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Spoiler Alerts: The Necessity of Uncertainty

Yes, uncertainty is part of the adventure of life.


These brief exchanges got me thinking about the whole idea of "spoiler alerts." In the realm of entertainment, we instinctively know that uncertainty/suspense are crucial parts of what makes something enjoyable. We actually have to experience the process to get the full impact. 

But if you're like me, it's so much harder in real life to deal with uncertainty.  The stakes seem so much higher. I often hear myself saying, "If only I knew this would turn out okay..."

I was reminded of this recently when I received the following e-mail from a reader:

Hello Barb, I saw you on a video for anxiety and I have your book "Dying of Embarrassment". I have a question for you that I'm finally getting around to asking. I'm a 24-year-old female, have social anxiety, and have never had a boyfriend. In the video you said something that struck me and kind of gave me hope...something about how if you knew you would have met Greg, you wouldn't have worried as much in your teens/20s. I also like how you both said don't give up... How did you meet? I'm a member of a couple online dating websites, but I'm far too nervous to actually meet anybody. 

I hadn't watched the video she's referring to (a PBS documentary, Afraid of People) in years. I didn't even remember that part, but Greg did. It does sound like me, though. I'm a worrier, and I know during some lonely times in my teens and early twenties, I was sure I would never meet someone special. Little did I know the storyline of my life would have a surprising twist. I did a very non-shy thing: I asked Greg out on our first date. For once in my life, I hadn't gotten totally hung up on the outcome. I just asked!

One of my most well-received talks was on Embracing Uncertainty. (Yep, it's easy to dole out the wisdom; much harder to follow my own advice.) Part of my talk was based on Susan Jeffers book, by that title. She makes some great points that sometimes manage to stick with me, even when I'm in worry mode. She says that we can train ourselves to realize that uncertainty is exciting, not something to be feared. She writes, "Do we really want to ruin the challenge of it all...the surprise around the corner...the true adventure of 'not knowing'?" She suggests that instead of saying, "I hope (fill in the blank) turns out okay" we can say, "I wonder how (fill in the blank) will turn out." 

Yes, uncertainty is part of the adventure of life. As Jeffers puts it, "It's the stuff from which good movies are made."

Copyright 2011 by Barbara Markway

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