On Uncertainty

Posted On: 03.28.16


The truth: I’m in this interesting, in-between place. Personally. Professionally.

My girls are growing like weeds and becoming more independent. We are just back from a ski vacation where all three girls took to the slopes with startling gusto, morphing from shaky-legged novices to determined, not to mention skilled, little skiers. On the plane there and back, they sat contentedly with their iPads and snacks, barely requiring any attention from us and it strikes me that things are changing, have changed; civilization, albeit imperfect, is returning. My role as their mom is shifting, as it should. The questions I’m asking, the dilemmas I’m having, are new ones. Time thrums on.

My book is out in the world. People are buying it and reading it and responding to it. And this is amazing. Each time I hear from a reader, I feel a brilliant jolt, a zap that reminds me that my novel is no longer just a dream, or a mess of pages, but an actual thing that exists on its own, apart from me, on shelves and on screens, in hearts and in minds. Wow.

And the storm that is book promotion is quieting a bit, as is natural, and I have mixed feelings about this. I’m tired and in true need of a breath and a break, but I’ve genuinely loved the zigzagging around, the controlled chaos of hopscotching from place to place, locking eyes with book-lovers, speaking about my story that was a private thing for so long.

And now I find myself faced with the glorious and gutting question of what’s next, a question that stirs in me both profound optimism and dizzying anxiety. Both. Depending on the moment, I’m giddy about the prospect of choice or paralyzed by it. I suppose the theme I’m feeling most deeply now is uncertainty. How do I want to spend my next months and years, particularly with the knowledge that my daughters are growing so fast and furiously, that life is fragile.

Context: A friend died last week. A mom of one of my kids’ good pals and a beloved alumna and teacher at my former school and my kids’ current school. I didn’t know this woman as well as I would have liked; our connection was on the new side, but flourishing because our girls love each other, and I was deeply enthralled by her, her incandescent spirit, her twinkling positivity even in the face of her own mortality. And now she is gone. I got the news of her passing when I was in Aspen. It was our first day there and it was morning and the five of us were just walking around, exploring the streets of a new place and I read the email and it was surreal and just so impossibly sad. She was only 43 and leaves behind a wonderful husband and two young children.

So, uncertainty. And this can be hard, but it can also, I’ve decided, be brilliant. To be wedged in a pocket of time where edges aren’t determined, when options exist, when questions swirl, demanding to be asked, can be its own wonderfully powerful privilege. This is where I am now and I imagine some of you are too? What I’m trying to do is to feel as settled and secure as possible in this frank uncertainty, to heed my instincts, to think big, to take deep breaths and hug the people I love lots and lots and lots.

Life is big and beautiful and messy and sad sometimes, but to be alive in the world is a gift, isn’t it?

Not sure what this is exactly. These words. Maybe it’s okay not to know. Maybe it’s just a Monday morning ode to the exquisite uncertainty in life, to the murkiness that can be meaningful and magical if we let it be, to the not-knowingness that is so central to what it means to be human.

Anyway, happy to be here. Writing. Wondering. Wandering.

Happy Monday, guys.

Are you experiencing any uncertainty in your life?

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6 Comments for: "On Uncertainty"
  1. I’m so sad to hear of the loss of your friend, Aidan. Thanks for sharing this — though I’m still completely in the trenches with small kiddos, I often think about how life will shift and morph as my kids get older and my writing career morphs and changes as well. Seems like we will never stop evaluating and re-evaluating — a great thing to be able to do, though! xo

  2. Kristen

    Hearing of someone passing at such a young age always jars me. Especially a mom. Especially now that I am a mom. It is one of my greatest fears – dying before seeing my son (and future children) grow; leaving him (them) without a mom. I’ve never really admitted this and I’m not sure why I’m doing it here. Maybe it just feels safe. Thank you for sharing and creating a safe place to share.

  3. I’m sorry for your loss Aidan. I would normally feel empathy, but mine is even more poignant right now as I also recently lost a friend- a very, close and long-time friend. It is truly hard to reconcile this fact of life- the death of someone so young (52, for my friend) and so vibrant who was more than alive with tremendously wonderful family and friends.
    So, uncertainty, yes, this resonates so strongly within me given this recent and gut-wrenching sadness as well as an ongoing and stressful divorce. And, then I add the uncertainty I feel with and from my daughter as she nears college graduation. Uncertainty continues as my son weaves his way into post high school life.
    And, yet, as you so appropriately and optimistically remind us, it is a gift to be in this world at any/all moments. Treasuring our family and friends and finding magic in even the smallest of things helps create the energy that drives and directs us to goodness and kindness.
    Thank you for your inspiration!

  4. You ask if some of us are feeling uncertainty and I think that may be a primary emotion for me of late–so yes, indeed, your experience resonates! A friend lost her five month old boy a couple months ago and it brings about those same questions and the swirling of emotions. I keep asking myself, what am I truly doing with my one wild and precious life? It bears examination–continuously I would argue.
    Know that you are far from alone in all this. hugs…

  5. Uncertainty. I am so uncertain of so much these days.

    I am in a huge transition period of my life. I know the things I’d like to accomplish, but feel unable to accomplish them at this point (skill, money, readiness all seem to stand in the way).

    I am about to transition away from a job that I no longer feel fit for. BUT I am unsure where I fit if I don’t fit in that job.

    I am also, possibly, about to transition from a place that has always been home, but hasn’t felt like home for a long time (and maybe it never felt like home, but was just where my family was).

    You described this period of uncertainty perfectly when you said that it can make you giddy or it can paralyze you. I experience both of these things on a rotating basis – weekly, daily, hourly, minutely.

    Even in the face of mortality (I recently found out that a senior student I home taught was in a serious car accident – she is expected to make a full recovery, but it won’t be easy AND have been thinking about the upcoming year anniversary of a close family friend that died in a car accident last April), I find it so hard to put action to some of my dreams.

    I am sorry for your loss, I know that it must sting. But thank you for coming here and sharing these words and thoughts – it helps all of us (and hopefully you as well) know that we are not alone. (Which is maybe the best thing about this crazy, digital world we often live in).

    A suggestion if you are missing out on the interactive part of your novel? Possibly start a private online community where you can share snippets of new writing or ask for advice on what you’re doing from close friends/readers/other writers. (Just a possible suggestion that might make things seem less lonely as you write)

    Thanks, as always, for the time and space to ramble.


  6. Oh, Aidan, I’m so sorry. It seems that with each year the relationship between peace and upset, contentment and sorrow, becomes more inextricably linked. I love the way you often use this space to feel your way around, offering less answers or declarations than assertions that many of us are feeling our way through life, sometimes without benefit of a steady light.

    I found a new dimension as I sat waking in an X-ray room the other day. I feel at once raw and whole from the revelation of being able to genuinely love myself. It sounds odd, even as I look at those words, but I think that’s the secret, we keep discovering new meaning and connection, even in the dark.

    Sending you love.

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