Learning to live with uncertainty.

Probably the number one question Ex-Pats get asked is, ‘so when are you moving back?’ And the thing is even if you come on a strict 18-month assignment… that’s very likely to change… we’ve met many an Ex-Pat who has come for a year and stayed for 7 and counting. Similarly, we’ve also met many who are suddenly called home. I think many of my Ex-Pat friends would agree that it’s quite annoying to get asked this question all the time… mostly because we’re all DYING to know the answer ourselves, since most often it is very much out of our control. It’s sort of like how when you’re dating someone, everyone asks when you’re getting married, and when you’re engaged everyone asks if you’ve set the date, and if you’re married everyone asks when you’re having babies…. I used to be-grudge these questions, but I’ve learned that they’re really just trying to express interest. What annoys me, I’ve come to realize, is that they remind me of what I don’t know that I wish I did. For some reason just realizing this is helpful. I still try to stop myself from asking questions like this of others… but it can be quite hard when you know very little about them!

My advice to any Ex-Pat: Even if you come on a clear assignment… I’d just always leave your reply open-ended. Something like, “we’re not really sure, but we’re enjoying our time here for now,” works well.

Back in San Francisco, my friends and I always talked of the “quarter life crisis,” which we meant to mean that period in your twenties when you have no idea how your career, locale, or romantic life would shake out. Ohhh, the pain in not knowing the answers to any of the above! Back then I seemed to think that this period would be unique in my life and that by my thirties everything would be crystal clear… but, of course that’s not the case. Although I will admit that just having one or two of those things settled makes a big difference in my personal happiness.

The Mr. always tells me “You’ll be a whole lot happier once you learn to live with uncertainty,” and that’s certainly true. Not that I’ve figured it out yet.

This whole little ramble was brought on after reading this poem on Ten Thousand Places. Maggie sums it up nicely by saying it’s a “fuller appreciation of time than the old platitude ‘time will tell.’ “

The Slow Work of God

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are all, quite naturally, impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.

We should like to skip the intermediate stages.

We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown,
something new;

And yet, it is the law of all progress that it is made
by passing through some stages of instability
– and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you.

Your ideas mature gradually — let them grow,
let them shape themselves without undue haste.

Don’t try and force them on as though you could be today
what time (that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will) will make you tomorrow.

Only God can say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.

Give God the benefit of believing that the Spirit of God
is leading you, forming you, transforming you;

And accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

by Father Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
a poem meditation on Phil 1: 3-11 via Maria
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5 responses to “Learning to live with uncertainty.

  1. Hi, I’m your reader in Zurich – an expat from Chicago. I get this question all the time, naturally. I’ve learned to say “we are taking it a year at a time, for now we feel we’ll be in Switzerland through 20__.” (fill in the date — we’ve been here 5 years so far, and it was initially supposed to be one).

    Because you are so right, we really don’t know. For now we are grateful for my husband’s job here and for the provision of the Lord. Thankfully our adult children back home understand fully and are very supportive.

    In the meantime I am endeavoring to enjoy every day and to stop and smell the roses (or chocolate!)

  2. I am not that wise. That’s what my first boss always told me when I pestered him about what to do, how to get ahead, what were the answers to life, etc.

    He was right…I am a lot happier now, living with uncertainty!

  3. Great advice, Natsaha. You do *never* know. But isn’t that part of the fun of life?

  4. I’m not an ex-pat, but I can attest that this “where are you going and when will you get there” feeling happens even to those living just miles from their home town!

    I struggle with the same thing…perhaps a topic to delve into on Skype one of these days! Thanks for addressing it here–you’d be surprised, I think, to find that most people have share this sentiment, no matter where they are in life.

    But, yes, living with uncertainty is the only way to get through it!

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