I wasn’t going to publish a post this week. The truth is, I don’t even know what to say right now. Every time I put a few words down on paper, I hesitate. The only words I’m left with are, I don’t know.
I’ve been in this place before. Not in this exact situation, of course, but in a place where I haven’t known what to do. Six years ago, when my then-husband confronted me about my sexuality (yes – he started the conversation), it took months for me to process the fact that everything I had once believed would exist in my future was being thrown to the wind. I didn’t know how to navigate this new reality, and the unknown had me questioning everything: What would the next month, six months or year look like? Who would leave my life as a result of any decisions I made? Where did I really belong?
I allowed this situation, and many others after it, to consume me, each I don’t know pushing me further down my rabbit hole because I was too afraid to make any one decision.
It’s a place we’ve all been before – frantically spinning our wheels and saying, I don’t know over and over again until we have pushed ourselves into a state of paralysis. We tell ourselves that we don’t know, but really, we don’t allow ourselves to explore any know-ing because we’re afraid of making the wrong decision.
Making the decision to sign divorce papers and come out as gay was single-handedly the hardest decision I have made to date. When I think back to that singular decision, I can still hear the sound of the mailbox slamming shut, the reverberating hum of the metal that seemed to shake every bone in my body, the instantaneous knee-jerk reaction of Oh my god, what did I do?
There have been times I’ve questioned this decision – not in terms of my sexual preferences, but for how that decision has impacted those I love. But, it was only by making a decision, it was only by signing papers and dropping the envelope in the mailbox, that the pressure of I don’t know was released. Only by making a decision one way or the other, was I able to come to greater clarity and certainty.
Making decisions is difficult. It’s hard AF sometimes to choose between two paths – and even harder to trust the one you’ve picked, especially after delaying the decision for as long as you could…because what if wasn’t the “right” decision?
Saying, I don’t know is safe. It’s the worn-out sweater that you keep wearing even though it’s showing its age and no longer fashionable. Saying you don’t know provides you the uncomfortable, but familiar space to not be locked into anywhere in particular, a place you convince yourself you can ride out until you know for sure.
Saying, I don’t know is an easy escape from ourselves and it’s what we say when bravery evades us. It’s the wall that prevents us from revealing too much or hurting anyone in the process.
We say, I don’t know because if we make the “wrong” choice, we won’t have to hear the critics (our own or others) on the sidelines saying, “I told you so”.
We say, I don’t know because it’s risky to think of leaving where we are in our career – and there’s no guarantee of what’s on the other side.
We say, I don’t know because it’s difficult to tell someone you’re not going to leave the person who “doesn’t make you unhappy” – and because we’re not totally convinced if what’s on the other side of the street is right for us, it’s easier to say, I don’t know.
We say, I don’t know because it’s hard as hell to tell someone you’re terrified and struggling – and that you don’t know. It’s vulnerable and messy and far more complicated than shrugging our shoulders to I don’t know.
We say, I don’t know because we need space. We need room to grieve. We need time to heal. We need room to accept our current reality.
We say, I don’t know because we’ve accepted too many external expectations, timelines and paths to guide our answers.
We say, I don’t know because we’re afraid of the real truths inside of us.
We say, I don’t know because we feel pressured to have it all figured out, when really all we need to do is breathe into our difficult spaces so that we can be guided in the right direction.
We say, I don’t know because “gimmie a second” isn’t a favorable email signature.
We say, I don’t know…
and it’s OK to not know right now.
Fact: the more we try to force our knowing, the more uncertainty will eat us alive.
And that’s where I’ve been – in this two steps forward, two steps back, one foot on each side of the line sputtering I don’t know’s in every direction. It’s a spiritual purgatory that has been eating me alive.
I also recognize, in the midst of all this chaos, that in the times I’ve been here before, when I’ve allowed myself to grow still – when I’ve allowed myself to explore all the worst-case scenarios, fallouts and big pictures – the truth was a little less scary and taking the leaps I needed to take seemed a bit more doable.
In these moments of quiet reflection, when I allowed my heart to do the talking, when I’ve allowed my internal compass to guide me, the answers have always come forth.
When I decided to accept that I was afraid and made a decision anyways – when I knew my immediate answer, but not the future result – the words, I don’t know lessened their grip and my life began to unfold from the freeze frame moment I was in.
Truth is, I (still) don’t know and I’m accepting that it’s OK to not know right now. I’m reminding myself it’s OK to not be OK with how things are, but to also hold those painful and scary things in a space of compassion, forgiveness, love and gratitude. Holding space for ourselves in these tender moments is not only the greatest gift we can offer to ourselves, but it also affords us an opportunity for self-exploration and growth.
You might be up against some big decisions, faced with what seems like insurmountable I don’t know’s, or unsure of how to navigate your new reality. This unknown place you’re in might have you questioning everything. You might not be able to imagine what the next month, six months or year look like. You might not know who to turn to or even know where you belong right now. And that’s OK.
For now, accept that you don’t know. Use this time as an opportunity to examine what’s really going on, to lean into how you feel, and to listen intently to the truth that’s always been in your heart.