When you are in uncertainty, you’re naturally drawn outside yourself to find the answers. There’s a feeling of desperation that often begins to accompany the unknown. An inner pressure builds, pushing you to hurry up and find a way back to certainty.
I’ve been remembering a particular, young client I worked with almost 30 years ago. (Wow! That was a while ago, huh?) We crossed paths after she sustained a complex fracture at the hands of her husband. I’ll leave out the details of how this occurred in order to maintain her confidentiality, but I assure you it was horrific.
Before this, her life had been filled with a mixture of good times and abuse, but it was a life she knew well. This all changed following this incident because she knew she couldn’t go back. She’d reached her point of no return. She was brave. And she was filled with anxiety about the uncertainty ahead of her. She felt paralyzed by it.
I know this place, too. When I fell in love with a woman for the first time at the age of 35, the life I’d come to count on suddenly felt so confusing. Seemingly out of the blue, I found myself questioning things I’d always known to be true. You see, I wasn’t one of those people who knowingly had crushes on girls my whole life. In fact, quite the opposite! So you can imagine how shocked I was when I fell in love with one!
I even desperately asked Google, “Am I a lesbian?!” Needless to say, Google was terribly unhelpful in answering this for me! Why? Because it turns out that’s an answer that comes from an inner knowing, not from the outside.
I was filled with uncertainty about my identity in a way I’d never before experienced. I felt fear. I felt shame. I also felt joy and a sense that I’d had found a missing piece of the puzzle.
I felt paralyzed to share my news with almost anyone because I could hardly make sense of what was happening for me. I’d always been someone who stayed in touch with people (Ha! We’re talking pre-kids here, people!!). Yet suddenly I avoided phone calls to catch up with family and friends because I didn’t know how to tell them the latest turn in my life. It was a terribly isolating, anxious, and uncertain time.
Whenever I got too busy future-tripping about all the things I was scared might happen, I felt SO MUCH WORSE! My mind frequently went down that road, imagining all the reactions people might have when I shared my news with them. I was even worried about what strangers in my future might think about me one day!!
You see, when you are in anxiety and uncertainty, you’re naturally drawn outside yourself to find the answers. There’s a feeling of desperation that often begins to accompany the unknown. An inner pressure builds, pushing you to hurry up and find a way back to certainty.
When I think back to this painfully uncertain period in my life, I notice a few interesting things. Firstly, my mind was repeatedly hell-bent on trying to lead me back into future-tripping mode because it was convinced the certainty would be found there. Instead, it consistently led me away from certainty.
It was when I tapped into the present and my inner compass that the clarity about the next steps came. I never found this clarity when I followed the desperate inner pressure to quickly get myself back to certainty. It was when I rested in the present moment that the small knowings showed up.
They didn’t surface as one big knowing that fixed everything. Instead, they came in small portions. In fact, each of these steps guided me through my fear and uncertainty. They ultimately led me to a life that’s far surpassed my expectations! Before 35, I didn’t imagine having a wife, but now I wouldn’t trade her for the world 🙂
Uncertainty is undoubtedly swirling around you right now as you try to steer your way through life that feels so uncertain as a result of COVID-19. For some, it’s your work that feels so uncertain. For others, it’s your finances, your home, your kids, your health or any number of other unknowns. You’re likely feeling that call of desperation that follows uncertainty and pushes you to search anxiously outside yourself for the next steps that will lead you back to certainty.
But what if your next steps are perched INSIDE you rather than somewhere out there? What if purposely tuning into the meaningful parts of this present moment reconnect you with your inner compass? What if this connection begins to offer you clarity about the next steps in small, digestible portions? And what if each of these small steps carries you more toward the solutions and the relief you’re mind has been anxiously trying to find?
I believe this is true. And I know there is no better time than this to discover this for yourself.
Two years after working with the client I mentioned at the start, I ran into her. She looked like a different person as she stood there sparkling with joy.
She said to me, “When we finished working together, I bought a small flowering plant that hadn’t yet bloomed. Do you remember why? Because you told me that I was like a flowering plant that hadn’t been watered or cared for in a long time. You said it was time for me to water and tend to my own plant. You said that this would allow me to bloom.
It was so scary at first! Everything was so uncertain. But tending to that plant reminded me to tend to myself, too. For a long while, I could only handle a day at a time, but this helped me to be more present – some of the time, anyway! And each day I took the next step that felt clear.
And guess what happened? I bloomed! I went back to school and got my degree and now I have a great job. And every time I look at that plant, I’m reminded of the connection I’ve grown with myself and how that’s allowed me to bloom THROUGH my fear and uncertainty!”
So, all you wonderful people out there surfing all this anxiety and uncertainty alongside me, I want to remind you that we are ALL flowering plants that need tending. When you catch yourself future-tripping and anxiously searching for the solutions right now, I invite you to play with stepping back into your present moments. This is a surefire way to tend to yourself.
Notice the meaningful moments you’re having, whether it’s in your relationships, in nature, in your home or with something else altogether. This reconnects you with your inner compass and those quiet little knowings that slip into your awareness and offer clarity about the next steps you can take during this crazy time to move more toward relief.
Give this a try and see what you find. And if you find yourself gripped by the anxiety and uncertainty and the mere thought of stepping back into the present moment feels terrifying, ridiculous or even impossible, reach out to me! You are SO not alone if you are experiencing this right now and I’d love to support you in easing the grip they have on you.
So here’s to our present moments and their ability to show us the next right steps. May they allow us to blossom our way through our fear and uncertainty. ❤️
P.S. If you’ve been enjoying my weekly blogs and are itching for more daily inspiration, friend me on Facebook (Emily Colwell) or follow me on Instagram (dr.emily_colwell). I post frequently and humor leaks into most of my posts!
Emily Colwell, MSSW, ND
If you enjoyed this blog and would like to receive future blogs directly to your inbox click the button below