The Thing About Certainty
Before today, I was feeling a lot of despair. I had trouble on my mind – endless anxiety and sad thoughts and nightmares that made it hard for me to keep up with sleep. When I was sitting at a beach in Alameda tonight, looking across the bay to make out faint mountains in the distance, it suddenly hit me that I was feeling calm for the first time in what felt like weeks.
Despite the harshness that May has brought, I’ve also found myself experiencing moments of a feeling I seldom experience: clarity. When I drive up the hilly streets of my Oakland neighborhood at sunset, sometimes all I can see is the shaded asphalt ahead of me. The incline is so steep that even the sun is covered (and I constantly fear another car speeding over the top of the hill as soon as I reach it). But, when I finally get there, heart still racing with anticipation, there’s this breathtaking moment where I can see all the city below me bathed in honey colored light. That’s how I’ve been feeling in those fleeting moments – the relief of a downhill drive.
I am a person that struggles a lot with certainty. It’s more like an addiction, something that I’m constantly desiring, working for, bargaining with. When I’m not holding myself back at asking everyone in my life what I should do, I can be found sitting quietly, ruminating on every choice I’ve ever made and ever will again. There rarely seems to be a neon-lit sign in my brain that says “THIS IS WHAT YOU NEED TO DO. THIS IS THE RIGHT CHOICE.” (God, I wish that were the case.)
In the moments that I feel certainty, I like to bask in it. I play and replay the feeling in my mind. I tell everyone about my choice and try to replay the moment that I felt it. I’ve been thinking a lot the past few months about what evokes this feeling of certainty, and often it’s during a time when I’m doing two things: giving myself space from the urgency to decide and surrendering to trust in myself. When I lean into this, I realize that it’s not really certainty that I feel, but a sense of clarity. The future can never be certain, but I can allow my needs and desires can be clear.
There’s no way that I can be sure of most things in life. Placing that expectation on myself is unfair and unwise, but if I can allow myself to decide things with a calm and self-compassionate mindset, I’ll always be on the right path. Besides, if it’s not the right path I can always just turn down a different one. If my annoying GPS can recalculate directions when I make a wrong turn and still get me to the same place, so can my brain and body. Just like my car inching its way up the terrifying Bay Area hills, I know if I keep going, I’ll eventually be able to see it all in front of me, clear as day… until the next hill arrives.