Sunday, September 30

"It's the not knowing"

Last week I spent some quality time with my folks, at least in a manner of speaking.  The parental units are going through some physical challenges just now, which contribute to some emotional and psychological challenges, which contribute to their own physical challenges.  It's quite an interesting circle on which many physicians and armchair therapists might comment.  But that's not the point.

The point is a comment my mom made: "It's the not knowing."

She's right.  It's the not knowing.  It's the not knowing about just about anything we confront or experience in our lives.  It's not knowing the outcomes.  It's not knowing the response of others.  It's not knowing if what we're hoping will be.  It's not knowing.

And with not knowing comes more tension and, perhaps, more need to try to know and to try to control what we know, how we know it, and when we know it.

One of my mother's many pet phrases just now is "It is what it is."  I've written on that before.  I despise that phrase and the few days with my mother did nothing to help me appreciate it.  Yes, in some cases she has no control and yes, in some instances, the situation is what the situation is.  But we always, always, always have a choice in how we respond to that situation.  The great shoulder shrug of "it is what it is" suggests we have abandoned any hope, any responsibility, any accountability, anything.  It is a phrase of hopelessness.  Now, that's not how she intends it.  Her intent is to help her manage the unmanageable.

We talked a lot about her response to things.  Well, she talked, I listened, and occasionally asked questions.

"It is what it is" dispenses with the fragility of emotion that informs "It's the not knowing."  There is no point in worrying about what one can't know if it just is what it is.  I think that's fatalistic and suspect it's unhealthy on a number of levels.

There are things I cannot and will not know.  There are things I don't care to know.  There are things I wished I knew, things I wished I knew better,  But there are a few things I know and one is that I can decide how to respond to situations.

There are some things she will learn and will not like.  There are some things she may not know for a while.  She can choose how to respond to the not knowing, to the information she doesn't want to hear or doesn't like just as she chooses to respond to the information that is hopeful and encouraging.

I believe in the One who has a plan for my life.  I believe that things happen for a reason, even if they are inscrutable to me.  And my hope rests in a host of experiences, but also the words of encouragement and hope I find in the Bible.

For some, not knowing leads to a bunker mentality; keeping one's head down and trying to minimize exposure.  Rather than view "It's the not knowing" as a phrase of helplessness or of hopelessness, I prefer to turn that on its head.  Not knowing leads to insight, leads to learning, leads to collaboration with others, leads to depending on others, leads to asking and answering hard questions, and sometimes, just sometimes, leads to amazing adventures and experiences.

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