How To Deal With Uncertainty, Part II

So, having welcomed all those feelings that my uncertain life was eliciting – the frustration, loneliness, sadness and more – I was in a slightly better position to experience my uncertainty. It didn’t make any of those feelings less pleasant but it did give me a chance to feel them as that is what feelings want – to be felt. Rather than try to deny or suppress them or coat them with endless stories about how much of a loser or failure I was, I just experienced them. In brief, I untethered, a little, my experience of my feelings from my explanation of my feelings (the two are very different). The former is a physical-psychological experience that (hopefully) passes with time as feelings come and go while the latter is an attempt to grab one of those feelings, pin it down and explain it. In welcoming all my feelings my mentor gave me permission to just be sad or lonely or unsure without all the extra baggage (no easy task but I’m glad I started it all those years ago).

Now, I am categorically not saying that we should all just feel like crap, deal with it and move on. There are times when we feel awful for very good reasons – perhaps someone close to us is treating us very badly or we are in a toxic situation at work – and the feelings are indicators that something needs to change. But there are other times when we feel bad in response to a perceived threat – i.e. uncertainty – that might not be as bad as we think. For me, I was feeling bad in response to the uncertainty in my life and was calling on all those other times I had felt bad and compiling them into some grand uber-narrative about how rubbish and awful I was. But in welcoming the feelings and just trying to feel them I managed to undermine the power of the uber-narrative. I genuinely think that while I still went on to feel bad I managed to avoid being pulled down into a prolonged period of depression like I had been before. One big difference was that I had stopped believing the stories I was telling myself. For example, feeling worthless didn’t actually equate to being worthless and I knew the feeling would pass, which made it easier to let go of the oft-repeated story of worthlessness.

In essence, I was trying to make my heart and head work more in harmony – the heart was doing the feeling, the really important stuff, while the brain was trying to make sense of these feelings, i.e. they’re just feelings, not facts (or stories). So I now had more room to observe and experience my uncertain situation rather than get engulfed and overwhelmed by it. This was a big step for me – mindfully and carefully I had approached uncertainty and, discovering it was not as fearful as I had thought, could venture out beyond the edge of my comfort zone. As a caveat, I didn’t just jump into uncertainty with reckless abandon – as I could have become very panicked or distressed – it was a much slower, gentler process than that and if ever I felt it was getting too much I could try and step back. More soon. Now here’s Lady Gaga singing about being on the Edge of Glory because, y’know, edge of comfort zone, edge of glory…perhaps. Anyways, she rocks.

Doing It With Victoria Wood

The hit British comedian, singer, songwriter, actor and all-around brilliant woman Victoria Wood sadly passed away on April 20th. Famous for Dinnerladies, her stand-up and a number of risqué numbers she was a genius of comedy. And so I found myself watching The Ballad of Barry and Freda, one of Wood’s musical numbers that tells the tale of a couple. They’re sitting at home one evening watching the telly when Freda gets the urge to get physical, meanwhile, Barry’s got the urge to go to bed. And so the song continues as Freda tries to convince Barry to have a bit of sex whilst Barry comes up with a number of increasingly ridiculous excuses to avoid getting intimate. The song sings for itself so here it is:

It’s a comic number but as I listened to Victoria Wood sing, knowing that she had passed away, I couldn’t help but feel that there’s also something quite tragic about this song. Freda’s desire to grab life by the balls and do it is truly inspiring whilst Barry just seems like a wimp. He has all these reasons not to, worried he’ll “get it wrong”, worried he doesn’t have the strength, worried about the state of the roof, but I can’t help but think these aren’t valid reasons to avoid Freda’s offer of, what sounds like, the promise of some scorching intercourse (“slap me on the bottom with a Woman’s Weekly”. Yes please!). I think Barry’s just making excuses because he’s afraid.

And how often do we do that? Make up excuses to avoid having to get down and dirty, and I’m not just talking about shagging, I’m talking about living. There are times when fear really is the right response and not doing something is eminently sensible but I’m talking about those experiences just on the edge of your comfort zone not the ones in your panic zone. Those experiences that might take a little effort but would prove totally worth it. I can’t help but think having sex with Freda is one such experience for Barry. Yet the song ends before we know if they do it but I hope they do. I hope Barry’s heart starts pumping and he too opts to grab life by the balls (or, indeed, the boobies) because they say that the magic happens at the edge of your comfort zone and it sounds like Freda has an awful lot of magic to share with Barry (I mean, “smear some avocado on my lower portions”!). So here’s to doing it, to being like Freda and just going for it, and inspiring others to go for it too.