This blog post has been wanting to write itself for some time. Today appears to be the day.
We’re all addicted to something. If we all understood that, the world would be a slightly more compassionate place. Instead we have an unspoken addiction grading system and we judge each other for where we are on that scale. Heroin addiction and drug addiction is generally at the top, followed by alcohol, followed by the other Bad Ones: food, gambling, smoking, sex and then come the more (supposedly) benign addictions: work, gym, shopping, status, to be thought well of, to appear to be good…
But there is an addiction that most of us have that has the ability to completely paralyse us or lead us into making unhappy decisions and really suffering, mentally.
It’s the addiction to certainty.
We want to know what’s going to happen. We want to be assured that things are going to be okay in the future, be that ten mins or ten years, and so we start trying to manipulate the world in order to make it turn up in a way that we would like. Well, we’re on a hiding to nothing. As always, I speak from experience and I suspect you have plenty of evidence in your own life to back this up and yet STILL we fall into the trap.
My name’s Kim and I’m a Control Freak. Yep, it’s true. I’m someone who wants certainty and I want to know how things will turn out. I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with planning, we need to make plans in order to live our human lives. The danger comes when we get emotionally invested in needing a plan to turn out in a certain way, because then the blinkers come on. I feel it in my own body. If I want something to turn out a certain way and it feels as though it might not, I can feel my body tightening up, creating stress. My mind starts tightening up, too. I start to home in on how I can make it happen and then the imagination joins the story by telling me how bloody dreadful it would be if the thing, whatever it is, doesn’t happen in a certain way, and that makes me more fearful and so I contract further, creating more stress – and on and on and on.
I am resisting using an example, but sod it, here goes. I am in a very lovely new relationship with someone who is straightforward, has me in stitches, sexy (very), easy, incredibly kind, self-assured, generous, independent, honest and trustworthy. I know, I know – I’ve struck gold!
But here’s the issue that showed itself to me today, as I was meditating. Yep, you guessed it. I want certainty. And, bizarrely, I don’t want certainty as to how it’s going to turn out and if we’ll ride off into the sunset together. I’m more than happy to see how that unfolds and to just enjoy the ride. Weirdly I am obsessed (at the time of typing) with knowing when we’re going to see each other again. We don’t have anything in the diary. In fairness, he has suggested a date but I have asked if another is available and today I realise how much I WANT there to be something in the diary. More than one date, actually, as I know we won’t get to see each other over Christmas and New Year, so I want as much of him as possible NOW. I want TWO dates in the diary. (I am chuckling to myself as I spot my own bonkersness).
This is totally insane (yes, and very human but for the moment I’m interested in the insanity bit). Thank God for meditation, because I saw it very clearly this morning. I am wanting things to turn out in a certain way. I am craving certainty and it simply does not exist in any way shape or form. Never has, never will. None of us know what’s coming next. Not really. We plan and shape and connive and plot but we’ve also all been on the receiving end of that Bolt Out Of The Blue which throws all our plans to the wall and renders them meaningless (death, illness, redundancy, divorce, winning the lottery – whatever). And the peculiar thing is that when I realised that I can’t possibly know what’s going to turn up (in ANY event) and that there is just nothing certain to be counted on, I felt a huge sense of relief and liberation. Another softening, another surrendering, another letting go.
The reality is that R is extremely busy (there’s another possible addiction right there) and that he, to date, always finds time for me and actually goes out of his way to find time for me. I don’t need to know right now, at this moment, when the next date will be. But of course, I wanted to know NOW and all that does is create inner discord which in turn leads to stress which I think we all now know is a killer.
It’s not just this example, though. It’s all those times when we really want things to turn out a certain way. Check it out today. See how many times you are assuming that things will turn out a certain way and see how many times that ISN’T the case and then notice the difference between things not turning out a certain way that you’re NOT that bothered about in the first place, and things not turning out that you have invested some of yourself in, emotionally or otherwise. No milk for your cup of tea this morning? Annoying but not the end of the world. Dream house sale fallen through? Aaaaaggh, rending of garments and gnashing of teeth. And yet at their heart they are the same thing – change – and by its very nature change speaks to uncertainty. The amount of pain that we go through correlates to the emotional investment we’ve made in an outcome.
One of the benefits of my meditation and mindfulness practice is that I am becoming much more flexible around change and so loosening my grip (but not entirely, I’m a work in progress) on my need for certainty. I love the quote that’s attributed to the Dalai Lama (what isn’t these days?) that says: ‘Sometimes, not getting your own way is a fabulous stroke of luck’. Those of you who have been journeying with me over the last year will remember how much I wanted Ireland to work out… So it’s worth remembering, too, all those things that we were certain we wanted that we’re actually really bloody glad DIDN’T happen, on reflection.
Yes, my name’s Kim and I’m a Control Freak But Nowhere Near As Bad As I Used To Be. And that’s good enough – in the words of the AA Big Book, it’s about progress, not perfection. R will get in touch in HIS own sweet time. To date, he always has (but nothing’s certain!). In the meantime, I can womble on with my day unfettered by the stress and contraction of needing certainty.
Halle flipping lujah.