The beauty of the life I’ve built has been the known. I’ve been married to the same man for 17 years, lived in the same house for 13 years, worked at the same job for 12 years, had mostly the same group of friends for 20 years. For the past decade+, our lives have been very known. As a self-confessed control freak planner, known is a comfortable place. It’s predictable. For some, known is boring, stagnant, even depressing. That wasn’t the case for us. We enjoyed traveling and found joy in our friends, family and even our jobs. We were anything but bored with our lives. So, the decision to embark into the great unknown known as being parents was daunting.
The past year+ has been everything that the past 20 years hasn’t been. We knew nothing about how our life was going to be. Were we going to get pregnant? Was I going to have morning sickness? Was I go to carry the baby full term? Was our house going to sell? Was our baby going to be born healthy? Was it going to be a boy or a girl? Would the baby have colic? Would she keep us up all hours of the night?
Soon enough we learned the answers to those questions: Yes. No. Yes. Eventually. Yes. Girl. No. No, thank god! And now we have a whole new set of unknowns. When will she crawl? When will she sit-up? When will she walk? What will be her first word?
I am eager to learn the answers to these questions and discover a whole new set of unknowns. Finding joy in the unknown is a new way of life for us. For those of us who are “planners”, we have to give ourselves over to the unknown to become comfortable in it. But how do you do that? Here are a few simple steps I’ve tried that have worked for me.
Evaluate the Best Case/Worst Case Outcome
Grab a sheet of paper and write down your unknown with two columns below it, with one column listing what the best outcome is and the other listing what the worst outcome is. The unknown becomes less scary when we look at the best case/worst case scenarios and often times you will discover that the worst case really isn’t that bad.
Lately I’ve found myself stressed when going out to eat. Our daughter used to sleep like a champ in restaurants. Now she is a busy body intellectually curious, so she is wide awake in restaurants, taking it all in. Sometimes she is quiet, other times she cries and very recently she has found her voice and, at five months old, she doesn’t yet understand using her “inside voice”. This. Gives. Me. Anxiety! I don’t want to be the parent in the restaurant with the child screaming like a wild banshee. So, I have two choices: (1) We stay at home for all meals for the foreseeable future, or (2) we go out and if she decides to tell everyone in the restaurant that she is there and is super excited about it and won’t pipe down, we can request our check and leave. I’d much rather do the latter and get to enjoy going out to dinner, so it’s a risk I am willing to take. The worst thing that happens is we disturb other patrons for a minute or two and we cut our dinner date short. No harm, no foul.
Make a Plan but be Flexible
No big shocker that I’m suggesting you make a plan, right? I recently had the opportunity to attend a keynote session with a retired Navy Seal who spoke about adaptability and resilience. As Seals, when they set out on a mission they are continually evaluating whether their surroundings have changed and determining if and how they need to modify their plans accordingly. He shared with us that he lost friends on missions because they became too focused on the planned outcome and didn’t adapt as they moved toward the goal line. I realize that this is VERY extreme compared to most of our day-to-day missions, but the message is the same. Make a plan, but be flexible and adapt to your changing surroundings.
One thing I’ve learned since becoming a parent is that the only predictable thing is unpredictability. Our daughter is changing every day as she learns and grows, so what worked for us yesterday may very well not work tomorrow. We need to be keen observers and adapt as necessary.
Become a Book Nerd
Well, maybe “become an internet nerd” is more accurate. There is a wealth of information on the web for pretty much anything that is unknown to you. My rule of thumb is that if I find the same or similar piece of advice three times, then I feel comfortable following that guidance. Caveat: be careful not to follow Dr. Google down a rabbit hole and diagnose yourself with terminal cancer via the internet! Consult an actual physician, please!
Recognize that Worrying Does Absolutely, Positively NO GOOD!
What have you ever accomplished while being riddled with worry. I’d venture that your answer is nothing. When worry is at the forefront of your mind you become paralyzed into inaction. Worry is a negative head space. Approximately seven years ago I made a commitment to myself to stop worrying. I used to be a worrier by nature; I could worry myself into the depths of very dark spaces for no good reason over things that weren’t even important! I swear, it was like I was worrying for the sake of worrying. I think that’s the definition of insanity! While worrying your brain cannot problem solve, instead it spins and spins and escalates the situation. Click your worry center off, permanently. Dig deep, stop worrying and spend your time focused in a positive mental space. Start by asking yourself whether what you’re worrying about is even within your control. If you’re afraid to get on a plane because you fear it will crash, ask yourself what you can do to change the outcome. Unless you’re the pilot of the plane, there is nothing you can do to change the outcome of that flight. So why spend time worrying about it? Instead, get one the plane or don’t, but don’t compromise your mental and physical health by worrying about it. Or perhaps you are worried about an upcoming job interview. What good does worrying do? Nothing! Instead, spend your time preparing for the interview, research the position and the company, build yourself up with positive self-talk, go in there and be the shining star you are! Freeing yourself from worry will do your mind and body good!
Most importantly, give grace to yourself and those around you and walk into the great unknown with an open mind and an open heart.