I used to think that I wasn’t good with endings, closure or goodbyes. Graduations and ceremonies marking the culmination of something were events I avoided. I thought that meant I was afraid of the endings and transitions of life. Currently, I’m clearing out my home of 15 years. My wife and I have been selling many possessions and preparing our house for sale without knowing where we are going to be living next. Combine that with the fact that I have no idea where my next paycheck is coming from, I am facing a lot of unknowns.
I’m now realizing that my biggest fear is of the unknown. From a young age, I remember being afraid of moving to new towns, going to summer camp, and even moving on to the next grade in school. I was quite suicidal at the end of high school and it was due in large part to fear of the unknown; fear of what was next. I was suicidal towards the end of college as well. I was applying for jobs at the same time I was planning my death. That too was due to fear of the unknown.
Yet, I’ve embraced the unknown, at times. New jobs, projects, and assignments usually bring me a level of excitement. I’ve also traveled around the world, trekking in Nepal, mingling with mountain gorillas in Uganda, repelling 300 hundred feet and taking on class 5 white water in Peru. All of that was full of fear-inducing unknown, but it was a playful, exhilarating sort of fear. That is the fear and unknown that I enjoy. Why is it that sometimes the unknown is exciting and adventurous, while other times it terrifies me so much that I want to hide, to disappear, sometimes to the point of wanting to die?
Perhaps it is a fear of loss of control. It is the perception of having no control over my experience. I never thought that I was a control freak by any means, but if the unknown scares me so much perhaps insisting on control is a big part of it. More accurately, the illusion of being in control is a big part of it. Any job can end, any home can be lost, any person can pass away, and any relationship can come to an end without notice, without our control.
As I’m clearing out my house and selling items that once meant a big deal to me, or the acquisition of collectibles that were a big moment, I feel an emptiness. I think this emptiness began when we were clearing out all of my stepmother’s possessions last fall. She was an only child and had no children of her own. When she died, it was up to my wife and me to go through all of her things. It was interesting and fun. We learned more about her and found she had saved every letter or card I ever gave her. It was also sad, as we found so many photos and mementos of which we knew nothing about. They ended up in the trash.
It got me to thinking that they’ll be no one to go through my stuff when I’m gone. I’m an only child and we have no children. I guess the older I get, especially when for a long time I never thought I would get older, there is this melancholy questioning of, “Why did I buying anything when none of this matters?” I’m saving some stranger the effort of throwing away the evidence of my life by doing it now.
I don’t know what to do with this. I guess this is one of the questions that have plagued humans for quite a while. Once survival, shelter, and food are taken care of we yearn for more. We seek a sense of connection and meaning. I do know there is more. I know that this lifetime is not the end of me. Death will not cease whatever this energy or consciousness is, but I also sometimes feel like I’ve had enough of this fucking place and that’s scary too.
It seems so bizarre to me that I have no fear of the unknown of death, but I have plenty of fear of the unknown in living. I’m much more worried about what’s next; of what will come, that it’s going to be horrible, difficult and torturous. I guess that is the core fear; that the unknown isn’t going to be good. The coming unknown is not going to be pleasant. The coming unknown is not going to be supportive.
Yet when I look back at all the experiences of my life the unknown always worked out just fine. I’m still here. I’ve got everything I need in this moment. If I’ve always had everything I need, even when it didn’t seem like it. That’s the amazing part and the insanely frustrating part. The fact that the unknown has always turned out well doesn’t stick for me. Why is that something I have to keep rediscovering and relearning over and over?
Do you welcome the unknown aspects of life? If the relationship ends, if you lose a job, if you lose a home, are you looking forward to the unknown landing spots? I hope so. I hope so for you and I hope so for me.
How fantastically alive would everyone feel if we could all embrace the unknown? That would truly be living in the moment, having faith, feeling connected and supported by All That Is. I do think that is possible. In fact, I know it is more than possible because I’ve experienced it.
I just don’t experience it all the time. Which I suppose proves that I’m human.