If I had to encapsulate the entire breadth of my experience of the past few days in a single word it would be…..sigh

No no…that wasn’t meant to be a deliberate or dramatic pause. THAT is the word: SIGH.

Right now, my fiance and I are in the middle of planning for a wedding. That is not the stuff of rocket science, and yet it all feels incredibly foreign. It’s a language, first of all, that I am not fluent in. Literally. Why are tall the categories of foods in French? Just call the damn thing an appetizer and be done with it! And it’s a world where the currency doesn’t seem to make sense. I’m sorry…did they mean that number in pesos? Or do they actually expect us to pay that in American Dollars? How much should we budget? Where should we host it? 20 people or 70 people? Courthouse or Fairmont? Or should we say “Fuck It!” and just take the drive-through at Vegas. Eloping is romantic, right (if I had it my way, believe you me…THAT would still be an option on the table. Stupid family and wanting to witness the thing to support us and all that lovey dovey stuff. Once again…sigh.)

A good portion of the puzzle is due to an even more puzzling (and a bit more pressing) uncertainty. My job. I don’t actually know how much money I will make in the near to distant future. I’m in the in-between.

It’s an odd space. A couple of years ago, one of the three jobs I held decided to cut my pay by a significant amount. It wasn’t a shock. It was a startup (which is always high-risk). But it was an inconvenience.

Over the course of the next few months, my fiance and I made a series of calculated (and exhausting) moves. We sold a condo (and when I say “we” I mean “he”). We moved into a house. We renovated the house. We got a puppy. We got engaged. It was a lot of change to happen in a short time.

We got ourselves out of debt…but the only stick was that we also spent all our savings to do it. So we were right at the start, financially.

Naturally, I started looking for more solid work. Stable work. Work that would allow me to contribute more than just 50% of the mortgage and some groceries.

I got several job offers (a welcome surprise after years in an economic recession). I made a choice between them. It was the right choice given the information I had at the time. But it was also a choice that involved a certain amount of risk and uncertainty. The details of the whole thing aren’t actually all that important for the purposes of this article. I mention it, here, only to give a bit of context for where I’m coming from. Things are up in the air in ways that feel extremely tangible right now. No matter the outcome, I know things will be fine. It’s simply that the outcome will help me to determine the best next course of action. If A happens, my next move is B. If Y happens, my next move is Z.

But right now? I don’t know whether to expect A or Y. I have absolutely NO control over the outcome. At this point, it is completely out of my hands. And for all those go-getters out there who want to tell me otherwise…I have one word: UNION. Need I say more? It really and truly is out of my hands.

Please understand…There is no bad guy in this scenario. There is not really a good guy, either. No one is out to get me. No one is out to screw me over. Life is just happening. It’s unfolding exactly as it will. It doesn’t care a whole lot about my wishes in the matter one way or the other.

I know that…but I gotta say –  I REALLY don’t like this part. The waiting. The wondering. The not knowing. The planning for whatever outcome. Much like with the wedding planning, it’s not that I’m worried that it won’t work out. It’s just…I don’t have all the information. The puzzle pieces are still in the box.

I am fairly sure most people aren’t crazy about this kind of uncertainty. MOST people, I think, find the waiting part of a ride at Disneyland to be the boring part. They find the waiting part after an interview to be aggravating. They find waiting for a hostess or manager to write back and say whether this or that venue is available (and how much it costs) to be taxing.

But I have a hunch that HSP dislike it more than most…and for the following reasons:

  • NUMBER 1: Highly sensitive people have vivid imaginations. We know how to dream up ALL the worst case scenarios. I feel like the Zombie Apocalypse was probably dreamed up by an HSP. Who else would imagine a dead guy coming back to life?
  • NUMBER 2: HSP are extremely conscientious. They are the first ones to take responsibility for things that go wrong. They are the last to lay down the cross. So even when things aren’t within our scope of influence, we seem to keep wondering…what if…?
  • NUMBER 3: We process things deeply. So we will ruminate over a thing well into the night. Which means less sleep. Which is NEVER good for those with a more tightly wound nervous system.
  • NUMBER 4: They are conflict-avoidant. They struggle to assert themselves. It can be physically painful to do so. So when things don’t go well, if there is someone we need to hold accountable in some way…doing so is EXTREMELY uncomfortable.
  • NUMBER 5: We tend to be conscious of how our lives impact the lives of others. In my case, whatever happens to me affects my family. So whether I can control the outcome or not…OTHERS I love will have to deal with the consequences. That feels heavy.

So what can we HSP do in times of uncertainty? What strategies can we reach for to help?

1. Recognize you can’t control the outcome. Repeat that shit like a mantra. I know you wish you could somehow put the globe on a nob that you can turn at will. But you can’t. Pardon my language, here…but I’m trying to shock you into getting this. You’re just gonna have to get the fuck over it.

2. Meditate. The old adage “just breathe” ….it’s real. You can’t control what happens, but you can control the rate of your breath. You can watch it. You can observe your heart rate come down. It also serves as a reminder that you are only human. And a human with a shelf life. Do you really want to spend your time worrying about this? But then again…you’re an HSP. So of course you do. That leads me to…

3. Journal. When you can’t remove your thoughts, get them down on paper. It will at least give you a chance to process more effectively. It can help you sift through your wild thoughts and create something coherent. Or you can start a blog about HSP’s who can’t handle uncertainty. Just sayin…

4. Move. As I write this, I’m sitting on a bicycle desk. When you stress about things you can’t actually do anything about, your body builds cortisol. You marinade in a stew of primordial go-run-for-your-life ooze. It’s not helpful. But when you move your body, you at least are burning off some of it. It can help you get back to a sense of homeostasis.

5. Laugh and be grateful. Try to remember that no matter what it is you are contending with…it could always be worse. So be grateful for the things going well in your life. In my case, I have a loving fiance who put up with my very sexy pity party (she says with the most sarcastic voice imaginable…there is nothing sexy about a pity party). I have friends who have been consistently supportive. I have a dog who doesn’t seem to care one way or the other what my job title is or how many hours I work. SO….plenty to be grateful for.

Whatever happens…the best you can ever do is gather information, assess and respond. Gather, assess and respond. Over and over. The downside of being an HSP is that we often find the gathering and waiting part especially uncomfortable. BUT The one upside to being an HSP is that we don’t typically make rash decisions. We are good at the patience game. When it comes to assessing and responding, we are masters.

In short…No matter what area of your life may currently be uncertain…you got this.