Home » 135 – Why is Certainty So Comfy?

135 – Why is Certainty So Comfy?

by Jill

I discuss the book Gift of Maybe by Alison Carmen, who shares her personal journey towards embracing uncertainty as a gift that has transformed her life. Her book, which reflects on the power of the word “maybe,” is a must-read for anyone struggling with the need for certainty in their lives.

I encourage us to take small steps and let uncertainty have a place in our hearts, reminding us that the possibilities are endless once we open ourselves up to the unknown. So, let’s take a leap of faith and see where “maybe” takes us!


[Music] Have you ever wondered if uncertainty could really be a gift? That’s what we’ll talk about today. [Music]

Freedom lies in being bold. – Robert Frost.

Today we’re going to talk about the book, “The Gift of Maybe” by Alison Karmann. I mentioned last week that when I heard the podcast talk about her book, it wowed me because it almost seemed like one of those messages from God where the right message comes to you at the right moment and suddenly your mind is blown.

I realized when I heard this podcast clip that not only was my friend that I mentioned last week being very risk-averse, loving certainty, but I was too. I had some opportunities, maybe some opportunity to change my life considerably in front of me. It was making me nervous. Suddenly it started to come down to the fact that it looked likely this could come my way. I don’t know if it will or not, but suddenly I panicked, stopped sleeping, and my stomach started doing gymnastics. Yeah, even though you become a personal improvement podcaster, you still falter from time to time.

As I mentioned, I got off the plane and immediately bought her book. I wanted to hear more about what she had to say on the topic. Maybe this could help me feel less uncertain. Maybe this could help me feel that a step in the dark maybe is the right way for me to go. I talked about it a little bit with my friend and told her about the book and told her about the podcast. And she says, I don’t get it or something to that effect because she said that if you sit there and say uncertainty is the way to go, maybe is the way to go, then aren’t you almost taking every decision you made in your life and saying it was a dumb idea, it was a dumb thought.

And I don’t think that’s what the book is saying at all. We’re going to talk about that because the book actually goes into that, which I thought was great too. So we’ll talk about the book, The Gift of Maybe. I think that for right now this book may have changed my life along with the advice of a few other people who I really appreciate.

She said that she also had this desire to be certain about life. She liked everything put into its place and yet she decided that this is the thing that almost destroyed her and she believes that it hurts a lot of other people too. She said, “My addiction was to certainty. At every moment of my life, I desperately sought to know what was going to happen next.” That phrase right there, there’s me and my best friend. I don’t know when this happened to me. Like I said, I used to be the person who could ride the waves of life and never care what happened next. But I think it’s because I started putting my life into order that it suddenly became hard for me to have my life out of order. And then I started to rely on it. I mean, it’s not good from a personal situation. It’s not good from a religious situation. I mean, there’s no way I think that this ends up being good for anybody.

She suddenly realized that it was damaging her how upset it may have to have anything disrupt her certain life. And she said that time passed and she started thinking, what if I could just let it go. What if I can just let the thing that’s going to happen, happen and see what happens before I just decide this is garbage. This is going to ruin my life. be done with it. And I think that that right there is going to be the theme of what we’re going to talk about.

She now realizes this little spark of just saying, “Hey, just wait and see what it’s like. ” What she calls “Maybe” with capital M. That it could be that this is a magic. That this is something that is going to breathe life into you and breathe possibilities into all the futures you could have. Again, I told you in that podcast about the future you, you don’t know what brought you from here to there and yet when you look back you think, “Oh, that ended up okay.” But because we have this maybe, suddenly, there could be a good thing out of it.

And she said that when we get addicted to certainty, we’re almost deciding right away, “This is gonna be bad. This whole thing’s gonna go bad.” Instead of giving it this room to be good, to bring good in our life. And I thought that was really insightful.

This morning I was listening to this podcast before breakfast and the funny thing about it is, is that it was a little bit like this book. Where she was saying, “Oh, you know, if you decided between vacation A and vacation B and you picked vacation B, oh I’m so glad I did. It was so good.” But you know what. Chances are if you picked vacation A, it would have also been good. You just tend to downplay it because you picked B. But the truth of the matter is, whether you picked A or B, you would have liked either option.

In some ways, I think it’s like the same idea, just maybe the reverse way of looking at it. This book is talking about looking forward and imagining the possibilities in your life. This other podcast, Before Breakfast, was talking about looking backwards. That had you picked A or B or C or D, it all would have been fine.

