It’s something we all have in common.
We all face uncertainty in our future.
Truth be told, most of us aren’t so certain of how we’ll face it, which only adds to our problem. We’re uncertain of how to face the uncertain. As if we "can’t" face facing it. Problem compounded.
It is that last “can’t” that I would like to address in these moments, if you’d care to read on. There is certainly one way we “can” all face our uncertain future. And I don’t mean with some easy to say word like “faith.” Faith is a given. If we believe in the existence of tomorrow, we have faith in that which is unseen, uncertain, unknowable until it actually happens. And so we all have faith in tomorrow as informed by our todays and yesterdays. Faith is a given.
No, I’m talking about a more detailed way by which we can all face uncertainty. It involves the universal issue of self-talk within our minds. By this I mean the conversations we have with ourselves about the future. Where the uncertainty of tomorrow and beyond is concerned, what do we tell ourselves is the best thing that may happen to us? By this I don’t mean “win the lottery,” or “find a million dollars.” This is not about magical thinking, but rather about realistic planning. Given the choices I and others are going to make today, what “best future” consequences might follow? Best case scenario?
The next step in line after this first self-talk about our uncertain future is to then write down, or at least think through, the things we can do today to improve our odds of this best case scenario happening. Granted, it still might not happen. It’s uncertain. But we’re playing the odds here. “What will it take for me to improve my own odds?” is the question I ask myself at this point.
If you’ve noticed the point about my future consequences being connected to others present or future choices, you’re right. My choices only take me so far in life. But one of those choices is always this: I can influence, not control but influence, the choices others will make about my future. If I behave in a loving way that includes working to understand others’ choices and to help them understand and make their own best choice, then I’ve had another indirect hand in my own best case scenario.
If you’ve noticed that to this point I’ve said nothing about the bad stuff out there, the worst case scenario, you’re also right. Success is anything but certain. Failure is always possible. Bad things can and will happen. Not just to others. To us. To you. To me.
Now what can we do?
How can we face the stuff that’s hardest to face out there? The harshest of our future uncertainties?
Here is where my own self-talk has benefited by following this course: begins by asking, “what is the worst thing that may happen to me?” I fill in the blanks before adding a comma to my answers for that question. Why a comma? Because even in our own worst case scenario there’s always another scene to follow. Our worst scenario is uncertain except for one thing: it won’t be our last scenario. Instead, in our self-talk we can add a comma. Followed by these words, “and then I can………….” Or else “but then I can………..” Either way. Write out or talk through the “then” possibilities after the worst case scene has occurred. For example, what in my imagination has occurred is “I can’t pay all my bills, but then I can……………, and then I can………………, and then I can………………” Hold off placing periods at the end of our self-talk scenarios. Keep adding commas instead.
Personally, the best bulletin board material I’ve ever worked with involves this sentence: “Never put a period where God puts a comma in my life.” It’s helped me overcome all levels of anxiety and depression over my 73 years of living life in this body.
You see, it’s not uncertainty that is our enemy after all. It’s not the commas that mess up our conversational self-talk, it’s the periods. Not the uncertainties we can’t face, but the certainties. The longer we can string out our “and then I can……….” sentences, the less power we’ll be giving over to our worst case scenarios in our future. And the less power “they” have, the more power "we can” claim for ourselves “and then…….. give away even to others who also need empowering.” Which is called loving neighbor as self.
Where my own faith in God’s loving influence within this world’s future is concerned, 100% of it goes to the God who has never created a period. The God of the eternal commas. The God of embraceable uncertainties. The God whose Holy Spirit helps inform my “and then…….” sentences. The God who faces the many uncertain scenarios, best and worst, with me in 2020, and then………………….