Dealing with the Angst of Elusive Answers
When did we become convinced that answers should be ready on command?
In my case, I suspect it happened when I began to think abstractly (early teens?) and was taught about the prowess of the mind, relegating other avenues of discovery and knowledge (e.g., intuition) to second or third-tier status. In short, I was taught, quite successfully, that I could think my way through or around any obstacle. I could force answers.
I’ve spent too many mornings of my life waking up to a mind furiously churning to identify any outstanding elusive answers to burning questions or situations.
Why this topic of elusive answers and what does this have to do with moving to Italy?
Unless you’ve had the road to a life in Italy or any similar momentous life change roll out the red carpet of a smooth transition, then you’ll relate. Consider this a “heads up” for those of you just starting down this road because you will find yourself at multiple crossroads, gritting your teeth and stomping your feet in frustration because you want an answer NOW. This is especially true with a move to Italy where things are notoriously tricky to pin down like:
- The varying experiences people have getting their visas from the various Italian consulates in the U.S.
- How can I proceed with plans to make the move if I can’t be certain my visa application will be approved (the old chicken/egg conundrum)?
- Why is my permesso di soggiorno taking so long? Will someone please tell me where it is in the process so I can plan my life (and my travels) accordingly?
- How can I get an Italian driver’s license and buy a car? How are the two related?
- Where do I go to apply for my tessera sanitaria and why do the regions handle the requirements and payments differently?
The list goes on, but these are good examples of crossroads ripe for elusive answers.
Then there is the big “life change” question:
What is my life going to look like so that I can rest assured that I’ve made the right choice?
I believe this is the mother of all life-change questions. And this reveals the kink in our armor:
We abhor uncertainty.
That realization took a long time to really make it through my thick skull. I didn’t realize just how much of my behavior and coping mechanisms were rooted in trying to avoid the discomfort of uncertainty. In retrospect, my first few years in Italy were characterized by a mind on constant high alert. From a fundamental animalistic survival perspective, I tried to eliminate and protect myself from perceived dangers. It’s crazy how we evolved from making sure we didn’t become some wild animal’s lunch to going on high alert for things such as dealing with bureaucratic hurdles.
Powering your way to answers isn’t a wise strategy.
You can certainly try, but I don’t recommend it.
From my experience, elusive answers become yet more elusive, almost as if by my insistence on immediate answers and solutions I’m antagonizing the great force that connects all things. Still, we usually demand immediate answers and attempt to deliver them by the sheer force of will. I’ve been there. I’ve done that. I’ve exhausted myself. Yet, the conditioning still tries to pull me back to that hamster wheel of futility.
I hear from a multitude of people about this topic in regards to many aspects of building a life in Italy. While I can offer perspectives based on my experience, I usually can’t provide the sure-fire answers that will end questioning and staunch the worry and angst.
Make peace with uncertainty and don’t run from discomfort.
This message seems to be the number one lesson in my life these days. I see how attempting to avoid the messy feelings of uncertainty have led me to dull the pain in a myriad of ways. It’s helping to lay bare my addictive behaviors, many of which are quite surprising. Social media and digital connectedness is a biggie. It’s easy to run to those for a quick dopamine hit instead of standing firmly in the moments of uncertainty. And, drum roll, the one addiction that has been oh so clever in hiding its face—constant seeking. This includes seeking answers immediately to clear bumps in the road (logistically and emotionally) and seeking the magic formula for enlightenment so I can finally relax, having figured it all out.
What a false bill of goods I’ve been sold.
Let life be. Rest in the present moment, free from incessant thinking.
The answers will present themselves.
I don’t know about you, but from years of experience, I’ve found that when I feel stymied by elusive answers, the very thing I need to do is surrender. Of course, I’m not advocating living life like a wet noodle. No, I do what I can, and when I seem to hit a brick wall, that’s my signal to stop spinning my wheels trying to figure things out and relax into the present moment and place trust that life will show me the answers in the right timing.
Consider the words of Scott Kiloby (I highly recommend his books and writings):
In restful presence, we stop replaying the past and being afraid of the future. We stop trying to avoid uncomfortable or painful thoughts and feelings carried over from the past. We stop trying to seek the future for release from the pain and discomfort. – Scott Kiloby , Natural Rest for Addiction – A Revolutionary Way to Recover through Presence (available at Amazon.com)