours together with his own special seams of creativity and grit and hopefulness.
Ellen Bass, I think, proffered the prayer perfectly,
“What would people look like
if we could see them as they are,
soaked in honey, stung and swollen,
reckless, pinned against time?”
I once thought I had all the answers. I once thought that was the way to live. Life felt secure and unscary then. I settled in, laid back, allowed myself to become complacent. Sometimes, I wish I could go back. Sometimes, in the moment, I don’t like walking the tightrope.
Then, I look down and see the sinew in my legs and feet. Feel the fire of a mind that must make magic of unorganized matter. Relish the tense readiness of this heart, beating with hope, no expectation of return. And I realize. The answers never served me. They simply stopped me, kept me soft, told me the work had been done.
But the questions. Those nagging, looming, gigantically uncertain questions…they call me forward and keep me small…and remind me to relish everything. Because you never know what tomorrow will bring. (But it’s certainly fun to try and mold it anyway.)
My darling, honey-soaked friends. Make love in your kitchen this month with my Mushroom & Bacon Breakfast Pizza. All hot and ready for you over at the Mushroom Channel.