Ups, Downs, and Turnarounds: Wading Through the Uncertainties of Life
Updated: Oct 10, 2022
“Trust the process”. Has anyone else been told this? It feels virtually impossible to ‘trust the process’ when you’re in the middle of a shitstorm – excuse the language, but it’s true – getting tossed around. We become disoriented from all of the tossing. Without knowing which end is up, we grasp at whatever seems solid or secure. The truth is we’re really just trying to get through the next minute and trusting the process seems completely out of reach.
We might hear things like “do your best” or “it’ll all work out”. Is it just me or does anyone else want to throw a chair when they say that? Well, I’m going to tell you something that’s going to make you want to throw a chair. (For the record, I do not condone throwing objects or any other kind of violence.)
All you can do is your best. Whatever that looks like. And it WILL all work out in some way, somehow.
Our best looks different day to day. Our best looks different in certain phases of our life. Our best looks different when we’re sleep deprived, hungry, anxious, grieving. Our best looks different when our family member gets diagnosed with a terminal illness. Our best looks different when we lose our job, go through a divorce, get into an accident.
Sometimes the best we got is curled up on the floor in the fetal position. The best we got is to cry and tantrum like a child. The best we got is breathing through the discomfort of life, day by day.
Sometimes the best we got is arms wide open, smile on our face, dancing in the rain. The best we got is giddy, light, and free like a child on Christmas morning. The best we got is breathing through the joys of life.
Through the ups, downs, and turnarounds, we are wading through the uncertainties of life. We desperately want to hang on to what we think is safe (i.e., financially stable jobs, comfortable relationships, our hometown, making familiar life decisions). We’re grasping at certainty, hoping with all our might that it exists. The truth is we don’t know what’s around the corner. We have no way of predicting what will happen tomorrow or next year.
Wading through uncertainties (aka: trusting the process) requires us to be with what is: being present. Embracing the now and trusting the process is novel and counter to how we live our lives. Society tells us we need to follow certain health recommendations to live a long, healthy life, save for retirement to live stress free as you age, spend time on relationships to strengthen families and community.
I’m not saying don’t do those things. I’m saying we forget to be present to the process because we’re too focused on the outcome. The process of practicing those health recommendations and falling terminally ill despite our best efforts. The process of saving for retirement and having to drain the account because something unexpected and dire enters your life. The process of spending time on relationships that have proven to be unsupportive or dysfunctional.
Being attentive to the now allows us to be conscious to what’s actually happening, not what we think is happening or what we wish was happening. Presence gives us a sixth sense – we get to see the situation from a distance, giving us perspective and access to the truth of the situation. And, instead of resisting what’s happening, we can accept it and move on in meaningful ways.
We generate added distress to the actual event or situation by creating stories about what’s happening. The uncertainties are what causes the ups, downs, and turnarounds. I’m suggesting that during the event or situation, you pause. Pausing to witness what’s happening without letting the situation engulf you is what allows for perspective and self/emotional regulation. Emotional regulation is a term used in the mental health world a lot. Basically, it means to traverse emotional landscape in ways that are flexible, responsive (not reactive), and able to tolerate discomfort. Our relationship to and with our emotions is an important part of walking through new and uncomfortable situations.
Let me be clear. We don’t have to like the process. We DO have to get more comfortable with discomfort. For example, I was having a hard conversation the other day with a loved one and noticed my discomfort and sadness in the moment. My initial reaction was to shut down, stop talking. Instead, I felt the sadness without having to change it. I didn’t let the emotion swallow me, nor did I ignore it. I allowed for it to be present, held it with kindness, and was able to continue having the discussion. That’s what presence does for us, it gives us the ability to wade through uncertainties of life with more ease.
Trusting the process is really about leaning into uncertainty with presence. Taking a deep breath and saying, "Hello. I see you. We're going to be ok."