Thursday, July 24, 2008

Comfortable with Uncertainty

Just the other day, I had tea with a good friend and talked about life, love, and our own pursuits, both professional and personal. This friend, with whom we have reconnected very strongly in the last year or so, is a man of great insight, knowledge, sensitivity and kindness. While I historically don't usually enjoy the company of men a great deal (and consequently have few good male friends) this person feeds my soul in a way that is unique and enlivening.

Without going into details, I will simply relate that my friend lives a life much different than mine, having neither employment nor living arrangements which are permanent or fixed. By choice and by circumstance, he chooses to live his life on a certain societal edge, eschewing the trappings of the middle-class (mortgage, material possessions, etc.) while maintaining an intellectually rigorous and spiritually rich life filled with people, travel and a curiosity for experience.

Questioning him about his life and the vicissitudes of not necessarily knowing where he will be living or working in a month or so, he made the following revealing statement: "I am very comfortable with a high level of uncertainty in life."

A high level of uncertainty. It reminds me of a book by Pema Chodron (the Tibetan Buddhist teacher) that I recently read: Comfortable with Uncertainty: 108 Teachings. This friend's simple statement, while not revelatory at face value, was like the proverbial whack over the head with the baseball bat of truth. It is a simple statement, but a statement that belies a faith in the process, a desire to leave one's self open to what's next, and a trust that life will deliver the goods in a way as yet unseen or understood.

My friend's bold embracing of uncertainty on all levels emboldens me to see that my life as I have created it is rife with certainty and solidity, while still being flexible enough to warrant the ability and opportunity to open myself to the unknown. Blessed with so many positive attributes, my life is a work in progress that allows me to avail myself of a broad range of possibilities and potentials far beyond what I can perceive with my five senses. If I were to allow myself to sink further into the potential that characterizes the future, I might find that my level of comfort with that uncertainty is probably higher than I may give myself credit for, despite the fear that creeps in around the edges.

Time with a friend can be well spent, especially when that friend gives the gift of insight without even trying. I am embracing the uncertainty today, and embracing the fact that I can sit with it and not necessarily perceive it as a threat. The future may be unwritten, but the way is already paved with my willingness to meet it head on, comfortable enough with uncertainty.
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