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The Myth of Certainty

This topic came up again today in a conversation with my father. He has always been a remarkably healthy man – never hospitalized, never really sick that I can remember (the mumps once when I was a small child meant a couple of days out of work – but other than that…no illnesses). Last week he started to feel really lousy and my mother commented that he looked jaundiced. They were visiting their Cape house, and he realized he might really be ill, so they flew back home to Florida. Today the doctor decided to admit him to the hospital to do more aggressive testing because he was feeling so tired and awful.

We’re still waiting to hear what might be going on – a few things found but they don’t necessarily explain the extreme jaundice and exhaustion.I said to him – this is so out of the blue – from totally healthy for 75 years to this ill in what seemed like a split second. He remembered our talk about flight 93 – that myth of certainty that your day will go a certain way – and then something unexpected changes everything in one horrible moment.

We mused about this a bit – really the myth is critical to live a happy life – in fact, those who live in a state of constant anxiety and worry are the ones who have rejected the myth (for whatever reason – biological, psychological, situational).

Try to imagine living a month, a year, a decade with no sense of certainty. My stomach churns, my breath shortens, and I feel a sense of dread even imagining such an existence. Face it, though, some people are better at maintaining the illusion than others – some people can face the most daunting circumstances with aplomb. Others are all-aquivering at the least sign of uncertainty. One can only hope to live somewhere in the middle – not like the Fool stepping off the cliff, but also not the Nervous Nelly considering every “what if” and “oh no this might happen”.

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