By. Dr. Diane Lass
Most of us are not comfortable walking into situations where we feel uncertain or walking into the unknown. Reality is, if we can avoid those situations, we do, but many times we have no choice in the matter. We start new jobs, new relationships, we become parents for the first time and the list goes on and on.
Uncertainty can bring on challenges; some of us welcome and even enjoy challenges, but some of us will avoid them at all costs if possible. Even when we know that walking through the door of uncertainty will ultimately bring us a sense of power and pleasure.
After my husband died, I was thrown into a world of uncertainty. Everything changed. Everything that we did together, suddenly, I did on my own. Take out the trash? Did you know that those trash cans are moved on a schedule? Seriously? I could have cared less what the schedule was (still do – thank God for my neighbor). It wasn’t my job! Not only that, before Steve’s death I had never even driven his truck – the same truck that he would take me for Sunday Sunset drives in, but I couldn’t sell it, I might need it one day to buy a Christmas Tree! Right? Made sense to me!
Most of those life altering events, I have overcome or manipulated into my new normal. Some aspects, I have decided to let alone for now, such as cleaning out my garage. Steve used to get mad at me for random reasons and his “therapy” would be to go out and clean the garage for a few hours. Sometimes I wish he’d come back and get mad at me to just clean my garage. Anyway!
But, I do have 3 lingering issues that I feel like I need to overcome for my own well-being. Most current is going to the gym. I have only gone to the gym a few times since his passing. Crazy thing is, the gym was my thing. I went for 5 years before the two of us went together and I was the reason he started going in the first place. But, regardless, it became one of the most important things we did together for 20 years.
The times I did force myself to go, I would see him everywhere; on weight benches, sitting staring at the floor as he waited between sets, chatting too much with buddies, me telling him he was a whimp, because he wasn’t lifting twice as much as I did, and after our workouts, him waiting outside the women’s bathroom for me to wash my hands and then him placing his beautiful arm around my neck and saying, “where am I taking you to eat?”
Interesting, this blog is about walking into uncertainty, but as I describe our gym experiences, it is evident that there is nothing uncertain about my past experiences. Difference is, now I am alone and nothing about my past experiences are any longer familiar to me. No doubt the arrangement of the gym is completely different. I doubt if any of our old buddies are still there. It is doubtful that I would even go the gym at the same times that worked into our schedules back then.
I know it is for my personal well-being to go back to the gym. It was a big part of my life, it was a hobby for me and I sincerely want that part of my life back. But, walking through those doors brings about anxiety for me, which is based on fear. Fear of the unknown. I am fearful that I will not be able to “do” it right. But, isn’t that a large component of moving forward and a large part of our process? Too often we block ourselves from doing the things that we know will bring us pleasure.
I remember working with an extremely depressed client who was having a tough time leaving her home. One day I asked her what she used to do that brought her pleasure that she was no longer doing. She mentioned that she lived by the beach and that she used to enjoy going down to the beach and going for a walk. I asked her if she was her own “child,” would she allow her child to sit in a dark room feeling sad when she knew that her daughter would be much happier getting up and going for a walk along the beach? Of course, she answered, “No.” So, her homework assignment for the week was to take her “child” for a walk along the beach every day.
The following week, she came into our session with a very different demeanor. Her face was much brighter and she expressed feeling much happier than she had felt for quite a while. My client had been able to take care of herself as her own “child” in a way that she had not been able to care for herself. She forced herself to step into the unknown. She had been uncertain as to whether she could handle venturing out into the “real world alone.” She faced her fears and she was glad she did and I admired her strength.
Which brings me back to the gym. After a lot of thought and reflection, I realized I was unable to go to the gym because that was something “we” did – Steve and I. Would it be fair to go to the gym if Steve couldn’t go? On the other hand, I remember Steve feeling sad when our schedules didn’t work out and we couldn’t go together. I think I was secretly making him “pay” for leaving me. I knew he would be upset that I stopped doing something I loved so much, but I think I was still, subconsciously, a bit mad at him for leaving me.
So, what did I need to do? I needed to make a mental break from the two of us being at the gym together. So, I tried visualizing what that break looked like. Eventually, I saw Steve walking me up to the gym door holding my hand. He was wearing his Navy-Blue gym shorts with white stripes down the side. White T-shirt with no sleeves, which revealed his beautiful arms and skin. He was carrying his blue gym bag. I visualized him walking away with tears in his eyes and me walking in crying. Just like a parent who drops off their child for the first day of kindergarten. Neither the parent or the child want to walk away, but as parents we know it needs to happen and we know it’s for the best.
Inside the doors of that kindergarten class is a whole new world. New experiences, growth, happy times, new friends and adventures. The child is walking into the unknown, into a world of uncertainty – some children are excited and look forward to the challenge and the unknown, other children feel like they would rather stay home forever and never go to Kindergarten. Some people think they would rather stay isolated in a dark room and not venture out to walk on the beach.
Life is full of uncertainties, but life is full of new ventures and new opportunities. We just need to have trust that we will be ok and have faith that great things are to come. That is one aspect of my job that I love. I am incredibly blessed to watch my clients walk into a world of uncertainty and witness the sense of empowerment and joy their experiences bring.
Looks like Steve is going to have to take me to Kindergarten. At least I have already visualized the process and I know it is going to be difficult – I am uncertain how my first day will go, but it is important to keep my eye on the goal knowing I am taking care of myself the same way I would if I were my own “child.”
How do you personally handle uncertainty, the unknown? Do you avoid or try to avoid those situations in attempt to minimize your fears and anxieties? Do you secretly want to walk through those doors and experience new adventures? Don’t worry about doing it “perfectly.” Take the risk – I am going to. I know it’s not easy, but I know by watching my clients who venture out and take risks there are fun and empowering adventures beyond those doors. Afterall… who do you have to please? You! That “child” inside who needs and wants to be nurtured by you.
I wish you luck on your journey and thank you for being part of mine!