I feel I’ve done something wrong.
My normal response to most questions - celebrating the holidays?... ...shall we go for a walk tomorrow? ...is the business hanging in there?... is a quick scan and a definitive answer.
These days however, I am heard uttering uncertainty.
“I don’t know” is a definite blip in the system.
The reverberations fill me with the same feeling I had when I once got lost hiking in Malaysia’s Cameron Highlands. Completely turned around and surrounded by tall trees that hid the horizon, I had nothing to show me the way, nothing to suggest a direction, safety or an outcome. No amount to staring at the map or down the path revealed the “right way out”. I did not know.
I feel that same prickly feeling down my spine now as I wonder what the future might hold.
Am I headed in the right direction? I don’t know.
When will this all end? I don’t know.
Should I be doing something differently? I don’t know.
Will I handle being cooped up all winter? I don’t know.
Will Covid bring the incubation time for a new creative start? I don’t know.
Admitting “I don’t know” isn’t socially acceptable.
All my schooling was about being on that hallowed ground of certainty, answers so definitive that they could be picked out of a multiple choice. The whole system applauded every right answer. A great predictive model of my future was based on the number of things that I knew.
Society hasn’t prepared me to admit, let alone live in, “I don’t know”.
At best, it is an unfortunate but transient state which immediately precedes humbly asking Google to rescue me.
And yet, here we are.
I did a quick poll amongst my friends, it seems we are all feeling a little “I don’t know” and we don’t like it, not one bit. Most of us confess to bluffing an answer, or projecting bravado where there is none.
But what if not knowing isn’t a cause for worry.
Isn’t it the truth that we never really knew?
Nothing is missing; certainty was never there in the first place.
The confidence and conviction I had about my life a year ago didn’t allow me to foresee what was to come. Any entrepreneur will tell you that knowing a business and predicting performance tomorrow is not the same thing. When I think back over the milestones that mark my life, most of them came without my foreknowing.
It is uncomfortable, but what if I accept my current reality as a state of wonder?
A place where scripts are rewritten, questions are playthings, surprises are frequent.
I remember the moment, clutching my map, I was able to calm myself down and take a 180degree turn away from panic and accept that I did not know where I was.
I sat in, “what is my next step?”.
No longer taunted by the questions I could not answer, I got curious about who I was as I experienced uncertainty. I pushed away the worrier and invited in the explorer. I moved into experimentation - what if I take this direction? I stayed present, noting the patterns of the trees and the greenery near the path. I celebrated out loud when I retraced my steps to the line on the map at the top of the ravine. I encouraged myself to stay levelheaded when I realized that it was not the line on the map at the top of the ravine. I noted the dropping sun and the nervousness that resulted and used it to metronome my steps.
I stopped trying to predict, to control, to foresee. Only then did I feel a little peace and the invitation to be where I was.
In the moment of uncertainty, there is an expansiveness of possibilities.
Innovation, creativity and unseen paths require comfort in the unknown.
Trying to predict how this pandemic will turn out is exhausting.
Certainty is an illusion. Prediction is wishing.
Acknowledging that I cannot see over the treetops, I feel lighter, relieved from the pressure of having to pretend I can foretell the answer.
Uncertainty has always been woven through life.
It is not more or less certain now; I am just more willing to acknowledge it, sit in it, play in it.
And accept that it has always been so (of that I am certain!)
I made it out of the hills, only after being hit by sudden monsoon rains. I still don’t know where I was. Eventually, I ended up on a road and was able to hitch a ride in the back of a pickup to town - which turned out to be on the other side of the hill.