‘Uncertainty is the only certainty there is’ (Gee, thanks.)

Oct 18, 2022 | Aging Successfully

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Woman scratching her head‘Uncertainty is the only certainty there is’ was coined by mathematician John Allen Paulos. While that is novel, a head-scratcher perhaps, the phrase holds little hope.

In a previous post, I introduced you to the concept of F.U.D.G.E (Fear Uncertainty Doubt Guilt and Exhaustion). Today I am showcasing another ingredient of F.U.D.G.E. Today is about Uncertainty. 

F.U.D.G.E is something we can nibble on, and eat too much of at times. You can have F.U.D.G.E with nuts or be nuts yourself. Uncertainty, the “U” in F.U.D.G.E is real, and if you’ve ever been in caregiving or faced with navigating healthcare, then you’ve likely been FUDGE’d.

I love living in uncertainty! -said no one ever. Un-certainty almost always is un-pleasant. But like so many challenges in life the problem is all about how we meet it, and how we react to what’s presenting.

Let’s walk around the word for a minute and take a look at Uncertainty for what it is. It’s a state of being, and as already mentioned, one that is not too pleasant. There are questions and possible threats. Uncertainty is a great second cousin to Fear which I talked about in a previous video and post.


The good news is that we know Uncertainty can be time-limited.

The good news is that we know Uncertainty can be time-limited. No one stays in Uncertainty 100% of their lives, so we can combat it’s ever popping up, or we can shorten its grip on us. The uncertainty itself can diminish, or we can take action to diminish it. There may be some choices here. 

Uncertainty by its very nature is prodding us to take some sort of action. We want or need information. We want to change things. Perhaps we lack what we need to make good decisions or choose the next steps. Uncertainty spurs action, so there is that positive attribute. 

We recognize Uncertainty when we see it or when we feel it. This one’s more automatic. We may not have to “get in touch with it” or dissect it as much as we do Fear (the “F” in F.U.D.G.E), but we likely know we wish to end it so that we might feel the opposite, confidence.

Let’s talk about alleviating it. (When said aloud do you hear the word “leave” in there? Kind of – sort of? Y’all know I like to play with words, and when I can use a word like a-leave-iate to remove something, I feel like I am getting a second, subtle punch).

We know we’re in Uncertainty, and there is an opportunity here. We can change it, change things. We can change the Uncertainty, or we can change ourselves. We can change how we greet – or meet- it. We have options. 

It’s been my experience in life, healthcare, and aging matters, that we are best helped with more information. Education is helpful, and we can always find out more. In healthcare, people come to me to learn how things work. Things like:

What is this diagnosis, and what does it mean to me and my loved ones?
How does this hospital system work or discharge to home?
Do I know all I need to know to protect my loved one? 

We can pursue these questions and add more information to arrive at answers. We’re going for the best outcome. 

In caregiving, Uncertainty in the form of questions can abound. 

What’s going to happen, how do I protect, how does this all work?
What’s going to happen to me, or what’s going to happen on my watch?
How do I coordinate the growing number of pieces in this puzzle? What piece is missing or elusive, or not yet seen?
How am I going to pay for things?
Am I the best person for the job, and can I do this? 

In planning or working towards aging successfully, Uncertainty can take on a new dimension. No one among us can predict the future, but we’re somehow supposed to work toward it. It can be akin to how we’re expected to pin the tail on the donkey while blindfolded. Aging successfully can be daunting. There is Doubt, and Doubt is another FUDGE ingredient that is a close neighbor to Uncertainty. I’ll be talking about Doubt in another segment.

The most important thing I’m trying to drive home here is that some of us will meet with Uncertainty longer than others, some more frequently, and some for an extended period. Uncertainty is a concern or challenge that is tugging on our sleeve. It’s either saying, “Get me out of here!” or for help to get away from it. Uncertainty manifests as a sort of tug or can be an absolute menace. It likes to ride along with us. Let’s find a road map to get out.

The trick is how you meet it. See it or feel it, recognize it and determine your options.

The trick is how you meet it. See it or feel it, recognize it and determine what you can do to avoid it, absorb it, alleviate it, solve it, or even set it aside. All these are actions you can take. Another one is to wait until circumstances change or until more is known. I often suggest a notion, a technique that I call “set aside-ability”.

Set aside-ability. Now, I know that is a made-up word, but it fits. (I make up words often when trying to get my point across rather than cause delay with searching for a better word or grouping). Set Aside-ability: When faced with Uncertainty, I have this technique that I suggest to folks of putting that ol’ Uncertainty in the corner overnight. It’s there where you can see it, keep an eye on it. It will wait. And it will be there when you decide to pick it back up again. But if it is eating your lunch or preventing your sleep, then just move it over into the corner while watching TV or preparing dinner. Set it aside until later. 

Another way setaside-ability helps is that the control is yours. You decide. Decide to put it down, and when to pick it back up. That provides some welcome control of circumstances at a time when you may feel out of control.

Plenty of people contact me for assistance with putting a finger on that which confounds them, confuses them, or to find remedy for their “Just get me out of here!”. As an expert in healthcare navigation and aging, I’m a good bet. I will show you the way out of Uncertainty, and I will journey with you. As I’ve mentioned, that usually means helping you gain more information so your good decisions can be made and your path becomes clear. 

I led with the John Allen Paulos quote, but I’d omitted the second half. It actually reads 

‘Uncertainty is the only certainty there is,
and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security.’

That, my friends, is where we are headed.

Is Uncertainty ruling your roost? Want to meet it squarely or set it aside until more is known? Want to go and get the information to diminish uncertainty and replace it with security? Set up a Complimentary Consultation to discuss your concern today. www.nancyruffner.com 919.628.4428.