Then she gave a hint in this Before Breakfast podcast which will come up later as we’re talking about this book too, that if you’re having a decision to make, maybe you’re trying to decide between a current job and a future job, the good question to ask yourself is, had you been applying for both jobs, which job would you have picked had both of them come to you as offers at the same time. If you’d been offered the amount of money you’re getting paid in your current job and the offer you’re going to get paid in the next job. Would you take the next job or would you keep with the current job. And it’s a good way of letting that maybe idea work because now you’re bringing the uncertainty, which has a disadvantage because we hate it already. And putting on an even foothold with the already the certain thing. So now the certain thing and the uncertain thing are standing on equal ground and you can judge them. And I thought that was so genius. That’s really what this book here is talking about is just giving a little bit of space that the possibility of something happening Might be great And soon as she started allowing to do these maybe things she was able to Have better relationships. She said that it changed her life. She said that maybe it even saved her life That it just changed the whole way she was going and so then she thought with this book, maybe I can help other people, too She’s been bringing it to this point, not maybe sometimes when you have two great opportunities in front of you, but even if maybe you got laid off or maybe you had a health concern or setback or maybe your spouse has to move because of their job and now you have to live in a whole other town. Oh no, I don’t want to live in another town. Kids have a great school, I have all my friends here, but again that’s leaving out the possibility that maybe this will be great. Or if you got laid off from your job, maybe that will be great.

You know, I’ve often thought about the fact that I never leave jobs, not ever, until they become horrible. And then when they become horrible, then I get a good mission in my brain or my friend steps in and puts a good mission in my brain and I leave, you know, because it’s just too awful. I left jobs because I was just too broke. I left jobs because they were too weird and over demanding. I’ve left jobs because I think that they were treating me very poorly. But I’ve never left a job just because, hey, that other thing is better. And so I think in this case, what she’s talking about is even when something bad happens to you, it can be for the better. And so when I left those jobs because they were horrible or weird or whatever, it always ended up better. I always ended up in a better place and I never looked back and said, “Gee, you know, I could have done better. I could have made better decisions.” It’s never happened. It’s hard when we’re facing a challenge like getting laid off or having something very difficult happen to us see that way, but I think she’s hoping that we can take the bad things in life and look at them too as opportunities. And she hopes that we can take this maybe mindset and just make a little tiny space in our heart that this might be good. She says it’s not a plan, you’re not planning around the maybe, you’re not making up a story about it, nothing like that. You’re just leaving in this little bitty space in your heart that this could be good. Maybe this will be for the better.

Again, when I look back at my life and I think when my dad left the military, I loved the military base. I loved where I grew up. In In fact, it’s still one of my favorite places on earth. But when we moved to this new town, I didn’t like it. And I still don’t like that area as much as I liked where I grew up. But you know what it gave me. The school I went to had a fantastic education. And so when I was living in the military base, I was educating myself. I was reading in the library. I was studying all the books. But when we moved to this new town that I didn’t like, it offered me a fantastic education. It led to me going to a prime college. It led to me now having the life I have. So while I didn’t like it and I didn’t have any room in my heart for moving because I love the place I lived and all my friends were there. It changed my life for the better. A little bit of change and a little bit of grumbling made it a new way for me. And I think that’s what she’s saying is don’t write the story of what’s going to to happen. She said that the philosophy of maybe is that we face this situation and we look at all the things that could possibly happen and we think of all the things that go right and could go wrong and it could be better this way and it could be worse this way and what if this happens and we’re just gonna have to face this this is gonna be tough and difficult.

I mean I that’s exactly what I went through the last couple of weeks and I think that that’s why this book quite possibly is going to change my life. I have a maybe in front of me. And instead of putting a little gap inside my heart and allowing for maybe, I was running math numbers. I had spreadsheets, I had details, I was figuring out calculations, I was trying to visualize what the life was going to be like in any of these situations and doing a lot of calculation. It was keeping me up at night. And I think that what she’s saying here is you’re not doing any of that. All you’re saying is, in your little tiny gap in your heart, this could be better. And give it that opportunity to be better. To be honest with you, I don’t have to know all the answers right now, but I was trying to see into the future and prognosticate exactly how my life was going to be when instead I could just let it roll and just see how it happens. It’s not easy for me because again, now I’ve figured out I’m that person addicted to certainty. And so I was trying to brute force my way into believing that this could be possibly good. When what she’s saying is, why don’t you just let it be possibly good. Give yourself that pain and that torment and just have a moment’s peace to say, you know what, this could be really good.

And that she hopes, you know, in general, that what we think about whatever it is, it’s going to happen. You know, maybe like I said, we have to move to a new town for whatever reason. that maybe it’s gonna be okay. Maybe some good is gonna come out of it. Maybe all the bad things I’m thinking about aren’t going to happen. And maybe we’ll be able to, even if there are some good things and some bad things, we can figure out how to accept the things that weren’t so great, but then experience that, live it out, and then make it better later. And then we’ll know what we’re supposed to to do. Again, I talk about that podcast, The Next Right Thing. Just because you pick a situation that has pros and cons in the future and you have that little hope of maybe in your heart and you get there and of course, like everything in life, there’s some pros and there’s some cons. You’ll figure out what to do in order to make those cons better. And she hopes in the end that we’re just going to be surprised and happy that this change ended up being good, maybe a little bad, but had good in our lives. In all the ways that we were inflexible and addicted to certainty and not willing to change, we can look at that and say, you know, I was really quite wrong about that. I mean, I said that about this job that I have now. I was in a job that I thought paid really well. I was in systems administration, and I was pretty happy with the job itself. I disliked the company greatly. But in the end, when I changed to this job, It opened up a whole new world for me. It gave me time and opportunity to lose weight.

