If you were to look in my journal – a fate I’d not wish on anyone – you would see a frequent refrain. I wish I knew what is next. Nearly every day in some form or another, I express this desire to know, to know what’s next, to not feel so uncertain about…well, almost everything. What I have a tendency to forget, in fact what we as a culture try to whitewash continually, is the fact that there is very little that is certain. Cars crash. Parents age. Cancers grow. Jobs disappear. The list goes on and on. Although we invest our money and purchase life, car, health, dental, vision and pet insurance, we are still not immune catastrophe. Or at the very least, discomfort.
This kind of talk makes me the hit of every party.
I believe it’s this sense of uncertainty that is weighing so heavily on my soul lately. I’ve shared over the last couple months of writing that I am in a season of endings. While ending can be emotionally fraught, they are a natural part of life. We must have endings in order to have beginnings, but we resist the former and embrace the latter. Maybe it’s because of the emotions associated with endings: fear, anger, sorrow. Even the best ending is seldom entirely joyful. I have even protested myself that I am not sad about these endings, but when I say this, I am not being entirely true to myself. I am sad. But sorrow itself takes so many forms, the warmth of nostalgia, the darkness of grief, bitter tang of regret. Sadness is not the enemy we have been taught to believe.
It may be that I have mistakenly tried to distract myself from uncertainty by anticipating what’s next. Anticipation is one of my favorite emotions, allowing me to experience a wonderful thing many times before it occurs. This seems a much more enjoyable process than allowing a season of endings to take it’s allotted time. I pretend I have control by trying to force events, emotions, probability. Constantly erecting barricades of expectation only to be crushed beneath them when they crumble. In this way, I am my own worst enemy.
Withdrawing a bit from all the voices of the outside world, lovely and unlovely, is a way for me to ground myself in the present. Whether I feel joy or sorrow, whether or not I know what’s next, I can live this moment. I may not know what’s coming next, but I can decide what I will bring to the moment I inhabit. When I fight against uncertainty, I bring a combative, controlling presence. But when I embrace the unknown I bring peace both within and without. How can I resist conflict in the world when I create conflict within myself?
My task right now is to be present. Excruciatingly, vulnerably, joyously present. This moment and who I choose to be in it is the only certainty I get. Learning to accept this, to embrace this miracle of now is the path I walk today. Whether the path is beautiful or wretched is entirely up to me.
Things falling apart is kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together and they fall apart, again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen. Room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy. -Pema Chodren