Lessons in Uncertainty
I feel in limbo – not quite able to move forward.
Here’s the situation: I’m in charge of the sale of my parents’ house in England following my father’s death in April and my mother’s move into a care home. I have accepted an offer on the house, and now I must wait for legal negotiations to be completed and a formal contract with the buyers to be in place.
Once that is done, I’ll need to get to England in short order to go through things in the house and make final arrangements for it to be cleared so the sale can be completed.
It’s taking longer than I expected. I thought it would all be done and dusted by now.
And so, I wait.
And while I wait, it’s hard to know what I can commit to, what I can do.
I love to plan and have control over my schedule. I like to know what is going to happen and when.
It’s frustrating me no end that I cannot.
And yet, we never really know what’s going to happen moment to moment, next week, next month, or next year. It’s an illusion.
But we make plans anyway. And most of the time it works out just fine! It’s how life works.
We actually live with uncertainty all the time. We just act as if things are certain.
I’m in the unusual position of knowing there’s uncertainty!
I’m waiting…and waiting…and waiting until that moment when suddenly I’ll have to act.
This is, of course, in one way my choice, but it’s a pretty reasonable one. I’ve been advised not to travel to the UK to sort out the house without the assurance of a legally binding contract, and I’m unwilling to schedule workshops and classes and so forth because I don’t know when I’ll be available. I don’t want to let people down. I don’t want to be unprofessional.
It’s challenging to run a business when you can’t plan ahead.
Thank goodness this doesn’t affect my work with individual clients, as I am able to be more flexible with them, and they will get at least two weeks’ notice before I leave. In fact, I am relishing working with my private clients right now. (Feel free to get in touch if you’d like to book a session!)
This feeling of uncertainty, of being in limbo, can make me anxious and frustrated – it’s stressful! It has a physical and emotional price – excess tension being the main one – tightening in my body, a lump in my throat. I feel out of balance and unstable! I notice myself wanting to contract, make myself smaller, to hide and escape.
I am so grateful to have the Alexander Technique and BodyIntelligence to turn to when I notice these feelings arise. The tools I have learned enable to me to take a step back and be an observer of my thoughts, my feelings, my emotions. It’s about being aware, accepting, and choice. I have the choice to come back to myself. I can choose to ask myself where do I notice ease right now? Where is my support? (The ground!) I can remind myself that I am free. I am free to be exactly as I am right now, AND I am free to choose to be aware of the ease that is already there. I can remind myself I am free to be my full height – that I don’t have to contract and compress and diminish myself.
And so, I continue to wait….
And I continue to come back to myself. It’s an ongoing dance and balancing act that I’m playing.
There are even moments when I appreciate the uncertainty – being in a “place between.”
My business coach, Joy Bufalini, referred to this time as a “fertile void.” I love that idea, and the shift it can bring to my perspective.
And yes, I do indeed have many ideas brewing. And I have time to mull things over, time to get clearer about what I want, and do not, want to do. I have time to simply BE in a way I may not quite allow myself at other times.
That is a gift.
And sometimes I remember that!
There are so many lessons here that I am still learning and processing. During this journey with uncertainty my understanding is growing, and my ability to observe and come back to myself is strengthening. There is much to be grateful for.
How do you deal with uncertainty? Are you a planner or do you like to be spontaneous? Can you relate to my experience? I’d love to hear about your experiences with uncertainty and how you have coped. Please leave your comment in the space below.
Thank you for this, Imogen. you give me lots of food for thought and some ideas how I can better manage when things are uncertain for me. my life is often been uncertain and every time I think I have uncertainty under control I learned that I don’t. 🙂
I love the term “fertile void” for the liminal space between certainties. There’s a sense of comfort in that, a promise of the germination of something alive and well.
What a beautiful description of “fertile void.” That’s exactly it. It seems connected to that space between! I’m glad my blog resonated with you, and has been helpful in some way.
