The Certainty of Uncertainty
I spent a lot of years trying to outrun or outsmart vulnerability by making things certain and 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.
I love this Brene Brown quote about this idea of uncertainty - because, quite frankly, what I don't know scares the hell out of me. The unknown feels dark and lonely and terrifyingly finite. And the ultimate space of uncertainty that scares me the most, is death.
Funny, because death is the only thing is this life that actually is certain. Literally - the only thing. Anything could suddenly happen and change our entire lives - we've witnessed this collectively over the last two years. And what we naturally do as humans trying to get along in this life, is to control what we can. We try to control our environment, our relationships, our feelings. We try to be right in an effort to validate our safety and security.
For someone who has experienced a lot of loss at this point in my life, the nagging fear of uncertainty still manages to take the driver's seat more than I'd like. And after the loss of a very close friend of many years last week, the fear of uncertainty has presented itself loud and clear all over again.
I recently heard that we heal things on different levels - that each time something presents itself that needs to be healed, it's not because you've done something wrong the first time, but that healing comes in layers. My fear of the unknown, this time, came up in bouts of deep regret and sadness - regret, mostly, for the things I never said.
Anne Marie had been one of my best friends since sophomore year of high school, all through much of our 20s. Our group of girlfriends did everything together - proms, shore houses, weekend plans, parties (not to mention the most elaborate birthday parties) - all with Anne Marie at the center of making the plans. We did a semester of community college together, driving to and from, or often skipping classes and going to breakfast instead. She convinced me to try out for American Idol when we were about 22, and we drove up to New Jersey the night before, stayed in a shady hotel, and woke up at 5am only to wait in line for 14 hours, just to drive home that night when I didn't make it. She was that kind of friend.
We had a falling out when we were around 24, over some really dumb shit, to be honest. I think that we had grown up together, and started living different lives, which can bring tension to any relationship. It's scary to think that the person or people who are always around, always in your plans, might be going in a different direction. And us, in survival mode, especially that young, immediately went on the defense.
But the "break-up" of our friendship really didn't last long. It couldn't, because it wasn't supposed to. We talked here and there, hung out a few times over the next several years. It wasn't the same, but I always held out hope that one day it might be. That our whole group of girlfriends who were for so many years inseparable, might come back to that space and make up for lost time.
The last time I heard from Anne Marie was this past December. She reached out to tell me that she hated that we didn't talk as much, congratulated me on my engagement, and that she hoped we could catch up. Of course, I was so happy to hear from her. We exchanged a few texts back and forth, made plans to hang out when her kitchen was finished being redone, and that was it.
What I never had with her was a conversation to get complete with our past - to let her know the things that I was holding onto, the grudge that we'd lost time in our friendship. To let her know that I understood my part in it all, and that while we weren't as close as we once were, it meant the world to have her in my life.
The news of Anne Marie's death rattled me to my core. I still can't believe that I won't ever speak to her again, that I can never say to her the things I wish I did. I was so afraid of what might happen if I was vulnerable, that time passed too quickly, as it does, and I did nothing at all.
Because what I didn't realize before, is that the unknowing is the beauty of uncertainty - it gives us chance after chance to say the things we want to say to our loved ones, to start relationships over, to move through life knowing full well that the only thing that's certain is that we don't have forever.
And when it comes to death, none of us know what's on the other side. What I cannot believe is that there's nothingness when we die. I cannot believe that a life and soul that lit up so many lives here on earth doesn't have a bigger mission on the other side.
What I'm realizing about uncertainty is that it doesn't have to be dark and lonely and terrifyingly finite. It is actually the space for us to step into trust and honesty and love and vulnerability. It is, quite literally, the only thing alongside death that is certain.
So if you know that nothing is certain, that nothing is fixed in this life, what would you do? Who would you have the hard, but much needed, conversation with? Who would you forgive? Who would you apologize to? What would you spend less time worrying about? What joy would you notice in the small, everyday things?
There is comfort in uncertainty - it's a reminder that we truly are only here for a small amount of time in the grand scheme of things. That we must follow what feels aligned, and know when our egos are trying to protect us or get in the way. That not knowing what comes after this life gives us all the more reason to live it fully - and reason to believe that our loved ones are somewhere so amazing, it can only be unknown to us for now.