TWIL (This Week I Learned)
This week I learned about uncertainty. I was feeling a bit like the floor was falling out from under me while I plastered to the walls of a very quickly spinning room (does anyone remember that ride at Magic Mountain?) when I cam across this line in an article I was reading about work insecurity: “Human beings have a natural tendency to perceive uncertainty in negative terms.”
Hmmm — ya think?.
And yet, as we are well aware this year, there are only three certainties in life: Birth, Death, and Taxes. That leaves the rest of our lives open to getting comfortable with uncertainty.
Funnily enough, we (at least I know I do this) often add “what if” hypothetical uncertainty to my life — as if what is in front of me right now isn’t enough. This week presented me with so many certain uncertainties that I didn’t need to go into “what if” land and, luckily, by staying firmly planted in intense self compassion, self care, and helpful self talk (all of which sound corny but Good Lord, use what works! We’ll come up with cool sounding names for it all later.) I actually was able to move through the week with a bit of humor.
I say this with a smile: the opposite of uncertainty is boredom. Yes, I know, many of us are craving “boredom” right about now (at least I am). I propose striving for balance. … Because —
Uncertainty can lead to worry, which can become unhealthy. Healthy worry about things that are happening in your life right now can help you get what you want in life and help you find original solutions.
In fact, right now, if you are a worrier, give yourself a hug. If you feel silly giving yourself an actual hug, consider doing something similarly kind.
Now all you need to do is regulate it. Notice I didn’t say “control”. It’s more like a thermostat, or the burner on the stove: Try for regulation, a gentle tempering of the heat, so that your worry can help you, instead of hurting you.
We have several sets of worry dolls in our house. These are a set of small dolls kept in a little box that you can tell your worries to and then put them in the box so they can hold your worries for you and you can let them go.
Whether you use literal worry dolls or not, try setting aside around 15 minutes a day to let go of the worries that you cannot solve right now: write them out, tell your worry dolls, walk them off (I find labyrinths work for me, tbh) pray, etc.
During this time, you may realize that some worries have practical solutions. Awesome. Others don’t, and might be better postponed. Still others are really hypothetical and you don’t need these. Practice letting go of these with compassion.
Try this: All week, when confronted with an uncertainty that leads to worry, use a decision tree to figure out whether it’s a helpful worry or not.
Every time you notice a worry, ask whether it’s a problem you can do something about. If so, jot down a list of options you have — things you can do right now.
If there is nothing you can do right now, write down what you can do and when you can do that thing and then let that worry go.
5. Level-UP / Go Deeper
Don’t forget that the opposite of uncertainty is boredom. Sometimes we get almost addicted to worry. We use worry or uncertainty almost as proxy for the real, kinda boring but very real actual problems in our lives. The stuff you don’t want to look at because it’s maybe cringy and uncomfortable but so unsexy.
I’ll just leave that there in case it brings anything up for anyone. If that seems to ring true (perhaps ringing true through a really strong negative reaction…) consider spending a bit of time each day chipping away at whatever that less exciting problem might be.
9. Hero: Brian Hare —Author
Why? He wrote the book “Survival of the Friendliest”
10. Take Care of Yourself This Week and Share if you know someone who might like this.
Wild and Precious Podcast, the audio partner to 10 Things, is available everywhere you download podcasts. Uncertainty episode Thursday.