So happy you chose to write about this personal situation. I truly hope the sale does get completed. Being in control to avoid uncertainty has long been a struggle for me. I wish you the ability to continue using your wonderful skills and to know you have a loving, supportive family and community. I know for me in my most uncertain times I use a lot of mindful breathing to watch my negative thoughts drift away. When I can sense a core of calm, I can move through my day with an attitude and ability to receive positive thoughts energy. Not as easy as it sounds. You are in my prayers, another form of mindful breathing and love.
It is actually look quite hopeful that we’ll get that legally binding contract next week. Fingers crossed!! Then I can start planning 🙂
Thank you for all your support and kind words.
Life is very clever at offering us just the right learning experience at the most appropriate time! Enjoy your void!
Thank you 🙂
As you said, the truth is that things are never certain. One of my favorite sayings (paraphrased): Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.
Pema Chodron writes about this state of uncertainty in many of her books.
And as you said the one certain thing we have is choice in how we think about and deal with uncertainty. AT has been my main support as I’ve made this journey.
Yes. I am looking forward to sharing more about how AT has supported both of us through our journeys in many ways.
Imogen – thinking of you as you navigate these ‘unfamiliar’ times. We train to be open and help our students, but it doesn’t mean we don’t get overwhelmed ourselves, yet how wonderful that we have tools to call upon whenever we choose. Thanks for the heart felt share.
Thank you so much, Bette.
Looking at the picture above, Misty, Forest, Dark I simply would feel scared.
So, I would need to fight the fear. Walking the road.That’s quite easy practicing the directions, staying on the path alert, at Ease and happy whilst continue walking. I am finding useful Krishnamurti’s secret for happiness “I don’t mind what happens ” Whatever the outcome of any situation , the end result even disagreeable,’I don’t mind what happens ‘
Hi Andrzej. The picture does depict the “darker” side of uncertainty. Thank you sharing the idea of “I don’t mind what happens.” That is so helpful. It’s the being OK with any outcome – not being attached. I guess we (or should I say, I) don’t like uncertainty because we either can’t get attached to an outcome because everything is too unknown, or we are attached to an outcome, but we have no control over whether or not that will happen. (Thinking outlaid here.) Either way, it’s a very helpful thought. Thank you.
Sitting in a hospital cafeteria right now, understanding completely how you’re feeling. Nothing but questions, questions that feel like they needs definitive answers right NOW. Uncertainty is a fertile void indeed. But mostly it’s a huge opportunity to practice mindful response, unhook from habitual reaction. Thanks for sharing, it helps.
Oh my! I know a little of your uncertainty right now, and totally get it. Not being able to book a flight pales in comparison. I love that you bring it back to the idea of opportunity – an opportunity to practice mindful response and unhook from habitual reaction. Yes, yes, yes. I’m glad this helped you in some small way, and send you love and good wishes for the best possible outcome for you and yours.
I’m with you on this one Imogen! I also like to have things all mapped out and settled. But all too often life just can’t be so clearcut. I think the AT really helps with this. We have to be poised to meet the unknown and the unexpected, which is where inhibition really comes into its own. I know it’s a bit of an old cliché, but “staying in the moment” is essential for keeping calm and collected at times like this. I’m sure all will be well, and it’s really not the end of the world if you have to cancel something at the last minute. People understand. It can happen at any time to any of us.
Thanks so much, Michael – poised to meet the unknown is exactly it!
Dear Imogen, thank you so much for sharing this! “Fertile void”, love that. In a way, I can so much relate to this state you’re describing. Since my mother died in the middle of August, I’ve found myself in a state of low energy. I had had a fantastic summer, lots of creative acivities and ideas, lovely people. Me and my daughter hosted our first yoga retreat August 10-12. On the afternoon the12th, my mother died. After that most of my energy just paused and I’m pretty much there still. I don’t feel stuck or depressed, just pausing. My feeling is that a lot of things are processing on a deep level inside, absorbing most of my energy. It IS frustrating at times, I miss being full of energy and ideas. But this will take as much time as it has to. I think.
