Living and Loving in the Time of “I Don’t Know. Maybe.”

a stack of multicolored cards that are fanned out in a spiral. All cards have "maybe" written on them.
Image by Pixabay / CC 0

When a Planner Can’t Plan

I’d been dreading telling my friends that I’m moving to Texas.

I can still vividly remember how hard it was for all my friends back in Maine eight years ago, the news that I was moving to Ohio. The hardest part of moving back then had been saying goodbye. Because when you’re moving far away, you don’t say goodbye once. Instead, you say goodbye over and over again. As you hit different groups of people and as you say goodbye to the same people multiple times. Because you do say goodbye to the same people repeatedly, as the news hits them again and again over time, and they realize how much your exit will affect.

This move to Texas is a little different than the last one, when I moved to Ohio. In this case, I only have about a month of heads up before my partner starts his new job down there. And while I’ll be staying behind a little while selling the house, there’s a lot that he needs to be in town for that needs to be done ASAP.

One month to get him to Texas. When I moved to Ohio, I had five months to do everything.

And there’s so much more to deal with logistically regarding this new move. When I moved to Ohio, I was staying in an apartment on a month-to-month basis. This time around, I am selling a house, while doing things like trying to apartment hunt in Texas.

As such, there’s a complicated plan for this move that contains innumerable contingencies. I’ve been downsizing what we own rather aggressively, but a lot of the furniture issues remain as question marks:

  • Will this piece be needed for staging the house? How about that one? (Answer: Depends on what the realtor says.)
  • Do we keep one of our desks or all three? (Answer: Depends on which apartment we take in Texas, what the floor plan is like.)

My mind is filled with these kinds of questions and dependencies. I’m coordinating with contractors on projects that are needed to sell the house quickly. Well, the projects that we aren’t doing ourselves. I’m also occupied accomplishing those. For example, my armpits are aching as I type this piece, a result of several hours of landscaping the day before.

Anyway, I have a lot to do. And I’m trying to plan, but so much that’s in the “plan” (if you can call it that) depends on other parts of the plan. So I’m limited to only planning about three days in the future. I know the very next slew of tasks I’m knocking off. The very next people I need to call and coordinate with.

And everything else in the plan will depend on what happens with this batch.

It’s frankly pretty anxiety inducing. Because I’m a planner. And it’s a difficult state of affairs when a planner can’t really plan more than three days in the future.

When People Ask Me Questions, I Keep Having to Say “I Don’t Know”

But at least now the move is public knowledge. Which is one aspect I’d been dreading, remembering how difficult it was last time, to break the news.

I’ve told all of my friends, either in person, via text, and/or over social media. Went to a party this past weekend where I encountered that familiar feeling: The goodbye. At least the first in a series. The energy of a roomful of people who are at least starting to make their goodbyes.

It was really good to see my friends, as busy as I otherwise am, trying to haul ass to get everything I need to get done.

But now that I’m seeing my friends, they want to know if I’ll be in town for X. For Y. For Z.

I keep saying, “I don’t know. I don’t know.”

Because my life isn’t revealing itself to me more than three to four days in advance. It doesn’t have any extra information to give others that it’s not showing to me.

So I say, “I don’t know. Maybe.”

Every time I say it, they seem surprised. Deeply unsatisfied with the answer. But it’s the only one I have to give them. I don’t know my own plans much further out than that. I don’t have certainty for myself, so I  can’t give certainty to someone else.

So as much as it unsettles them, it’s all I have for an answer.

I don’t know how many times I can say “I don’t know.” Guess I’m about to find out.

Even If You Cultivate a State of Non-Expectation Within Yourself, You Can’t Force Other People to Join You

There’s a state of non-being, a mindfulness that kicks in when a planner is forced into a situation where they can’t plan. (Well, unless they opt for surrendering to anxiety, but I know that anxiety would paralyze me and make it so I get nothing done so I’m trying to stay away from that.)

I’ve learned how to feel this way when I need to. Or, rather, how not to feel anything at all when I need to. When a large life change demands it. I’ve learned how to be in the present moment without judging it. How to opt out of the future — and in this case, how to opt out of the distant future. And just be. Get what needs to be done in the present moment, done. And move on to the next thing.

The trouble is, however, that I can’t take people with me. That I can’t make other people join me in this state of non-expectation. This place where plans aren’t made, but life is just lived.

And our respective tasks of the moment are at odds with one another: I’ve resolved that I’m leaving, so I’m focused on knocking out a line of obligations, i.e., doing things that I have to because I’m leaving.

And their task is emotionally accepting that I am in fact leaving and trying to connect with me meaningfully, spend important time with me, before I do.

I remember this tension from the last time I moved. Intellectually, most people realize that nothing is forever. Everything’s temporary. But it’s usually a fact that’s easier to ignore. To assume that the people who are close to us now will always be close to us, available to us indefinitely.

Something like a cross country move or the sudden death of someone we love challenges that sense of comfort. Makes the implicit explicit. Brings us face to face with the difficulties of living and loving in the time of “I don’t know. Maybe.”

A time that’s always here or about to be, whether we realize it or not.

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Dealing with Difficult Metamours, the first book devoted solely to metamour relationships, full of strategies to help you get along better with your partners’ other partner(s).

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