Flamingo with wings spread wide

Practice being in uncertainty

Gratitude 31/40

I resist the urge to check my email, check my phone, but I’m failing. In the last 24 hours I did two tests whose results should get me closer to a diagnosis, and very soon the results will land in my inbox. I don’t like this grasping feeling I have. And yet, here it is. I really, really, really want to know.

In a class Marc and I teach on social change, we underscore the importance of developing a capacity to dwell in uncertainty. When this health thing started to unravel, I lit a candle and placed next to it a ceramic bowl that my partner made. I wanted to enter this passage prayerfully. I placed things in the bowl that I might need along the journey, like the picture of a saint. And I surrendered things that might not serve me, like this grasping-way-of-needing-to-know-to-feel-okay.

But being intentional about accepting uncertainty is not enough for me. In this moment my body bristles with frustration only a test result will soothe. I want to, no, I need to know. When the email flashes in, I call my colleague Marc over and we open it. It’s not helpful. In short it says that this was the wrong CT scan to test for thymoma. And the blood test never shows up in my online portal.

In that moment I lose my composure. If I were a toddler, I’d head straight for the floor and fling my arms and legs around. I don’t. I stand and speak through my tears, “I just want the tests to tell me I have MG and then say, ‘take this medicine’ so that I can have my old life back.”

When things feel so out of control, many people seek certainty merchants—strong figures that offer a simple story and clear solution (thanks Sonia Blignaut). In this moment I too seek the comfort of certainty and it is a moment-to-moment practice to shift my attention toward what is still stable right here, right now.

I go for that second blood test, the one I hope would give me some certainty. On the way back I bump into a neighbor and we talk about the desire for certitude.

“Diagnoses are good,” she says. “I love them. It’s like feeling shitty thinking I’m bi-polar but then I realize it’s just PMS.”

We laugh. Ah, this thing of knowing and not-knowing, this thing of being human.