Grounding in Not Knowing
- What situation is maddeningly unknowable?
- What, specifically, is impossible to know about this situation?
- Accepting this not knowing, what opens for you?
Yesterday was a strange day.
Our beloved grandson, age three, had oral surgery under general anesthetic. For the doctors it's all in a day’s work. For his parents and us, cause for anxiety. How could this happen? How could this perfect kid need surgery? What is going to happen next?
The other day, a dear colleague pulled out of a joint project for health reasons; I had been very excited about working with her, and was upset that she pulled out, while also completely understanding her choice.
I notice my own body feeling more fragile, my sense of physical assuredness shakier than it used to be. Walker’s health is up and down; while she is more stable than a few months ago, there are more questions than answers. Last night was a bad night. There is no predicting what any given day will bring.
Moving into town has produced big change. And, I am seeing that risks beyond simply relocating will be necessary to create the new integration that I say I seek. I don’t yet know how to do this.
So, what to make of all this? I spent yesterday feeling off, ungrounded, vulnerable. I am experiencing a flux of events that don’t fit the world I construct in my imagination, the world I seek to live into. Yet each of them is a request for my attention, presence, decisions, and actions.
As I move into my later years, supposedly a Wise Elder, I still often feel singularly unprepared, and sometimes have the sense of my world wobbling on its axis.
In the scheme of things, my life is pretty smooth, and the perturbances I mention are relatively minor. Others deal with much more difficult and challenging circumstances, every day. Yet, in the midst of fragility and unpredictability arise precious moments of clarity and gratitude. When I get anxious about my grandson or my wife, right on the other side is the joy that comes from loving them. I worry. And, they’re here. And, I’m here.
We can’t know whether a decision or a course of action will turn out to be fortunate or unfortunate. We do know for certain that things are uncertain. Much is beyond our control, from our spouse’s health to the cast of characters running for President. Yet, in this context, we ourselves create suffering through craving a certainty that is not to be had. The acceptance of our not knowing provides a reassuring orientation in the inescapable ambiguity of our world.
For example, much of my suffering around Walker’s MDDS came from my fears about where it would lead. When we accepted that we simply did not and could not know what the trajectory of her symptoms would be, we could let go of that part, and simply be present with each other, in this moment. And, that is worth a lot.
Yesterday morning, all there was to do was to be present in the waiting room, being with the unknowable.
As coaches, we can ask ourselves, and our clients, “What can’t you know? What is unknowable? And, where is there liberation in not knowing?”
This begins as an intellectual inquiry. It becomes a somatic experience after the realization of how we ourselves spin unhelpful narratives around the inevitable uncertainty of life. Our body relaxes, simply being present right here, right now.
This doesn’t change the circumstance; it changes us.