Borit, I had forgotten that you lost your mother this summer. I’m so sorry.
I know exactly what you mean about energy and a lot of things being processed. That makes a lot of sense to me. I was thinking I wanted to get back to work “full on” this fall, but it’s not been possible. I’ve come to think this is actually a good thing, as I do have this time to process and be with myself (even though that can also be frustrating). I’m starting to get the ideas, as I mention in the blog, but am nowhere near “implementation.” Take care of yourself. To me it comes back to accepting yourself exactly as you are. I realized I’ve just passed the six months mark with my dad which blew my mind, as it still seems so fresh and new. It takes a while to process for sure.
Thank you so much, Imogen, I’m so touched by your reply ❤️ You really are one of these people that I feel like I’ve met even though we’ve just had contact on internet. I’m so grateful for your power pauses, they’re a great help and comfort for me!
Oh yes, it IS all about accepting yourself just as you are, isn’t it? Had a long lovely talk with my 26year old son yesterday about that. About being ok with things, with yourself just as they/you are and keep doing what you love to do just because you love it. Not because you have yo reach a certain goal or level (=drop the endgaining!) or to prove anything. Just for the love of it.
Sending you a big hug, Imogen!
Yes, I’m so glad to know you, Borit, and hope we may meet in person one day! You never know 🙂
I’m so glad you are enjoying the Power Pauses in the BodyIntelligence Community Facebook group, and are finding them helpful. One reason I decided to do them, is that it is helpful for me, too!
Big hugs to you, too. <3
Good to hear that you now have a completion date, the weather in UK is quite mild at the moment although wet. I’m a few weeks in front of you, we completed on Mum’s house in October. At the end of something (moving home, moving offices) I like to have a final look round and absorb the feel of the place once it’s empty. Mum had lived there for about 35 years and I had a bundle of memories, I lived there for a few years, then took the kids to stay, and recently looked after Mum. Having a last look round was indescribable, such a contrast between my memories and the feel of the empty house.
We are now in the final stages of selling our own house, so all told we’ve been clearing out since April. We both like to get on with things; we’ve been drowning in boxes for a month already, with 3-4 weeks still to go. I’m getting to the point now.
I fully empathise with your description of uncertainty, and especially the void, although for the life of me I can’t find it fertile. Can’t really “get on” with anything, there’s nothing left to pack and nothing to work on (as I’ve also packed my tools). As well as the frustration you mention I also notice my mind longing for distraction – news, email… Creativity seems to be impossible.
I’m enjoying yoga, pilates and the gym – perhaps it’s about giving attention to the body rather than mental distraction. And meditation, which at least gives me the space to notice where my mind is.
Thanks for another inspiring post, and I hope you are able to manage things over here.
I was quite moved by you description of having a final look around your mum’s empty house. That’s not something I’m going to be able to do, as the final clearing by the professionals will be done after I’ve left. It made me wish I could have arranged things differently. We moved to the house when I was 12, and I have distinct memories of “exploring” it with a friend before we actually moved in when it was empty. It would have felt like full circle to do that again at the end. Even so, I will still have a final look around, when much will have been removed and dismantled, if not everything.
I can understand you wanting to “get on with it.” That’s how I feel about this process with the house. I’m ready. Maybe the waiting served that purpose. It helped get me ready!!!
I don’t think you need to “find” fertile. The fertile may appear from the void later. Or it may not. Who knows. It felt right for me. It’s great that you are enjoying yoga, pilates, and the gym – maybe that is your expression of fertile?
Thanks so much for this thoughtful and personal comment. I’m glad you found my post inspiring.
I am pleased for you Imogen about your house,
Incidentally, the ‘Fertile time’ is great help in my life right now. Thank you!!!
The picture you choose for this blog is just perfect. I like it very much.
I’m glad the idea of the “fertile void” is helpful to you, too. Thanks so much for your comment and your support.