This I Believe

Kathleen - Paradise Valley, Arizona
Entered on July 26, 2006

I believe in uncertainty – in not knowing “for sure” – and in not needing to know.

This view has been a long time in coming. I am nothing if not an infinitely rational. My idea of a good game is chess. Math is my favorite subject. The idea that our emotions are actually a series of chemical reactions in our brains is very appealing to me. I like to know. I like the feeling of being “in the know” and I’ve gained some satisfaction from letting other people know that I know.

For years, decades actually, I embraced certainty.

I marked the wall before driving the nail. I spent hours on-line researching before buying a new TV; read the reviews before going to the movies. I asked around to gain the “scoop” on anyone my daughters seemed to be romantically interested in and got my shots before traveling to developing countries.

Not to say that I didn’t take risks. I did. I quit my job without having another one secured. I ate food off the floor, picked up hitchhikers; occasionally was a hitchhiker! I got married.

But every risk was a calculated risk. I knew the odds.

Or I thought I did.

I can’t count the times I was certain that:

That company is well managed.

That marriage will never last

He was wearing a blue shirt.

She is going to love these earrings.

I’d know if they were lying

This will be fun

It’s impossible for a bear to be in the attic

We have plenty of time

And I can’t count the times I was wrong.

What changed me was not an epiphany but the slow wearing down of reality. Like a rock carved out by water the strength of my belief in my own certitude was no match for the unpredictable, terrible and astonishing outcomes of real life.

A life governed not by my head, not by my heart but by something unknowable. Or maybe not.

Today I believe in embracing uncertainty. In moving in for the kiss, taking the new job, changing my mind about someone, choosing a path, drinking from the well all while knowing full well that I don’t know, may never know, if it’s a good idea or a terrible one.