I learned at an early age that the god of lost keys, troubled test takers, and late night flu recoveries was not the god of incurable cancer, debilitating depression, or chronic illness. No matter how many times I fell to my knees, some things simply did not qualify for miracles.
When my father died, I felt numbed by shock, despite all the signs supposedly preparing me for this outcome. I kept holding out for one last hail Mary. I was willing to trade all future tender mercies for just this one miracle. But it never came.
I spent the next six years fighting the rising pain, giving into the numbness, covering it with with a liturgy of faith. My professions of faith simultaneously buoyed me up and dragged me down. I clung to glimpses of the divine, proclaiming the unexpected blessings that came from such a heartrending loss – my family was closer, I appreciated people more, I understood death. My words indicated an increased trust in God, but my actions belied that trust.
I learned to be cautious, always preparing a back-up plan just in case. My stomach betrayed me regularly, an outward sign of inner turmoil. Even when I took huge risks, like moving halfway across the country to attend college near no one I knew, I retreated into fear. I longed to be bold, follow my passionate nature, and throw myself whole-heartedly into every endeavor. But I usually succumbed to the what ifs, staying inside, holding myself back, saying “not this time” when I longed to say “yes.”
Counseling helped open my heart and mind to new possibilities; revealing the benefits of risk and the price of continuous caution; preparing me to meet a partner my opposite in so many important ways.
My husband approaches life with virtually no safety net. His view is one of possibilities. His glass is overflowing. Things will work out. His god will come through. And his friendship, encouragement, and enthusiasm have patiently, gradually whittled away at my walls of caution and fear over the past eleven years.
We’ve taken risks in baby steps when he has wanted to take them in leaps. We’ve jumped off cliffs of uncertainty with me reluctantly taking the leap. I wish I could say I always soared, but sometimes I came crashing down, bumped up and down, flailed around in mid air. But I also learned to fly. I rediscovered the adventurer in me. I viewed life in technicolor again. I learned to embrace uncertainty.
In 11 years, we have moved across the country into the unknown, changed jobs, returned to school, moved, rented our house/sublet our townhome/traveled for an internship all at the same time. Many times, I’ve envisioned our life as a series of dominoes, with just one false move toppling them all over. But it’s never worked that way. It doesn’t always/often go as planned, but we emerge changed, mostly for the better.
We’re in the midst of a big change and have been for the past 6 months. I’ve found myself hitting up against the walls of “ideal” and “perfect plans” and disappointed expectations. A few things are finally coming into place, but I realized that they couldn’t until I allowed myself to embrace a certain element of uncertainty again. We make deliberate, thoughtful choices, all the while recognizing that we can not control every element and perhaps we’re not supposed to.
God’s role in all of this is still unclear to me, another element of life’s uncertainty. It’s been more of a challenge, but I’m learning to embrace that uncertainty too; taking baby steps of hope, finding strength in new experiences, and trusting that I’ll eventually fly.