My three-year relationship is tottering precariously on the edge. Technically it has already ended. My boyfriend decided he was done. Perhaps I’m being my normal Positive-Polly self, but I think it might be salvageable. Maybe because in my job I’ve seen patients recover that seemed hopeless. Then again, I had patients die that seemed like they were going to make it.
I am deep in the muck of uncertainty. It is uncomfortable at best and miserable at its worst. It feels like wading through a dismal swamp. The red zone doesn’t get any more red.
You know this feeling. You’ve been there. Whether it is close and personal like a relationship or a job or more “out there” like managing the collective trauma of a school shooting.
Here’s a few insights he shared about how to manage the scary, gut-clenching, all sensors in your body pinging on high-alert, feeling of uncertainty:
5 Ways to Manage Uncertainty
1. Recognize that you don’t actually want certainty. Life wouldn’t be very interesting if we knew exactly how everything would turn out.
What we really crave is security.
Decision-making is based on information we have at the time. We can’t wait until we know for sure.
This is what we were faced with when choosing the next step in my father’s medical care. We didn’t know if he’d make any meaningful recovery. We wouldn’t know for two years. We made the best decision we could with the information we had at the time.
2. What we fear most is loss.
Our brains are predisposed to pay attention to the negative. Faced with a threat- real or perceived- our lizard brain takes over and tries to protect us. We retreat or become paralyzed. Sometimes we fight. This saves us from the risk but destroys the possibility of the extraordinary.
What to do?
3. Increase your tolerance for ambiguity. Change is pain. On the other side is possibility.
What would be possible if my relationship were to end? What would be possible if we could find a way to make it work?
What would be possible for you if you found a healthier way to relate to your family? What would be possible if you did change your job? What would be possible if we decided that we were going to talk about mental illness and how it relates to violence?
Jonathan says, “Anyone who wants to do something extraordinary in the world should be developing some sort of mindful practice.”
4. Practice Gratitude. Yesterday despite all my feelings of uncertainty, I was grateful.
Gratitude brings light in times of darkness.
I am grateful for the wonky looking Christmas tree that my Mom and I brought in from the yard. It is imperfect: sideways-leaning, bushy-on-one-side, bare-on-the-other but alive-alive-alive beautiful.
I am grateful to live in such an awe-inspiring place:
I’m grateful that I am able to share the pain with my family, my friends and with you. Empathy is the antidote to shame.
5. Stop Doing. Be here.
I’m from a family of doers. We take action. We get stuff done. We do do do.
It was only when we finally gave up “doing” that my Dad passed away. Perhaps it was his final lesson- learn how to be.
So faced with the uncertainty of the end of a relationship, rather than frantically trying to do something, anything to take away this discomfort, I’m going to practicing being right here in the muck.
Put on your galoshes and join me? Share your thoughts in the comments.