A gradual ripening: the theory of negative capability.

Uncertainty, for me, is nestled sweet & cozy right in my discomfort zone. I can juggle a full schedule and tackling a next step, but the not knowing what’s next piece is right up there with getting my wisdom teeth out. I avoided wisdom teeth surgery for 10 years and had to call the EMS night 1 post-surgery, so this might give you some insight into my appreciation for uncertainty. Lately I’ve found myself in a hurriedness to figure out what’s next. My last semester of grad school just started. Here I am anxiously googling jobs to land post-grad and trying to plan, plan, plan for four months away. In a few areas of my life, I’m being hit over the head with uncertainty and a lack of control around what’s next and it is wildly uncomfortable. I find myself irritable, over-cleaning my house to assemble some sense of control, and being short with people I love when they’re not operating at the same extreme level of order that I am. I know myself well enough to watch that I am trying to control but not yet equipped to stop it before it builds or implement an alternative action.

Last week I “stumbled” (wink at life) upon the perfect message. The book, The Great Work of Your Life by Stephen Cope, was recommended by a friend, Dave. It just so happens my place in this book this week is a chapter dedicated to John Keats, an English poet. (You may remember his quote “a thing of beauty is a joy forever.” I remember this from Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews version), not because I am well-versed in English poetry.) Keats is also known for his theory of negative capability. The theory describes being capable of being inuncertainty, sitting in doubt, without any irritable reaching for reason or fact. It is total surrender to letting life unfold and finding inspiration in both light and dark of what transpires. The author goes on to say Keats “knew the importance of leisure…as he began to learn to wait patiently for a gradual ripening.”

Since reading this, I’ve repeated it to myself and about 4 others. It is such a great reminder and simple message that the lack of a formal solid plan isn’t necessarily a negative step back. Within this environment of in-between often exists joyful spontaneity, a good book, a new recipe, catching up with a good friend, time for strength and sleep. Even in reading in my downtime sitting at the studio on a Saturday morning the perfect message was just a page away, reminding me uncertainty isn’t a weakness. It’s not a time to scramble and put together pieces that don’t fit. It is a time to trust. I am choosing to move uncertainty out of its discomfort zip code. After all, it’s possible uncertainty is life working in its wonderful way, waiting until I am perfectly ripe for what’s next. 

xo- courtney