LIVING with UNCERTAINTY
Life is impermanent. Living with uncertainty is a challenge. People die. Jobs are gained and lost. Health fails. Accidents occur. A cancer diagnosis is given to you or a loved one. A child is born. Therapy ends. Tragedies occur. A person is raped. A marriage is celebrated. Financial loss causes homelessness. Life is uncertain.
How resilient are you? Do you move easily with the ebb and flow of life? Do you hold on tightly to what you have in fear you will lose it? What control do you have?
When I lived in the extreme domestic violence marriage with Tom M. (abuser and perpetrator), my life was quite consistent. Financial security existed. Travel was a given. Clothes were affordable. We had decent health insurance as a family unit. We owned two cars. A middle class life was ours. I was a stay-at-home mom who homeschooled my daughter, Megan. Abuse and torture occurred almost daily. It was a certainty. Abuse was a certainty in my life for almost 47 years (from the day I was born into my family of origin until my relationship ended with Tom M.)
A severe price was paid by my daughter and I for that former life of certainty.
Once I entered into pastoral counseling, I soon discovered that I did not like unfinished business. Leaving things unresolved with others or unsettled (even in a counseling session) was difficult. I remember Fr. Marc (pastoral counselor) telling me it is okay for things to be left unsettled. Here I am, around 13 years later, and those words echo in my mind.
When an individual is accustomed to abuse of any kind, one may also be used to the unfortunate seemingly normalcy of it and of the certainty of life. My life from childhood until almost 47 years consisted of an everyday, “normal” life experiences – school, friends, job, motherhood, etc. as well as trauma, abuse, and torture which mostly occurred in the evening or night hours. Domestic violence is familiar. Abuse is familiar. Many survivors of childhood abuse end up in relationships (domestic violence, partner abuse) with violence and abuse of all types.
Breaking free from a lifetime or even a short time period of abuse can be extremely difficult. Living with uncertainty can be panic and anxiety-provoking. To face possible homelessness when you leave the financial security of a life with an abuser is scary. To live actual homelessness may be terrifying. Recently, I read an article which included a chart on an average person’s chances of being homeless in one’s lifetime in the United States. The statistics were startling.
I can imagine what the statistics are for a mother and child or children fleeing a domestic violence situation. It is not easy to seek help, to possibly go into a shelter, or to end up on the streets. In many ways, remaining with the abuser may seem like the best option in a world of poor options. Even with support or a place to live, it may be hard to sever the ties with the abuser.
When Megan and I were discovered in November, 2007, and separated unjustly, our goodbye was as good as it could be. We had the chance, the moment, to look each other in the eyes and say, “I love you.” and a few other sentences. There are no perfect goodbyes. (For those who do not know my story, I was a protective mother. To read more about protective parents, see: https://roadtofreedomandpeace.com/a-salute-to-protective-parents-the-attorneys-that-represent-them/)
Megan and I left a loving, supportive Catholic community in Landstuhl, Germany, abruptly in July, 2006. There was no chance to say our farewells. There was no closure, as people say.
The separation of Megan and I in 2007 as well as leaving Germany and my community of friends and pastoral counselor left a deep mark on my mind and heart.
It is important for me to tell people I appreciate them as soon as possible. If I have hurt someone, I attempt to make amends sooner rather than later. Gratitude comes to mind sooner. I find myself genuinely thanking a customer service or retail person easily. When anger and frustration flares up within me, I let it go sooner.
Even with my above feelings and actions, life is not settled. Living with uncertainties is part and parcel of life. Perfect goodbyes may not exist — whether it is just a good-bye, see ya later, to a possible final good-bye.
Katie Roiphe writes a thought-provoking article on last conversations with loved ones. It includes the following:
“We have an idea that when someone is dying, a new, honest, generous space opens up; that in the harrowing awfulness of dying there is a directness, an expansiveness, a loosening of inhibitions, the potential for things to be said that could not be said before. But if one does actually manage to pull off a last conversation, what can it be but a few words in a lifetime of talk? How can it be enough?”
“Part of the problem is that some silences are too wide to narrate. Words, even if the right ones miraculously presented themselves, would not be enough. The confession and forgiveness we want to fill the room do not spring up more naturally in extremis, under duress. It may be the last chance for the dying person to clarify, but clarity doesn’t necessarily come. In this way, death is a lot like life.”
To read the full article, the link is: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/20/opinion/sunday/dying-with-nothing-to-say.html?_r=2
For me, as much as I love words and find writing healing, there are times when words can be meaningless. Silence in the presence of the other may convey more. There is often a spirituality conveyed in silence that may not be as easily sensed with words spoken. A person of importance to me once told me that words are not necessary to know someone loves you. Love does not have to be stated for it to be felt, known, and sensed.
I am learning to live more easily with impermanence and with life’s uncertainties. There is a peace within me that comes with letting go of control I do not truly own anyway. I still do my best daily to let others know in a genuine manner I appreciate and love them. (Words are often not used. Sometimes a look conveys love and gratitude.) I make amends quickly and more easily now. My life is filled with uncertainties still. That is okay. There is a one-ness, a unity with others and with Spirit, God, Divine Presence, Higher Power …
A favorite poem or prayer that has spoken to me for years is below:
Trust in the Slow Work of God
Above all, trust in the slow work of God
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new. And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability-
and that it may take a very long time. And so I think it is with you.
your ideas mature gradually – let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste. Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow. Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be. Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you, and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.
– Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J. (1881-1955)
Living with uncertainty is part of life. Sure, some people seem to have a life which follows their plans. Even for those individuals, life happens. Death, illness, accidents ….
May all of you discover the ability within you to graciously live with uncertainty!
Life is a journey … filled with wonderful surprises and challenges.