Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Embracing Ambiguity

Ahhh, summertime!  It’s the time to do what I want to do when I want to do it—there’s nothing better.  Tonight, I am enjoying bantering back and forth via text messages with my daughter on how to set up a PowerPoint presentation for one of her business classes in college.  Meanwhile, I am sipping my Diet Coke and perusing the Internet to see what’s happening in the world.  I never have this grand luxury during the school year. Life is good!

“Mom, I’m freaking out,” my daughter texts. “What about?” I respond absentmindedly. “This presentation, duh?” she answers. “It’s so freaking ambiguous.” My detail-oriented accounting major wants to know exactly what she has to do the make the coveted A, but the professor’s instructions are just a bit on the vague side.  She is instructed to make “dynamic, powerful slides.”  The ambiguity creeps in with the unclear definition of dynamic. “She’s so picky, and I have no idea what she wants,” my daughter wails.

I understand her frustration.  She is accustomed to clear, straight-forward expectations. My daughter is one of those people who wants every “i” properly dotted and every “t” crossed.  Tell her exactly what you want, and she will definitely meet and probably exceed your expectations.  Ambiguity is her worst possible adversary, or so she is convinced this evening.

No doubt about it, ambiguity can be perplexing.  None of us enjoy being put in a position in which we do not know how to succeed. We do not relish the idea of stumbling into dark and murky waters. We prefer clearly-defined plans, calculated risks, and known outcomes.  Unfortunately, that is not how the cookie of life always crumbles.  In my youth, I admit I would have wailed in frustration just as my daughter is doing tonight.

To be honest, I have spent the greater part of my life trying to outsmart uncertainty with plans A, B, and C, and sometimes even D and E. My husband can attest to this, and yes, I am just a teeny bit on the compulsive side.  I admit it has taken many years for me to reach this conclusion, but I believe I have finally discovered something quite profound.  Ambiguity is my friend. What? Yep, my friend, not my foe!  I will take it even one step further-- ambiguity sets me free.

You see, without clearly defined boundaries, I am free to allow my brain to wander and venture outside of the box.  In fact, ambiguity gives me permission to throw the entire box out the window.  When nothing is certain, anything is possible! How I wish I had learned this years earlier!

In fact, this blog, as it turns out, is quite an experiment in ambiguity.  I truly believe blogging is like jumping out of an airplane blindfolded. Each time I throw a post out to cyberspace, it is like I am recklessly jumping myself. With each post, I say a little prayer that I land safely in friendly territory. The process is risky, suspenseful, and even a bit spine-chilling. What if people hate what I write?  How do I know if what I am writing is relevant to others? Will people tell me what they think? Who is reading my stuff anyway?

Despite these uncertainties, I am sailing fearlessly ahead into these murky waters. I am deliberately choosing to be uncomfortable. One of my latest Pinterest quote finds says, “If it doesn’t scare you, it doesn’t challenge you.”  I admit that I have been entirely too timid and hesitant about pursuing my dreams. Writing forces me to cross-examine my life.  It allows me to categorize my thoughts and reflect on things that challenge me, perplex me, and inspire me.  What I discover about myself nudges me forward.  My destination is undeniably ambiguous, but I am fiercely certain that I will be benefitted by the journey.


  1. One of my college profs stated that accounting majors wanted answers in the back of the "book of life". I thought that was a fantastic idea...even the answers to just the odd questions would be helpful. He is the same teacher who said that I was such an extreme type-A that I wouldn't live to be 40. I'll be 48 in October so he didn't know everything either. LOL (MMP)

    1. I knew you accountants out there would appreciate my daughter's personality, but I have a feeling my daughter's compulsive personality is probably genetic. LOL.

  2. Hmm genetics...I'll check with my list-making, detail-oriented Dad. When I was growing up, I thought all Dads entered an amusement park, picked up the show/event schedule, and then spent the 1st 20 minutes planning the rest of the day. Now, I know Moms do this too (as Kurt is calling me Johnny Jr.) (MMP)