I’m one of those people who spends an inordinate amount of time trying to reduce the inevitable uncertainty that comes with being human.
I do however have enough life experience, and I’d like to think wisdom, to know and understand that most things aren’t just black or white. At the end of the day, 99.9% of our lives are defined by the terrible, anxiety-producing thing that is “gray area.”
If you’re like me, you will focus on every little slice of gray area and try with all of your might to solve whatever problem, answer whatever question or put an exclamation point on whatever issue is eluding you until that pesky gray area has disappeared…at least temporarily until something else comes along and triggers your latent ambivalence once again.
We like the illusion of control though, so when possible, we tell ourselves that we’re fixing things and “figuring it out,” and the truth is that sometimes we are. However, there are also plenty of other times when there won’t be an answer to our question or a resolution to our problem and we will be forced to live in the questions. There are some things we may never know while others may be revealed to us with time…whichever is the case, we certainly cannot rush the outcome.
A very wise and beautiful writer name Rainer Maria Rilke once wrote about this very topic (and many others) in a series of letters to an acquaintance of his named Franz Kappus. To Kappus, Rilke wrote:
“I would like to beg you..as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”
- Rainer Maria Rilke
During times of ever-present ambiguity, I always go back to Rilke’s words and try to practice his advice.
It is important to remember that it’s not the certain, absolute, resolute and resolved that teach us our most important lessons in life. Though we can experience a great deal of anxiety when we are feeling unsure, it is the shaky foundation underneath us that forces us both to ask and to grapple with the toughest questions.
It’s within those questions and the gamut of emotions that we experience around them that cause us to grow, mature and become better at being who we are. Growing pains. Without stretching ourselves and allowing for this kind of movement, how would we ever evolve? Does a flower curse the sun for tempting its bud open? Your true beauty can only ever be revealed if you learn to love the questions themselves.
We may be obsessed with knowing why something is happening. We may feel like we just have to know how another person really feels about us. Or we may just insist that life let us take the reigns so we can fast forward to find out how it all turns out. Why can’t we just breathe out and enjoy the unfolding?
Instead of closing up, clamping down, avoiding, controlling and cursing the unresolved, we can step back, open up, breathe in and just allow. Yes, it’s super scary breaking our own illusion that we are in charge, but ultimately things come as they do, turn out as they’re meant to, and they are what they are, so why not let them be and learn to make the best out of the question marks that come with them?
Believe me, even if you live with a constant background of mental dialogue that keeps asking you “why” and “when,” one day you will suddenly realize that the questions that once plagued you have been answered and you have been living in those answers without even noticing.
Until then, cherish the questions and let yourself rest in the knowing that you are blossoming, even if you can’t see it just yet.