In college, one of my favorite songs was the Indigo Girls’ “Closer to Fine.” The lyrics felt like freedom to me and still do:
I’m trying to tell you somethin’ about my life
Maybe give me insight between black and white
And the best thing you’ve ever done for me
Is to help me take my life less seriously
It’s only life after all
Well darkness has a hunger that’s insatiable
And lightness has a call that’s hard to hear
And I wrap my fear around me like a blanket
I sailed my ship of safety till I sank it
I’m crawling on your shores
And I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains
I looked to the children, I drank from the fountains
There’s more than one answer to these questions
Pointing me in a crooked line
And the less I seek my source for some definitive
Closer I am to fine
Closer I am to fine
What is it about certainty? When did it become so important to know, to be sure, to cast out all doubt? One thing I know is that the more we cling to our certainty, our need to know and anticipate and predict and control, the more we live in anxiety and fear and reactivity. Our creativity is squelched and our capacity for joy dampened.
The truth is that there’s not a whole lot of black and white in the world. This life is full of gray.
The older I get, the more I am persuaded that it’s the embracing of the not-knowing that frees us. Over and over again, I see that we seem to be most afraid of the not-knowing. It feels uncomfortable in our bodies; it is scary. So, we try to hit the not-knowing over the head, subdue it, and control every aspect of our lives.
We all fall prey to it. We are very hard on ourselves. We want perfection in our work, in our parenting, in our spouses, in our children, in our spaces, even our vacations.
What if you let go, just a little? What if you stopped “seeking our source for some definitive”? Can you let yourself off the hook, even if just a little? What would happen if you welcomed the not-knowing?
I believe our lives would be happier and more spacious if we learned to take life less seriously and learned to be more kind to ourselves. It is only life, after all.