It gave me time and methods to explore my life. It had me traveling to Hawaii, New York City, to India. Got to see so many things because of this opportunity. Now, I had never expected that to happen, but because I allowed change to happen in my life, suddenly it created all these opportunities change for me that I could take on. And she says in the end it’s okay if we feel upset about these uncertainties in our life and they make us feel a little scared and we feel a little negative about it. The point of it is that maybe she says isn’t making us feel good or bad, it’s not demanding us to feel a certain way.

You know you have to feel what it is you’re feeling, try to get over She says with some breathing exercises other things that you can do but she says now maybe is going to allow you to say what’s next and that possibility just allowing for that possibility is going to open up all the world to us that we have all the possibilities and The fact that we think it’s going to be whatever it is is going to be negative.

It might not be I’ll tell you another story about it too is that I ended up having a cancer scare.There was some possibility t hat I had cancer and I had to have surgery so they could take a bunch of stuff out, look at it and see if there was cancer there. And most frightening thing in my life. I mean, absolutely frightening to think that you’re going to wake up from the surgery and they’re going to say, yes, you have cancer. And he said that if we find cancer, we’re going to start radiation therapy immediately. I’m not going to have time to heal from the surgery. I’m not going to have time to think. I am immediately going to go into therapy.

So what did Jill do. She bought food, you know, that is easily readily available. I made a bunch of things for my house to be prepared for this awful thing happening. There was no possibility in my mind that this was going to end up good.

I know for a lot of people and I’m sorry if this is the situation you’re in that it sometimes doesn’t end up good My case it turned out he said there’s sort of six stages of the way cells are and I was in stage five and stage six was cancer So the good news is it was caught entirely in time And so that was good news, but I didn’t feel well before I didn’t feel terrible I was able to do things, but I was pretty miserable a good majority of my life.

I was debilitated in some ways. I couldn’t exercise. I couldn’t go on vacation and I felt awful. I had to take medication frequently and just felt, I don’t know, just like at 40% all the time. And so then you had the surgery and you find out, okay, well, I didn’t have cancer, but they got it and they got it in time. And that is wonderful. The thing I didn’t expect is because the problem I was having was gone, my life opened up to me.

This whole Jill who hikes and goes camping in the woods for three weeks and goes on massive bike rides for an entire weekend or travels the world only happened Because I had this surgery and cured or fixed what was wrong It changed my whole life.

And so It’s not that you can always count on the maybe being a good thing But if you had asked me is there any way this ends up other than the fact you find out you don’t have cancer being good Oh I I wouldn’t have thought it.

It was so scary and I was so frightened but it did end up being good It changed my life again for the good.

You know, I worried about the money and yes, it was expensive even after insurance. But now in retrospect, I would have paid a hundred times that. I can’t afford a hundred times that, but I would have paid it to feel like I feel like today I feel like a whole person now. And so that’s where I think she’s saying is just put a little place in your heart that this could have possibilities.

She says that when we can’t, we tend to have what she calls linear thinking. And that means that there’s a right way to life and there’s a wrong way to life. And this is going to be the right answer and that’s going to be the right answer. And to be honest, I think that that’s why I was such a mess when I was dating. Because I would go out with a guy and I would say, “Hmm, is this the right guy or the wrong guy. ” And everybody was in one of two buckets. And that is not how dating goes. I’ve come to understand that everyone is a mixed bag of good things and bad things and bad things and good things. And it’s not this linear thinking.

And when I saw that, I was like, oh, yeah, that pretty much describes why our dating life was such a horrible mess. But because we get rid of this linear thinking and then we start bringing in the maybe, suddenly life is about possibilities, about how things could be. Or you know, maybe this guy’s not the right guy. That’s fine. But it’s not either or it’s not the end of the world either way And as soon as we start going with it a little bit suddenly Our world becomes open to us.

Now the world is our oyster because we have all these possibilities She says in the end quote linear thinking leads us to believe that there’s a right and a wrong way for our lives to unfold

All right, so then we’re going to end up there And talk about this book again next week. And so my challenge to you Is to think about one thing that you have been thinking in a linear way.

There’s a right way and a wrong way and i’m Petrified or i’m stuck because I can’t think of the possibilities And there’s no little glow in my heart for the word maybe And try it out Try just for one thing to let maybe have a place in your heart.

All right, everyone, thanks so much. I appreciate you listening to the podcast. Please remember to tell a friend about the podcast. And remember, I also have another podcast called “Small Steps with God. ” And if that’s a topic you’re interested, you can listen to that as well. And a third podcast is coming and it’s going to be about going outside and seeing nature. You can take small steps if you like. But have a great week. And remember, Letting maybe into your heart begins by taking small steps.

(upbeat music)

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