The Two Sides of Uncertainty

There’s a reason, I think, why places like purgatory and the dentist’s stark, white waiting room fill us with a subtle sense of dread. A reason why, being quite an impatient species, we’d rather keep a band-aid on or rip it off, tiny hairs plucked out screaming, in one swift motion, and a reason why the time between the fight and the break up builds a tempest in your chest before things quieten down once more.

We don’t like being in-between anything.

Or, if you’d rather make things seem more profound at your next dinner party, ‘we just can’t bear the agony of uncertainty’. Crippling uncertainty that bites at your ankles and has you shifting in your seat or pacing around — quite inconveniently, of course, while you’re trying to get along with your ‘normal’ day, sometimes failing to keep up the pretence of calm.

An uncertainty that eats at you with the ‘what ifs’ and the ‘but hows’ and has you picking away at skin, piece by piece, and gnawing at nails and fingertips; and endless parade of fidgeting because at least it’s better than doing nothing (or at least, it feels a little better at the time). It’s eerily quiet, this strange and misty space between where you were and where you want to be — an awkward state of affairs where you’re at once in two places and yet nowhere at all. The in-between is terrifying.

But what about the times, however many or few, when we welcome the uncertainty of our in-betweens? What about the heart-fluttering anticipation before the curtain rises and rises, unveiling a whirlwind of strutting prima donnas and finely-crafted feeling carved out with every line of script and song? What about the sweaty-palmed anticipation of a first date, and the truly maddening pause before (if it does happen) the kiss?

What about the wild, thumping excitement — and yes, a little bit of fear — that keeps you company as you jump, feet first, into your next adventure, no matter how big or how small it might seem to the ever-so-nosy world ‘out there’? The kind of uncertainty that looks at you and smiles like an old friend, nudging you into action when you need it most.

It’s terrifying. Silent. Maddening. Powerful.