How to approach uncertainty with curiosity
By Paige Zuckerman, Red Willow Clinical Director / January 2020
It’s a new decade, a new year, and a time that can feel daunting for many reasons. Maybe you’re reflecting back on 2019 with a few grunts and squirms. Maybe the past year (or decade) has been predominantly kind…maybe they’ve been a balance of struggle and success.
New Year’s resolutions can lead to unrealistic expectations for magical thinking, internal pressures and unsupported self-imposed imperatives. Perhaps it’s not about meeting ‘that goal’ this year; I’ve discovered for myself that focusing on the present and the process rather than the outcome creates the space I need for myself to grow and change positively.
Early in my counseling career, one of my beloved supervisors said “there is no arrival time.” I struggled with that concept for a while, until I came to comprehend it at a deep level. I began to understand that my attachment to ‘completion’ or ‘arrival’ was an unhelpful tether. This new understanding did not mean that I would not or could not benefit from clarity of values and coordinated goals. It meant that I could give myself space to be truly honest with myself about what really mattered to me, while accepting myself today regardless of where I’m at on my personal journey.
The notion that we may ‘miss the mark’ in expecting answers or outcomes is explored in the British sci-fi classic, The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. In the series, on a planet called Magrathea, a species of “hyper-intelligent, pan-dimensional beings” decided they simply must create a computer to find the answer to “life, the universe & everything.” Ten million some-odd years ensue, and said beings finally create the computer they name “Deep Thought.” They ask Deep Thought (with wringing hands and anxious anticipation) to provide the answer they have so desperately sought for millions of years. After a lengthy pause, Deep Thought asserts that the answer is “42.” Naturally, these beings are aghast at the response and grapple with their sentient creation. Deep Thought assures them, the answer is certainly 42. The intelligent beings become all the more dejected by this information after many millennia of striving. Deep Thought tells them they asked for the answer, without understanding the question.
I love this parable, for me, it encompasses the path of genuine and sustained well being and resilience. This time of year, we can become somewhat culturally obsessed with resolutions we hope will give us peace, stability, sobriety, etc. I invite us to allow this year to be a season of curiosity rather than allow it to become a ‘season of answer seeking’. Maybe we can focus on asking a lot of very meaningful, powerful questions and staying in the practice of curiosity. Maybe then, we’ll find out what our own “42” really means.
I hope you all had a moment or more of peace, joy, rest and love this past season, and that you have space to ask heaps of brilliant questions in this new year!