Lately I have been living with too much uncertainty. I’ve had lots of practice to live this way since I was 12 and my dad had cancer of the brain. This was his first bout in his head and Mom and I didn’t know if he would make it. He kept vomiting and had a constant sharp headache. The doctors at St. Michael’s Hospital didn’t think surgery would help so they tried the other prong of the then (early 1960s) two-prong cancer treatment – burn. They blasted him with radiation regularly while back at home, Mom and I, joined by her eccentric older sister, “Gretchen,” waited and tried to cope with the uncertainty.
I have never learned to cope with all the uncertainties in life. Don’t know if it goes back to dealing with Dad’s cancer or is a sign of getting old(er) but the number of uncertainties seems to be larger now than 30 or so years ago. Back then I suffered from depression. The depression has long gone way past over the rainbow. Now I get angry and worry a lot as I have blogged previously. And I seem to live in constant anxiety.
I wonder if uncertainty about the outcome of all the worries and problems has a lot to do with it. I wonder if I knew for sure exactly what the outcome would be if the worry, would be a little less… or at least more focused on a definite result and how I will deal with it. Instead of various scenarios galloping throughout my head with a nebulous ending in sight – or more likely also chasing around in my mind.
So I have tried various ways to deal with uncertainty. The journalist in me immediately goes into research mode to collect all the info I can about the problem. That includes Internet research, talking to experts, or in the case of utility billing or service problems, talking to the utility company. As some of you may know I am not the most polite and patient person if I believe the “other guy” (utility company for one) has messed up and I’m the one getting the result of what is often their stupidity. But I am persistent and I push until I get what I want, i.e. the mess-up corrected to my satisfaction.
I also like comparing situations with my friends. Misery loves company, but I might learn something from their experience.
And I have even tried praying – but results from that also are in the uncertain field. Like with the weather and whether heavy rainfall will cause water to get into my basement.
Back to Dad and his brain cancer. In my memoir I write:
Gretchen’s answer is to pray. I still hold onto religion then, so our impromptu female trinity prays rosaries, as if strumming the circle of beads and muttering praises and pleas will make my father whole and keep him alive.
St. Michael’s Hospital radiates a friendlier air than Western, maybe because the chief guardian angel resides there. And St. Mike must have listened to our prayers, because one day when mother and I walk into his room, Dad smiles at us.
“I ate a cheese sandwich, and it stayed down,” he says.
(Excerpted from You Can Go Home – deconstructing the demons, copyright 2014 Sharon A. Crawford)
Apparently prayer worked then…for a time. Three and a half years later the cancer returned to another part of Dad’s brain and it killed him.
Maybe that ending has a lot to do with why I have so much difficulty living with uncertainty. I can hear some people asking “Don’t you want to be surprised?” Well, of course, but pleasant surprises, even surprises that challenge me to do better or to go through another learning curve.
But I want them to be positive experiences. Otherwise it might be nice to know what the actual outcome will be for the nasty things that pop up in life. If I or someone close to me gets ill, will we pull through? All this uncertainty tends to detract from dealing with the outcome because we are dealing with the issue – and the issue can have many more prongs than the old slice or burn cancer treatment.
How do you deal with uncertainty? Does it work?
Sharon A. Crawford
Only Child Writes